de-DEen-US

Travelling made easy:

My tips for optimal 

travel planning


DEAR DIARY,

If there's one thing I've become a pro at through my many trips, it's travel planning! Because no matter who I'm traveling with, I usually do most of the planning. After all, I'm passionate about it, which my friends and family often gratefully accept. Friends and acquaintances are now asking me more and more often if I can give them tips on planning their own trips. In the meantime, I was already thinking that I might soon open my own travel agency. No, fun! It certainly wouldn't be a bad idea, after all, I'm passionate about everything to do with planning and organization, and travel is my great passion anyway. But until then, here are my travel planning tips for you!

Find your next destination and travel inspiration

Before I start planning my trip, I first need to know where I want to go. Sometimes certain destinations present themselves due to personal circumstances, e.g. if a friend of mine is currently living abroad. However, I often choose a destination because I've seen content here or there that has inspired me. My trip to Jordan, for example, was due to a movie and a few Instagram posts. That means I usually find travel inspiration in the media: be it movies and series or Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest. On Instagram, I'm usually inspired by profiles I follow or the Explore page. Whereas with Pinterest and TikTok, I sometimes search explicitly. For example, if you want to go on a surfing vacation, you can simply enter “best places to surf” on Pinterest and get inspired.

But I've also had moments when I really wanted to see a destination, but the trip there was just too expensive at the time. In moments like these, I like to get inspiration from Skyscanner. You can enter your departure airport and the time period available without having to choose a destination. The website then shows you destinations with the respective flight prices. You might even find a destination that you didn't have on your radar before!

What would I like to see & experience there?

As soon as I have my destination, I think about what I want to see and do there. I get my inspiration for this from various sources. First of all, I always look at Google Maps. I have a “Where I want to go” list there. I always save places in this list that I've seen on TV, in magazines or on Instagram in pictures or videos and find interesting. I check this list to see if I have saved any places at my destination. If so, I now save these places in a second list with the name of the destination (e.g. “Milos” or “England-Scotland road trip”).

Next, I go to Instagram. There, whenever I see something, I use the bookmark function to save inspiring posts about places in different folders. I have folders for specific travel destinations (e.g. Bali or New York), but sometimes just for one country (e.g. Vietnam). I look at the saved posts and mark suitable places in my Google Maps list for my travel destination.

I then search Pinterest or Google for blog posts about the destination. I mark interesting places on Google Maps again and write down important information. I save particularly good blog posts in my browser so that I can find them again quickly when I'm on the move. From time to time, I also watch YouTube videos or documentaries about the destination.

Plan our route

I now plan my route with the help of my Google Maps list. I take a look at which places can be easily connected and which I might leave out. I also use the route planner function. This shows me how much time I need to get from A to B. If there are places that are not suitable for the route, for example because they are too far away from the rest, I simply save them in the “I want to go there” list. That way I have them on my screen for another time.

Once I've made a rough plan on Google Maps, I look at which days of the trip I want to do what, depending on the destination. However, this doesn't apply to every trip. If we are only in one place anyway, such as on our trip to Milos, we spontaneously decide what we want to do every day on vacation. Whereas for longer trips or road trips, we at least think about a rough schedule. For our upcoming trip to Scotland, for example, we want to spend at least 4 days in the Highlands and only plan 1 day for Liverpool.

How do I get to my destination?

Now that we know where we are going and what we are doing there, the next step is to think about how we are going to get to our destination or destinations. This initially depends on the destination and the type of trip itself. For example, I would travel to closer destinations by car or train, whereas I would fly for long-distance trips. For road trips, we usually opt for the car. Because we want to reach lots of different destinations easily. For city trips, we prefer to travel by train because we don't have to search for a parking space and we use public transport in the city anyway. (By the way: Citymapper or Google Maps always help you navigate when you're there!)

When we travel by car, there's not really much to plan apart from the route and the stops. Otherwise, I start by looking at the different travel options on Omio or Rome2Rio. Buses, trains, flights and sometimes even ferries are compared here. You can already see various price offers here. For trains, however, I look again at RailEurope and Trainline, as you can find the best train connections throughout Europe here. When I go on vacation, I also compare flights on various portals. I always look at GoogleFlights and Skyscanner, and occasionally I also check Opodo or Kayak.

However, I always try to put out feelers when planning my arrival and departure. So this year I didn't fly to Mallorca, but took the ferry instead. Not only was it cheaper, we also had no luggage restrictions and were able to take the car with us, so we didn't have to rent a car on site. It's just time-consuming, which we personally didn't mind as we had time and wanted to see something on the way. But that can be different for everyone. Incidentally, I still look for experience reports for destinations that are far away. So if I were to plan a round trip through Vietnam, I would look at the best (and cheapest) way for others to get from A to B before me.

Finding the best accommodation

When I'm looking for good accommodation, I usually use various platforms to find good deals - especially Booking.com and Airbnb. I guess everyone looks there from time to time. But I also usually check SecretEscapes for bargains, especially when I'm traveling to a city. That's where we found a wonderful place to stay in Paris at the best price. Anyone who has ever been to Paris knows that it's not always easy.

Recently I've also become a fan of Google Travel. This is because there is usually a wider range of offers here than on Booking.com and you are shown prices from different platforms. I've also often used Google Maps to explicitly search for local accommodation. If you simply enter “accommodation” and either name a location or select a map area, you will sometimes be shown less well-known accommodation such as family-run B&Bs.

For cheaper trips, I also look at Hostelworld. For road trips with a van, I mainly look for a parking space on Park4Night or for campsites on Google Maps. Before I book somewhere, I also check to see if it might be cheaper (or equally expensive) via the accommodation's own website. This saves them the booking fee.

Organizational stuff before the trip

Now you've actually already done the most important things. There are just a few little things you need to think about. Depending on your destination, you may need a visa. You can find information on this in the travel and security information from the Federal Foreign Office. There you will also find further information about your destination. For trips outside the EU, I would always recommend that you check there. Depending on your destination, information on vaccinations is particularly important. Before Bali, I had myself vaccinated against various diseases. You should take care of this early enough!

You can also think about whether you want to book certain activities or the like in advance. For example, you can take part in guided city tours or plan excursions. Good addresses for this are GetYourGuide, TripAdvisor or Airbnb. For cities, I can also recommend the GoCity app to save money on attractions. We saved a lot with it for New York. Many cities also offer free walking tours. You may also need a rental car when you get there. Ideally, you should also book this in advance before you run out. I use platforms such as billiger-mietwagen.de, Kayak or Check24 for this.

Before you start your journey, you should also think about whether you want to be reachable at your destination. This is not a problem within the EU, as you don't pay any roaming charges there. However, this is different for most destinations outside the EU. That's why I always buy a monthly eSIM from Airalo for stays of less than three months. Here you can buy data volume for almost all countries in the world at fair prices.

Now all you have to do is pack for your trip. Of course, I can't tell you exactly what to pack. But I do have a little help for you: My packing lists. You can find them here.

There: some things you can't and shouldn't plan

No matter how much I plan. There are always situations on the ground that you can't plan for (and maybe you shouldn't). But that's also part of traveling! As long as you keep a cool head and think logically, you'll always be in a good position!

Admittedly, negative, unplanned things can happen. For example, our van was broken into in Barcelona, my wallet was stolen in New York, I had a bad bladder infection in Prague or my phone broke when I was all alone an hour away from my accommodation in Bali. All not great situations. But I never let that get me down. I may have lost some travel time here and there due to the effort involved and even had to reschedule, but my trips were unforgettable nonetheless! And you learn something for life in such situations anyway.

But it can also be positive, unplanned things, such as beautiful places you discover by chance or inspiring people you meet. That's why I would even recommend that you don't plan your trip too much. This gives you the opportunity to try out tips from locals, for example.

I hope I've been able to give you a few insights into my travel planning. I'm sure not all the tips were completely new to you, but maybe I was able to give you some inspiration for your next trip. And if that's not enough, feel free to write to me at any time for tips and help! If you would like to help me in return, please use the links above if you would like to try out one of the pages. That way you benefit from my tips and I get travelpayouts. :)

But for now, have fun planning!

xx Chiara