Tip Tuesday #1: Planning Your Journey

Signpost at Wawel Royal Castle, Kraków, Poland

Signpost at Wawel Royal Castle, Kraków, Poland

First off, how do you even begin planning an international adventure? Honestly, you can start your planning most anywhere, then come back and modify your ideas as you learn more. Traveling is a balancing act of three constraints: Interest, Money, and Time. Realizing what you can or can’t do within any one of those helps you figure out the other two.

Interest is the most important. Without interest you’ll ignore opportunities and generally miss out. You need time to do these activities so time and its variability come next. You may think your trip will be a week, but in planning you may find something worth extending it for. And if it’s interesting enough, you may find a way to get that extra time away. Then there’s seasonal appropriateness. Some locations and activities are better in certain seasons. Thus, Time involves the seasons as well. After all of this comes money. As that is hugely variable we’ll get to it later.

Let’s begin with some questions: Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? What sort of activities interest you? Make a list for each of these. Let yourself dream. Then, look for overlap. Let’s say your locations include Barcelona in Spain, Rome in Italy, and Switzerland in general. On your activities you have horseback riding, sailing, sun bathing, and skiing.  Well, Switzerland has the Alps, so there’s overlap with skiing, and Barcelona is supposed to have incredible beach-weather. Bam! You have two trips already!

Go ahead, try this out for yourself. Don’t build a definitive list, just jot some ideas down to start. I’ll wait. :-)

Find any overlap? It might take some research but it’s most likely there. If you’re having real trouble let me know and I’ll see if I can help.

Once you have the beginning of trip ideas, think about your availability and when these activities would be best. A ski trip may call for some winter months, but op, you promised your holidays to your in-laws. Well that beach trip would be mighty fine. How’s your schedule in July? What’s that? Too busy?! ‘Guess it’s time for Super Tip #1:

Super Tip #1: Check Weatherbase.com.

Seasons vary across the world. While it’s cold in one place it may be warm in another – so check out sites like weatherbase.com to get an idea of when would be a good time to get the weather you want.  Barcelona, as it turns out, has warm weather into September. So if July is too busy, you could push your trip as late as September and still have comfortable temperatures.

Picture yourself here.

Picture yourself here.

Once you’ve gotten the big ideas down, try out specifics. Again: You can change everything, you don’t need to get it right the first time. Chase some ideas and see where they lead.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you get planning. Whether you build them into a scheduled itinerary or just remember them for when you’re there, these four tips are things I learned the hard way so that you don’t have to.

On Picking Destinations:

  • Decide: Are you here for pretty pictures and soundbite history, or are you here to learn about who the people are now? Go to the cities for the former, go to the countryside for the latter. Cities can get you the second, but the noise often drowns it out. If you have a week or more, spend the first few in the city to experience the mentality and the rest venturing outside. Local buses and trains can take you where you need to go, or you can rent a car.

  • Go to that cool place you’re really interested in first, especially if you’re in a city. The castle, the mortuary, the old town- The longer you stay in a city the more ideas you’ll have and the less likely you’ll be to get to where you first thought. Add to that distractions, sudden illness, or wonderful opportunities and you can quickly run out of time. So get the one you really want to see done first, then be free to roll with life’s opportunity. I put off seeing Prague’s Palace for whatever reason and I left Europe without ever seeing the inside. I went to Prague THREE SEPARATE TIMES.

  • Visit places that are the most important to you during the week (Monday-Thursday, sometimes Friday). Weekends are for tourists and people catering to tourists. If you want large crowds, street hawkers, and inane prattling about this that or the other thingamahoozie, go during a weekend. Hey, it can be loads of fun! But you’re not getting an authentic experience; you’re getting something designed to attract those from other places. The information is simplified, the provider is rushed, tired, stressed, or all sorts of other things, and the prices are higher. Go during the week and you’ll get more of people’s attention and more time to go and absorb as you wish.

And lastly:

  • The “Fish in the Sahara” rule. If you’re out to experience the new, do your best to make it regionally sensical. Don’t go to the Sahara to buy fish and chips. The locals don’t eat fish and chips, chances are they don’t know how to make good chips, and dear Goodness how did they get fish into a dessert?? You’re not in the Sahara because you wanted to go to England. So go for experiences that stem from the history or expertise of the area.

That’s it for now. Were these helpful? What more would you like to know? Comment or email me and I’ll make use of your suggestions for the next Tip Tuesday. We’ll continue with the planning idea. Thanks for reading!

-Ben

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