The key to a good trip is making sure to plan in advance. Have you heard of the 20/80 rule? It says that 20% of your effort will get 80% of your results – so take a few hours, plan out your trip, and enjoy a stress-free vacation. Our three simple lists will show you how!
LIST 1: THE BUCKET LIST
Each country has its own unique attractions (toursity or otherwise!) – make sure you don’t miss the must-see, the must-do, and, of course, the must-eat by creating a city bucket list. To start your bucket list, think of some of the things that you’ve always wanted to do in your upcoming destination: is it seeing the Paris skyline at the top of the Eiffel Tower? Taking a ferry around the bay and exploring Hong Kong? Signing up for a tango dancing class in Buenos Aires? Whatever it is, grab a piece of paper and start writing! Once you have a good foundation of activities and places, take it one step further by doing research. Go to your local library and check out a guide book (Lonely Planet, Rick Steves, and Rough Guides are a few of my favorites); read through online travel blogs; ask friends; and join a few Facebook travel groups to get fresh ideas and off the beaten path suggestions. Once you have your bucket list ready, it’s time to put it in action and plan your vacation – onto list #2!
LIST 2: THE PLANNING LIST
Wait a second, what’s the difference between a Bucket List and a Planning List? I’m glad you asked! A planning list is a piece of paper (or Excel sheet, or a Word doc, or a Note file, or … okay, you get it) that lists your day to day itinerary. This list includes the accommodation that you’ll be staying at, like a hotel, hostel, AirBnb, campground, etc; your plans for the day, including which attractions you’ll visit; the transportation you’ll take to get there; and any restaurants, cafes, or places where you’ll eat. A few great website to check out are Tripit, RoadTrippers, and RoutePerfect’s travel planner (perfect for multi-destination travel!) – all you have to do is enter your starting point and destination, and it’ll do the rest!
Of course, you don’t need to write down every single place and thing that you plan to do on that day (the best moments often happen spontaneously!), but this is a great way of staying focused and on track. If you opt to create a Google Doc or Sheet, there’s an option to share your plan with your friends so they can help plan as well.
If you’re still wondering what this list looks like, take a glance at one of my sample days in Paris:
TONIGHT’S ACCOMMODATION: Vice Versa hotel
EAT BREAKFAST AT hotel
TAKE METRO to Eiffel Tower (Trocadero metro stop)
TO SEE: Start at Trocadero gardens -> Eiffel Tower -> walk along Seine river
LUNCH STOP at Angelina Cafe
AFTER LUNCH: Go to Louvre
Walk to Notre Dame -> Luxembourg gardens
DINNER AT Les Papilles
TAKE METRO back to hotel
LIST 3: THE PACKING LIST
You thought this was going to come first, didn’t you? Although some people start packing the moment they buy their tickets and book their hotel, it’s actually more convenient to pack after you’ve completed planned your trip! That’s because you’ll have an idea of what you plan to do each day and can pack accordingly.
One of my biggest tips is to travel light – and over the last 20 or so countries that I’ve visited, I only took a small 15 lb carry-on! To minimize weight and maximize your wardrobe (especially for all the fashionistas out there!), pick light fabrics, clothes that you can layer, and wear your heaviest items on the plane. One of my friends takes this a step further and packs a ‘capsule wardrobe’ – which are a few key pieces that can be mixed and matched to create entirely new looks.
Of course, don’t forget to pack the essentials – once you have a list of what you want to take, compare it against a general traveler’s packing list. One of my favorites is this one, because you can see what you need by destination, weather, and which activities you plan to do.
By making these three lists, you’ve done a huge chunk or the work – now all you need to do is go out there and enjoy your vacation!