As I start to plan my next Europe trip it dawned on me how horrible I was at this "planning process" when I first started years ago. It makes me laugh thinking back. Leave it to say I have gotten much, MUCH better over the years. This next trip in particular.
When I first started traveling I would make a list of my top cities I wanted to visit and then hunt for excellent travel deals. I had yet to discover Thrifty Traveler, Google Flights or other like wise amazing sites so I relied on places like Priceline. I would google a few attractions and make a mental list but that was about it. With each trip I would do this, sometimes writing down a few notes but for the most part I would "wing" it. I did ok and always managed to see what I hoped for. Found a few deals here and there but it was always a bit stressful even if the country spoke English. The hardest part for me was getting from one place to the next. Literally how was it going to happen. After my Mom and I had a scary, horrible experience in Greece renting a car I swore to get better at my travel planning. (PS don't EVER rent a car in Greece!)
I was fortunate enough on my trip to Paris, Barcelona & London to travel with my best friends sister. I had heard about this style of planning from some other friends of mine, however I had yet to experience it for myself until this trip. Her planning skills blew my idea of traveling out of the water. It was so relaxing and easy. Every day we had a itinerary, which we could follow, or not, depending on how we felt. There were walking paths mapped out and along our routes were markers labeled for food stops. All of which had 5 star reviews online. So anyplace on the map we decided to stop and eat at was AMAZING.
So here I am planning my next big Europe trip. These are some tips & tricks that have helped me make my traveling fun and relaxing.
Google My Maps
1. If you haven't used My Maps on Google, do so! You can create a new map for each city you are planning to visit. Add all your site seeing, museums, restaurants, hotels, etc to your map. Each icon can be changed to help label your marker. You can even color code if you like.
Once done, you can then add walking paths to each marker. This can also help you know how long it will take you to walk from point A to B. If it's to long of a walk plan ahead and find the nearest public transit. Guess what, you can then label on your map where to catch the bus/train and where it will drop you off!
I use this to help me get to my hotel the fastest and easiest since I know I will have a suit case in tow. This can be such a life saver, and make getting to and from the airport stress free.
What To See & Do
2. Once I have my cities picked and major flights booked it's time to start the planning process. The fun part, what do you want to see and do when you're on Vacation? For me I want to make sure I don't miss any top 10 attractions that are must-see. So I google " what to see" or "top 10" in "Amsterdam". This will give you two billion links, but I'm only looking for 2-3.
Try to avoid the AD links at the top, they can sometimes be misleading and may not contain all the info you are looking for.
1st - Trip Advisor because they will have tons of reviews on just about anything and their top 10 is normally pretty close to what I am looking for as far as major attractions. I then start to read and follow links to connected blogs to compile a list of MY must see's.
2nd - I choose a 2nd link that is specific to that city and looks reputable. For instant the I Am Amsterdam website has lots of great links. Each city will have something similar-ish. These sites might have something extra or discount tickets not easily found on a big site like Trip Advisor.
Once I have my must see attaractions mapped out I read a few blogs I found that mention "hidden jems" or less traveled sites. From here I find a few that look interesting and add those to my map too.
- Remember once you have this list started make sure to add all these spots to your My Maps on Google. You can also add comments on your map so you can reference a website or ticket info.
So I hope this helps you get started on your next fun adventure. If you have questions or need some tips I'm always happy to chat about the places I've been. Just say hello!
Next up, I'm writing a blog post on how to create the perfect itinerary for your vacation. Including links, maps, budget and planning sheets...