Every Great Trip Starts With a Dream and a Plan
Do we agree the internet is a great source for vacation planning tips? But the same time it also makes it harder to choose where to go, how to get there and how to get the most bang for your buck; there are literally thousands of options, hundreds of travel sites and dozens of travel apps to choose from.
When I started thinking about a trip to Europe last year I ran into a roadblock. In the US, travel agencies have gone the way of the independent book store. Unlike the UK and Europe, you won’t find a high street travel agency ready to help you book your dream trip. In fact after Googling my fingers off, I couldn’t come with one local agency in Denver CO besides AAA. Now AAA is handy if you have a flat tire and need a tow but they’re not European travel experts.
The other option I turned to was Costco; who advertise package travel to Europe, Central and South America, Hawaii and Caribbean. I had difficulty finding what I had in mind – a rail based trip from London to Italy – gave up and went back to searching online.
What I eventually realized after much research was this; two weeks was not enough time to take a train from London to Italy with time to relax and enjoy the trip. So I compromised. We would stay in London and make a quick hop over to Paris on the Eurostar instead. At the last minute I managed to also squeeze in an overnight trip to Edinburgh. Italy was put on the back burner, for now.
Perhaps you’ve experienced similar frustration when you’ve tried to put together a bespoke trip for yourself or your family?
In the UK, many travel agencies offer inclusive packages with rail, cruises and flights to choose from. Lots of options.
With that in mind I grabbed The Times on a spring trip to the UK, and found an ad for Riviera Travel that led me to the perfect Italian lakes trip I’d been dreaming about. Experiencing a destination I’d dreamed about for years was priceless.
The moral of the story is, don’t give up. Keep searching for the type of travel experience you’re dreaming about. If you’re looking for a planning a vacation checklist or how to plan a trip like a travel agent, here’s my tips.
8 Tips on How to Plan a Getaway Trip
- Where do you want to go? It may be obvious but if your bucket list is long, choose the destination that’s lighting a fire in you right now, a place you can’t wait to cross off that list. We stayed in London for two weeks with an overnight to Edinburgh and a three day trip to Paris. Ticked a few boxes.
- How long do you want your trip to be. I’d make it a two week minimum if you’re traveling from the US to Europe. It takes a day or two to get over jet lag, and by the time you’re really starting to enjoy yourself, it will feel like time to pack up and go home. If you have more time by all means take it. It may let you squeeze in some extra stops.
- Plan it yourself or do could you use some help? On our first trip to Italy, I really wanted to sit back and let someone else organize everything so I didn’t have to worry about the details. Booking a trip with an tour company might make sense for you too. Another plus, tour travel can run cheaper because they can bundle and get deals you can’t.
- Where will you stay each night. Personally I like to know where I’m sleeping. I don’t want to try to book on the fly because I prefer having a base and travel from there. Much more relaxing. (Do you hate to pack and unpack as much as I do?) Here’s how I planned a London-Edinburgh-Paris trip.
- Budget? Figure out what you’re comfortable spending. Your biggest expense is likely to be accomodations. If you don’t hire a car you’ll save even more. In the UK and Europe, public transportation and taxis are reasonable and available and less stressful than driving. Airfares fluctuate wildly depending on time of year. Shoulder or off season travel will save you a bunch.
- Plan your “must see’s”. To enjoy those fully, be ruthless and eliminate any “maybe” stops. Really think about what’s most important to you. Especially if time is precious. Don’t feel you have to see it all. I guarantee you I won’t miss seeing the Mona Lisa in person. But if you’re a super fan then by all means, go!
- Block out each day of your trip. Give yourself some wiggle room. Often. But use your calendar to put in any events, travel or sightseeing you plan to do that day so you can stay organized and on top of your trip. I highly endorse using an app like Tripit. It’s awesome. You forward all your travel detail emails to Tripit, and it creates a day by day chronological list of where you’ll be and how you’ll get there.
- Use a smartphone while traveling. I don’t know how I did without it. I can keep track of emails I may need, use Google maps to navigate, have access to Tripit for my trip details including flights and rental cars. Stick my boarding passes in Apple Wallet. Use the airline app to check for flight delays. Consider upgrading if you don’t have one. With the right app you can also keep in touch with “home”. It’s one piece of technology I count on.
The key to planning your next getaway trip successfully is have most of the details covered before you leave. Then you can relax and enjoy your travel experiences without worrying too much about the details. Planning everything ahead of time doesn’t mean you can’t be spontaneous! But I prefer doing my planning at home with strong Wifi and plenty of time to sort out changes or hiccups.