Before I start a post on how I plan my travels, it’s fair to share my vision of travel first. To me, traveling is about discovering new places, new cultures, new ways of living and eating. It is not necessarily about meeting people, but it certainly is not about sun tanning on the beach all day. (First because I hate sand, second because I don’t like to be in any pool of water bigger than a bathtub and third because I’d get bored too quickly).
I’ve been lucky enough to get the travel bug from my parents and that my husband has it too. Traveling more and more together, we found an organization that works for both of us and was definitely a necessity for our 3 weeks road trip / honeymoon. Here are a few highlights of how we prep for travel:
- Choose the right destination. I don’t necessarily like to visit highly recommended places (like the French Riviera) and often prefer more authentic ones (like Brittany). It is about finding a destination that you like, that you’ll be able to visit comfortably for your budget, with the right travel time/length of stay balance.
- Define what you need in an accommodation. To us, Wi-Fi is a must and we don’t like to pay to park. We’d rather be a couple of extra miles away from the place we visit and get free breakfast. I’d choose cleanliness over comfort any day.
- Don’t underestimate your time on the road. There is always something that will make you lose time on the road so you need to keep a buffer in your day. Also, spending a full trip in your car is no fun. And following a promising sign can be fun!
- Search for information and advice. When mapping out our road trip to the US West Coast, we joined a forum to get ideas of places to go and a feedback on our itinerary. This was really helpful, but we also chose to keep some visits that are not popular ones (Apple HQ) and skip some classical ones (Lombard Street in SF). This is your trip and needs to be built for you.
- Plan well but not too much. As an introvert, I like to know what I’m getting into. So I plan what to see in a spreadsheet with estimated duration, cost, address and any relevant notes. I don’t go as far as to put a timeline in there (unless we are not staying long in the same place) as we would have a difficult time to stick with it. It’s also a good way to make sure you don’t leave the place with regrets of visits you missed and places you didn’t know about. My spreadsheets usually have date, address, name and description of what to do/see, budget and planned length.
- Because you plan the trip doesn’t make it about you. Plan activities and visits that will make your travel companions happy, even if that’s not one of your priorities. I’ve booked an ATV morning for my husband and ended up liking it as much as him.
- Even out days and nights. After a light day (pool, shopping…), you can plan an evening activity such as a sports game or a show. I wouldn’t pack them all on the same day, but that’s our way of travelling.
- Pack cleverly. Obviously, take into consideration weather, activities planned and duration of stay. I always make sure I have on me at least our most frequently used medicines, something warm, protection from the sun, water… But I also let some free space for what we’d buy there. I used to pack books but now a loaded iPad is all I need.
While there, we always amend and adjust our stay depending on factors such as weather, tiredness, unexpected extra activity etc. I’m usually the one behind the camera while my husband uses his iPhone and we share the GoPro. I like to keep notes of my days, especially if I want to blog about it or if it’s a special / long trip.
To me, a good trip balances tourist must-dos and places natives like to spend time in. It’s a great way to discover new cultures and ways of life, to make memories that will last forever.