Thursday, June 5, 2014

Preparing for your Trip! Anticipation and planning is half the fun....

We all have very busy lives and even planning a trip, whether big or small, requires our best organisational and time management skills. We all dread going on a trip and having one of our family members say "why didn't we bring X, or why aren't we going to Y". It is so easy for our families, those who are lucky to have us trip planners do all the work. But no one wants to spoil their trip with a discontent family through lack of planning and dare I say it....lack of consultation!

If your experience is like mine, when I ask "what should we do when we go to XX" or "where would you like to stay in YY?", I get the usual "I don't know, you do whatever you think is right" answer. Our families mean well but they are people who don't want to get involved in the detail but will be counting on us to have done just that and thought of all the possibilities to plan a fantastic trip!

I have to say, as much as a I say that my family likes to leave it all to me......I wouldn't have it any other way. I like to plan our trips. It is a little escapism for me from my very stressful life. My family has input where I ask for it and that works well for us.

So what tools are essential in my travel planning?
  1. TripAdvisor - (or equivalent in your country)
  2. CruiseCritic - -
  3. PackingPro App -
  4. TripIt -
  5. Viator -
I really enjoy the planning aspect of our trips. It helps to build the anticipation about the adventure ahead.

Start researching the destinations of your trip early. The internet is a wonderful thing for this! I tend to bookmark pages to create a "shortlist" of key pages and then go back to them and then narrow it down later. I would include individual reviews in this but just be mindful that people's reviews of locations/attractions etc are subjective. Don't be heartbroken if your intended destination or location has a poor review, for every poor review there are probably just as many positive ones. Keep it in perspective. Take out of these what is relevant to you and keep researching.

TripIt - track your itinerary as you book things
Tripit is a great application that allows you to forward all your bookings and they automatically get added to your TripIt account to build your itinerary. Most email based booking confirmations (airline, viator, will work with TripIt. Those that don't you can add manually.
What this allows you to do is slowly build your trip itinerary. When you travel you will be able to access this from the TripIt app on your smartphone or via the internet. You can also download the information to your smartphone calendar in case you are caught without internet access when you are away. It is very good and includes contact numbers and even directions on how to get to the various places in your itinerary from your previous location. It is exciting to see how your itinerary is building up as you plan your trip. It is also helpful to see where you having nothing planned on any given day and you can decide whether you want to plan something or make it a free time day.
Check it out. There is a free version you can get to try it out.

This is a great website and they also have an app. I have booked tours and transfers through Viator. They also allow you to book and pay in your own currency which is handy especially when the tour is overseas.
You get an email confirmation and most have an evoucher. They are very responsive if you email them.

Cruise research through CruiseCritic
For those of us who go on cruises as part of our travels, CruiseCritic is a great resource. Our cruises have been better thanks to the retrace I have condiucfed on CruiseCritiic. I have read countless reviews, good and bad and asked countless questions of my fellow cruisers who hbe been very obliging with their assistance. 

PackingPro App
I love this app. I originally bought the lite version to try it out and liked it so much that I bought the pro version. This app allows you to create your own packing lists. It includes a master list of times to chose from and you can also create your own.
I used this for work and leisure travel, short and long trips and have lists for each type of trip also customised for hot and cold weather or both. I also create packing lists for each family member.
When we are packing for a trip, which I generally start to do a week or two early, the app is really helpful to mark off what I pack as I pack it. I also create to do lists for each trip so that I can mark off items as I complete them. I used to write lists out for packing for our trips and had to do this every time with the risk of forgetting things, once I converted to using this app I have never looked back. I definitely recommend this for anyone who wants to be super organised.

I hope this information is useful....