So far, my actual planning for next year’s Europe trip has been minimal. I’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming and inspiration gathering, but very little detail-gathering or scheduling.
Here’s how I typically plan my trips.
- Brainstorm/Gather inspiration/Get Recommendations.
This is the time when I’ll browse the blogosphere, pick out pictures on Pinterest, and gather suggestions from Google (which generally includes results from sites like TripAdvisor.comor the official tourist websites for those locations).
- Narrow down choices into feasible options.
We really can’t expect to see everything we want to in a given location. For example, I thought it would be fun to do a tour of a coffee plantation in Puerto Rico. But it is only available one or two days per week, neither of which are when I’ll be in town, or requires a car to get there. Checking things like hours of operation and seasonality really helps to knock some activities off of the list.
- Tentatively schedule and plan itinerary with top priority activities.
Once I have a rough list of the things I want to do, I start to figure out how we’ll get from one place to the next. It makes the most sense to visit both the Wieliczka Salt Mine and Auschwitz when we are stationed in Krakow, since they are geographically nearby. Thanks to WikiTravel, I know that you must arrive before 10am if you want to avoid a rushed tour group . Thanks to the official mine website (and Google Translate), I know that the last English-language tour for the mine leaves by 6:00pm. Therefore, we could visit Auschwitz in the morning, eat lunch and decompress in Krakow, and then continue on to the Salt Mine in the afternoon, returning to Krakow for dinner.
- Create list of alternatives or possible activities.
There are times when you plan one activity, just to show up and find out that it is cancelled. Or, you plan an outdoor activity just to see the rain clouds gathering on the horizon. For times like these, when we might need to change plans unexpectedly, I like to have a list of the “maybe” events. “Maybe” events are the ones you wanted to include on the list, but cut out of the schedule for whatever reason. I was thinking about this today after I read Jodie Leigh’s post about a last minute tour that she had excluded from her jam-packed itinerary.
Right now, I’m only at step #1 for the entire trip to Europe. I have an extra half-step between steps #2 and #3, because I also need to get some feedback from my mom on what she wants to do.
Since the trip is incredibly nebulous, I probably break it down into each of these steps for each of the cities we want to visit. Since I know we will definitely be visiting Krakow, and I know next to nothing about that city, I’ll start there and focus the brainstorming step on Krakow and surrounding activities. Once I finish that, I’ll take a look at other cities in Poland to see where else we might want to visit.
This is a long process, but exploring the options is half of the fun!
How do you plan your trips? Do you leave it all up to chance once you get there? Do you schedule every minute, down to the last detail? Let me know – I’d love to hear other planning methods!