Most of us travel. Before you leave your home it’s critical to set yourself up for success by preparing with a good trip plan. You’ll want to consider the theme of your trip, where you will eat, sleep and frolic as well as the needs and desires of your travelling companion(s). All of this needs to take into consideration real constraints such as budget and time. I’ve planned a variety of trips for both my friends and family. These have ranged from pan-European adventures to romps across the Georgia Straight to the San Juan Islands. Here are four tips for planning your next memorable (in a good way) trip.
Do your homework
There are a few people who are superb last minute “get up and go” trip planners. But for all the rest of us, giving a fair amount of forethought to consider different options – be it accommodations or sites you want to see or even the themes of the trip – is a key way to save money and maximize efficiency. I like to start at least 3-4 months out. If booking flights, that’s usually a good time for deals and it also enhances that feeling you have when counting down the days to Christmas.
Make it valuable
On our honeymoon, my wife and I traveled to Paris. We spent five days there. Paris is an expensive city and I figured, to cut costs, we’d rent a really cheap Airbnb. I figured all we’d be doing was sleeping there so why bother spending much. It was a big mistake. The place was tiny, cramped and packed with mildew. Over a decade later, while I have fond memories of the rest of the trip, all I can remember of Paris was eating a baguette and Brie under the Eiffel Tower and that shitty apartment near the Moulin Rouge sign. Don’t make that same mistake.
Be clear about “must haves”
My friend Godfrey and I love travelling by bike. We’ve done several bike trips together and are beginning to plan our next trip in the coming year. A must have for Godfrey is to stay in an accommodation that has a hot tub to rest his weary muscles after a 130km ride. For me it’s an “authentic dining experience”, which sometimes means cheap riblettes in Tacoma or fancy eggs benny in the hipster part Bellingham. Knowing Godfrey’s expectations for success before we leave and during the planning process helps cut down on surprises and ensures there is a hot tub at every stop in the evening. Identifying the nice to haves and need to haves is critical to shared success.
Use modern tools
There’s a reason a lot of businesses worship at the alter of Google. They make great tools. I love to use google sheets to map out the destinations, accommodation, sites to see, restaurants and other amenities so I have a clear understanding of the building blocks of each travel day. Then try out Google Flights, a seeming improvement over Expedia for booking flights. On bike trips I like to create a Google Sheet detailing the kilometres we will be riding, links to popular trails in the area and budget costs so everyone on the trip is aware of the breakdown. Then prior to leaving, I’d recommend downloading offline Google Maps for each area you will be passing through. Add your accommodation and restaurants into the maps, switch off the data at the border and abracadabra you’ve got all your maps, hotels, restaurants and trails in the palm of your hand.