Before coming abroad, I had never in my life planned a trip. Although I’ve been very lucky to have done a lot of traveling, my dad has always been the one to plan our family vacations. But since being here, I’ve already planned two trips (London and Dublin), with a third trip to Paris happening this weekend, and I’m still alive, so I think I’m doing something right! As I procrastinate preparing for a presentation (despite popular belief, I actually do have some work here), I wanted to share some tricks and tips that I have learned along the way!
Tip #1 : TripAdvisor is your best friend
I’ve found the best way to start planning for a trip is to look on TripAdvisor. It’s easy to use, and the best part, reviews are all written by everyday travelers like yourself! You can find top tourist attractions, *insert a place* in *insert a number* days lists (ex. Paris in 2 days), restaurant recommendations, discussion boards, and more! If you don’t have a lot of time to do research beforehand, I would suggest taking a quick look on TripAdvisor.
Tip #2: Create a spreadsheet
Call me paranoid or extra, but I love using googledocs to create an itinerary for my trip, and printing it out. Having a schedule makes sure that I will be able to see everything that I want to see in the time that I have, and that I won’t be wasting time wandering around, wondering what to do next (I’m a very efficient traveler if you haven’t guessed).
On my spreadsheet, I like to include the place, time, cost, and other information (transportation/how I’m going to get there, etc). If you’re going somewhere that uses public transportation like the metro, look up the stops you need to get on and off beforehand, and put them on your spreadsheet. Make sure you look up the locations of all the places you want to visit on google maps beforehand, and plan accordingly. You don’t want to be unpleasantly surprised when you’re there and realize the next place you want to go is a 1 hour walk away. Pro tip: make sure you know how to get to and from the airport of the place you’re visiting before you get there! You do not want to get overwhelmed and end up taking a taxi.
Tip #3: Talk to people!
The best way to get ideas of places to go is to talk to people who have been there, or even better, have studied abroad there (hmu if you’re planning a trip to Edinburgh)! They will be able to give you a more personal review/idea of things to do, and you’re more likely going to trust them than a random review you read on the internet. I’ve found that people, including myself, love giving suggestions on places to go for cities they’ve visited.
Tip #4: A little a day keeps the stress away
Planning a trip can seem extremely overwhelming, believe me, I know, but if you plan a little bit everyday, you’ll realize it wasn’t as bad as you thought! I personally like to start planning trips 1-2 weeks before I leave. This gives me enough time to look up all the places I want to go, make an itinerary, etc. without getting super stressed.
Check airline luggage restrictions
This is a very specific tip, but please please please check the luggage restrictions for your flights before you check in at the airport. Although it’s a lot cheaper to travel within Europe because of its many small airlines, most of these airlines have very strict luggage restrictions for carry ons, and if your carry on item is a little over the restriction, you could be charged upward to $100 (this is how they make their money). Checking bags in online is way cheaper than doing it at the airport for these airlines. Save that money for delicious food on your trip.
Check in beforehand
This is a tip from my dad, a travel expert, who messaged me after reading my post and told me to add it in. Some budget airlines will actually charge you a large sum of money if you check in at the airport, and not online. So I would suggest always checking in online beforehand, just in case!
Rick Steves is my savior
Rick Steves is a best-selling travel author and an expert on Europe. I legit trust his guides with my life. They’re informative (historical info, etc.) and straightforward, and include suggestions on tourist attractions, restaurants, and living accommodations for all different budgets. If you can’t get your hands on one of his guides, he also has a TV show in which he takes you to different places in Europe, and you can find episodes on Youtube. I’ve definitely spent many a nights watching his videos to prep for trips.
Look on Instagram
This is a newer trick I discovered, but if you want a easy, stress free way to get ideas for places to visit on a trip, or if you’re just a visual person, just search a location on Instagram or a particular hashtag (ex. #Paris) to get loads and loads of ideas. It’s also a bonus because you can see the best places to take pictures 😉
Those are all the tips I can think of for now! Now I gotta take my own advice, and finish planning for Paris! Happy traveling xx