Planning travel can be tedious, confusing and overwhelming. Reading the same information over and over again, trawling through Google searches, looking at hotel descriptions, tour reviews only to find out that what you like is not in the right location. Or a tour doesn’t operate on the day you are available.
But there are ways of making it less stressful. Being organised and creating a process is one way. Using good tools and resources is another.
Let me take you through the tools, apps and websites I love to use. I know there are others out there, but these have served me well.
I am open to suggestions. Sometimes we get stuck using the same things and not realising there may be something better out there.
Let’s get started.
No time to read this now? Save it to Pinterest to enjoy later.
Start Trip Planning
When you start travel planning it involves a lot of research, or at least it does for me. I don’t just want to visit popular tourist locations.
I want to find other places, lesser known or one’s locals frequent. And to find that out involves reading, a lot of articles and blog posts usually.
Where do you find your information? Do you type in a Google search and hope for the best? How many pages do you look through before it all seems too hard?
I start in two places. Once I develop an idea of what a place is like or want to find out more, then I can use Google and type in specific searches.
I get that not everyone is a fan of social media. But there are ways to utilise certain platforms to get the specific information you are looking for.
Pinterest is essentially a search engine and not a social media platform designed to be, well … social.
Pretty much anything you want to find is there. Need a recipe? Check Pinterest. Looking for a new way to style your bedroom? Check Pinterest.
Need Travel Inspiration? Guess what? Check Pinterest!
I think you get the idea. What Pinterest does have is a wealth of blog posts filled with the information you are looking for.
When I start thinking about where to travel next or to create an itinerary, this is where I start. I create a board for my destination, type the destination into the search bar and off I go. I pin the articles that look interesting to my board to look at later.
This way all I have to do to start researching is jump onto Pinterest, click on my destination board and start reading.
If you keep reading and I will tell you what to do with the blog posts that you like so that you don’t have to keep going back through your pins trying to remember.
Create a board for your destination
Over the last couple of years, Facebook Groups have proved invaluable for the personalised information that they provide for my travel planning.
These are my favourite Facebook Groups:
You do need to take time to read through posts and comments, but I find they are fantastic for personal recommendations for everything you need to plan your trip.
Or if you can’t find the information (and be sure to check the files section first and do a search), then you can ask.
You don’t have to be a fan of Facebook to get the most from the Groups. By joining a group, you only get the information you’re looking for, not a newsfeed filled with random posts.
If you find a post particularly useful, save it to read later. You click the three dots in the top right-hand corner of the post and save. Easy. Then all you need to do is click on Saved in the left-hand sidebar to find it.
Sometimes people include links. Like with the blog posts above I will tell you how to save these in an organised way next.
I run a Facebook group called Plan that Trip where I share my “How to” videos on all the apps and websites I discuss below. It’s a great place to get support and advice on any aspect of your travel planning.
Need someone to look at your itinerary for you? This is the place to do it.
You can join Plan that Trip here.
Save and Organise your Information
Here it is. What you do with all the blog posts, articles and other information you have gathered.
You use Pocket. Pocket is an app and website that manages your articles. It’s perfect for the job of travel planning allowing you to tag your articles for easy reference.
Firstly, let’s revisit Pinterest.
Click the pins you have saved on your destination board and click through to the website to read the whole article.
If you like what you are reading, and it’s important to find bloggers you can relate to, then save the article to Pocket.
You can do the same if you find an article you like in your Facebook feed or doing a Google Search.
Pocket is free to join and once you sign up you can install a Chrome extension to your browser to make saving articles easy (see image below). You can do the same on your phone after you have downloaded the app.
You can save any article, video or image to Pocket. To make it easy to find later, just allocate a relevant tag and you’re good to go. I use Pocket for everything and especially for travel information. I started using it as a place to save recipes, and now I am hooked.
Tip: Once the information/article is no longer relevant, delete it. This way you know that the information you have stored is current and up to date.
You can sign up with Pocket here.
Use the Pocket Chrome Extension to quickly and easily save articles
By now I have a fair idea of the places I want to go. But what typically happens is that I have so many places I want to explore that it’s not possible to fit them all into my itinerary. To create an itinerary that flows well you can use the following tools.
Google Maps has become my favourite tool to use, not only to find out the distances between locations but also to create an itinerary and determine the locations to include.
Like a lot of people, I am visual so being able to see a bunch of coloured location markers on a map makes it easy to see what to keep in an itinerary and what to let go of.
It’s also my favourite way of planning my daily activities including walking, or using public transport, or driving from one place to another.
I hate being late, and I certainly don’t want to miss out, so knowing approximately how long it will take for me to walk from my hotel to a meeting point for a tour is crucial. That way I know whether I can walk or will need to catch public transport or take a taxi.
This way I can also see how much I can fit into my day and not over plan. A lot of the time people forget to factor in the time it takes to get from place to place.
You can watch my How to Use Google Maps video for creating an itinerary here.
For more videos join Plan that Trip where I share them first.
Use Google Maps to create your itinerary
Trello is a management tool that allows you to organise your information and projects into boards. You can add lists, cards, checklists and add attachments plus more.
I love Trello because you can create a format to suit you. I use it more for productivity and projects in my business, but it is a great tool for Travel Planning especially if you are travelling with other people.
Trello allows you to invite “team members”. This way everyone can contribute and/or be kept up to date with your travel plans. Members can be assigned tasks and can check them off when done.
I usually travel with a paper copy of my itinerary and contact details because technology can fail, but for my upcoming trip to Italy in November I am going to use Trello so that I can easily access all my information from my phone.
I am trying to keep my travel options open for this trip but I am finding it hard not to be in control of everything, and I want to avoid stress and anxiety, so I will have lists of preferred accommodation and tours for each of the destinations I think I will visit. I can attach web addresses, emails, and anything else I think I might need for easy access.
I have an app on my phone, so I will be able to access it whenever I have wifi and then when I decide on what I want to do, I won’t have to research a hotel. I can jump on and book, just by clicking on the link saved in Trello.
You can see how Trello works here.
Create a format that works for you in Trello
I recently shot a video about why I love using Booking.com. A lot of Australians would have seen Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith’s recent video slamming this company and other third-party booking sites. I understand his point, but I think his view is limited.
When you are planning overseas travel the research alone can be overwhelming. By using a site like Booking.com you have a powerful resource at your fingertips that, in my opinion, would be silly not to utilise.
It’s a one-stop shop. An accommodation search engine that includes photos, reviews and filters to refine your search including ones for solo travellers, budget, location plus more.
The choice is then yours if you want to book via the booking site or go directly to the hotel/accommodation website. I like to give the business owner the choice of what they prefer and you may get an even better deal by booking direct.
Travel Charm is an affiliate of Booking.com and receives a small commission if you click on the link and use their service. It is at no extra cost to you and it helps us to keep creating valuable free content for our followers and community.
You can see my video here and you will find a link to Dick’s video in the comments.
In much the same way as third-party booking websites, Skyscanner is for airfares.
Airfares take a big chunk out of the travel budget so I am always on the lookout for the best deal. Skyscanner also allows you to search for any flights from your departure airport to any destination. A great feature for those planning a trip based on a cheap airfare.
It’s easy to get caught up in cheap deals, but cheap airfares usually have some sort of restriction or condition, like a lot of stops or long layovers.
With the built-in filters, you can refine your search and find your preferred flights quicker. Once you have found your flight Skyscanner will give you tons of booking options, but my preferred one is always the airline itself. That way if something goes wrong you are only dealing with them, not a third party booking site.
Travel Charm is also an affiliate of Skyscanner.
Even if you don’t want to book through one of Skyscanner’s booking agents, it is a useful website to do your research first and know what is available prior to going to your Travel Agent.
It also helps when determining your travel budget.
Packing might not seem a big deal when you are planning your trip but not packing light can impact on where you stay and how you get around.
A lot of buildings in Europe, including some hotels, don’t have elevators. If you are staying in apartments it is likely you will need to carry your luggage up stairs.
You also need to consider how you will get around. Lugging huge suitcases on trains, over cobblestone streets and not fitting into taxis or rental cars can be a big problem.
I am on a mission to pack carry-on luggage only for my upcoming three week trip to Italy, in Autumn. It is a goal I did not think I could achieve, but by finding Travel Fashion Girl and all her fantastic packing lists, and the YourCloset app (which one of her members recommended) it’s going to happen.
YourCloset is a wardrobe organiser and style planner. It allows you to photograph and edit your clothes saving them in their appropriate categories. You can then create outfits from your clothes and save them to a packing list.
There is a lot more the app can do, but for me, I kept it simple. I uploaded the clothes I thought I would like to take and created as many outfit combinations as I could with them. It took a bit of time but was worth it.
I always knew I took too much when I travelled in the past. It was not uncommon for me to come home with items that had only been once or twice, or not at all. This way everything I pack will be worn. And I will still have room to buy a couple of new items.
Again because I am so visual it allowed me to see the different combinations I could create from limited clothes and highlight the pieces that didn’t fit. You can see an example image below.
It’s too easy to throw in a favourite top, or pair of pants, or another pair of shoes. This way you can see which pieces will mix and match.
Recommendations from our Community
Plan that Trip member, Paula Morgan from Sydney Expert recommends Rome2Rio. Sydney Expert is the go-to site for anyone planning a trip to Sydney.
I love using Rome2Rio for figuring out how to get between two spots – it’s great for driving but also good for trains and planes.
Rome2Rio is a multimodal transport search engine that allows you to map out how to get from one place to another using whatever transport is available.
You can take a look at Rome2Rio here.
Another member of Plan that Trip, Karen mentioned Cool Cousin.
I’ve heard about something called Cool Cousin, for interesting tours, food places etc. I’m going to try it when I head to UK and France next week!!
What’s the best way to really get to know a new destination? Local recommendations of course! That’s what Cool Cousin is. Personal recommendations from residents of major cities.
I will definitely be checking this out before my next trip.
You can find out more about Cool Cousin here.
Being able to communicate may not seem like a planning issue, but if you feel confident to converse (or try to) with the locals you will be more inclined to venture away from the tourist areas. Meaning there will be many more places you might want to see.
Jane recommended Google Translate.
You can download the language of the country that you’re visiting and use it offline to translate from your language to theirs and vice versa. It also has a feature the uses your camera to translate signs. We’re in Italy and I can’t tell you how often we’ve used it. Invaluable!
I am trying to learn a bit more Italian, but if all fails, because I am terrible at languages, then Google Translate will be my friend. I have downloaded the app to my phone and am ready to go.
You can take a look at Google Translate here.
Free Travel Planning Course
I have created a free travel planning course – Plan that Trip. Learn how to become organised and avoid overwhelm.
The course is a five-part video series stepping you through the process of planning your own travel from research, organisation, itinerary creation and booking.
You can learn more about Plan that Trip here.
Travel Planning Service
If it still seems too hard I have a Travel Planning Service available. For a fee, I can plan your trip exactly how you want it from accommodation, tours, location tips and recommendations and more.
Personalised and unique itineraries just for you. I also have a booking service available free of charge.
Hopefully, you will find something useful here to help you with your Travel Planning. As much as I love planning new itineraries it can be overwhelming when faced with so much information. For me, the key is not only finding the information but keeping it organised.
I also use a good travel agent when I need to take a break from all the research. It is essential you find a good agent, one who knows you and your preferences.
You always have the option of booking everything yourself, and there will be things that you may want that a travel agent can’t book. Booking yourself may give you more options, especially with your budget.
Again the choice is yours and that is the best thing about doing your own research, is knowing what those choices are.
Enjoy planning your next trip!
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