For most of us the chance to get away is a luxury in short supply. Annual leave is strategically used to best optimise your time – hours are spent scouring the internet for the right destination, flights and hotel, and pennies saved away each paycheck just to cover the train ticket to the airport. Travel is my passion, and I’m lucky enough to do it frequently and blog about it here – but I also have a full-time, demanding career which pays for my (relatively) expensive hobby. So for me, like many, the planning stages of a trip are the most important parts – hours spent calculating how many trips are possible this year, looking for deals daily, and getting inspiration and envy from Instagram – but the most difficult part is often making that final decision of where to go. Planning is the make or break of a stress free trip.
To help you find nirvana in Nevada or paradise in Puerto Rico, follow these handy tips:
You will already have these subconsciously but it’s important to set clear limits for your trip to zero in on the right plans. Budget, length, weather are all the obvious ones, but what about crowds? I visited Cinque Terre in Italy in June, before the summer peaks and still it was a bit too rammed for me liking. Since then, it’s been announced that tourist numbers will be capped and blocks will be put in place to limit overcrowding – if it’s at that point where you’re not allowed into your holiday, it’s definitely the wrong choice and a sign your trip will be stressful. It’s important you really understand what’s on both your ‘essentials’ list and you ‘avoid at peril’ list – and if you’re travelling with a partner these should be aligned.
Stress free travel is dependant on a certain level of flexibility – a great way to work this into your planning is to keep your mind open to a few possible ideas. To do this, it’s recommended to start creating your travel bucket list full of short and long haul trips. Focusing on one ‘must do’ holiday creates a heightened level of expectation that is difficult to meet, and having a variety of great options allows to pivot based on offers and opportunities as they come up. There’s plenty of different website that will help you do this – or consider apps like Evernote to collect your ideas in one place.
I’ve been putting together my own travel bucket list on Pinterest which you can see here:
Follow Emma @ Fizzy Cola’s board Travel Bucket List on Pinterest.
Once I feel the inspiration bug hit, the next step is build out your must-see key sights or events. My favourite sites to get a quick overview include Wikivoyage, Travel Independent, and Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum. Any sneaky trick is to look at popular itineraries by tour companies such as Intrepid Travel – this will give you an idea of the best things to include and what a minimum time frame should be.
You may by this point have many ideas about what you want to do on your trip, and it’s easy to overestimate what you can achieve within your time boundaries – on more than one trip I’ve had days where I had to cancel my plans and just rest due to burnout. A good way to balance our your trip is to visually plan your activities over a calendar. You may want to grab some blank paper and do this by hand, but I like having a digital copy so utilise Google Calendar which has handy colour codes and the benefit of syncing across your technology. Here’s an overview of my upcoming New Orleans-Miami trip to give you an idea of what this looks like.
Wherever you plan to go, always remember that one of the greatest parts of travelling is the freedom and spontaneity. Always make sure that your plan is at most the barebones of the trip – the meat will fill out when your boots are on the ground. The people you meet and the things you see will shape how you spend your time and add the extra flavour that makes the best trips memorable.
Hopefully these tips will give you both some practical resources and theoretical actions to incorporate into your trip planning. Remember, that it’s important to make sure potential problems are minimised before you leave to avoid wasting your precious vacation frustrated, unhappy, or bickering with loved ones. For more advice, Travel Supermarket are currently blogging on ways to make holidays memorable for the right reasons – and I’ll be reporting back in the next month or so to let you know how my PERFECTLY planned trip to the American South turned out!