I’ve always been a planner. Even if I go away just for a weekend, you can bet that I’ve researched the top things to see, the best places to eat, and worked out a mini-itinerary in my head loosely based on the weather forecast.
Maybe its my scientific mind constantly striving to be as efficient as possible, but I actually enjoy planning my holidays. I feel like it allows me to maximise my holiday, get the most for my money, and it builds my excitement for what’s to come. I’m currently in the process of planning a big roadtrip through the Canadian Rockies, and so I thought I’d write a post about how I like to plan a holiday.
STEP 1: Make A List Of What You Want To See
– Buy A Guide Book (And Don’t Be Afraid To Scribble On It!)
Guide books are a great place to start when planning a trip. They’re an easy source to quickly pick out the must-sees and they often contain a really handy pull-out map. As you can see from the picture above, I go to town with the old sticky notes. I mark the pages that have handy tips or directions that I know I’ll want to revisit later. I also buy a second notebook to scribble ideas into, and use as a sort of travel diary while I’m away.
– Read Blogs
That’s why we’re all here, right? Travel blogs are where you find little golden nuggets of off-the-beaten track things to see, do and eat. Also, personal blogs also often have a focus – be it fashion, food, or photography. By finding bloggers who share your interests, you can tailor your trip planning to suit your personality. Personally, I am falling in love with photography. So I literally googled “photography in the Canadian Rockies” and found some beautiful blogs (like this one) that have filled me with inspiration. I’ve also found out where the best viewpoints are and which lakes are best at sunrise or sunset.
STEP 2: Plan A ROUGH Itinerary
– Don’t Be Overambitious
It’s important not to try and do TOO much. If you do, you risk your holiday becoming super stressful. Do a little research. How long do you think you need in each place? Factor in time for wandering aimlessly, people watching, getting lost and taking rain-checks.
– Google Maps Is Your Best Friend
Work out driving / walking distances between different places. For my roadtrip, this has been especially important for deciding what order and how many mountain lakes can realistically be visited in a day.
STEP 3: Arrange Accommodation
– Book in Advance to Save Time and Money
Now you have an itinerary and rough route planned, you can figure out where is best to set up base. A lot of my friends love the idea of just rocking up somewhere with nothing booked, because it gives them the freedom to spend more time in a place they love and leave somewhere they don’t. Personally, the idea of not booking accommodation leaves me with a vision of missing out on valuable sightseeing whilst trying to find a hotel, not knowing if I’m about to wander into a Eli Roth-style Hostel situation. I use Trivago to find the cheapest and best-reviewed hotels. Keep in mind distance to the city centre (especially if you don’t have a car), whether breakfast is included or not and if free Wifi is available.
STEP 4: Find The Best Food
– Don’t Get Caught In A Tourist Trap
Ever found yourself wandering into the nearest restaurant because you’re SO HANGRY only to leave feeling resentful that you’ve paid £20 for a bowl of pasta worth a fiver?! Yeah, me too. Before a trip I always check TripAdvisor for the best reviewed restaurants in the area, and then I look at their menus to make sure they’re within my budget and the food is up my street. If I stumble across a great looking restaurant with awesome looking food, brilliant! If not, I know I have somewhere nearby that I’ve checked out already. Win Win.
STEP 5: The Boring Bits
– Money Money Money
Another benefit of drawing out a rough itinerary is that you can research entry fees and average food costs at your destination. Use these to budget for your trip. Also, exchange your money before you leave- not at the airport. You’ll get a much better rate. It’s also good to consider buying a currency card to avoid carrying too much cash.
– Visas / Permits
Does your destination need a visa for entry? For example, for Canada, I needed to fill out an eTA application.
Are you renting a car abroad? Does the country you’re traveling to require an International Driving Permit? (I got caught out here. The UK government website said I didn’t need one, the Canadian one says I might… does anyone know what the rules are?!… Either way, cue last minute ugly passport photo taking adventure! yay!)
– Travel Insurance – don’t cheap out
Use a comparison site to get a quote for travel insurance. Take out good cover (I go 4*+). If you’re unlucky and loose your bag or have an accident, it will be worth every penny. Also, if you’re doing any activities like swimming with dolphins or hiking, make sure they’re covered.
– Luggage Allowance
Make sure you know the luggage allowance for your carrier. If you’re taking multiple flights, check all airlines because they aren’t all the same! I use these cabin luggage bags, because they are accepted by all airlines. I always pack things in my handluggage that I know are invaluable to me enjoying my holiday (I’m talking underwear, well worn in hiking shoes, swimming costumes).
– Don’t lose your way
If you’re renting a car, make sure you have some sort of map help you navigate. Car rental companies will rent you a satnav for an extra fee, but the Google Maps and Tripadvisor apps let you download maps to your phone/tablet that you can use offline.
Most Importantly: GET EXCITED FOR YOUR AWESOME TRIP
I hope this post has been helpful. It’s a bit of a different one for me! Let me know if you liked it! Do you have any other trip planning tips? Do you have any must-see’s in the Canadian Rockies that I can add to my list?