Since I traveled all over Italy last year, I’ve had friends and followers reach out to me through social media asking about how I planned my trips. It’s stressful to plan out your itinerary, but there are plenty of resources you can use to save money. Having a plan ensures that you won’t miss anything you came for, but I also like to leave some free time to explore and enjoy wherever I’m at. I decided to detail my workflow for all of you so you can learn how to better plan a trip. (P.S. Grab your free trip planning worksheet at the bottom of this post!)
1. Kayak Explore
I’ve booked my last few flights with Kayak and I cannot recommend it enough! Kayak has a great mobile app that makes it super easy to bookmark flights so you can watch them. I also love their “Explore” feature, where you can set your budget and see where you can travel for that price. If you’re like me and are open to hopping on a plane to wherever, whenever, this is an awesome option! You can set some filters, such as the number of stops and month of travel and figure out where to go on your budget. As I write this, there are actually a bunch of European locations with roundtrip prices around $400 from LAX in the Fall… I’m. Tempted.
Pro Tip: I’ve also noticed that Kayak finds flights that aren’t even listed on Google Flights. To be honest, I’ve found that Google Flights never really shows all the best deals. Kayak is way better to use when you need to plan a trip in advance.
I seriously never book hotels anymore, I always use Airbnb. There are such AMAZING deals on rooms or entire apartments. It’s also a great option because the hosts are often very helpful and friendly as far as giving advice on where to go and what to see. Again, you can set certain filters for the dates that you’ll be traveling and scan prices to see what’s best for you.
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3. Research The Best Hidden Spots Using Reddit
I typically search the big tourist spots of whatever city I’m going to into Google and browse through the “must-sees”. Once I get an idea of the top 3 to 5 spots that I absolutely cannot miss, I love to check Reddit or Quora. Reddit is a perfect resource to use to plan a trip because you can find hidden gems that most tourists often miss. By simply searching “hidden spots in (insert city name)” you will be given a ton of recommendations for great restaurants, clubs, viewpoints, shops, and activities to do in your city. Trust me, it’s exciting when you stray from the typical tourist path and really get to see the heart and soul of a city.
4. Plan Day Trips
If you’ll be in one city for a week or more, I highly recommend taking day trips to lesser-known locations. When I lived in Rome, I spent my weekends taking trains to small towns right outside Rome. It was absolutely amazing to find these quaint little towns which were stunning but also so full of character. My best memories were the interactions I had with people within these small towns, as they’re usually so excited and proud to show off their little town to visitors. Even better if you can speak their language!
The best way to go about this is to either search “Best day trips from (insert city here)” or simply pulling up Google Maps. There were weekends where I pulled up Google Maps, saw a city not too far from Rome, looked it up to see pictures, and booked a train there later that day. Even if there’s not much to see, you were at least guaranteed good food and wine in Italy!
Tip: Utilize trains in Europe! Trains run all over Europe and are so cheap! Seriously, I went to cities all over Europe and usually spent less than 30 euro round trip. Depending on where you are, you can even go by train to another country in just a few hours. Sometimes you can even save money by flying into an airport in a different country and taking a train to the next country over. (For example, this usually works well when flying into Vienna and then taking a train to Budapest.) Use. Those. Trains!
5. Schedule an Itinerary Using Travefy
I LOVE being organized when I travel, so Travefy is a lifesaver for me. It’s a free online itinerary builder. You can input all of your flight and accommodation information and start adding events to your schedule. It has such a great layout and you can add people that you’re traveling with to edit it too.
What I usually do is choose the top locations and spots that I want to see on my trip and write them out in a Word document or Google doc. I take some notes on things such as the times those locations open and close, if there are any admission rates, and if I read about any helpful tips I should remember. Once I get this list finished, I look at the locations of all the places and find those with close proximity. You can even do further research to figure out what subways or buses you need to take to get from place to place. I typically group out about 2-4 things to see or do per day if they’re all relatively close to one another. You never want to cram too much since you have to take into consideration things like meals and commute times.
I’ve made a helpful worksheet below that exactly matches how I personally plan a trip. It will help you budget and plan out what to see and when. Start manifesting that dream trip and remember, don’t stress. There will always be unforeseen road bumps during your travels, but those often lead to the best adventures!