You know your friends’ skeptical, steady gaze when you share with them the itinerary of your next trip?
I’m talking about those trips that require an extremely detailed planning, hours and hours spent on research in front of the pc and also being rather confident (but also passionate and patient) with the tools the web provides us with.
Those trips that make you feel like a tetris player trying to make transport connections, reservations and your days off fit together.
Those trips that make you pat yourself on the shoulder (and keep your fingers crossed that everything will be alright!) once you’ve finished planning them.
#1 GETTING INFORMATION AND DEFINING YOUR TRIP ITINERARY
Forget to plan a “successful trip” without spending at least a couple of evenings surfing on the web among travel blogs and forums. First of all, you have to know what your travel destination offers you, in order to realize what you really want to see and do. Above all, you have to choose what to put in your itinerary according to what you are interested in and to how much time you have.
Let’s make a simple example. If I think about Paris and what to see, the Louvre will surely come to my mind. Imagine that, before leaving, I don’t look for more specific information about what else the city offers. So I choose to visit the Louvre without thinking twice about it. No wonder if I will spend there 4 o 5 hours, coming out of it a bit disappointed, maybe because I’m not that keen on art or because I’m not even interested in it. Perhaps I’m interested in wines, but I have no idea that near the Tour Eiffel there’s the Musée du Vin… What a pity it would be!
What I want to say is that, even though it’s famous, you’re not forced to make of The Gioconda the most thrilling attraction of your trip, especially if you’re spending only a couple of days in Paris. And this is said by someone who visited the Louvre and thinks it’s simply AMAZING! 🙂
#2 TRANSPORT PLANNING: BOOKING FLIGHTS AND TRAVELS
Once I’ve defined my itinerary I always go on arranging transport and travels. If you have fixed days and you want to spare some money, you have no choice but booking in advance (at least 3 months). I usually do several simulations with the different companies and, when possible, I put flexible dates (just a couple) so that I can find the best price combo. I like using Skyscanner to start my research. Once I find the flight, 90% of the times I book it on the company’s website. I sometimes prefer Expedia because of coupons or low priced flight+hotel packages.
After booking my main mean of transport, I focus on internal travels (whose cost should have already been calculated at point 1). So I book any internal flight, ferry boat, train or bus ticket trying to save as much time as possible. Choose early-morning or night tickets so that you won’t spend most of the day travelling.
#3 BOOKING AN ACCOMMODATION (HOTELS, B&BS, AIRBNBs, HOSTELS)
Once I’ve finished with transport I start looking for an accommodation. First of all, I ask myself: which is the best area to stay in? For every area I get information about security and facilities: I tend to prefer a basic accommodation in a central area, rather than a first-class one in a bad connected and/or far area.
Where can you find the best rates and spend less?
For any kind of accommodation, other travellers’ reviews are always essential to me and I spend part of my research reading them. However, be aware that not all the reviews are faithful, some of them can be pretty sugarcoated while others can be way too hard.
#4 RESTAURANTS AND LEISURE ACTIVITIES
Transport? I have it!
And a bed? Too.
At this point I devote myself to find out restaurants and places I would like to try and see in addition to my macro-itinerary. I love trying new recipes when I’m abroad, but – as I’m rather fussy – I always draft a short list of the best restaurants and pubs, according to their quality, price and menu choice. In my opinion it’s worth spending some time on this kind of research so that you’ll be happy with your meal and you’ll avoid scams. This strategy actually “saved” me in Copenhagen, a super pricey city, where having a list of places to eat has been a blessing (read more here: Where to eat in Copenhagen (without breaking the bank)). And the same goes for Paris: TOP 8 of the best restaurants and bars in Paris
I’ve always adopted this strategy for other activities as well: after-dinner drinks, ferry-boat tours, trips to the park or safaris in the Savannah. To sum up, getting information is surely the best way to avoid tourist traps and scams. When looking for restaurants or pubs don’t forget to have a look at the opening hours and at how people do with tips. Every country has its own etiquette about tips and I find we should always care about it.
#5 PRACTICAL ASPECTS
Do I need my passport? If yes, when does it expire?
Do I need a visa?
Are there any recommended vaccines?
Do I need a medical insurance?
There’s nothing worse than being caught unprepared by these practical details right on the day before you leave and especially after days of accurate planning.
Take for true only the information you get from reliable sources and not from an abandoned thread of 2004. Making some further research will make you leave thoughtless. Also consider that avoiding this sort of troubles will make you spare time and money.