Planning for a trip
For me, planning for a trip is part of the whole experience. My friends say that I am constantly in “cruise control” – either planning for a trip, going on the trip, and then sharing my experiences and starting to plan the next one!
So how do I start planning for a trip? The first step is asking myself where – and how – do I want to travel. Is it time for me to get a brief taste, or am I ready for a deeper experience? For me, both are very valid experiences. The “brief tastes” allows me to sample and see how a place feels to me. And, since I do most of my travelling solo, it is important for me to have a bit of a safety net when venturing to places unknown. Some people are fearless – and some people think I am fearless – but really, I do know what my comfort level is. So, my first taste will probably be as part of a cruise or a travel experience with someone else. Cruising allows me to know where I am going to stay, I meet lots of people, and I get a “taste” of many places. The ones I like go on my “I’m going back there to spend more time” list. I also try to include a few days before and after to explore and to things that would be not part of being on a ship.
The next step in my planning activities are pretty much the same: I’ve decided where to go – now let’s find out more! I usually start my research looking at where I want to stay once I “arrive” at a destination. Trip Advisor is a good source for reviews, and is usually one of the first places I check for good information on prices and neighbourhoods. While I like hostels, I also like a little more privacy than some hostels offer. I tend to go to ones where I can find a private room so I can find the best of both – friendly people to chat with but my own space for comfort. I also like to stay in near transit and downtown centres. It makes getting around less of a hassle. A couple of my favourite hostels that have private rooms include Hotel La Bohème in Amsterdam, the Living Lounge Hostel in Lisbon, and Hostel Mare Nostrum in Barcelona.
I love using local transit and study the transit maps before I go. A really good practice of mine is to get a copy of the transit map and really get to know the layout – especially of the area where I am staying. Being able to show – at least outwardly – that I am confident about where I am going makes me feel better. I cannot tell you how many people ask me about where to go or how to use the local transit because I do seem to know what I am doing!
Next, I create my own Trip Navigator – a travel guide with information on each place I will visit and includes notes on places I want to see, how to get there, maps, pictures, contact information – anything that I may need. The Trip Navigator for my next adventure is ~124 pages and includes all the basics I would want “at my fingertips”, including hotel, flight, and train confirmations; a list of embassies or consulates; and extensive tourist information – places to see and things to do. Since this collection of documents can get large, I collate everything in a pdf document that I can keep on my Kobo e-reader – with other copies available on my cell phone and computer.
I also update an “oh s***” list and leave a copy with the person who house-sits for me as well as taking a copy for me. This list will have emergency information (emergency phone numbers, ticket information, hotel addresses and phone numbers, travel and health insurance information, and credit card info). It turned out to be quite useful when I lost my wallet in Barcelona. While waiting for a train, I pulled out this list and cancelled my credit cards – all in less than 10 minutes after I knew the wallet was gone. I also make copies of my passport and credit cards – I tend to carry the copy of my passport while I am out and about exploring instead of the real one, unless it is strictly enforced that a traveller must have the original passport with them at all times.
It may look like I over-plan for a trip, but I think the planning is almost as much fun as the going. I am a librarian by training, so researching new things is important!