5 Essential Tips for Planning Your Next Vacation

5 essential tips for planning your next vacation anywhere

Travel is one of the great loves of my life! Before Mike and I got married we both agreed that travel would be an essential part of our lives as we both want to explore this gorgeous world we live in. I’ve always had the travel bug…even if I couldn’t go I dreamed about going and seeing and experiencing other places. I still do that!!! Mike and I have an ongoing bucket list that we add to and it’s so fun to dream. When Mike and I were discussing honeymoons it was an easy decision to choose France! We had 2 weeks (15 days) for travel and so many ideas on what we wanted to see and where we wanted to go. The what to do, where to go, what to eat,  what to see part of travel can be a bit overwhelming for sure. Through the process of planning our 15 day France adventure I came up with these 5 essential tips for planning your next vacation.

These tips have helped me plan several other trips and little get-aways and they’re the tips I’m using to plan our one year anniversary trip to Hawai’i next month!!! Friends I can get a little carried away and not get any work done when I’m planning a trip. Haha. I think 50% of the fun of travel is in planning and anticipation! I imagine myself in far away balconies, on beaches, strolling down a side street, gazing at gorgeous art, drinking a glass of wine, all the fun stuff!!

Ok let’s get started with the 5 essential tips for planning your next vacation!!! These are so fun & helpful.

#1 Sit down and talk about your must-sees, wants, & ideas with your travel partner

This is the first big step friends!!! If you’re traveling with another person then considering their wants and needs is critical to making sure that your trip together will be amazing for BOTH of you! This might seem like a no-brainer but it’s so easy when you starting planning and looking at what to do to just get wrapped up in the ideas of what you want and steam roll your travel partner. Travel, like a relationship, takes compromise!  This is especially important if you both like different things and have different visions for your trip. Sit. Talk. Drink wine. Laugh. Have fun going over all the things you both want to do on your trip.

I suggest making a list of things that you think want to do. Have your partner make a list of what he/she wants to do. Then sit down to talk and compare! Sometimes things will overlap and sometimes they won’t…that’s where the compromise comes in.

My husband and I like some very different things. I could spend weeks in museums and art galleries. He could watch every soccer game known to man. I could eat all the fancy foods from every 5 star Michelin rated restaurant. He could live on bread, steak, and wine. I could spend every day roaming a different cathedral or chateau. He could visit every winery in a 50 mile radius. So we compromise!

In discussing France we both had our lists. The top of mine- explore Paris. The top of Mike’s- drink wine in Burgundy. So we decided to split our 2 weeks in France evenly between the two places. Compromise! When planning our days in Paris I knew that too many museums / art galleries would bore him so I chose my must-sees carefully, fully keeping him in mind and what he might like to see too. Mike really wanted to see the French National Team play a game in Stade de France so we made that happen and I added two museums to balance. (hahahah) When planning Burgundy we scheduled lots of wine and vineyards and sprinkled in many little medieval villages and chateaus. Our trip was the best of all that we both love!

Talk. Talk. And more talk with your travel partner. Run by new ideas, things you’ve learned. Show pictures you’ve found, share reviews of places and menus. Give options. It will all be so worth it when you look at each other after your trip and know you had the best trip ever.


#2 Research. Research. Research. Before.

Omg it’s soooooo easy to research any destination these days!!!! I’m not sure what people did before the internet. I know, I know…guide books…but they only get you so far and often they’re not very up to date. Some of the very, very best things we did in France were from all my research before our trip. I won’t lie friends I spent months planning! To me all the research was fun and as I found new places to visit, new things to see, places to eat, specific things I wanted to eat, specific spots I wanted to take photos, my heart would race and I’d get even more excited about the trip.

Here are a few of my very favorite ways to research a vacation destination-

  • Online travel blogs – I love travel blogs…may be why I’m half transforming this photo blog into a travel blog!!! It’s so awesome reading other people’s travel experiences and getting their personal recommendations. It’s often the best way to find little hidden gems and some great tips on traveling to your specific destination. A simple google search of “(your destination) travel blogs” brings up so many options to read through. You’ll quickly discover the blogs that speak to your heart and your style of travel. Beware they will lead you down the slippery slope of web surfing for hours.
  • Instagram- It’s no secret that I’m slightly addicted to Instagram in general but it’s also an amazing tool for finding awesome places you need to see and places to eat at. Also if you’re anything like me it’s great for finding iconic picture spots!! Here’s where geo-tagging and hashtag searching comes in handy. I like to search for hashtags first and then see where that takes me. So for instance before France I searched #parislove #parisfood #parisphotographer #visitparis and a lot more! But those got me started and did me right. I fact I found the photographer we hired via Instagram, many of our pictures spots, and a few stores to visit.
  •  Google – Yes I mentioned online travel blogs already but a few simple google searches will also bring up plenty of travel ideas outside of travel blogs. I like to search things like “10 best places to eat in Paris” “must see places in paris” “where to eat in beaune france”. This also will send you down the rabbit hole of internet land but I found so many of the places we ate at in France doing this.
  • Podcasts / FB Groups – I listen to podcasts all the time so I figured it was worth the search to see if there were any France travel related ones. I hit the jackpot last summer by finding the podcast  “Join Us In France”. This lead to their Facebook Group which lead to their private FB Group. All of which were absolutely wonderful and so helpful with planning our trip! Take the time to see if you can find any podcasts or Facebook Groups associated with your destination.

#3 Budget & Plan Where to Splurge.

Travel can be super expensive. Money, or lack thereof, is the reason most people cite for not traveling. I’m not here to give you any cheap travel tips but what I do believe is that if you choose carefully ahead of time what you want to splurge on then it’s much easier to budget the rest of your trip. Mike and I talked extensively about some of our bucket list items before France…the things we just knew we had to do while we were in France. We each had a list of a few that were on the more pricey side and then whittled that list down to be manageable on the budget. We then paired these splurges with less expensive activities and meals.

For instance – I knew we HAD to have a Paris photoshoot with a Paris based professional photographer! Mike knew we HAD to take a hot air balloon ride over Burgundy. Check and check. Mike HAD to attend a soccer game in Paris and I HAD to eat at least one fancy meal at a to-die-for restaurant. Again check and check. We researched and planned these things first! We budgeted for them first as well and then we planned the rest of the trip around them. This meant that there were quite a few things that we didn’t do. Nope I didn’t get to take the cooking class I wanted to in Beaune and we didn’t eat dinner at a few other restaurants that I had starred and underlined. But choosing and planning ahead of time on where and what to spend the majority of our money made us very happy with our decisions and we never felt like we missed out on anything.

#4 Google Maps Are Your Best Friend

I became best friends with google maps before our trip. In fact I made several custom maps! Google maps are great so that you can see how far apart the places are that you want to walk or drive to. This is so helpful in planning a days itinerary. I started by making a Paris map and pinned our hotels to it. Next I pinned the places I knew we were going to go at some point. For instance – the Louvre, Saint Chapelle, Notre Dame, + many more. Then I began breaking down the days we would be there and what we wanted to see each day and what made sense according to their location. When choosing restaurants I used this location criteria for each day and each meal. It worked like a charm!!!

Bonus is that you can make as many custom maps as you like and you can include walking/ driving directions as well. Next step is to download them for offline usage. This is especially helpful if you’re without cell phone coverage or wifi. I made separate walking maps for each day we were in Paris and pinned all of our stopping points and points of interest. I also included extra stops in case we had time or just felt like veering off course.

#5 Plan BUT Make a Flexible Itinerary

Now that I just told you to Google map your whole trip I’m going to say….but make it flexible. Hahahahaha. The truth is you can plan until you’re blue in the face but #1 things will not always go as planned and #2 when you over plan then you leave no room for some beautiful serendipity. Planes are late, you can’t figure out the subway tickets, dinner runs over, you’re tired and your feet hurt. Life happens even on vacation so leave some room in your trip plans for down moments or for alternative plans. Leave some extra time to peruse all the titles in the book store, to chat longer over that cup of cafe creme, to stand and stare in awe in the museum, to wander side streets and look at gorgeous front doors, to drive through villages and look for houses for sale, to sip an extra glass of wine.

I must say that I’m pretty proud of myself for padding our days with extra time to just BE in France and soak it all up with each other. For instance if my google map estimated it would take 2 hours to walk to all the places I had pinned then I gave us 4-5 hours to do it! That gave us time to walk slow, read, stop and eat a croissant, take more pictures for Instagram, or sit on a park bench. In Burgundy when my map estimated a 30 minute drive I figured in 90 minutes. That way we could drive the slow winding road through the vineyards and jump out whenever we wanted to enjoy the view and the moments.

One of our most serendipitous moments was a morning we were  driving to a winery about 40 minutes away from our Airbnb. I turned off the car gps and used my phone map to guide us down the little roads that wound through the vineyards and gorgeous medieval villages. Some spots of the roads were only one car width wide….we could have touched the walls of the houses if we had just stuck our arms out the side windows of the car. Every turn was more beautiful than the next. Plump pinot noir grapes, dark as night, were in bunches on the vines, chickens strutted about their morning in the street, gorgeous flower boxes full of geraniums were everywhere. We came around a big blind curve in the road and there I saw a sign that read “Pelletier et Fils” next to a vineyard . Mike saw it after me and quickly hit the brakes. If you didn’t know his last name is Pelletier (I haven’t changed mine yet) and that vineyard was Pelletier and Sons. Michael Pelletier and Sons to be exact. Well Mike had to stop. He knocked on the door to the house and through hand gestures and broken English to French and showing the gentleman his driver’s license he communicated that he too was Michael Pelletier. Same name. The man smiled and laughed and said yes he was Michael Pelletier and he was the winemaker. That’s pretty much all the English he spoke so he got his wife to come down and she sold us Pelletier et Fils wine. We drove off with our special wine, smiles on our faces, and a beautiful adventure to always remember.

I hope these 5 essential tips for planning your next vacation are helpful in your vacation planning. The same tips can be used for anywhere you travel. I’ve used them for The Bahamas, France, Nashville, and Hawai’i as I’ve streamlined my planning process. Please let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to hear from you!!!

To read about more of our travels click HERE to see our Tradewinds catamaran trip to the Bahamas!

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