How to Plan your Next Trip

I'm one of those weirdos that actually enjoys the planning just as much as the actual holiday. I get a rush from booking flights and love nothing better than to trawl Instagram hashtags for my chosen destination, entering a labyrinth of inspiration. 

I know not everyone feels the same and that it can be daunting to plan an entire trip by yourself, especially if you're heading to a country for the first time. So many people fall back on package holidays and organised tours without realising that part of the joy of discovering a new place is really getting under its skin and discovering the hidden little corners that the locals love. 

For those of you that shudder at the thought of planning your own trip or find it a chore, here are my simple tips to try and convince you otherwise.

Where do you want to go?

There are two ways that I approach this question. Sometimes I know exactly where I want to go after months of ogling photos and literally dreaming of a specific destination, as was the case with last year's Iceland's adventures and my upcoming trip to the Azores. Other times, I just really want to get away on a tight budget and only have a few requirements.

I'm one of those people who have a bucket list (saved on Notes on my phone, I draw the line at speadsheets) that I'm slowly working my way through. Sometimes I'll stumble upon a new destination that has never enthralled me before but I suddenly can't get out of my mind (such as the Azores), other times I'll have been pestering my boyfriend for years to book flights (Iceland). 

I thoroughly recommend making a bucket list of your own (you can see mine here) or with a partner but it's also fun to just browse Easyjet for the cheapest flights and book somewhere on the spur of the moment. For our Oslo trip back in February, I spotted ridiculously cheap flights and booked them without really thinking about it.

How will you get there?

I'm going to say something controversial now: I don't believe in Skyscanner. I honestly don't think that it reveals the best prices and have found much cheaper flights by taking the time to search the budget airlines myself. I find that it helps to be a little vague with your travel dates and to browse the weeks before and after your ideal dates to find the best deals. It's also worth looking at airports that may seem slightly further away from your destination - a cheap flight + a cheap taxi can often be overall more affordable than simply flying to the most convenient airport.

If possible, I love to travel by car. Road trips are my ultimate holidays; there's nothing better than filling the car with everything you need and driving to a loose plan, heading wherever the road takes you. 

It's also worth looking into more unconventional ways of travelling, such as trains or boats (not really that unconventional but everyone automatically looks at flying as a first option!) Not only are they better for the environment, significantly reducing your carbon footprint, but they're often cheaper and you'll get to see much more of the world than you would out of the window of a plane. I traveled through France & Spain via train a couple of years ago, and we caught a ferry from Crete to Santorini last summer.  

Where will you stay?

My go-to places to find affordable accommodation are always Airbnb and Booking.com. I'm not really a hotel person and would much rather stay in an apartment during a longer trip, for the privacy and the access to a private kitchen. I especially love Booking.com for its flexibility during road trips, as many properties will allow you to cancel or change your reservation with little notice. 

I do like to splash out every now and then, and always head to i-escape to find the most stylish hotels. There's nothing like a little pampering when you're on holiday, and even something as simple as a breakfast buffet, fluffy toweling robes or fresh flowers in your room can make all the difference.

What will you do?

This is the fun bit! Once you've booked your travel and accommodation, you can start planning the places you want to visit, activities you want to do and restaurants that you'd like to eat at. I love nothing better than trawling the internet researching all of this (and am more than happy to give recommendations for any of the places that I have visited so far). I usually start off searching the usual travel sites such as Conde Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure before branching out and looking for more niche tips. Try searching "travel blog {your destination}" (e.g. "travel blog Lisbon) on Google to enter the labyrinth of blog posts - I guarantee someone will have wrote about where you are visiting. 

Instagram is also a great tool for researching photogenic spots to visit, especially now that you can save posts into collections and make a little folder for your upcoming trip. If you're struggling to find anything inspiring, take a scroll through some of your favourite travel blogger's feeds or try searching for geotags of stylish hotels or locations that have already caught your eye. It's the same with Pinterest - social media was basically made for holiday inspiration!

Don't be afraid to reach out to locals that you unearth on Instagram. I've stumbled across beautiful feeds before and sent them inquisitive messages asking if they would like to give me tips or even meet up in their home city. Most people are more than willing to help and love to show their own side of their home town rather than the usual tourists hot spots.

If you'd like any further advice for planning a trip, contact me on emmalavelle42@gmail.com - I'm more than happy to help!

All photos my own from last summer's trip to Santorini