Wanderlust is hitting me hard right now. I'm in the process of planning a big international trip that's less than two months away, and pre-planning another for this winter. I love researching new places and falling into Pinterest holes. I love finding new places to see, and I really like showing up prepared. Whether you're getting away for the weekend, or heading somewhere exotic for a few weeks, I don't think you can ever do too much research.
Each trip I use these five techniques to get excited and plan ahead:
1. Do your research!
This is seriously so important. Think about who you're going with, what they want to do, what your expectations are, what your budget is, and what the purpose of the trip is. Are you going to a wedding or visiting family? If so, destination isn't really a choice, but activities and where you stay are. Do you want to relax quietly or go out? Some of both? Is a weekend enough? A week? 10+ days? Figure out the basics and any logistical musts (like being there on a certain day for an event) before you start doing anything else.
2. Destination! Destination! Destination!
When I travel, I start with really broad research. I'm usually super excited, so this is actually really fun for me. I check Pinterest, travel blogs, Instagram, travel websites, and magazines for info and inspiration. I start with really broad info like where my destination is located, what local views are, and if there are any specific local customs. Then I narrow it down to places I'd like to see and general things to do. I love learning about new cultures and people, and I think being well-informed makes me a better citizen of the world.
3. Make a list--or 10.
I'm a list maker: to do lists, packing lists, reminder list, things to buy list, grocery list, travel list. Once I've done some initial research, then the list making begins. I love finding cool local boutiques to visit, restaurants to eat at, awesome buildings, historic neighborhoods, and local hot spots before I leave. I start by accumulating tons of links (to articles, blog posts and websites) in an email to myself, and then organize it by city/neighborhood/type of place.
4. Google Maps are your best friends!
Once you've got your enormous list, take the time to place markers on a Google Map. You can add notes about hours and dress code, tips, etc. and change the color or the pins so that all the restaurants are one color, while shops are another, bars are a third, etc. I did this when we went to Oahu, and it was so handy! Be sure to download the map before you get to your destination. This way it will always be handy, and you won't be struggling to remember the name of that place that you thought was just around the corner while you're hangry.
5. Enjoy the adventure!
I never make actual itineraries because I love being spontaneous and doing what feels right in the moment, but I also love having options. I've been saved so many times by researching a great restaurant or local spot before-hand. If there are a few places I think are must sees, I'll make a note of this. Be sure to check in with whoever you're traveling with about what they want to do. Enjoy just being there. The Google Map really helps here. If you find yourself wandering around a specific area, it's easy to check and see if there's something specific you wanted to do or see.
Seeing new places, meeting new people, and tasting new things are at the core of traveling, so embrace it!