One of my favorite parts of a vacation is planning it. I know a lot of people hate this part or it makes them nervous. While I think going with a tour group can be great if that’s the pace you are wanting, there is a sense of independence and accomplishment if you do it all on your own. Here’s my advice for planning an amazing vacation.
1. US Passport and International Travel site. Before starting plans to anywhere I check the US Passport and International Travel Site. It will tell you if it is safe to travel to a place and what to watch out for. It will also inform you of any visas or other documents you may need to enter a country as a US citizen. And finally it has information on any recommended vaccines you may want to receive before visiting a country.
2. Guidebooks. I love guidebooks! When I finally get them in the mail I can read through the whole thing in just a matter of days. Personally my favorite is Lonely Planet. I think they do an excellent job of covering everything and giving good unbiased recommendations. Anyways choose a guidebook that is current, you should not use one that is more than 2 years old as things change quickly. The guidebook will tell you everything from what you shouldn’t miss seeing to different customs you should be aware of. I use it a lot to decide what parts of the country I want to fit into my itinerary. They also usually come with a city map which is useful if you don’t buy international data.
3. Pinterest. Before finishing my itinerary for any country I always check Pinterest. The reason is because Pinterest seems to have amazing photos of places I’ve never even heard of(you have to be careful of the fake Pinterest photos) but I don’t want to see a picture of something and realize I missed my opportunity to see it. I always search the country I am headed to and pick out any photos that catch my eye and make sure I add those places to my itinerary.
4. Kayak and Google Explore. These sites are how I find the best deals on flights. You have to research research research to find the best deals. I always use Kayaks price alert you can read more about there here, and recently I started using Google explore to find look for nearby airports that may be cheaper than the one I am looking into.
5. Tripadvisor. While guidebooks do give recommendations on where to stay and eat Tripadvisor is the perfect way to double check that. I love the open and honest reviews. You do have to be careful though and make sure a place has more than just a couple reviews in order to trust the rating. Also, take reviews with a grain of salt. Different people have different ideas of what a good experience is. I used Tripadvisor all throughout Vietnam and didn’t have one bad experience when eating at a place with high reviews on Tripadvisor and even found a few places I would have NEVER found without Tripadvisor’s help.
What is your favorite resource for planning a vacation?