How do I plan my trips?
Updated: Feb 19, 2020
I just finished planning our end of year trip. It is usually our biggest holiday. I love to escape the Christmas madness, the cold and the long grey days. I really enjoy starting the year in a foreign place. It gives me a different outlook and some good inspiration.
So here is how I go about creating the best trip for our family.
STEP 1: How long?
Let's be realistic, this is usually set for us by the constraints of normal life. How much holiday can you take at once, do you have to follow school holidays,...?
Our kids don't go to school yet, so we are quite flexible. Richard managed to plan 5 days of work at the end of the trip, and I can work from anywhere. So in total, we can go away for 3 weeks. Yay!
STEP 2: Create the criteria list
Unless you have a destination in mind, you need to be clear on what you really want out of the trip. So I write a criteria list with must haves we will not compromise on.
We want to go everywhere, so our 'to-travel-list' is long and doesn't really have priorities. There are obviously destinations that are not doable with kids the age they are (Tom is 2.5 and Zoe will be 1 soon). And there are some trips we want to save for later or just for the 2 of us.
With this set, I usually end up with a list of 3 to 4 destinations: a top 2, a 'not so sure' and a wild card.
How to decide on which to go for? This time, flights helped us make the decision. We wanted a direct night flight to ensure everyone had some rest.
A little side note on booking flights. Once again, choose your criteria (budget, convenience, comfort, speed,...) and stick to it. For example, on this trip, convenience and comfort are the top deciding factors. We have a couple of additional flights during the trip, and for that, we went for ease and reliability. The time on holidays is limited, so we don't want to spend it waiting in airports.
STEP 3: Deep dive into the research
This is where I lose myself. I will spend days on end reading and researching the destination. Blogs, travel magazines, social media accounts, guide books, novels, documentaries and cooking shows will be my source of inspiration. I'll also talk to people I know, who are from the destination or have visited to get extra tips. If it's a foodie adventure, I will call the chefs I know and try to get a local contact with whom I can exchange. The aim is not to spoil the trip by knowing everything, but to make the most of our time by not missing anything.
STEP 4: Create itineraries
I select a number of stops or things to do during the trip, and from this, I design different itineraries. There are so many questions and combinations: how long should we stay there, why start with that one and not this ...It's a puzzle but I really love that step. This is where the trip is taking shape.
STEP 5: Bookings
I usually have a top list of places to stay. We combine b&b's, hotels and one quirky or unusual stay. I like to move every 3 to 4 days, it gives enough time to make yourself comfortable (always unpack!) but it is short enough so we don't get bored.
How to chose accommodation? I'll write another post on this with some tips.
Step 6: Transfers
Finally we need to work out how to travel between all the different places. Sometimes this can be arranged with the accommodation, which is easy. Otherwise, there is a little bit more research to find the most efficient yet interesting way to get from A to B (train, boat,...).
And here we have it, the first round of planning for our 3 weeks in South Africa and Lesotho is sorted. From the first thought to the confirmations, it took about 2 months. The holiday will kick off on Christmas day, so I planned everything in July (and I could have started earlier as we missed out on a couple of lovely options).
Next step: activities, nice food and fun things to do.
Then, I will forget about everything, plan trips and adventures for others. So by the time we land in Cape Town, I will be almost as surprised as the rest of the family!