I have been to 45 countries and generally travel 2-3 months out of every year internationally, excluding the trips I take domestically. I try to visit 1-2 new countries or cities each year which makes me a quasi-expert on trip taking. Figuring out what to do and see and where to stay can be a headache if you don’t have a plan on ‘how’ to find this information. I realized over many years, I have been following the same routine every time on how I plan my next trip. I decided to write it up an explanation on ‘How To Plan Your Next Trip.’
I approach planning according to my own personal trip style. Your style will be different than mine but once you figure out your approach to travel i.e. history, art, adventure, eating, etc, you can build your days around that. I love trips where I can eat, drink coffee & wine and see funky architecture/art. I absolutely love street art and taking walking tours of cities. I am not a huge museum goer anymore, having done so many of those in my 20’s but a couple exceptions are the DDR Museum in Berlin and the ABBA museum in Stockholm, 2 absolute musts.
How I Begin:
First, I google the top 10 things to do in the city. This provides a nice list of the most popular things to do. These things act as the base to my trip. I usually plan my days around a morning and/or afternoon excursion. The rest of the day, I fill in with coffee shops, sitting in parks or just walking around.
Second, I look for a local news magazine which lists cultural events, bars with happy hours & musical acts passing through town during my stay. I also look into buying a city card as many have good deals on museums & mass transit. Time Out is a good series for things like this.
Third, I google funky/hip hotels for that city. I like to go there for drinks and the architecture & art always impress. So what if you spend a few more $$, the vibe is the reason I go.
Fourth, I google the best coffee shops and burgers for the city. These are two of my favorite things. For example, I found a restaurant in Reykjavik that serves the best reindeer burger. If you like beer, seek out a best pubs or breweries.
Fifth, I seek out local food blogs written by local expats. They seem to know local places very well and offer amazing insight on local restaurants and neighborhoods not necessarily on the top 10 lists. Plus they give you the inside track on cultural norms of that city, like when you are supposed to eat dinner in Portugal (after 9pm) and why you can’t have a cappuccino in Italy after 10 am.
Sixth, Everything I find that interests me, I mark/star on a Google map, which I download for offline use when I am there. I hate walking around a city with a map, preferring to use my phone for guidance. Since GPS works wherever you are in the world. you will always know how far away you are from the best gelato in Florence.
Seventh, When it comes to where to stay, I usually google the hippest neighborhood or depending on the city look for places near the train station as those are usually centrally located. Price is a big indicator on quality, but again that depends on where you go. You can find entire, amazing apartments in Porto or Split for less than $40/night but not find anything under $175 in Reykjavik.
Hope you enjoyed a breakdown of my steps on how to plan your next trip…anywhere.