Travel planning can be a great source of stress for many people. Sometimes the sources we turn to for guidance only add to that stress and confusion of how to best go about it! We all know those blog posts that give you specific itineraries for a set number of days in a location… Hop on Pinterest real fast and you’ll see titles like “3 Day Itinerary for Paris”, “See All of London in 4 Days”, or “5 Perfect Days in Italy”…
Posts that lay out plans for a certain amount of time might be fine for some people, but for most people they aren’t really all that helpful. The specifics surrounding a trip are going to vary greatly from person to person/family to family. You might spend more or less days in a place than the blogger’s itinerary lays out, you might run into bad weather, you might have a child with you when they had none, the list goes on and on… For that reason, we attempt to schedule each of our trips the same way regardless of where we travel.
1. Choose somewhere you can navigate with ease.
Point to a place on a map and you can almost bet they will have a variety of different transportation options to suit your needs. Our favorite places to visit are cities where we can take the subway/metro/buses or walk, simply as a matter of convenience. Obviously the cheapest option is walking and, believe it or not, many major cities are fairly walkable.
Some people prefer to wake up, walk out from their hotel, explore/get lost in the city, and find their way back at the end of the night. Other people are very organized and thorough in planning everything down to the second, so they need to know every step by step detail of their day.
When sticking to a strict schedule, you will need to know specifics down to which line to take or what minute the bus should arrive, because if any of those details compromise the itinerary, the whole day could fall apart. For us that seems extremely stressful. In fact, the most stressful times we’ve experienced on a trip were when we were trying to make it to places at very specific times. Traveling is supposed to be fun, not tense!
2. Group your to-do list by geographic location.
Just like with any city, you can never predict the weather. If your entire itinerary is planned out and the weather doesn’t cooperate, then you could be in for a very miserable day. Having flexibility in your day to day schedule can potentially be the difference between a lot of disappointments and the best trip you’ve ever had.
What we like to do is create a list of everything we would like to see, as well as what we think the little ones would be interested in, and group them into sections based on their location on the map.
When we arrive, we check the weather for the next few days to figure out what to do outdoors on the days with good weather and choose our indoor things like shopping, museums, or restaurants on days where the weather might not be as good, or at the very least unpredictable. (Check out our tips for eating with kids while traveling if the word “restaurants” just made you break into a cold sweat!) Travel planning this way helps us tremendously because we have enough inside things to do on bad weather days and, if the weather changes for the better, we can check the list of outdoor things that were close by.
3. Don’t stress over a few extra dollars.
Some people might be against the “go with it” thought process when trip planning because they like all of the details ironed out in advance. Some people also feel that you must have things booked ahead of time in order to save financially. Just like with most things, the further out you book from your travel date, the more money you can save (in most cases). For us though, what’s the point of flying halfway across the world to enjoy a city if you have to suffer through outdoor activities in bad weather?
Pre-booking may save you a few dollars which can, of course, add up over the course of an entire trip. Is it worth fighting through bad weather all day (especially if you have children with you) just to save those few extra dollars though? If you are willing to be a little bit flexible, you could be indoors having the experience of a lifetime on those days instead. For us its a no brainer. We, like most people, travel on a very strict budget, but at the same time we want to make good memories. A few extra dollars here and there are worth it to stay flexible, in our opinion.
4. Book things with limited ticket availability in advance.
Although we primarily attempt to leave our schedules open, there are a few things that require you to book well in advance due to ticket availability that we must make exceptions for. For the most part though, our preferred method of travel planning is to leave our days open to what the weather is conducive for. This enables us to do just about anything and everything the city has to offer! However, there are a few tricks of the trade to some of the locations when you bring kids along. Our recommendations of things to do in different destinations and how to handle them when traveling with children are coming soon! Stay tuned. 🙂
We ate at the 58 Tour Eiffel Restaurant located on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. This was one of the few things we did that required advanced booking in Paris.
Travel Planning Resources
Here are a few resources we use to plan our trips that are too good not to share!
Google Maps– Listing this seems pretty obvious, but since this is our go-to source we couldn’t leave it off! Google Maps is a great tool to put all of your interests in one place while still fostering flexibility within your schedule. We love this resource for soooo many reasons…
- You can make a list on your account of all of the restaurants, attractions, etc. you would like to visit in a destination. We love this because you can see all of the details to each location such as the address, hours, reviews, photos, link to tickets/website, directions from your current location, busiest times, phone number, and more! Seeing all of the pins on the map of the specific places we are interested in really helps us to visualize the areas of the city we should focus on each day based on what is closest in proximity to each other.
- You can download an offline version of the map which is great if you do not plan to use cellular data while traveling.
*We will post tutorials of how to use Google Maps soon. 🙂
TripIt– This resource is nice if you like a specific schedule of your itinerary. You can send all of your bookings/tickets to your account and it builds your itinerary for you. You can then go in and manually add other destinations you would like to stop at from there. TripIt includes travel, lodging, and how much time to apportion for each thing, as well as how long it will take to get to each stop from where you are located. It’s your one-stop shop for your entire trip!
Sygic Travel– This is an interactive map similar to Google Maps, however it is more specific in scheduling your itinerary than just listing the locations you save. It gives great visuals of where you might be interested in exploring which allows you to become virtually familiar with the location you will soon find yourself in. Sygic Travel is a nice tool as you begin your research on a city when travel planning!
Jet Lag Rooster– With Jet Lag Rooster, you simply plug in the details of your trip (date/time) and it gives you a schedule that will help you to best prepare in the days leading up to your departure to minimize jet lag. Who doesn’t want all of the energy you can get!?
Lounge Buddy– This tool tells you of all available lounges within the airport you have a layover at and the entrance requirements for each. Some of the lounges that you would think are exclusive to members only have a small entrance fee for non-members! This is a great tool if you have a long layover and would like a shower and/or a comfy place to sleep in properly!
Obviously, there are many more resources we could include, but these are our favorites at the moment! If you have any other travel planning resources we should know about, leave them in the comments below. We’d love to hear about them! 🙂