Planning Ahead


What to Plan Ahead and What to Worry About When You Get There

I have become very lazy when planning my travels. I procrastinate until the last minute when booking everything. And when it comes to planning what I want to see, I wait until the last minute. And this mentality is completely different than the one that I had last February. Last year I had booked everything three months in advance and I think I read every review on TripAdvisor for ideas on what to do. Now I see it as a place for ideas but not the only means of discovering a city. So how does my new last minute self plan ahead?

Transportation - I think the latest that I've booked something this year is one week in advance and the earliest is two months in advance. When booking flights, I make sure to book at least a month in advance because prices do rise. But flights around Europe are so cheap that booking one month in advance isn't much more expensive (if at all) than booking four months in advance. But I prefer to travel by train. The one train that I will book as far in advance is possible is the Euro Star because it gets more expensive by the day. In England it is cheaper to book in advance as well. But other than that, because I am under the age of 26, I can book last minute trains without a huge price difference. When booking long distance trains I book them around two weeks in advance, unless it is international. If it is international I book it as soon as I think of the trip because while the prices don't go up, the seats fill up. And then with regional trains I show up at the train station and buy my ticket there. You're not always guaranteed a seat, but you will always find a way to get on board. In all, this process usually takes me about 20 minutes to do since I don't have any frequent flyer miles to be spending.

Lodging - immediately after booking my transportation I will look into lodging in the area. The only website that I really use is because it offers the cheapest in the area. I've already said what I look for in hostels, so I find what I am looking for in usually under 30 minutes. I never book a hostel before booking my transportation, I guess I have some superstitions. It is because I am convinced that its easier to find lodging than transportation. If I absolutely cannot find a hostel or B&B with my liking, then I will wander over to TripAdvisor for suggestions.

I always know what I'm going to eat when
in Italy, it's always gelato and insalata caprese
Directions - A day or two before leaving, when printing my boarding passes and tickets, I will finally look up how to get from the airport or translation to the hotel. I will print up walking directions because if I can walk it I will do it. I use Google Maps for this. I never look up too much about public transportation in the cities, I do it while I'm there. For bigger cities like Berlin and London, I downloaded the U-Bahn and Tube maps onto my phone. But for Brussels of Milan, I didn't even bother until I got there. The most important is getting to the hotel, then I figure it out from there.

Attractions - I usually plan a trip because there's something that I want to see in that city, so I don't do too much research. A few days before, I will go on TripAdvisor and look at the list of attractions and then just type that list into my phone. Its my to do list for the trip. It usually doesn't take more than 30 minutes because when I get there I always ask for recommendations on what to see. I tend to value the input of the local more than TripAdvisor. But its a good starting ground. For big cities like Berlin, I will plan a little more by putting everything on a map and breaking the map into zones that I visit each day so that I am not constantly going back and forth, wasting time.

Food - I am bad with this. I never look at what places to eat in the area. I should probably start doing this, but I don't. Maybe it will help me get over my ridiculous fear of eating in a restaurant alone. What I do look up in advance is foods to try when going to a country that I don't know. Germany and Poland for example are two countries where I know nothing of their cuisines, so I looked up what foods to try to give me some idea of what to eat. But when going to Italy and the United Kingdom, I don't plan anything ahead when it comes to food.

So I guess I still plan a lot in advance but I am no where near the organization freak that I used to be. And with this method I haven't felt like I missed out on anything.

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