If you know us in real life, you also know that we get physically itchy if we aren’t planning a trip somewhere. So, how do we do it?
In terms of ideas on where to go, we are pretty open. We both subscribe to several travel website RSS feeds as well as receive email promotions from American, Delta, and Southwest (the airlines we primarily fly). For example, Delta is running a double miles special right now on numerous European cities via Atlanta and New York. After much searching and planning, we snapped up tickets to Zurich, Switzerland for a long weekend in February for just over $500 each. From Raleigh! Not only will we get to see this beautiful city but we will each be earning almost 20,000 miles which is almost enough for a free roundtrip ticket.
To plan our routes we always start with Kayak.com. Since Kayak searches a number of websites, including many of the airlines, we’ve found it much easier to efficiently search for specific routes, plus it allows you to filter your search details down to the time you leave, maximum layover maximum, as well as stopovers and price. Once we’ve identified a particular ticket we’re linked to the website with the lowest price. It’s brilliant.
After we’ve purchased out tickets it’s time to plan out where to stay. For this stage, we generally use both Tripadvisor and Kayak. I am fully aware that more people tend to take the time to write bad reviews rather than good ones (especially for hotels), but if a place looks nice and 4 people in the last month have posted about the construction noise next door, it’s time to consider another place to stay. It’s still the best place to get a good look at your hotel before you stay there. Kayak is also useful as it allows you to look for hotels within a specified radius on a map of the city, taking into consideration price and star level of your hotel.
A great little site we’ve been using recently is TripIt. You can email your travel confirmation emails directly to the site and it will organize the flights, car rentals, and hotel information for you, all in one place. This aggregated data can be imported directly into a Google calendar – very helpful.
So, what are we going to do once we get there? This is often my favorite part of the planning because there are always so many things to see and do in unchartered territory. At some point along the way, usually after we buy the plane tickets, we start a section on our wiki for the new destination. Here both of us can add ideas and links to activities to build a rough itinerary for our trip.
We also set up a personal Google map of our destination, and collaborate on restaurants to visit, museums, viewpoints, and other attractions. I am a very visual person, so it helps me to study a map of where we are going before we get there. This makes me feel a lot more comfortable getting around in an unfamiliar city.
Although I am a planner at heart (obviously), we also just love the feeling of being in a brand new (to us) place!