In the last few years, I've planned a trip to India for myself and nine family members coming from three different cities. I planned my mom's big birthday trip with her childhood friend across two continents and four cities. And I've planned numerous trips for myself across continents, countries, cities and time zones.
The gist: I am a planner. I plan what I'm doing tomorrow, next week, next month and sometimes even next year. Of course some of these plans fall through or change, but it doesn't stop me from planning. It's just how I'm wired.
I generally like being informed in life, and that includes being informed in my travels.
When it comes to travel, I thrive on planning. I am giddy about it. And I don't mean that I will detail every hour of every day of a vacation but more so that I'll research things to do, places to see, foods to try, events to attend, and so on. I generally like being informed in life, and that includes being informed in my travels.
I hadn't always done as much planning as maybe I should have, and there's always something that absolutely does NOT go as planned when traveling, but I've found a few things that have helped me better plan many trips for both myself and family and friends:
A little research goes a long way
I remember the days when I would pay double the price for airfare or a hotel and thought that was a pretty good deal. Since then I've done my research and have my go-to resources, like The Flight Deal and Secret Flying for airfare deals, Booking.com for nabbing hotels (often with free cancellation) and The Points Guy for understanding how to earn and use points and miles.
Talk to your friends who travel
Do you have a friend who travels? Or at least a friend of a friend? Sometimes you can get a lot of great info from that friend who's always traveling. They may know something you don't, whether that's the best little restaurant to visit in Rome or how to find cheaper airfare from your hometown. Talk to them!
When I break it up into segments or look at that list as tackling one thing at a time, it's so much more achievable.
Tackle a little at a time, not all at once
Nothing is more overwhelming than looking at a laundry list of things you need to get done. Whenever I look at something in its entirety, I am immediately overwhelmed and don't even want to begin, but when I break it up into segments or look at that list as tackling one thing at a time, it's so much more achievable. I'm no longer overwhelmed, and I even feel a sense of accomplishment at being able to tick things off.
Embrace lists (at least a little)
I know, I know, some of you may see this and cringe because who wants to create a list for something as exciting and perhaps even spontaneous as travel? But, I promise you, even a little bit of a list goes a long way. The list I most often make involves what to pack. I have to write out a suggested list of outfits (which I probably stick to about 70% of the time) and what to pack, or else I will literally try to bring my entire closet because what if I'm invited to a black tie event and need a gown? Having a list gives me some much-needed parameters as well as something to refer to.
Know that things don't always go as planned
Part of being a planner is understanding that ish happens, and there's only so much you can do about it. Two years ago, I booked a vacation rental with my family, and when the owner neglected to respond with directions on where to go or even answer my increasingly frantic requests for information, I had to think fast and figure out where else we could stay. More recently, a Bali volcano trek I booked two months in advance was canceled 50 minutes before my 1:30 am pickup. So yes, things don't always go as planned, and you could harp on it or you could act fast to change it.
These main things have helped me have several amazing travel experiences, with a few more on the horizon.
What are your top tips for planning trips?