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On traveling anywhere

Hi Guys,

I was wondering how people begin to organize their trips.

Starting from the conception to what country or city they want to go, to how to get there, to where they will stay, etc.

I want to take a more organized and thought out approach to my traveling and was just seeing what techniques, and approaches others take.

For instance, I'm going to Oaxaca Mexico for Dia de los Muertos, and the only thing I have booked is the flight.

I really haven't gotten anything else, which is fine. I'll find stuff, but I was curious to see what approaches people have to doing their travels.


I have learned to purchase a somewhat up-to-date guide book. For Mexico, try the lonely planet series. We used this with success for Guatemala. Then, determine your interests (food, art, history, sports, pilgrimage, etc.). You can go online, ask questions here, buy travel dvd.s (i.e. The Great Courses), etc. to learn about your destination. Use a calendar - write down 1-3 things you want to do on each day. Then, book your hotels accordingly. Factor in time for transfers to other cities if applicable.

Posted by
1690 posts

One thing that helps me is to get and study a map of the area - when you see something intriguing, look into it more closely in books and online to decide whether you want to check it out for real. Also, you might want to try forums in addition to this one - the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum, for instance.

Posted by
6871 posts

I'm always looking for the trips that are great values. And that often means downright cheap--for what I'm getting.
Sometimes it's very inexpensive flights. Sometimes it's bargain cruise prices. Sometimes it's a whole travel package.
I can take two trips usually for. what many others taking our same type trip are paying.

What's bad is when you've been to most popular travel cities in North America, Europe and Asia and travel is no longer a thrill to plan and execute. We're almost at that point right now. I would love to travel in Winter when it's cold, but the only places we want to go that are warm are around the world--and very expensive.
I continue to study airports and destinations worldwide on Wikipedia and am astonished at the travel information posted there.

Posted by
4470 posts

This is an interesting topic to read others' ideas.

Selecting a country - typically this is just what appeals to us. We usually like to have a mix of large cities, small villages, and either a lake or mountain location. Our last trips have been two countries: Switzerland/Italy, Germany/Austria, Italy/France. Last year I started checking Spain but other countries appealed to us more as I started the research.

Selecting cities - we travel by train, and my goal is that our train travel is ideally 2, max 3 hours between locations. We can be checked into a new hotel and out seeing sights by noon at each location. I begin with a preliminary starting & ending location, pull up a map and start entering numerous cities of any size in between those locations in TripAdvisor to see briefly what the top activities are per town. Then I draw a line chart on a large piece of paper - write the start & end cities at top & bottom. Add cities of interest in their relative location on the paper. Add lines between all cities and write on the line how long to travel between them (check Usually that visual helps to begin to eliminate some & highlight others.

At that point, I'm spending substantial time on-line checking out hotels, events, maps of the towns, etc. to really get a good feel of what each place offers. Then I can gauge how many days we would want to be there, or if I see that a couple of locations are too similar, etc. I don't select places or events because they're touristy - just based on what appeals to us. I also try to select one "wow" event. This last trip I attended the opera in Venice and took a croissant cooking class in Paris - both memorable!

For hotels, I'm looking for a balance of the overall budget. Some places I'll pay a little more for a really nice place, especially a good value in small towns. Then book something cheaper in a location where we'd rather spend our time outdoors.

I book our flight, then quickly book the hotels that I wanted. I buy the train tickets on-line as soon as they're available in countries where there's cheaper early tickets.

Posted by
4470 posts

Another good idea is to check each potential location for their festivals, etc. because those are fun to attend if you plan your dates to be there.

Posted by
11613 posts

I start with how much time I have and how much money I will need to pay for the time. I would rather spend $100/day for 90 days than $500/day for 18 days.

I sometimes build part of a trip around one particular sight, or type of sight (example: 28 days of Romanesque and Gothic churches in France; Roman ruins and everything else was a bonus, I was on a quest).

If you like spontaneity, don't give it up. At this point in my life, I don't mind having an itinerary pretty much nailed down.

Posted by
219 posts

I always start with a few regions or areas I have an interest in and then base my selection based on whether or not I can find cheap flights. After that, like others, I go to guide books and websites like Trip Advisor. Once, I have decided what I want to see, I chose how many days I want/need in each location. That then frees me up to look at housing options while also considering ground transportation availability. I spend lots of hours researching before I commit to any portion - but I like doing that.

Posted by
11288 posts

For me, it's a variety of factors. I read a lot about travel, so when it's time to plan a trip, I usually have various ideas. Sometimes, a place that has been percolating in my thoughts for years will suddenly call to me as "time to visit now." Other times, it's based on external factors (often financial), such as my recent trip to the UK; I had been thinking about visiting for a while, but seeing the drop in the GBP against the USD made me do it now. I do check airfares before getting too attached to any place; I figure I can always visit another time, so if fares are very high for my dates, I go somewhere else. However, I never go to a place just because it's cheap; it also has to interest me.

One thing I'm very careful of is not to book anything definite until I make sure it works with the other parts. For instance, I won't book airfare until I've sketched out the trip, so I know my start and end cities. And I won't book accommodations or finalize cities without checking airfares. For instance, when I went to Madrid and Barcelona, it was about $80 cheaper to fly into Madrid and out of Barcelona than the reverse - so that's what I did.

Once I do know where I'm going, I try to read as many travel books, websites, etc as possible. Each one can give ideas the other ones lack. I then decide which ones I'm most interested in, and plan around them. These days, I also plan carefully for any places where advance booking is recommended or necessary (more and more places every year fall into this category). For instance, on my recent trip to Liverpool, my days were uncommitted (I had lists of various attractions I wanted to see, but no set schedule of what I would see which days) - with the exception of my National Trust tour of the Beatles' Childhood Homes, which was booked long in advance and therefore set in stone. Other than such pre-booked things, I'm not afraid to change my plans on the fly. If a museum I had planned to see doesn't interest me when I'm actually there, I skip it; I also do this if I'm feeling tired and need a break (I really wanted to see some more places on my last trip than I actually did, but not at the cost of pushing myself and then not feeling well).

For large cities I haven't been to before, if I'm staying more than 2-3 nights, I try to have potential day trips lined up. Even if it's a place where there's no shortage of things to do, if I'm not happy there, I need to "escape" on a day trip to somewhere else. If I am happy there, no day trips are needed. For smaller places, I try to limit my stay to match what there is for me to do.

One thing Rick said that has stuck with me is that each trip would be better if you could do it twice - once as rehearsal and once as the real thing. Now that I'm going back to some places where I had a bad or compromised first trip, the second visit is much better (this happened in Amsterdam, Madrid, Barcelona, Toledo, and Venice, among others). So, no matter how much planning and research you do, there's no substitute for the real thing (sort of like how driver's ed classes can only go so far - you have to get behind the wheel).

Posted by
14911 posts

The more I travel, the longer my list of future destinations seems to get, whether it's new countries or new places in countries I've been to. And there are places I always want to go back to over and over. My list grows partly from conversations with friends who also travel a lot, from travel forums (mostly this one), and occasionally from a book or a movie. Berlin became a destination from a chance conversation with someone on a train from Florence to Rome.

I really don't like to fly, so I try to take longer trips with more destinations. Like Zoe, I'm budget-minded. Much as I'd love to spend time in Iceland and Scandinavia, they aren't on my radar, while Poland, Hungary and Greece are at the top of my list, along with Vietnam and Thailand. And like Harold, I don't buy airline tickets until I know my ground itinerary. Then I will adjust it if airfare warrants it. But as a solo traveler, airfare is a small part of my travel cost while lodging is usually my single largest expense. I once booked flights first and had a heck of a time making my ground itinerary fit.

And like you, I've planned trips around a local event, like Carnevale in Venice and Semana Santa in Andalucia. Then I usually lock down lodgings first, since it's "super-high" season with less expensive rooms selling out first.

I don't usually plan daily itineraries, but I have a list of things I want to see and do long before I leave. Often that helps me decide how long to stay in each place.

Posted by
5486 posts

I have visited 70 foreign countries and enjoyed them all to some degree.

When I first traveled overseas, I wanted to focus on the historical sights and the major European cities. London, Rome, Paris for example. Of course, that led to must see places like Naples, Florence, Venice, Munich, Vienna, Amsterdam, and more.

Another key factor in where to visit is to enjoy the magnificent scenery, such as the Swiss Alps, or in the USA, the Grand Canyon. That will lead you to Alaska, Around the Horn of South America, Norwegian Fjords and more.

We live on the Georgia coast and have a beach nearby, so we never travel to go to the beach.

Guidebooks and internet research are a big help in advising where to go. Check out TripAdvisor for things to do in particular cities.

Posted by
367 posts

For me, time is of the essence. I get a little more than two weeks per year to travel and right now can only go every other year. ( More traveling when I retire :-) ) So for me, more often than not, this means an organized tour, also because I do not like traveling alone. I am a huge fan of Rick's tours having taken 8 so for. I first pick the place I want to go, sign up for the tour, and then by my plane tickets. Because I have time constraints, while price is a factor, I also have to look at the travel time. Lots of time I end up paying a little more, but spend less time getting there. I also make sure to thoroughly research where the tour is stopping to find out what the special things there are to do in each location. This is how I found the marionette theater in Salzburg, the science museum in Florence and the Fredericksburg spa in Baden Baden


Posted by
334 posts

My wife and I love the outdoors and feel much more at home with a National Park or a beach than a big city. We have an initial list of countries (and domestic locations) that fit either outdoor exploration or beach time, although we are generally open to other options especially if the price is right.

We also have a special checking account that is our "travel fund." We contribute to that fund throughout the year. Sometimes we're able to take bigger international trips while other times we're limited by time or money, so we take a shorter, more local trip. Because of work schedules, we'll pick a time of year, then see what funds are available in our travel fund, and then start going through our candidate locations. Google Flights is really useful at this stage since you can do general planning (e.g. find the cheapest flights in May to anywhere in the Caribbean). Sometimes we find new destinations this way that we otherwise wouldn't have considered. However, if we see that this turns up a match to one of our initial destinations that we've discussed, we'll go for it.

We set the dates and plane tickets first and then start the planning of the trip itself in detail. If the flights are open jaw, we will do some estimates for our general route before setting the dates and getting tickets. With that set, we then start to figure out what candidate activities and places to stay. For extremely complicated trips (lots of traveling, multiple cities, guided day tours, etc), we use a spreadsheet for tracking our days rather than trying to keep it all in our head. For a destination trip (go somewhere and stay in one place), we'll coordinate the hotel prices along with the flight and purchase both at the same time, and then just do some general research before we leave.

Posted by
569 posts

The places I have travelled to so far have interested me for a long time for a variety of reasons. My trip to Ireland was centered around music, history, and some genealogy. My trip to Scotland was pretty much the same, plus I love castles and Scotland has a lot of them. I love photography also, so I need to have time to just wander around an interesting old place and take photos. My recent trip to Italy evolved around wanting to see some major art, and a fascination I have had with Venice for a long time. Usually, I will do some research about a country to figure out what interests me, then I will read some travel sights to see what other people like or didn't like. I'm looking at going to Greece next because I love the ancient history so I'm starting to look at the map and figure out where things are. Once I decide where I want to go I try to come up with a plan of what towns/cities to stay in where I will have easy access to what I want to see. Then I try to figure out transportation, will I need a car or can I get around by bus or train and still see what I want to see. After that I look at accommodation options so I can come up with a budget which will determine how long I can go for. I look at airfare last because I can pretty much guess up front how much it will cost (usually around $1500 return from here), then if it's cheaper it's a bonus!

Posted by
203 posts

I always get a lonely planet guide. Partly for info and partly it has become a tradition to keep it with maps highlighted showing where I have been as a souvenir. More recently I also get on forums such as this one, lonely planet and trip advisor and just read each post on areas I'm considering. Picked up a lot of ideas that I wouldn't have known to look for. I found each forum different - Rick steves are generally similar mind set to me but I found that most recommendations were way out of my budget, lonely planet - some really good advice on practicalities but more focussed on working holiday and backpackers.
After a lot of reading I make a to do list of places and/or experiences.
Then work out how to connect them ( ie is one of them out of the way - is it worth it?)
I used to leave accommodation to last second but now I travel as a family I book accommodation and transfers once I have an itinerary

Posted by
43 posts


It was great. I highly recommend it. Oaxaca is great at least for a couple of days.

Posted by
444 posts


When I was in college I took a two month backpacking whirlwind trip of Europe. Since then I have been to 32 countries. At first, I travelled to places familiar, mainly to Europe. I stayed in hostels or the cheapest places possible. I started reading about places and figured out how long it would take me to see them. If I had 3 weeks, I could go here, two weeks here, a week go here, four days here.

I got tired of Europe and ventured outward. I found sites that interested me and would put a trip around it. I wanted to go on a Safari, so off to Africa. I started to follow a rough guide that for every hour on a flight to get there deserves a day there.

I found a Tikal in Guatemala interesting and put together a trip around it. I wanted to see the Great Wall and the Terra Cotta Soldiers in China, I figured a month would be sufficient and it was great.

I have noticed Latin America did not cater to tourists as much as the rest of the world when I visited over a decade ago. Asia graciously accepts tourists. Cambodia and Thailand were the nicest people I have visited.

Now, that I am married with two kids, our first destination was where a cheap flight to Europe was. Before our trip ended our 8 year old was begging to come back. She wanted the Alps, so that is where we went. I am constantly looking at cheap flights, Explore or Google Flights. When I see something that occurs in our price range then I buy it.

With kids now 3 and 10 and a school teacher wife, I am limited to Summer trips. Our first trip was when the youngest was 10 months. Our second trip was when she was 22 months.

My wife and I have a Bucket List and top ten. My 10 year old has a list. You want to visit the hard to get to places when you are young. I am not sure my family would enjoy a 12 hour bus ride now like I did when I was younger.

But please, get out there and travel. My oldest daughter was very materialistic before our trip, after she is much more appreciative of what she has.