Hello my Lovelies 🙂
it is middle of the week and I hope you are doing well. My husband and I were thinking of Japan and our trips. I hope that maybe we can travel again next year. As we were talking about our trips he asked me how I planned our vacations and why I didn’t explain it to you. Well good questions. 😀
There are moments in my life where I like to be clueless but not when we are planning a trip to a different country. Do I overplan it? Maybe? But in my planning structure is still space for flexibility and space for some relaxation. 🙂
The central premise is you know where you would like to go. I start always the same way. I am looking for information about the country. It is really the basic stuff like where is it in the world, how many people live there, the currency, the language, the weather, the food or even the entry requirements.
You can use google, Wikipedia or your Foreign Office. Sometimes you can visit a travel agency in your area or a tourism exhibition. Personal blogs or Youtube are great as well to get a different point of view. Or you can watch documentaries or reports about the country. I like to have a book as well so I buy a travel guide next to all the digital research. A travel guide is great because you have the main tourist spots, basic information, where to eat and drink in one little book. Normally I have a lot of labels and notes sticking in the guide. 🙂 And often there is a map as well which is awesome for planning.
It sounds like a lot of work and yes it is but nobody says that you have to do it all by yourself alone nor at one day. I start when we have the idea to visit the country. Normally it is 6 months upto 12 months ahead. I do some research for one to two hours per week. This is just basic stuff, it isn’t really serious at that moment.
Ask yourself and your travel buddy if you have one, how long do you want to stay there. Would you like to go on a city trip or would you like to explore more than one city?
I personally recommend if you have the chance to visit a country for more than a few days then visit more than one city because you can get a way better feeling of the country and the people. We say England isn’t just London, for example. 😉
Of course I have a journal or a piece of paper for some notes. Sometimes it can be so overwhelming and with billions of label/stickers you can loose the overview. 😉 Therefore is the paper/journal. It helps to structure your thoughts a little bit.
Then book your hotel/hostel/apartment and your flight to your first vacation destination.
We booked for Japan our flight and hotel together while on our trip to Barcelona we booked flight and apartment separate. We like to check the costs mulitple times because at somedays it can be cheaper than on another day.
Now you are ready to dive into the depth of planning and your ideas will become reality. Great! Now the work starts! 😀 Just kidding, the fun starts. One of my rules is one day per city is good. Two days are great. But it depense how busy you would like to be in your vacation.
If you have decided to visit a country for more than two weeks, write down the cities where you would like to go. Google Maps will be one of your friends because you can check the distances between the cities. That is quite important because you need to decide how you would like to travel between the places. Would you take the train or a plan or do you rent a car?
We love to go by train or by car. For example when we visit our friends in England we go by car. We drive from Germany to England. But when we visit Japan we go by train because we like to travel more relaxed there. I am not afraid to drive in Japan. I like just trains as well. 😉
After seeing all the cities on a map, maybe you can identify cities which are closer to each other than to other ones. When cities are close to each other you could plan in one city a second larger stop and travel from that city into the cities around them.
For example: We stayed in Osaka for three days. One day for Osaka, the next day we went to Kyoto and the third day we took the train to Nara. The next morning after that we took the train to Hiroshima. Our main hotel was in Tokyo but for those days we slept in Osaka because the distance was too long to travel it every day from Tokyo.
If you know all the cities and it matches the time frame for your travel than make a list with everything you would like to visit/do there. Maybe it sounds silly for you but if you even know places where you would like to shop or eat write it on that list. So you won’t forget it and you can make it happen.
For me it is helpful to see all dates and cities on one page. You can create a timeline or just a table for it. There you can use some sticky notes to slide the cities to the right spot for you.
After that check the transport routes. If you like to go by plane or train check if there is a connection between the cities and how long it takes. If you need to book a plane watch out for the time you will arrive because that is important to know, so you can plan the rest of the day.
For example: We took one of the earliest trains from Tokyo to Osaka because we wanted to have a lot of time in Osaka that day. It was hard get up by 6 o’clock and took the train 8 o’clock.
Maybe you ask yourself why you write down all the places on a different page instead of write into the timeline immediately. It is quite easy to answer because your timeline is and should be your basement. It is your master plan. Every other list is just a supplier to the master plan.
To fill your master plan think about how relaxed you would like to travel. Are there a lot of things which you would like to see or is the trip more for relaxation.
A good time to start the day is for me 8 o’clock am. This is the time where we would the hotel/hostel/apartment.
We made the experience that it isn’t too much at a day when you visit four to five places on your list. I would say that on many sightseeing places you need two hours without standing in a queue.
Tourist attractions can be very crowded and therefore you should plan more time for such places. Or you can look up for alternatives.
For example: Every guide recommends a visit at the Skytree in Tokyo. The view should be incredible. But on some days you stand up to two hours in a queue and you have to pay for the entry. Well, there is a really great alternative: Shinjuku town hall. The queue isn’t so long and the entry is free. You have nearly the same view. It was great. Look out for such hidden gems.
Check places which are in the same area or near by, so you can walk through streets or take a short ride with the subway. We do both a lot but it depense on the time. If we stay in plan we take the ride if we are faster than we thought we walk the way.
Ok, try to imagine, that you have your long list of places to go and you realise that there are too many places and the time isn’t enough. Well, it happens and it happened us for our first trip to Japan.
I sat there with a huge list of must haves and places and there wasn’t any time left. I remember this moment quite good. The table in our living room was full of books, my coffee mug, maps, sticker notes and a lot of other things. I stood up and left it for two days. The days passed by I sat down and colour coded the places. I knew which places would be in the same area, so I took three colours. Red for must have, yellow for maybe and green for „only if time would be left“. I talked with my husband and I shovelled some days new and it was lighter and more focused.
Sometimes it helps to check a place, a shop or a restaurant again and then decide to leave or cross out it.
Play with the times, the places and dates. You can decide to leave places out or give yourself more space to shop or to relax. 🙂 Have fun.
I personally plan some time slots for dinner, breakfast or snacks into the day. The slots are really flexible.
Normally I plan the day til 6o’clock pm. After that would be dinner, a walk through the area where the hotel is, take a shower/bath and fall into sleep. In all of our vacations we never go before 11o’clock to bed.
It is important to have a look on the prices. Yes the flight and the hotel are paid but it isn’t all. You will need money for the public transport, food, shopping, sightseeing or other things.
I like to check costs for the public transport in advance, so I get a feeling what it will be cost for a ride with a train or the subway. Look out for some offers like the japan rail pass for tourists or in Barcelona you can buy a city ticket for sightseeing and public transport.
We like to be self-supporters when we are on vacation. So we can decide spontaneously where and when we would like to eat. Therefore we don’t go always in a restaurant, often a light meal or something from a supermarket is enough. We plan with 30 – 50 Euros for two people.
My last tip for you is check out the bank holidays or some festivals. It can be very crowded or some shops can be closed.
I will be honest, there will be moments where you didn’t enjoy the planning, maybe you are nearly hating it. But it will be worthy. I planned three trips to England, two trips to Denmark, two trips to Japan and one Citytrip to Barcelona with friends. And everybody had fun, was enjoying the company and didn’t feel the pressure of going to the next interesting spot. Because a good planning gives you structure and enough flexiblity to remove or add new places/shops/to do’s.
Wisdom of the day: First plan hard, second travel relaxed.;-)
Love to you all,
The Evil Journalista