I'm sure you can tell from the content of this blog that I love (love love love) to travel. So many great experiences and discoveries happen when you're outside your usual locale. I pretty much enjoy every minute of being on a trip. And part of that - actually a huge chunk - of that enjoyment planning the trip. I know people struggle with this - and I do too! I despise booking flights. My palms sweat just thinking about the possibility of booking the flight on the wrong day (which I've done-- those damn little calendars)!
For some people, booking a flight is a breeze and the stressful part is finding a good hotel, or deciding what to do each day you're there, or what have you. For something we love so much, planning to travel can still be really stressful. We did some Paris planning last night and luckily, it was fun! I thought I'd share with you our process - maybe it will help prevent a few micro-panics on your next trip-planning endeavor.
I know, in this day and age, with expert travel blogs (ahem) and LonelyPlanet online to consult, you may say, "Guidebooks? Really?!" The answer is yes, use them. They're a great resource to get you started. We used a AAA Paris Guidebook and an Eye Witness Top 10 Paris book to flip through and get ideas of what we absolutely HAVE to see. Don't live and die by your guidebook, surely, but use it for some basic planning. Anywhere you go, you'll likely want to hit some of the top attractions. In Paris, think La Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, etc. Use the guidebook to help you identify those places that make you feel like you've been there, done that, checked it off your list.
From there, consult a map - most guidebooks have a very user-friendly version - to group your "must-see's" into geographic areas. It makes no sense to spend any more time than you must criss-crossing the city in a taxi or underground metro. Plan your days around neighborhoods where you can walk from attraction to attraction. Going to the Eiffel Tower in the morning? Check out the nearby Musee De L'Homme afterwards and then have a picnic in the Rodin gardens. By choosing activities based on convenience you'll save money and time, and most importantly, energy - your most precious travel reserve.
Now, this is the step that may make me look just a little type-A here. For longer excursions, especially where I want to fit in a lot of sightseeing, I like to make a calendar. Sure, I want to leave room to change my mind, sleep in one morning, or just bask in the sun in the Jardin de Luxembourg, but having a plan helps me not stress during each lovely activity about what I'm going to do next. Do you really want to spend your dinner in that cute, candlelit bistro poring over your guidebook and trying to figure out what you should do tomorrow? No! Soak in the culture, suck in the wine, and consult your calendar tomorrow morning for an easy, convenient plan that you can either follow or totally disregard!
|My lovely Excel calendar...|
I started by blocking out the things that had a specific day or time - cooking classes with Mom, the free-for-young-adults night at the Louvre, and the final stage of the Tour de France - and then just started piecing things in by locale. Color coding optional, and a little pathetic honestly.
4. Add the Special Sauce:
This is the meat and potatoes - the must-see's, the schedule - now it's time to add the dessert. This is where the internet comes in. I don't want to hang out in the cafes or eat in the restaurants the guidebooks recommend - that's where all the tourists will be. I want to go where the locals go, or at least, where the really in the know travel bloggers go. What should I eat? Where should I shop? What weird, off the beaten-path thing should I try? Since I know what neighborhoods I'm going to hit, it'll be easy to add in the random fun things on our agenda. Plus, I've built in plenty of time for exploring and finding our own "must-see's" :)
From here, all you have to worry about is packing, flying, and gettin' 'er done!
How do you plan for vacation? Is it stressful, or do you love the preparation just as much as the trip? Got any great travel-planning tips??