Before every trip there is planning
Travel planning is essential, especially for longer trips and road trips. No matter how spontaneous you are, you will certainly not get along without planning.
In what is sure to be a very long article, we will show you in 6 simple steps how we plan our vacations and, above all, road trips.
Planning a trip properly takes more than just a pen and paper. Before we show you what our travel planning looks like, let's take a look at the tools.
Google MyMaps (free – Google account required):
The tool combines Google Maps with its own waypoints, markers and routes. Therefore, it is one of the main tools for us.
We use Trello to plan and execute our trips and create the entire trip in it.
Of course, there are many other travel planning tools, but we chose this combination. You can find out why and how we use them in the next few chapters.
The preliminary planning
If you are planning a trip, you probably already have a rough idea of what you want to experience. Nevertheless, write everything down and use our tools to map the journey.
Before we begin, the question arises as to when you should start planning your trip. Our answer: “it depends”. Are you spontaneous and only book the first and last hotel on your route, or do you have to keep an eye on everything.
Since we see each other somewhere in between, we usually start planning the next one shortly after the last trip 🙂 - anticipation is the greatest joy!
It begins with an idea and budget collection. Now it is important to write down everything that comes to your mind.
- Where do you want to travel?
- What do you already know and what do you really want to see?
- What can or do you want to spend?
- How many days do you have vacation / time?
- What do you need?
Once you have answered all these questions and (very important) noted the answers, you must first do a rough calculation.
Here is an example calculation for a round trip on the US west coast of 3 weeks:
- Flights: 600.00 to 800.00 € / person
- Rental Car: (Mid-Size SUV) 30.00 to 50.00 € / day
- Refueling: approx. €60.00 to €100.00 per week
- Hotel / Motel / Airbnb: €50.00 to €100.00 / night
- Meals: 25.00 € / person & day
- Admission: 100.00 to 200.00 € / person
- Souvenirs & Shopping: €250.00 / person
- Total: €4,940.00 to €7,200.00 (3 weeks with 2 people)
If we stick with this example, you have already answered questions 1, 3 and 4. But before you wander through the USA without a plan, you must of course know exactly what you absolutely want to see.
If you are in New York and would like to visit Alcatraz, it will be difficult because it is at the other end of the country and that is over 4,000 kilometers!
So plan wisely what you can and want to experience on your tour. If you are the summer, sun, beach type, then the west coast or California is your top travel destination.
You want to see something about American history and discover old America? Then travel to the east coast.
These are just 2 examples of many that we will be reporting on in the near future. With that we have also settled question 2 and can work our way to the last one, namely what you need.
Here is a rough overview:
- Biometric passport
- ESTA travel permit (EU citizens) or visa
- Foreign health insurance
- Trip cancellation insurance
- credit card
- rental car
- Accommodation options (hotels, motels, AirBNB, campsite…)
- USA SIM card or international tariff for the mobile phone contract
The travel planning
Now it's getting exciting, because now the travel planning really starts. The first step is the rough planning.
Make a list with everything you have already written down in the preliminary planning. Open Google Maps and see roughly what is still on the way. Maybe you will find another place that is important to you.
Now it's about dividing the days in such a way that you can visit all the sights at your overnight stays or around them. This is also important to find out how long you should stay where.
It is best to use a tool like Trello, in which you can subdivide the stations or days. Depending on how exactly you want to plan later, create a separate list either for each day or for each station.
Google MyMaps is a great help when planning a trip. This allows you to create your own maps with routes and points of interest (POI / sights).
Use this service for yourself and determine where exactly you have to plan one or more overnight stays.
A small video is already in production 🙂
Now that you have already entered everything in Trello, it is time for detailed research. Look at the websites for your POIs and enter the data on the map that could be important during your trip.
Examples of important information that you should definitely enter:
- opening hours
- entrance fees
The most important terms in Trello
What is Trello:
Trello is what is known as a Kanban board. The aim of Kanban is to get a simple overview of which tasks have to be processed and with what priority, what has been processed or is still pending.
What is a list:
Trello columns are called lists. Here you can make the division into days or locations
What is a card:
The card can contain many things. Documents, hyperlinks, plain text and images can be stored in it.
As already mentioned, in step 3 of the planning we take care of the budget, namely whether we can maintain it with our route and the locations.
But first we have to research the most important prices. Take a look at the following list and try to get the data:
- travel expenses
- By train to the airport
- Parking for cars at the airport
- Airport Taxi
- Flight tickets (baggage surcharge, if applicable)
- rental car
- gasoline costs
- hotel costs
- entrance fees
- meal allowance
- Souvenirs & purchases
Once you have written a number after each of these points, add up the total price and see if it fits into your budget or not.
In the worst case, you either have to increase your budget, or reschedule your trip, or leave something out.
Only when you have cleared this hurdle can you start booking!
The next step in our travel planning is of course the booking. Our first focus is on the accommodation options.
We always book hotels first, as the prices here are usually stable. An important aspect is to check whether there are things that are important to us:
- Central location
Nothing beats having to drive to all the sights.
- Rating not less than 7.5
Ratings on a scale of 1-10 should not be less than 7.5. Of course, cleanliness is the key here.
- Cancellation free of charge
Should the travel route change after all, it is always better to have a free cancellation option.
- Pay local
In some cases it makes more sense to pay on the spot than in advance. In case of cancellation you don't have to worry about losing money.
- Breakfast included (optimal & optional)
If you have a good breakfast at the beginning of the day, you will be happy to hold out until the evening and do not need unnecessary snacks that only cost money and hit the budget.
- Kitchen in the room (optional)
If you cook yourself, you will of course save the most on food. Decide whether you would rather go out to eat or cook.
Of course, the question also arises as to which is better, i.e. hotel, motel or Airbnb. The decisive factor is of course the price-performance ratio.
Hotels are usually more expensive, but have a higher standard. You don't need to worry, especially with large hotel chains.
Motels are cheaper, but mostly disreputable, but there are always exceptions. Especially in the USA there are large motel chains like "Motel6" or "Days Inn" which we can definitely recommend.
As soon as you are in the same place for more than 4 days, it is advisable to think outside the box. At Airbnb (here is a small travel credit gift) there are holiday apartments and even whole houses for rent.
Book rental car
We continue with the rental car, because you absolutely need it on a road trip. We recommend booking through the ADAC, even if it is not always the cheapest provider, it is the safest. Here's why.
- Free cancellation up to 24 hours before arrival
- Choice of different providers
- Cheaper offers for ADAC members
- All insurance without deductible
- Complete protection even without expensive additional insurance on site
- One and sometimes any number of additional drivers over the age of 25 are included
Of course there are also other providers such as e.g Cheap rental carwhere you can get good prices. But be careful, in some cases the insurance cover is not special, or you take out additional insurance to avert damage.
book a flight
The lovers of the early bird discount will now cry out, because we always book just before arrival.
The best prices are there as an early bird? – Not necessarily, because airlines need capacity utilization and if this is too low, a few bargains will be thrown out shortly before.
We book between 6 and 8 weeks before departure. In this way, some eventualities can already be weighed up. For example, we booked our flight to Scotland quite late last year, but still too early.
The pandemic had thwarted our plans here. The result: With the help of a lawyer, we had to get our money back from the airline for the canceled flight. Stress that you can definitely save yourself if you don't book early.
Another component that we keep in mind when booking a flight is the times. So we always try to get the best out of our vacation days. Therefore, book a flight where you arrive at your holiday destination early and fly back late in the evening.
When planning your time, also note the time difference in your holiday country.
Next, the day of arrival is also decisive for the price. You usually get the low prices during the week and not on weekends or public holidays.
Holidays are also expensive. Unless you have school-age children or are traveling without children, try to book outside of the holiday season.
We usually use several devices and websites to search for flights. Even if it sounds strange, it depends on whether you have an expensive or cheap cell phone model.
Another tip: Empty your internet cache and cookies before you go to the flight search engine, this has already saved a few euros.
Book passes & tickets
In some cases it is also worth booking tickets in advance.
When we were planning our road trip for 2014, we really wanted to go to Alcatraz. At that time we learned during the planning that it is important to book several months in advance. Here you can see how important it is to start planning your trip early.
Of course, we also make sure that we check whether a pass is cheaper than paying for the sights individually.
We use GetYourGuide to inspire us. Since you can also book the tickets directly there, it is usually even easier than paying on site. For example, you not only save the queue at the checkout.
The fine tuning
The final step in travel planning is fine-tuning. We haven't had any plans that we haven't overturned before booking, but even after booking you should still allow yourself a few spontaneous liberties.
It is best to plan by cities and not by days, so you can change everything on the spot. the very spontaneous only book the first hotel and then let themselves drift through the country.
When fine-tuning our travel planning, we populate all created Trello cards with the latest information such as routes from the hotel to places of interest, etc.
It is best to upload all documents, including your flight tickets, rental car vouchers, hotel booking confirmations and online tickets. So you always have everything ready on your smartphone (internet required).
Don't worry, only you and the people you invite have access to your Trello board and the information it contains.
If you have booked appointments, it is important to mark them accordingly. Trello also offers you the option of entering a fixed due date and time.
The time has finally come, the journey begins and you have completed your travel planning for your road trip.
The good thing is, now you have your trip including Google Maps maps in one place. If you have a travel SIM card or an international tariff, you can now not only see what you have planned, but also start the route guidance directly.
Finally, a little tip:
As soon as you have dealt with a point of interest or a map, archive it. Of course you can also put them in a "Done" list, but that's not so useful for the next trick.
At the end of the journey, you restore all cards and close the board. Closed boards are not deleted and can always be brought out again. Either to repeat the trip or to plan a similar one.