Travel planning… some people absolutely love it and others hate it! Jason prefers to just go with the flow and trusts my travel planning skills. I love travel planning so much, I actually have about three different trips planned on google maps. So if you hate it and don’t have an obsessive travel planner partner like me by your side, I’m giving you a run down of how we plan our trips. One of my favorite ways is to use google maps for travel planning.
How to Plan Your Trip
Pick a Destination & Research Flight Prices
Picking a destination is probably the hardest thing to do! There are so many beautiful places out there so how do you even decide. We have quite a long process for deciding on a location and it is based on flight prices. So for example, if we know we want to travel for our birthdays in October and we have two locations we would like to go, Canada or Norway. We would go onto Google flights and search for flights to Norway in October and select the cheapest dates and put a notification on those flights so we get email alerts when prices change. We will also do the same with Canada. When prices are at their lowest we will book our flights. We booked Canada back in April because Air Canada had spring sales which considerably lowered the price for us.
Tip: If you are doing a one way trip via campervan, check your start and finish locations for campervan deals first as you may need to switch them around for even further savings.
I’m lucky to have a British passport but Jason still only has a Barbados passport which means we need to check and make sure if he needs Visas for travelling. Make sure you do this early so that you can get your passport sent off if you need to get your visa overseas.
You could have done a quick overview before booking your flights to make sure that average prices suit your budget. Or you could just book your flight and search for the most affordable accommodation you can find. Most places have hostels, and budget hotels so you can always find something suitable. For us, we also like to search campervan companies to see if we can find any good deals, we usually just start doing google searches and see what names come up regularly.
Tip 1: Sign up for booking.com if you make five booking you receive a 10% genius discount.
Tip 2: When looking at campervans for a one way trip, keep in mind there is usually a one way fee added to the rental. You may be able to find a deal if you decide to go the opposite route as well. For instance, I was researching campervans from Calgary to Whitehorse which were going to cost almost $2000usd with an $800 one way fee included. I then decided to switch it up and we rented the campervan in Whitehorse and will drive down to Calgary for $900usd total!
Book flights and accommodation
When you finally find the cheap flight then go straight into google flights and book it. Usually google flights will give you the airline codes so you can go directly to the sites to book or you can click one of the book now options which will forward all the google flight information to the booking site.
Booking.com is once again my favorite site to book accommodation with because a lot of hotels also offer free cancellation up until the week before you arrive. This means that if you find an awesome deal you can book it right away to keep that price but if you do find a nicer location closer to your travel dates, you can cancel and book the new place.
Tip: Book your hotels after you’ve booked and confirmed your flights especially if they don’t offer free cancellation. But… if you do find something amazing offering free cancellation and you haven’t confirmed your flight yet, book it! If the flights don’t go down or you change your plans then you can always cancel it.
Google Maps for Travel Planning
This is where we use the power of google maps for travel planning. You will go to Google My Maps. This is where you can build your own maps. Now don’t freak out, we will go through this step by step.
1. Create Your Map
Press ‘Create New Map’. Name your map, and your first layer.
2. Add A Location to Your Google Maps
In the search bar type in a place of interest that you would like to see. A little green marker should pop up showing you the location and the name should appear in the left sidebar. Click the ‘+’ which will add this location to the current layer. You can create many different layers for restaurants or places of interest or national parks, it’s up to you.
3. Create A Driving Route
Once you have dropped all the locations that interest you, you can start to map out a route. Under the search bar click ‘add directions’. This will bring up a new layer in the left sidebar. Click on ‘A’ and put your starting point, then click on ‘B’ and type in the first sight and then ‘add new destination’. You can add up to 10 locations in one directions layer, but you can add multiple directions layers. I like to breakdown the directions by days which keeps things even more organized.
4. Name Your Map
Name it and save it. Once you have done this, log onto your google maps. Click the menu and then ‘Your Places’ from there slide the bar at the top across and click on ‘maps’. This should show you all your maps that you created with all your layers. You can turn off any of the layers at any time. Your route is also already planned out so all you need to do is zoom in and follow the roads!
Pack and Prepare
Buy Any Travel Necessities
We bought ourselves some nice cozy winter jackets for our trip so that we are prepared. Make sure you have everything you need! What I like to do is write up a super basic packing list stating how many shirts we need, pants, socks, underwear. Of course I add in our toiletries and everything else so we get an idea for things that are necessities. If anything comes to mind closer to the time I will add it to the list.
We tend to pack a week in advance. Why? Well when you are travelling carry on only you want to make sure that your bag isn’t exploding full when you leave, it means you probably have too much stuff that is unnecessary. We pack early so that we can see if we have too much stuff and adjust to suit by taking out certain luxury items or adding in that extra pair of pants.
Compile all Travel Documents and details
I know that you can get everything online now but what happens if you cannot connect to the internet and your booking information wont load? I normally take screenshots of my boarding passes before I leave home or I go old school and print them out. On your phone’s notepad you can also write all your flight details, times, hotel bookings, hotel address and phone number. Make sure that everything is easily accessible, you don’t want to walk out of the airport and get in a taxi with no idea where you are going. IF you are on of those people who likes to live on the edge with a phone battery at 10% all the time, write out these details on a piece of paper.
Keep all your travel documents safe
Make sure you store these documents somewhere that is easily accessible but hidden away. Make sure you have a pen as well!
Enjoy your trip!
Get to the airport nice and early. Arriving at the airport late tends to stress me out a bit and I’m always paranoid about leaving something behind. On the day of your flight, check and double check your bags. Get to the airport about 2 hours before your flight leaves. Sit down, have a coffee and chill out until boarding and enjoy your adventure!