Tips for planning the perfect trip
Planning a trip is really one of the most fun things to do. For me anyway. I can really spend hours planning everything. But where I used to plan everything down to the minute for a city trip, for example, I now stick to planning certain must-dos on a specific day. We’ll see for the rest, it’s vacation after all ?. Below I give you the best tips for planning the perfect trip
Where to go?
The most important part of planning your trip is deciding where to go. Sometimes you already have ideas of places you really want to visit. Then the choice is of course quickly made. But sometimes you have different ideas or you don’t really know. Then it can be useful to take the following things into account:
- How much time do you have?
- What is the budget?
- Which interests? Culture, adventure, sport, relaxation?
- Is there promotion to a particular destination?
- Hot or cold?
- Recommendations from friends/family
- Certain concerts, activities, …
Every destination also has the best travel time. But sometimes it can be cheaper not to go to a certain destination in the ideal travel time. And there are often fewer people.
Try to keep a list of places you definitely want to visit or things you definitely want to do. I myself get a lot of inspiration from Pinterest, other travel blogs, but also Instagram and now TikTok.
Some ideas: Visit the pyramids, see the northern lights, do the Laugavegur walk in Iceland, visit the Empire State Building, swim among sharks, climb Table Mountain, …
You really don’t know where to go? Then make a list of all must-haves and definitely nots. Look at the world map and see what is possible.
✔️ beautiful landscapes
✔️ a lot of hiking opportunities
❌ lots of tourists
=> Scotland, Dolomites (out of season), Norway, Sweden, Balkans
If you are sure that you are going by plane, you can, for example, enter “everywhere” as the destination at Skyscanner, Momondo, or Kayak. Then you get an overview of all flights on your selected days or for a specific month. This way you may come across less obvious destinations.
If you know where you’re going, it’s time to look at the less fun but absolutely necessary administrative stuff.
First and foremost, it is important to know if you need an international passport. Be sure to request this in time to be able to leave without worries. You often need the details of a passport to apply for a visa. Keep in mind that for some visas it also takes some time to apply for them.
What vaccinations do you need to go to a certain country? You can find more information about this on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and/or the country you are going to.
Don’t forget to take out health insurance that is valid abroad. Cancellation insurance is also useful. I myself have both at Touring for a whole year.
If you want to rent a car, a credit card in the name of the driver is almost always required (as a deposit). And often this may not be a prepaid credit card. In some countries, an international driver’s license is required to rent a car. In addition, make sure (if possible) that you have sufficient credit on your credit card. You often have to arrange for your regular debit card that you can use it outside of Europe. This can be done via the website of your bank or by visiting your bank branch. It is always cheaper to withdraw money with your debit card than with your credit card. Your credit card is better used to pay directly at shops, restaurants, or your hotel.
There are many options for getting to your destination: plane, bus, train, and car. But once you are there, you also have various options for visiting a city or country.
This is often the fastest way to get around, but not always the most environmentally friendly solution. For some destinations such as America, Asia, or Australia, this is often the only way.
The most important question here is: when to book for the best prices? The answer: it varies. The prices depend on so many things that it is difficult to predict when you can expect the best price. I try to book the plane about 6 months in advance for long journeys. Tips to save on your plane trip can be found here.
Also, check in advance how you will get to the airport. Are you going by public transport, taxi or your own car? In the latter case, you can search for the cheapest parking at Parkvia. Or go for a Park, Sleep, Fly package at a hotel near the airport.
Even when you arrive you will have to get to your final destination from the airport: taxi, uber, public transport, or shuttle.
Within Europe, this is certainly a possibility. There are several companies that offer bus trips, such as Flixbus. Most buses these days also have Wi-Fi and power outlets. A very big advantage of traveling by bus is that you can often take more luggage with you than by plane. You are of course dependent on traffic. And for people who quickly suffer from motion sickness, this is not the most ideal way to travel.
This is also a good solution within Europe. You may be on the road longer, but you can enjoy the landscapes in the meantime. This is really a way of slow travel. The advantage of traveling by train is that the train stations are often located right in the center of the city.
Everyone is of course familiar with Eurostar, TGV, Thalys, and recently also Izy. It is often best to book these tickets well in advance for the best prices. And often single tickets are also cheaper than buying a return ticket. Some countries such as Switzerland, Germany, and Scotland offer discount passes to travel by train within that specific country.
Do you want to make a tour through Europe by train? Then an Interrail pass is for you. You can choose between a continuous or flexible pass. With the latter, you choose the number of days you want to travel within a certain period (eg 7 days in 1 month). A simple competition to plan your Interrail journey is interrailplanner.com. With Interrail, use the 7 pm rule: if you take a train after 7 pm and arrive before 4 am, this counts as 1 journey. All train times and reservations can be made via the Interrail website.
This is also a perfect solution within Europe. You can leave whenever you want, can store a lot in your car and you determine the route yourself.
Some tips if you are traveling by car:
- Make sure you are properly insured, also abroad. And make sure that your breakdown assistance is also valid abroad
- Inform yourself well in advance about any vignettes or environmental stickers that you may need (eg Switzerland).
- Also, see which items must be present in your car in certain countries.
- See if there are toll roads and if you can avoid them without losing a lot of time
- Have your car checked in advance in the garage
If you are going to rent a car at your destination to make a road trip, for example, there are other things to keep in mind:
- Make sure you have a credit card in the driver’s name
- Always book your car in advance and preferably with good (all-in) insurance.
- Is there cruise control? Especially if you have to travel long distances, this is really a must
- Are you going from place A to place B? Some airlines charge a 1-way fee that can be quite high. Make sure you know this very well in advance
- Can you drive an unlimited number of km?
- What size car do you take? If there are 2 of you, you can opt for a small car. Sometimes you are lucky that there is an upgrade. But in some areas and countries, a 4×4 is a must.
- Is a GPS necessary? Within Europe, you could possibly still use your mobile phone with Google maps or, for example, maps.me. But you could also buy a GPS at a local store. Or maybe friends or family have one you can borrow
- If you have to drive in a country where they drive on the left, you can consider getting an automatic so that you don’t have to shift gear
- Always opt for a rental car during these times that you can easily cancel
- If you plan to pick up the car directly from the airport, choose an office located at the airport. Otherwise, you will need additional transport to get there. Unless of course, you’ve been in the city for a few days, an office in the city might be a good idea
- Always opt for collection and delivery with a full tank. Otherwise, you pay a lot more when bringing the car in
We often book our rental car at rentalcars. Again, the message is to compare: not only the price is important, but the above comments also play a major role.
Public transport is often also a perfect way to explore a city, region or area.
- Train: Do you need to book tickets in advance? How is the ticket check done? Where can you find the timetable?
- Bus/Tram/Metro: Are there combi tickets or tickets for several days? What is the timetable?
- Uber: Uber is very well established in some countries. Make use of this.
What to do?
This very much depends on the type of vacation you want. If you are going to make a road trip, it is important to have an idea in advance of what you want to do in order to plan the route and possibly book accommodation.
How do I proceed:
- I make a list of all the attractions, national parks, walks, tours, museums that I want to do. You can get inspiration from Pinterest, Instagram, Tiktok, websites tourist services, blogs, friends, …
- Create a Google My Maps for your trip
- Put everything you want to do on this Map. I also use a separate icon for each species: walks, photo places, museums, restaurants, attractions, …
Here are examples of our trips for Scotland and New York
When you take a road trip, use these Google Maps to plan your route. Make sure that you do not plan to drive too long and also take sunrise and sunset into account.
When you make a city trip, it is best to try to group certain things in a specific neighborhood to do on a certain day. Take into account, for example, closing days or times when certain attractions are free. And try not to plan too much in 1 day; of course, it still has to be a holiday.
To save money, you can look to Groupon at your destination. Sometimes cheaper tickets are available for certain attractions. A Citypass can also be very beneficial. If you are a student, don’t forget to bring your student card. In many cities, you can get a discount as a student.
Free Walking tours are a fun way to get to know a city. You have one or more in every city these days. At the end of the walk, you choose how much money you give them. The guides can also give tips for nice restaurants or other things you should do. Food tours are also fun to do.
Do you like camping? A homely feeling? Or just a B&B or Hotel?
We mainly use Booking or AirbnB to book our accommodation. You can also sometimes find campsites here.
When we were looking for our campsites for our trip through Italy, I mainly did this by googling “camping + city”.
Some tips for booking:
- Always book with free cancellation
- Is there (free) parking available?
- Is breakfast included?
More tips to save on accommodation can be found here.
Good restaurants are very important to us but they are not always easy to find. The offer is huge, especially in large cities. Sometimes we look at the moment ourselves via Tripadvisor which restaurants are worth visiting. This is especially good for lunch.
I often search in advance on Instagram, Pinterest or other blogs or just google for nice restaurants for the evening. This can be useful if you need to book in advance. I add all the restaurants I find to my Google My Maps. For example, it is useful to see whether there are specific restaurants in the vicinity of things that we are going to visit on a particular day, for example during a city trip.
If you are a foodie you can also look up which dishes are a must to try in a particular country or city. Such as trofie pasta in Northern Italy, bbq in the US, poutine in Canada, kimchi in Korea, …
Make a plan
This can be different for everyone: some people like to have everything planned from hour to hour. Other people see what they are doing.
I also work with a to-do list:
- Book plane
- Book hotel(s)
- Book Tour X
If you have everything, you can put it in 1 document. This can be a Google doc, Google Sheet, Onenote, Notion, … . I currently use Notion to make a schedule per day with Kanban view. I can easily drag things from day to day. Or you can opt for a here
Here is an example of a planning for New York.
And then the time has come when you can finally make the journey. Enjoy it and don’t stress too much if your planning doesn’t go the way you had in mind.
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