Whether you're a seasoned traveler or just starting to plan your first adventure, I've got you covered!
Between building and booking itineraries for me, family travels and group travels for over 20+ people, I have come up with an exact method that keeps me organized and most importantly, sane.
This method has not only saved me money but was built around creating the exact travel "vibe" I wanted for each location and ensured the experience I was adventuring for.
SET UP A TRAVEL DATABASE
A database is; a structured collection of data stored and organized in a way that allows for efficient retrieval, insertion, and manipulation of information.
So first things first is to define where you plan on storing this database.
If you were to ask me a couple years ago I would have told you this could be anything such as a notebook, whiteboard or note-taking application (Word, Pages, Keynote, etc.) but after switching to Notion I can't imagine planning a trip using anything else.
More on Notion for traveling here.
If you're new to the program it can take a bit of getting use to but TRUST ME, it's worth it.
To make life simple, I have my Trip Planning template available for free. You can use it exactly as is, or change it up to fit your needs.
Planning a trip can be overwhelming because there is just so much unknown. So I like to start with familiarizing myself with the basics.
Below are some of the questions I ask. Some I note down in my data base (like exchange rate, weather, must-see attractions, etc) and the rest I just keep in the back of mind.
What is the local currency and current exchange rate?
What is the best way to get around (e.g. public transportation, taxis, car rental)?
What is the climate like and what should I pack for my trip?
What are some must-see attractions and activities in the country?
What is the food culture like and what local dishes should I try?
Are there any health or safety concerns I should be aware of?
What is the cultural etiquette and customs in the country?
What is the language spoken and are English or other languages widely spoken and understood?
Are there any visa requirements for visiting and what documents do I need to enter the country?
What is the local time zone and how does it compare to my home time zone?
I also recommend including an image of the country with visible cities labeled on it. Later on in your research and planning it will be great to have easy access to a map. Throughout the process of building an itinerary you will find yourself getting more and more oriented with the country.
BUILD A BUCKET LIST
Assuming you have the destination picked out - start saving spots that pique your interest.
This could be restaurants, clubs, bars, tourist attractions, beaches, parks, etc.
I find a lot of spots through Instagram and Pinterest, which is great because those platforms make it easy to search and organize spots into folders.
Piggy backing on that idea - start following accounts that share insights and recommendations in your desired destination.
For example: I am planning a trip to Japan, so I start following Instagram accounts like @Japan.explores. I also do searches through instagram locations or hashtags and browse through the content for experiences or locations I'd like to do more research on.
Ask for recommendations, some of my favorite hidden gems were recommendations from personal friends or Instagram followers!
WATCH YOUTUBE VIDEOS
I found watching Youtube videos really fills in the gaps and gave me a better idea of what I want out of my trip.
Watching destination-specific vlogs can help you get a sense of the atmosphere and local customs, and can help you build a list of activities.
Many travel YouTubers provide in-depth reviews of hotels, resorts, and local attractions, giving you valuable information on what to expect and helping you make informed decisions on your trip. It's a great way to get a glimpse into what your trip might be like.
Now that the housekeeping is in order, it's time to start solidifying plans.
PIN ON GOOGLE MAPS
From your list of attractions, restaurants, galleries, outdoor activities, nightlife, etc. start to pin/save each and every one of them on your Google Map.
This step will later help you make a decision on what cities you'll want to visit this trip, how many days you'll need to travel the destination or what you will need to cut out given the duration of your stay.
This isn't the most fun part of the planning but once you're done with this it's such a relief and the rest is a breeze!
Have a look at your Google map and play around with how long you think it will take you to do everything listed.
You may need to remove some items that seem too out of the way or not the best use of time.
You may find yourself wanting to extend your trip a day or two longer if you have that luxury.
When I'm time blocking I always double the amount of time I think it will take (unless it's an experience with a set start-end time).
I didn't always do this and in turn I would book our trips so back-to-back it made it less enjoyable. Giving extra time in-between things will make it more relaxed, makes room for spontaneity and cuts out the chances of over promising and underdelivering on your travel expectations.
BOOK YOUR FLIGHT! WOOHOOO!
Hopefully by this point you're eager to hop on a plane and get going already!! You probably have a month in mind at this point and if you have a bit of flexibility I highly recommend using Google Flights price graphs to give you an idea of what dates are cheaper to fly.
Then compare these dates and prices through direct airline websites and third party booking platforms, such as Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz, Hopper, etc.
Here in your research and planning you will make a decision of where to book your stay. Depending on the country and style of trip you are doing will depend if it's a "book as you go" kind of trip or some place where it's best to reserve in advance.
When you've narrowed down the main cities of travel it makes it pretty easy to start researching accommodation in those areas.
If you're still not sure, I recommend basing yourself near public transportation or in the center hub of the activities. The accommodation in these locations are usually a bit more expensive but in some cases ends up not only saving time but also being more cost effective in the long run.
BOOK MAIN ACTIVITIES
A majority of your activities can probably be booked upon arrival or entrance but best to do a bit of research before you arrive.
Some restaurants, excursions, classes, etc. will require booking ahead of time due to the high volume of bookings. I personally like flexibility in my trips so I try to keep activities that require reservations down to a minimum.
* TIP: have all your tickets and confirmation details in one place and somewhere easy to access. This is another reason I love Notion- you can access everything straight from the app on your phone. Or if by any chance you don't have access to your phone, you can login to your Notion account from any computer or phone.
Making a travel itinerary can be a fun and exciting process that ensures a smooth and stress-free trip. Embrace spontaneity, stay flexible, and be open to unexpected adventures for the most memorable travel experiences. I hope this helps you plan your next great adventure!
Happy travels! And of course, the adventure continues.....!