Travel planning tips

As much as I love to travel, half the fun of a trip is planning it. It’s important not to over-plan my trips, however, because I want to leave room for exploration and discoveries. For instance, when my husband and I traveled to England for our honeymoon, I had much of the trip planned, but not every detail. There were specific places and museums on our must-see list, but we only booked the first two nights of our two week trip, because we wanted to be able to make some impromptu decisions.

suyalita mexico with a beer
An impromptu decision led to spending a day on the beach in Sayulita, Mexico. Photo by H.M. Kerr-Schlaefer, all rights reserved.

For instance, what if we discovered an adorable “free house” in Avebury, but we already had a bed and breakfast down the road booked for the night? We always leave a little room in our itinerary for having a wee bit of adventure.

That being said, on a backpacking trip in the Riviera Maya, Mexico our “adventure” was walking miles and miles on an abandoned stretch of road looking for a hotel in sweltering heat. This little mishap makes for an excellent story today, but at the time I was not a happy camper.

backpacking in mexico
Oh yes, that’s me. Backpacking in Mexico. Photo by Ryan Schlaefer.

When planning a trip it’s a good idea to have an outline of what you want to do and accomplish at your destination, but don’t get so attached to your schedule that there isn’t time for unplanned fun along the way (although, getting lost in Mexico isn’t necessarily the kind of fun I’d recommend).

PLAN AHEAD

My number one tip for planning the perfect trip is to plan ahead. It may sound exciting to do a last minute Vegas vacation, and it probably would be, but if you are planning your once-a-year family vacation, doing everything last minute will result in higher prices and more gray hair. Vacation time is precious and by throwing something together in the final hours you’re bound to be disappointed.

GOOGLE IT

It’s important to google your destination, but don’t google the heck out of it. There are so many travel websites out there it can be overwhelming to the point of a breakdown. My go-to site for years has been TripAdvisor.com. Browsing their reviews is very helpful when it comes to making a decision on a hotel or restaurant. Of course, you can’t believe everything you read on Trip Advisor, however, you can get a pretty accurate feeling about a place by sifting through reviews on this site.

cozumel hotel case viento
One of my best finds EVER on Trip Advisor. Casa Viento in Cozumel, Mexico. (www.casaviento.net) Photo by H.M. Kerr-Schlaefer.

ASK A LOCAL

Find someone like me – someone who writes about travel in the area that you are planning to visit. I field questions about Colorado on Twitter from potential tourists on a regular basis. How do you find someone like me? You might run across them while you are googling your destination, or you might ask a local tourism office if there is a regional travel expert they’d recommend following on Twitter or Facebook.

For instance, if you are headed to Santa Fe, New Mexico, I’d hook you up with the bloggers at Sante Fe Travelers.  This couple knows the town backwards and forwards, plus they are super nice.

Speaking of Twitter, it’s full of travel experts in the form of writers, bloggers and people in the tourism industry like hoteliers and restaurateurs. There’s a wealth of travel information on Twitter, if you know how to access it.

back streets of Puerto Vallarta
Exploring the back streets of Puero Vallarta, Mexico led to our discovery of the world’s most delicious guacamole. Photo by H.M. Kerr-Schlaefer.

CALL AHEAD

While I’m a huge advocate of social media and the Internet in general, sometimes it’s a good idea to get on the phone and talk to a real person.  More than once I’ve gotten bad information from a website that hasn’t been updated since it went live in 1996. Museum websites are notorious for this, as are other tourist attraction sites, especially in smaller communities.

If you book through a third party, like a Trip Advisor affiliate, I recommend calling the hotel directly, just to make sure they have your reservation. This can help avoid real disappointment.

So there you have some of my best travel planning tips. If you want to get lost in Mexico please feel free to disregard everything I’ve written.   If you have any questions or suggestions, leave them in the comment section.

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