Trip planning, preparations and practicalities

Ryukyu Air Commuter Okinawa

Practical | January 4, 2016 | By

As a seasoned traveler, I have developed a fool-proof planning strategy that I’d like to share with you. Being a Virgo, I simply love planning! I do tend to go a bit overboard… You don’t have to, but you may find a thing or two in this post useful. 

Whenever I plan a trip, I first sort the flights, then the accomodation and after that, I can start leisurely browsing the internet on what and where to eat at my destination. First things first:

Flights

Any trip planning starts with Expedia for me. Low cost airlines have been added as well in recent years, but if you’re not sure, you can always ask Google! Google has Flight Search these days.

Once I’ve seen some options, I’ll check the carrier’s website for alternative pricing or additional options. They will have a schedule listing the prices and timings, so you can choose the most appropriate one for you.

Accomodation

Type of accomodation

Depending on the type of trip and the duration, I choose either a hotel or an apartment.

For short business trips (2-3 nights), I would usually go for a hotel. For longer stays and leisure, I prefer apartments, because they make me feel more at home. A hotel can be impersonal and in an apartment you have more freedom and you can take it easy in the mornings. I like to eat oatmeal for breakfast, which can be found almost anywhere in the world, so I go grocery shopping and settle myself comfortably in the apartment. In an apartment, you’ll be able to do your own cooking, which can come in handy, but I like to explore the local food scene, so in general I won’t cook myself. For me, it’s a luxury to be able to try a different restaurant each night. What better excuse is there to have to go out for dinner if you’re abroad?

B&B’s can also be great if you want to be welcomed by locals in another country. During my vacation in New Zealand I was traveling alone and then it felt very good to stay in a B&B, because the proprietors tend to take care of you very well.

Location of accommodation

Since I attach a lot of importance to food, I like to be at walking distance from the restaurant options. This way, I can safely go to dinner on foot at night and use public transport to get around during the day. It has happened that I went to a conference that was being hosted in the local university with a campus that’s in a suburb. In that case, I check the transportation options and try to find accommodation close to a metro or bus stop on the line to the university, or close to a railway station. The railway station is in the city centre in most cases, but be careful if you stay close to the station, because it’s not uncommon that the back side of the station is dodgy.

One example: I was going to a conference in Lisbon, Portugal, which was being held at the university campus. I asked the local organizers for recommendations about where to stay, and they recommended a hotel in the middle of the city centre, between Baixa and the Bairro Alto (without having to walk up a lot of steps to get there since the metro station has an escalator!). This was my view.

Hotel Lisbon Baixa Chiado

Hotel in front of Baixa Chiado metro station in Lisbon

If I have no clue about where to stay, I’d go to Google and type something like ‘where to stay in Hamburg’. When the options present themselves, you can go to Google Maps to see if there are any restaurants in the neighborhood and which ones.

Safety

In my search for a good location, I like to check in advance if the city has any dangerous areas or neighborhoods to avoid. Especially when traveling as a female alone, this is important to me.

If you arrive late at night, I recommend taking a taxi to your hotel or apartment to be sure you get there quickly and safely, or arrange a pick up from your accomodation.

Resources:

For hotels:
www.expedia.com
www.booking.com

For apartments:
www.airbnb.com
www.homeaway.com

Location and directions:
www.google.com/maps

Special Offers:
www.ticketspy.nl (in Dutch only, harvests special offers, handy for people with lots of freedom and flexibility)

Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips!

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