There isn’t a certain formula for creating the perfect trip. Some people like to just “wing it” and figure it out as they go. Some like to meticulously plan for months ahead, and then some do a bit of both. I’ve done all of the above, but I love planning and researching so, for me, that’s a big part of the enjoyment of the whole process. I relish looking at maps and deciding which countries to visit. Here are tips that work well for me when planning a trip.

  • Decide how long your trip will last.
  • Buy country and city maps at your local book store or online. If driving, purchase a road atlas, too.
  • What countries do you want to visit?
  • What are the most important sites to see?
  • Europe is a great place to travel because you can see a lot of countries fairly easily. With a great train network and local airlines like easyJet and Ryanair, and you can take cheap flights, so look at the possibility of a different departure city. Sometimes it’s cheaper or the same price to depart from a different city, and this gives you the ability to travel further.
  • Search the destination(s) in Google Images and Pinterest for ideas of nice-looking places to see and stay.
  • From the above list, research the locations/hotels/restaurants, etc., at tripadvisor for unbiased reviews.
  • Search YouTube for videos of the places you want to see. Most likely, you will find exactly what you’re looking for…and then some.
  • Read people’s personal online travel blogs, country and city tourism websites, and professional travel sites like Lonely Planet, Fodor’s Travel, Rick Steve’s, etc.
  • Along with pictures and honest reviews, I have found D&K travel picture books are vital when putting an itinerary together. I have a collection in my office and find the historical information, along with the pictures are very helpful when researching a new location. I refer to these books a lot in the beginning planning stages.
  • Once you have narrowed down the “Must See” list, if driving, plot the locations on a road atlas and then find interesting places to stay/visit in between the major attractions. If taking the train, look at rail maps and do the same thing.
  • If renting a car, take a GPS (download the appropriate map software for your destination before departure) and save yourself the hassle of trying to read a foreign map while trying to read road signs and drive.
  • As soon as you arrive in a city, take a sightseeing bus tour and sit on the top in the fresh air. This will help you see all the highlights and give you a good layout of the area. Make a note of what attractions you want to come back to later. This is also an easy activity if you have jet lag and are trying to kill time until you can go to bed in the evening (just don’t fall asleep).
  • Buy tickets to attractions online before you leave home, since there are usually discounts if you purchase ahead of time. Each city is different, but I recommend buying a pass for discounts and bypassing long lines. For example, in Paris, you can purchase the ParisPass.
  • Take lots of phone pictures so you don’t forget the “mundane” things that make your trip memorable. Once you get home, that picture of that random, little souvenir that you didn’t buy will remind you of your trip…and the space you saved in your suitcase for the most important souvenirs – Swiss chocolate and watches. 🙂

I'm an English girl in California. I'm a professional wedding, portrait, event & travel photographer, video & television producer & world traveller.

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