Oh, the Places…

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 Along the River Ness, Inverness, Scotland. Summer 2013.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” —Dr. Suess, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

So, on we go to part two in trip planning. Last time we covered pre-planning—setting up and work to do before looking onto research. If you missed it <here> and enjoy.

To refresh, the questions for planning we set out are:

Where are you going?

What is your time frame?

What is your budget? (we’ll focus on this one in the next post—it’s a bigger part)

What are your interests?

Do you want a theme/ objective?

What is your mode(s) of transportation?

We looked at the first two and will be leaving the third larger budgeting question for later.

Moving into research:

Think about your interests in your day to day life. What are you studying or think you will be studying? Are you an artist, a foodie, or a wine/beer/cider aficionado? Do you love books, television, and/or movies? Are you historically inclined? Musically? Architecturally? Have you thought about centering your trip on these interests? Like a theme to tie it all together.

For my sister’s graduation trip, she and my mom centered their travels on a very specific theme: locations based out of Jane Austen, from where she lived to book locations to filming locations. They sprinkled in other historical events and locations as a secondary theme. My mom likes castles, so when she travels here objective is to visit as many as possible—full audio tour and all. For my latest trip on the other hand, we worked more loosely with our list of interests. We had to list them in order of importance to us—literary, police and crime history, and film being our main thoroughfare.

This is part of the consideration: how many people are going on this trip? What do they want to see and experience? A family vacation with kids is going to be very different from a post graduation trip of late teen/early twenties.

And none of this is to say that jumping into traveling to travel and see what you see isn’t also a viable option. From spontaneity comes some of the best experiences. It’s the reason that you should leave room in your plans; stay flexible.

Here’s where you RESEARCH comes in. Online, look up the places your going on Google or your preferred search engine. Look for cities that seem interesting and the places to see in those cities. Bring in your list of interests in order of relevance and importance. Add them to your search criteria.

If you feel you need more that the internet to guide you along now is when you should consider travel books. You can buy one or—better yet if you are on a budget and don’t think you’ll need it again—go to the library. I recommend Rick Steves’ guide books which are printed through Avalon Travel. Family friends recommended these to me and they were really helpful planning and budgeting tools. For every country he covers, he moves through each area giving basic tourist info to ways of getting there and how to move around once you make it to tours, sleeping, eating, entertainment and approximate costs.

By this time you should have a list of places to see and have them marked down in your notebook. This accumulation will take time; don’t expect to be at it for a single afternoon and magically be done.

But how are you planning to get from place to place? There are trains and metros, taxis, buses and car rentals, as well as simply hoofing it. There’s also a growing trend of renting out city owned bikes. All of these have various time and money constraints to them that you should consider while planning. Look at Google maps and you’ll be able to judge how far each of the destinations are from each other and whether or not you’ll be able to manage that distance with the time and transportation open to you. I wanted to visit Hadrian’s Wall on my last trip, but with mostly a walking theme within the cities I was visiting I quickly discovered it wasn’t in the cards—this time.

Google Maps has changed some of its settings recently so one of your options is no longer walking (It’s automatic if the places are considered close enough together otherwise there is a choice of time based on buses, cars or bikes.). No matter what mode of transportation however, Google mapping from place to place within one destination allows you to do a few things. One, you see where you really can get to and where you can’t. Two, if it’s something you really want to do, what transportation arrangements should you plan for—like seeing if there is a day trip tour that will get you there and actually let you explore. And three, what order—based on parts of the cities they’re in—you should go about seeing those sites. You should also be able to save these maps with your ideal destinations on Google for later reference.

While we’ll come back to transportation next time when covering costs as well as the many other facets to research while budgeting your trip, we’ll look more specifically at your choices of vehicles and different packages you can buy pre-trip to save you time, worry, and money.

And, until next time,

I’m leave-on-the-wind, helping you soar.

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Oh, the Places…

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