Travel planning – choosing where to go

This is the second update to my planning page, taking you through how I choose where to go on a trip and start to pull together an itinerary.

You can see the finished itineraries I’ve uploaded so far on my travel itineraries page.

2.  Choosing where to go

I’d be lying if I said I had a proper process for this. For most, choosing a destination is usually a combination of recommendations from friends, general travel trends, inspiration from travel and cooking shows, celebrities’ social media posts and your ongoing bucketlist. Oftentimes I have no idea how I ended up fixating on a specific location – Sri Lanka was a good example of this. I was all set to go to Myanmar and then somehow ended up planning a trip to Sri Lanka, I don’t know why, it happens, I went with it.

My holidays are often very driven by my interests. I’m more a city break person than a beach person, but I’m also a sucker for great landscapes and scenery, so the odd immaculate tropical beach sneaks in there sometimes.

Beau Vallon beach, the Seychelles

Beau Vallon beach, the Seychelles

There’s still a long list of cities and countries on my list purely because of particular historical sites I want to visit. These are usually Roman, Byzantine or Medieval, which is totally driven by what I studied at university. It’s amazing to visit somewhere you’ve studied or read about extensively, there’s nothing quite as awe-inspiring as finally seeing it in real life.

I was completely overwhelmed to finally walk into Hagia Sophia, with all the weight of its long and intricate history behind it. I’d encourage anyone to take this approach to travel, to go to the places you really have an interest or connection with as it does really give you that shiver of excitement.

Mosaics inside Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Mosaics inside Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

 

If you’re planning to travel throughout the year then this might also shape your decision. I’ll usually do a few European city breaks, a longer trip in winter, usually to Asia. Then I might have some medium haul trips thrown in to the Middle East or slightly further flung European states.

Putting together a travel plan

3. The bare bones itinerary

Once I’ve chosen where to go, I’ll start pulling together the rough outline of my itinerary. I’ll typically use the following approach:

  1. Check out the ‘best of’ and ‘things to do’ sections of my guide books. For a larger trip I’ll use both Rough Guide and Lonely Planet for pointers.
  2. Check out ‘things to do’ for that country or city on Tripadvisor.
  3. Google a few search terms like ‘best things to see in X’ and check out a few blog posts and travel lists for ideas.

Once I’ve got my list of top places I want to see, it’s time to fit them into a workable itinerary. This is what I do next:

  1. Get on Google Maps and start plotting all the places onto one big trip. Here’s an example of a first cut map for Croatia https://goo.gl/maps/gGSAKDQ8as52
  2. Rearrange my Google Map to put everything in order depending on the relative proximity of each stop and to make a sensible loop or journey to fit with where I’m staying or where I’m going next.
  3. (Regrettably!) Remove anything that is too far away or won’t fit the itinerary for my length of stay (Pula had to come out of my Croatian plan as it was too far to travel in the time available).
  4. Cross reference the final order with opening days and times to make sure I can see everything I want to on the days I’ll be there- I’ll adjust my plan as necessary to put everything in the best order to maximise time and opening hours.
  5. Split up the maps into days to take account of how long I need at each place.

Here’s an example of a finished day-map for Copenhagen https://goo.gl/maps/z1eY0

Next up, booking flights and hotels…

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