From studying abroad in 2016 and working in Italy most of 2017 to all the trips in between and after, I have learned so much about how to plan a smooth and enjoyable vacation. How I plan my vacations is probably my most frequently asked travel question from readers. When planning my vacations there are five common phases I always follow. These are: Finding Inspiration, Figuring Out Who Will Be Joining You, Start Researching, Finalizing Accommodations and Transportation, and Creating an Itinerary.
1. Find Inspiration
Travel Inspiration is endless. Maybe it’s seeing a destination on a TV show or movie or recommendations from friends and family. The inspiration is all about finding the spark, or a passionate urge to travel. Personally, I get my inspiration from destinations I read in magazines, pictures on Pinterest and Instagram, or recommendations from friends and family. My adventures and wanderlust personality allows me to always have places that catch my attention and provide me with the urge to travel. Anytime I get this feeling I jot down the location under the dreams section of my travel planner. When I am ready to start planning a vacation I ask myself why am I wanting to travel in the first place? When can I go? What type of vacation am I wanting? What’s my budget? How much time do I have to travel? Once I have answered these questions I examine my list and select my top three places.
2. Figure Out Who Will Be Joining You
Sometimes when I am planning my vacations this step is already answered as I already know who I am traveling with. Other times I just know I want to get away and haven’t thought about who will be joining me. At this phase of planning my vacations, I still have my list of top 3 places I want to travel to and with it, I open my ideas to friends and family.
3. Start Researching
Most of the time when planning my trips I have only a general idea of a country or area of the country I want to visit. Rarely do I know exactly where I want to go. At this point, I start researching accommodations. The price, availability, amenities, and accessibility of an area determine the exact location of my trip. Next, I start researching transportation options: flights, trains, car rentals, etc. If flying or taking a train to the location is the chosen option, then I have to also research transportation to and from the airport and/or train station (for many of my international trips taking a plane and train are necessary to reach my final destination). At this phase of the planning process, I also find out if there are any health alerts and concerns in the area and whether or not I need any vaccinations.
When planning and conducting my research I take notes in my travel notebook of all of my accommodation and transportation options. I review my notes, consult with my travel buddies, and make my final selections.
4. Finalize Accommodations & Transportation
Once all of the choices have been made: location, accommodation, the number of travelers; it is now time to finalize and book my trip. I write down the addresses of my accommodation and print out my flight information and google maps direction from/to my accommodation options and the airport/train stations.
5. Create Your Itinerary
When creating my itinerary I research excursions and must-see things to do in the area and gather them into a list. I then divide my list into two categories: places to eat and things to do and then rank them by what is most important. Once I have completed that part I transfer everything into a spreadsheet and start planning my daily activities and restaurants to try. When planning my days I try to keep everything in close proximity. For example, if I am planning a beach day I pick a restaurant that is near the beach. This maximizes time for fun and minimizes the time for transit.
I hate to become a checklist tourist and overbook my days with activities. I understand that when traveling to these places I may never return but at the same time, I like to take it slow and immerse myself in the experience. It’s always been important to go slow and enjoy the moment then rather feel rushed and pressed for time.