With my husband and I traveling every month, we’ve become adept at trip planning. Most of our travels are relaxed weekend trips, but we have a couple big trips each year that are chock full of activities. We are the type of people that like to pre-plan in order to feel less stressed during the trip, and I feel it infinitely helps to have yourself organized before you go to save time and money. We don’t necessarily plan each minute of the days of our trip, we just research various things in order to make our days run smoother. This especially helps when you are traveling with a large group, like we are for our Italy trip. There are a lot of opinions involved on group trips, so we made sure to include everyone’s interests and needs. Below are my tips on planning big trips, that keep you organized and stress free, so you can enjoy the best parts of your travels!
Research points of interest in your location and ask your travel mates their ‘must-sees’
Compiling a list of what everyone wants to see helps you figure out how much time you need in each location. It’s important to include your travel mates’ interests, because sometimes this is their once in a lifetime opportunity. My family trip next month will be the only time my in-laws and parents will see Italy, so we are seeing a lot. We made a list of everything the group wanted to see, then determined how many days we needed in each city.
Look for deals early on for transportation
Big trips, especially abroad, can add up to the thousands depending on your itinerary, so finding sales on airline tickets can help cut costs. Here’s a link to Forbe’s tips on finding the best airline deals. Also, buying your train tickets in advance reduces cost and the possibility of your ideal train time being fully booked. Last year, my family waited until the day before our travels to each city in the U.K. and we had to pay much more than we expected. This time around, we planned out what time we wanted to leave for each city, and booked our train tickets a month in advance. One less worry when navigating a foreign train station is already having your tickets (and seats together!)
Bus tours can be pricey, but sometimes they are worth the price
We usually try to avoid bus tours so we can fully immerse ourselves in a new city (and save money), but sometimes they are sooooo worth it. My family wanted to take a day trip to the Amalfi coast from Rome, so I started researching ways to travel there. With the tiny, busy roads of Italy (and minimal parking on the coast), renting a car was not feasible. The multiple trains and buses to the coast was also a huge hassle. We decided on a van tour, which would bring us to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast, include a private tour, and give us the ease of not worrying about crazy Italian driving. Well worth the price. I used viator.com to book our various activities, like the Amalfi van tour and our gondola ride.
‘Star’ your points of interest on a google map
Pin-pointing your activities on a map will give you an idea of how close certain places are to each other, so you can plan your days better. It also helps with picking an ideal location for your hotel or Airbnb accommodations. We focused on finding a conditions close to the train stations or a large clutter of our activities.
Fill in your list of activities with hours of operation and cost
Knowing ahead of time when places are open will help plan your day, and avoid showing up somewhere when it’s closed and wasting time. Also knowing how much they cost can help budget and possibly eliminate activities that aren’t as important. Museum fees can add up, so researching possible city passes for multiple museums can cut down on cost as well.
Make a basic outline of your trip
Layout your days of travel with calendar dates, times of transportation (flight times, train times, etc) and accommodation details. This helps with knowing how much you can fit in each day, if certain places are closed because your time there falls on a certain day of the week (watch out for Sunday closures especially), and helps your group know the general plan for the trip without losing track.