I planned this trip in a hot blur of inspiration and a seize the day mood so it is perhaps not the ideal way to plan a trip and it is not how I would suggest creating the perfect itinerary. It has however turned into ONE-FABULOUS-TRIP and I have learned so much from my travels and creating itineraries. Believe it or not, I am well into my third week on the road with Road Warrior Jack in tow….and still loving every minute of it. You know you’re having fun when you don’t know what day it is and every day feels like Friday! So here are a couple of tips for starting from scratch planning an itinerary….and building a great plan for the road.
- Flights: I planned this trip backwards. Normally you pick where you want to go and search for flights. I picked this trip based on a cheap airfare that would just get me to Europe and then planned everything around that. Either way works. I have just discovered Momondo.com as a great search engines for saving money on flights. I knew if I flew into Vienna I could train travel everywhere else. If you are going to Europe you are going to save a lot of money planning at least 6-8 weeks in advance. Also – flying during the shoulder season will also save big bucks. Summer is EXPENSIVE in Europe…what about Spring or Fall?
- Chart out days. If you have a seven day trip you might want to consider spending all seven days in one place or three days in one city, and two days in another city etc. This is preference. I like to stay on the move. For many people, that’s just too much travel. I think a good rule of thumb is 3 days for a major city is a good amount of time to hit the highlights. If you want to really relax four days. This all depends on the nature of the trip. A beach vacation where you want to lounge is much different from a sightseeing trip through Europe. Are you trying to really lounge or maximize your days? Only you can answer that.
- Research and Compare. There are always a wide range of options from a budget standpoint and after airfare this is where you can save THE most amount of money. Air B and B is now a great option to rent out someone’s home while saving money and getting a better feel for the culture. I won’t stay anywhere that I’m not earning points or loyalty rewards in some way. So I either use hotels.com or I use a loyalty program like Starwoods…spg.com In Barcelona I stayed at a place called Daily Flats where you rent out apartments. For 110 dollars a night, we had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, a living room and a balcony. We also had a washing machine to do Jack’s laundry. The people who checked us in were beyond helpful and even booked tickets to all the attractions in Barcelona. I don’t think I could get better value for my money than that. It was exceptional. And it was in a neighborhood where real people live not a tourist district so I got a better feel for life in Barcelona. Amazing!!
- Activities. Once you’ve booked your flights and accomodations, the trip becomes very real. I spend a lot of time researching and reading where I am traveling and how to avoid tourist traps, how to save money, where to go, what is really worth the money, other travel blogs, and basically how to squeeze the absolute most out of every trip I go on. So as you chart out each day, it’s always a good idea to have a rough idea of what you want to do and at least one restaurant picked out so you don’t just eat somewhere random that isn’t good. So for example for Day One in Barcelona:
Morning: La Pederera.
Lunch: La Conservitado Cerverseria – Tapas
Afternoon: Parc Guell
Late afternoon – free for shopping or happy hour
Dinner – TBD
- Budget: Have a good sense of how much you want to spend on a trip so that you don’t get carried away. It also helps you plan your meals, excursions and shopping knowing what kind of budget you want to stay within. It’s easy to overspend if you don’t do this. If you have a firm idea, you can look for lunch specials, discounts and ways to cut corners. More on that later…
- Know thyself. If the idea of spending days wandering museums and then hanging out in cafes eating and drinking wine, maybe Paris isn’t the ideal trip for you. Know what kind of trip is going to make you happy but also be willing to push yourself a little outside your comfort zone. You just might surprise yourself. I say this sitting in a hotel lobby in Seville, Spain. It was a risk taking a five hour train to the South of Spain. I wasn’t sure I would like it. But you know what……I am blown away.