Updated January 2022
Did you miss an important national holiday? Did you book tickets to the Picasso exhibition in advance? Travel planning is essential. No matter if you’re going to a European city or on a Mexican roadtrip, this list will help you in your travel planning and make sure you don’t miss out!
Right now, due to the Corona virus, there is more than plenty time for planning a trip. Every time, I’m planning, I go through all these steps in order to minimize what could go wrong. When writing this, I realized just how much work us self-planning travellers do. This is why travel agencies charge you as they do. But if you want to save money, then you have to put in the time. You don’t have to do all the steps that I do, just research on the areas that matter to you.
10 STEPS TO THE PERFECT TRAVEL PLAN
1 WORD OF MOUTH
2 PLAN BY SoMe
Watch YouTube videos of the destination, if you don’t know it that well, to get an idea of the mood and the highlights. Lonely Planet has short videos of most destinations, but otherwise you’ll find plenty by googling it (too many).
You can also head to Instagram for an overall idea. Try #visitistanbul or #angkor. Looking up hashtags will not only give you an idea on what to see, but also gives you a local insight into for example #paris.
The unavoidable TripAdvisor can be avoided, but I find it useful for top sights like most popular museums. TripAdvisor is one of the best to get more honest opinions, but take it with a pinch of salt. Some people complain about weird things and some attractions rate themselves.
For instance, Norway has guides on where to see the best Northern Lights. The official sites often use analytics and will guide you towards the most popular sights. They know the often asked question and difficulties and therefore cn give a great overview on temperatures, prices and so on. I have worked with both VisitCopenhagen and VisitDenmark, and they are only interested in you having a good time!
The travel magazines are generally too concerned about how it looks and less with cultures, but Wanderlust Travel Magazine does have some interesting features. My favourite is CultureTrip (no surprise).
4 TRAVEL BLOGS
Early in your travel planning, check for any fantastic celebrations, festivals or temporary exhibitions in the area. I usually see TimeOut or the largest museum’s websites. This might give you the opportunity to see the erotic works by Picasso, that will never be exhibited back home (I saw it). We also planned our arrival in Mexico City according to the Day of the Dead celebrations.
6 TRAVEL PLAN WITH KIDS
If you’re bringing a kid, which I sometimes am, it will destroy everything if you don’t plan accordingly. Make sure to have enough time to take a detour or a break.
When visiting a big city, check to see if the museums have a children’s education pack like a treasure hunt or find the 10 details. Sometimes you can also find kids activities on the museum’s webpage. If you already know the place well, try letting them decide what to see. You’ll experience the art quite differently. This will make your life easier!
If that doesn’t work just let them sit with music, like we did with this one, when seeing Casper David Friedrich in Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin. You can’t expect them to enjoy everything you do.
7 PLAN DISTANCES
The activities in one day have to be in the same area. Especially, when travelling with children. Don’t worry you’ll still get plenty of miles. For instance Versailles, the new Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre are not next to each other. You can print a map and draw in the sights, but that’s only necessary if you are a group and everyone needs to know precisely where to meet. An compulsive organizer like me use apps like the offline Maps.me, where I – in advance- highlight sights and restaurants, so I can easily find a place for lunch nearby a sight.
Planning for a group is something completely different.
Carefully planning distances is an even bigger issue, when you’re not planning a city trip, but visiting something like Valley of the Kings in Egypt or Petra in Jordan. Remember, that driving 100 km can be quite different, when going on a clear freeway in Germany than taking a narrow, one-car-only serpentine road in the Chinese mountains. You always underestimate how much time it takes! Like I did in Mexico, and we had to take a plane…
When I’m Rome and want to visit the Vatican Museum or MoMA, I don’t go early in the morning as the guidebooks say. Because I’m asleep… It’s way better to arrive 1.5 hours before closing time. Plan the trip so you take the least visited attractions on Sundays for instance, and not do what me and my sister are going to and visiting Versailles midday Sunday.
Try avoiding churches on Sundays and mosques on Fridays.
Always remember to double-check opening hours. There might be some weird holidays or a royal visit. As mentioned before, we went to Mexico City for Day of the Dead, but forgot that it means most of the attractions are closed for the holiday. But it can also be good thing: when in Athens on Independence Day March 25 – the Acropolis Museum gave us free entrance.
I also try to get a return ticket Monday morning – instead of Sunday evening – on long weekend trips. It’s not only cheaper, but you also don’t risk walking around in a closed city with your bag all Sunday just waiting for the plane. And since many leave on Sundays, you might see fewer other travellers.
Food is of course not just food. Food is edible cultural heritage! Hence, it does matter where you eat. When planning, you can look for the oldest restaurants, or new ones in old, historical buildings, like a breakfast diner in an old factory or Parisian cafes, where the French philosophers use to sit and think.
I always include places serving local dishes like lambs head in Morocco or spiders in Cambodia. In the restaurant above we had sparkling wine from the New York are. And it was superb!
Especially when planning a tight schedule or a group tour, you need to make sure that the last museum of the day is in a cool neighbourhood. Then you can chill with a drink, before you have a great dinner. Like in Riga, when you wanna visit the Holocaust Museum or see the view from the Science Academy around lunch time, so you can eat in the interesting Central Market.
Because there is no time to waste with so much to see and so little time to do it…