How do you plan a trip?

I recently booked a sort of list minute trip and have been busy planning for it ever since. When it comes to trip planning, I'm the type of traveler who makes very detailed plans. I get that part of the fun in traveling is just exploring a new and unknown place. But I also want to make sure I get to see, do, and eat everything I want!

So, here are the tools I use, and things I normally look up when I'm planning for my trips. If you have anything else to add to this list, please leave a comment! Would love to see what tools you use, and maybe start using them to plan my own trips!

Tools

  • TripAdvisor:I rely heavily on TripAdvisor when looking for places to stay. I like reading the comments to look out for whether it's in a convenient location, or whether the place is clean, and also to make sure there haven't been comments about bed bugs (because we've certainly had a negative experience with those critters!)
  • Travel blogs: I read a lot of travel blogs in my spare time.  And when I am planning trips, I prefer travel blogs over the official tourism websites because you get to hear a more personalized experience and the blogger's opinions too!
  • Pinterest: I love using Pinterest as a trip planning tool. There are some great articles/blogs pinned on that site, and I pin everything I want to see onto a board so it's all in one place. (Are you on Pinterest? I'd love to connect with you there!)
  • Google Maps: After I've done all my pinning on Pinterest, I like to create a custom map in Google Maps for my trip. I add pins to the map to see where all the different 'points of interest' are located. This way, I can plan to 'group' the places that are close together into one day.
  • Google: This probably comes as no surprise. What did I do before Google (and the internet) came along? I ask Google a lot of questions and it hasn't failed me yet :)
  • Pen and paper: I don't trust technology when I go on trips. I know some people like to put everything on their cellphones. I don't like to do that on trips. I just don't know if I'll have an accessible power source to keep my phone charged, or whether I'll have internet access. So, once I have planned out my itineraries, I write everything down in a good old notebook. This includes hours of operation, addresses, names of places and things I want to eat, and how to get from one place to the next.

Things to Look Up

(in addition to what to see, do, and eat!)

  • Common manners: I always try to get an understanding of the basic and common manners in that country/city. It's often surprising what's considered rude in a different country. For instance, it's a big no-no to talk on your cellphone on the trains in Japan.
  • Tipping etiquette: Tipping already confuses me in Canada, so I always try to look this up before I go on a trip. In some places, it's rude to leave a tip, while in others it's rude if you don't leave one. I like to get a handle of this before I offend anyone!
  • Passes: Many countries and cities have passes aimed at tourists (like the CityPASS in New York City) that could help you save big on money as well as time! I've always found that it was a good idea to do some research on these while planning a trip.
  • Things to be cautious of: Traveling safely is important. I like to look up what I should be cautious of at my travel destination. I don't do this to scare myself, but I do it because I think it's important to be aware of dangerous situations so that I can avoid them!

How do you plan your trips?