Saturday, March 29, 2014

How I Go About Planning a Trip, Or, The Most Intense Trip Planning Ever

Otto and I are about 2 months out from our two week adventure to the Pacific Northwest. It will be my first time to the area, but it is where he was born and raised. For most of the trip, we are staying with his family on the Olympic Peninsula, located a hop, skip, and ferry ride west of Seattle, about two hours. Although, I'm not going to lie, before we got married, I didn't even know there was anything west of Seattle!!
Since it will be my first time, and I am a Travel Agent, we will be making a few side trips including: 1 night in Seattle, 1 night in Victoria British Columbia, and 1 night in Portland, Oregon, and perhaps a few spontaneous adventures. Who am I kidding, most DEFINITELY a few spontaneous adventures.

As I was tooling around online this evening, I was thinking about my trip planning process, and how it is pretty much the same for every trip I take: intense as ever #andprobablydrivesmyhusbandinsane. I thought it might be fun to outline, and perhaps give some ideas to someone who doesn't know where to even start when planning a trip.

Step # 1. This might seem obvious, but you need to pick the destination.
As someone who is saturated with wanderlust, I have the immense urge to go everywhere, all the time. But you have to weigh some factors:
1. how much time do you have
2. how much money to you have
3. what interests you
4. what inspires you

Sometimes when I am planning a trip for a client, it pains me when they don't have at least 2 out of the 4 above towards their trip, which causes them to be cranky and uninvolved, dollar signs flashing, time off balances at work reducing, and no one the happier.

One example would be that while we were planning this trip, I was decidedly taking us to Vancouver, no questions about it, no matter how much it cost to get there or how rushed it would be! Though, the more we looked into it, we just didn't see anything that really caught our eye. It didn't inspire us, and after costing out a few scenarios, was a little more than our budget allowed. Also, the timing was just a bit off with how many days we had to get from A to B. We would have been straining to see it, while probably not enjoying it that much with so little time. So we nixed it in favor of spending more time enjoying Seattle (though I am sure we are going to be missing out!).

This might mean you wait a few extra months to save up, or it could mean you just pick a different destination!

Step #2 Get to know your new destination

After choosing the destination, you want to get to know it better than that person from high school you secretly creep on #letsbehonest. I Google, TripAdvisor, CNN, Instagram, Facebook, follow, like, friend, thumbs up, and Twitter it! These days most tourism departments, restaurants, hotels, and popular sights have a profile somewhere that they post regularly to. My favorite thing to do is find everything related to the destination in Instagram. It's as easy as taking 5 minutes during my lunch break and searching "Seattle."

  For this trip I am following a few different specific hotels like the Fairmont Empress in Victoria where we are staying, as well as some restaurants, like a few #aton that I am dying to check out.
This gives you some insight into the destination whether it be tips on getting around, social media discounts, or where to catch the best sunrise. Do it! You can always unfollow after you have your own pictures and advice to offer!

#Step 3 Details Details Details

Now you have to start legitimately planning your trip. If you are sure about dates and places, I would lock in airfare first. We have had our flights for months now. Take it from a pro - last minute flight deals to popular hubs are non existent. If only I could have forewarned all the people who, in the last week of March are planning their April School Vacation trips and paying exorbitant prices to get to Orlando. Get. Your. Flights. Early.

Maybe I am a hotel snob, but DO NOT SETTLE for accommodations that are just "meh" when you are traveling! Who wants to come back from a long day of touring around and pay to sleep in a bed worse than the one you left at home! Not this girl right here! Ok, there are exceptions - says the girl who once spent a night with the hobos outside of South Station in Boston and has slept in hostels in random places. Just decide what you want and that your expectations reasonable.

Fairmont Empress, where we are staying in Victoria, BC

We have a few hotels booked for this trip, and I use a combination of methods to obtain best rates. I always look for the most ideal hotel I want to stay in and work from there. This included going on Trip Advisor and checking out the Top Ten best rated hotels in Seattle and calling them for their best rates. I also emailed a few of them for more information about where they are located, if it is easy to get to their hotel from the airport, etc. Most of the rates for top ten hotels in a destination will be sky high, but take it easy. Search groupon, living social, travelzoo, and kayak for discounts and best rates. Personally, I hate hate hate booking through Expedia type "online travel agencies" and would rather book directly with the hotel, or with a Travel Agent.  #Oopsie #Plug. It is more personal, you can ask questions, ensure exactly what you are paying and how much you are paying for, as well as make any requests you need, ensuring the hotel gets the memo. In my experience the cancellation policy is a lot less stress if you stay away from online travel agencies, and you can sometimes get the rate directly with the hotel.

I could go on. Ask me in the comments if you have any questions.

Step #4 Think About The Excitement!

Now that you have everything booked and locked in, start thinking about the excitement! See the picture on Instagram and make a mental note to check out that hilariously touristy statue. Read the article about the best coffee in Seattle, and map out how close the cafe's are to your hotel. Chat it up. Dream it up.

Step #5 Wait

The hardest part for me. It's especially hard because my job involved travel planning, so I am always thinking about what else to add to my trip, or how else I can get the best deal. Sometimes, I just have to think about other things though, and just remind myself that it will be great!

Step #6 GO!

The best part!

How do you go about planning a trip? Are you not as crazy as I am about it? Are you more crazy about planning than me? I am super curious!