After planning my family’s 2-week winter Germany trip it got me thinking about my process for planning a vacation this long. Not going to lie, it’s not easy coordinating 5 adults for two weeks abroad in a new country but if you are organized and stay calm, it’s totally doable. I figured I would write a few blog posts on my process for planning a 2-week trip. Keep in mind, you can adjust any part of this plan to meet your specific needs or travel wants.
Part I is the fun part of planning any trip: day dreaming!
Step 1: Select a Destination
It seems stupid to have this as a step but picking a region/country/city for your trip is important. We usually select our vacation destinations because we’re visiting someone or want to “cross” something off our bucket list. When selecting a destination, keep in mind the weather, your physical limitations, the size of your group, and other timing factors (i.e. tourist season, holidays, etc.).
For example, my family decided on an all-around Germany trip this past Christmas because my sister is currently getting her masters in Aachen. We knew we were going to run into a few holidays (Christmas & New Years), my dad was in a boot for a broken foot, and there was cold weather (it was 19 degrees the day we left Berlin!).
Step 2: Pretty Pictures
Once you have a destination (or two) that you want to look into start some light research. At this point, don’t worry about logistic, just go crazy on Pinterest and Instagram saving all the gorgeous photos you can! Also,start to identify blogs and books (like Rick Steves or Lonely Planet) that will help down the road.
For example, I create a visual inspiration board or a Pinterest board for the specific trip to keep everything together until I’m ready for some serious logistics (we’ll address that in part 2).
Step 3: Map it Out
Once you’ve gathered lots of eye candy and read up on some of the basics, put everything on a map (virtual or real, it doesn’t matter). This will help you recognize how things are clustered and start to give you an idea about travel logistics while in country. At this point, you will need to start to refine your list, especially if something is wayyyy out-of-the-way from everything else on your list. If it’s not one of the TOP things you wanted to do, toss it.
For example, I really wanted to go to the southern edge of the Black Forest (the photos looked so idyllic!) while journeying in between Cologne and Munich but the travel time would have eaten up the day and a half we had, so we decided to stay to the northern half.
Step 4: Make a List
Now that everything is mapped out, make a list of the cities/towns you are going to be in and the thing(s) you have down to see/do while there. Then, use this list to start more research about these locations for things you may have overlooked. At this stag, you can also start preliminary research about public transportation versus renting a car and start saving ideas for hotels, hostels or AirBnbs.
For example, when planning this past multi-family trip, I tried to make sure I got everyone’s input for each location so that everyone had a say in what we did while there. I added these things to my list and stared items that multiple people wanted to do.
P.S. It’s at this step that I always look to see what UNESCO Sites are nearby and note that on my list!
Next time I’ll discuss the hardest part of planning a trip: booking logistics and making the “final” plan!