Let me let you in on a little secret: I love the process of planning a trip almost more than I do going on the actual trip. It’s like a sport for me — finding the hidden gems in a new city, organizing our days to maximize all of the different neighborhoods I want to explore, and collecting as many recommendations as I can before we leave about what I *must* eat or drink in our destination city. We have taken some pretty amazing trips over the past few years that lead to awesome adventures (check out our travels to Austin + Marfa, Nashville, and our cross-country honeymoon road trip for a few examples!). Someone commented on one my instagram posts last week and asked how we go about planning for these fun little getaways, and it dawned on me that I actually do have a pretty standard process that I thought I’d share here today, check out my tips for note to plan awesome getaways:
- Gather Your Travel Books. Whenever we book a trip, my first planning task is to take a look at the New York Times 36 Hours books. They’re great resources to find boutique hotels, and an give you a good idea of which neighborhoods will be worth visiting. I like that they pick a few traditional ‘tourist’ spots but mix them in with off-the-beaten-path recommendations. My other favorite travel books are the WildSam Field Guides. I’ve been lucky that the last few cities we’ve picked have had them (Austin, Nashville, and an upcoming New Orleans trip!). These are the kinds of recommendations you’re going to get from your cool hipster cousin, if you had a cool hipster cousin that lived in the city that you’re visiting. I also really enjoy that they include some history and stories of interesting locals, it’s a good way to get the vibe of the city before you arrive.
- Explore Hashtags. If you want to see the cool things that other people are finding in the cities that you’re visiting, check out what they’re sharing on instagram with local hashtags. Look for common hashtag prefixes like #igers + the city name or #visit + the city name to explore what locals or other visitors are taking images of. I also like to check out a local blogger hashtag too, when people visit Boston I’d recommend they look at our #bostonbloggers hashtag to see what influencers are eating, visiting, doing and come up with ideas using their feeds as inspiration. I also love to check out the great instagram feed @withthelocals for interesting recommendations — they add a new city each week so you can find lots of great details on an area from someone who actually lives there!
- Read Up Online. There are a few non-traditional sites I also like to use for trip planing. Design*Sponge and The Everygirl offer great city guides on their sites. People often share travel ideas on destination specific Pinterest boards, so I search those as well. And Yelp forums can be super helpful for reading through ‘best of’ debates — like where the best bbq joint is in Nashville, or where the best tacos are in Austin.
- Build a Map. I hope if you take one thing away from this post, it’s this helpful travel tip! Did you know you can build your own customized map on Google Maps? When we take trip I usually make a long list of all of the restaurants, bars, shops, and what my husband refers to as ‘instagram locations’ around the city and then add their locations to a google map. Each time you drop a new pin on the map you can start to see where there are clusters of things to do and see. I find this really helpful, especially for shorter trips where you’re trying to fit a lot in, to organize your days and hit up several spots in one area. I also like to use this ‘map’ phase of planning to take a look at surrounding areas outside the city for fun things to do. When we were in Austin we decided to spend a few days driving out to Big Bend National Park and Marfa, because it was probably one of the only times we’d end up being that close to those pretty obscure (but amazing!) locations in the country.
- Ask with locals. This is something I do while planning the trip, and once I’m there. I’ve been lucky to make some great virtual-friends from blogging, and get the best recommendations of things to do and see when I either reach out and email local contacts from the city I’m visiting, or put an open call up to readers or followers on social media. Sometimes we’ve even rerouted our plans while we’re on vacation because a follower has recommended something to me on the fly. Reach out to your favorite bloggers and ask them! I have a long list of Boston recommendations that I always happily send out when people reach out to me. The same goes with trusting the locals once you’re actually on your trip. Talk to the bartenders, the waitresses, the bell-hop and the cab drivers. When we were in Nashville we got the best recommendations for interesting bars to go to from a bartender we met the first afternoon we were there — people love to tell visitors what is special about their city, you just have to ask!
So, any great travel planning tips to add to this list? I’d love to hear your ideas! (PS: I’m going to follow rule #5… any New Orleans readers out there? We’re planning a trip in the fall and would love to know your must see/do/eat/drink list!)