6 steps to research and plan a trip

by Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders

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I am in the beginning of planning my trip to Santiago in Chile. I am quite meticulous when it comes to how I research and plan a trip. So this post with take you through all the steps I take when I embark on  starting to research and plan a trip.

How to research and plan a trip

How I research and plan a trip

This is the process I use for weekend breaks, weeks away, roadtrips and pretty much destination, so my tips to research and plan a trip are fairly universal! However, full disclaimer. I am a planner. I like to know what I am going to do of a day, what I want to see and how I am going to get there. I completely understand this is not the best way for everyone, but it works for me.

It doesn’t mean I stick to the plan, in fact I often don’t. But it means I have something to fall back on. I hate nothing more than being somewhere and not knowing what I want to see that day or what I want to eat.

My trip to Santiago is my first ‘big’ solo travel trip and, honestly, I am quite nervous. So having this plan in place makes me feel more prepared.

Most of my solo travel has either been on group travel tours: Should you go on a group travel tour?

Or city breaks such as Ljubljana or Brussels: 24 hours in Brussels

Find out more about my solo travels here: Thinking about Solo Travel?

Step 1

I tend to start with booking flights. Again, I know this doesn’t always work as the first port of call. For some larger countries, you might need to research where you want to fly in and out of to make sure you see the best of that country. However, this is where I generally start.

It gives me a location, and a time frame. Now to start the ‘research and plan a trip’ part.

Image of a plane at Sunset

Step 2

I know my destination and I know my time frame. I then head to Pinterest to find relevant blog posts. I always start the ‘top things to see in…’ or ’12 must see’s…’

A bit like these posts I have written:

Best things to do in Ljubljana, Slovenia

5 must see’s in Singapore

Image of solo travel - how to plan and research a trip

I spend quite a bit of time trawling through these. They don’t often give clear instructions on how to get around a place, or practical information. But they give me the frame work of the things I feel I must see!

I find posts on day trips very helpful in this scenario.

Again the type of posts I search for vary for the length of time I am away and what I want to achieve. For example I am planning a road trip around New England in the fall, so have been looking at more broad ‘top things to do in New England’ posts. For Chile, I am going to be based in and around Santiago. I have searched ‘top things to do in Santigao’ and ‘best day trips from Santiago’.

Weekend breaks will invariably be ‘Best things to do in…’ posts’

Step 3

Next step to research and plan a trip? Work out the rough itinerary. From my above research I will have worked out if I want to stay in the same place and do day trips, or mix it up and perhaps spend a bit longer in one of the other destinations. For example, I found some places that are ‘day trippable’ from Santiago, but I am not sure one day would do them justice. So I have made the decision to spend a couple of nights there, and even take a day trip from there.

For longer trips, I have now formed the basis of the route around the country I want to take.

Step 4

I now have the frame work, and a list (I love a list) of the places and sights I want to see on my trip.  It’s time to book accommodation!

My first port of call is a Lonely Planet guide book. I love that you can now buy PDF chapters from their website. It is so much handier than having to buy an entire book on a country, when you are only visiting part of it. I have chapters on Ljubljana and Santiago.

image of lonely planet guide books

I take a look at their recommendations and then head to TripAdvisor to see the reviews on there as well.  I also use Pinterest again. ‘Top hostels in…’ for example.

Step 5

Plot on a map! Not always applicable, especially for city breaks. While I can’t take credit for this, my friend has plotted our New England roadtrip on a map to make sure we are not driving back on ourselves.

For my New York trip, I plotted to make sure we weren’t spending our time charging up and down Manhattan, but that we could tie restaurants into things we wanted to see in the same area.

Step 6

The spreadsheet!

I enjoy this part greatly, although I am aware how OCD this might seem. I love having things written out and in front of me to refer too. I did actually take a print out of the below to New York!

There were separate tables for restaurant bookings I had made. As well as daily walking routes from our hotel.

I was excited, ok?

image of spreadsheet used to plan and research a trip

Now, as I previously said we didn’t really stick to it at all. Other than the things we had actually booked. Ie. Beauty and Essex. But it did give the frame work for each day, in the area we explored that day. Although definitely ended up heading to Brooklyn at least three of the days because I loved it.

What it meant though, was that when we wanted to find somewhere to eat we had an idea of what we wanted to see!

For Santiago my spreadsheet also includes the accommodation I am staying in as I travel around and the tours I want to go on! As well as how I am getting between locations.

What tips do you have for how you plan your trips? Or, are you more of a wing it type?

I’d love to hear from you!

If you liked this post, please pin it for later. 

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Anaïs N. January 29, 2019 - 6:45 pm

I think I might be the opposite of you hahah! I hate planning when travelling, I always go by the feeling of it and discover the beauty of the place while I’m there. I, sometimes, check the things to see before going but I don’t make a plan or anything.
Anyway, as much as we can be different while travelling, I loved reading that post!! It can be really helpful for some other people as it’s really detailed, well done x

Anaïs | http://anais-n.com

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders January 30, 2019 - 8:03 am

Haha I wish I could be like that! I just want to make sure I see everything I want to see. Having did that, it is rare I stick to the plan. I just like the back up. I think because I am always restricted on time when I travel it works for me. And I’m a nervous traveller. I like the comfort. X

Anaïs N. January 30, 2019 - 9:30 am

Fait enough!! I think both way of travelling is nice 🙂 As long as we both enjoy it haha xx

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders January 30, 2019 - 12:30 pm

That’s the most and only important thing i think. To enjoy it! X

jasonlikestotravel January 29, 2019 - 11:41 pm

That is some expert planning! I thought it was interesting accommodation wasn’t step two of your planning process though. I think I planned more when I first started traveling, particularly solo, as I was more nervous but I tend to wing it a bit more now.

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders January 30, 2019 - 8:03 am

Yeh I definitely plan more when I am solo. I like the security!

Seeking Wonderful January 30, 2019 - 9:50 am

I have more or less the same planning process, but usually decide on the destination because of the cheap flights, so my first step is making the most out of the skyscanner. 🙂

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders January 30, 2019 - 12:31 pm

Always a good place to start! Love a cheap flight

sarahjeantravels February 7, 2019 - 9:42 pm

As someone who loves planning and being organized, these are some great tips! I love the idea of making a spreadsheet and may need to try that next time I’m planning. Great article, thanks for sharing!!

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders February 8, 2019 - 10:22 am

I love the spreadsheet! I hope it helps with the planning 😊

Laura February 12, 2019 - 7:27 am

This is super similar to my travel style! I think we’d get along great on a trip together 😅

Laura || afinnontheloose.com

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders February 12, 2019 - 9:08 am

Haha good to know I’m not the only one! Always good to travel with a similar mindset!

Samantha Griffiths May 29, 2019 - 6:58 am

I also love using spreadsheets to plan a trip, my friends and family think I’m proper weird so glad I’m not the only one 😂
Even if I don’t stick to it 100% I feel nervous going to a new place if I don’t have a rough idea in my head of things I’d like to do there.

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders May 29, 2019 - 5:24 pm

I love a spreadsheet too! Haha definitely not the only one 😂 I think that’s the thing, I love to have a plan to fall back on


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