Travel Advice: 4 Essential Tips for Planning a Trip

Our vacation planning process involves a lot of research, blog surfing — and negotiation.

Travel guides, maps, blogs and photo books are all part of our travel planning process

Travel guides, maps, blogs and photo books are all part of our travel planning process

As Wally and I count down the days to embark on our next adventure, I wanted to share a glimpse of our planning process that occurs during the months prior. The anticipation is part of the fun of travel.

Southeast Asia had me at hello after our first trip abroad eight years ago. I’m super-excited for our trip to the Northern Thai city of Chiang Mai.


1. Do research. A whole lot of it.

How do we plan our trips? It typically involves reading through numerous travel blogs, an assortment of travel guides, books on traditional architecture, religion and history, and digging into Pinterest and Instagram. This process consumes countless hours, transforming our itinerary as we add and adjust based on our discoveries. Our interests include history, culture, heritage, arts and shopping.

Typically, I create broad brushstrokes first, which we then whittle down together. I use Google docs so we can both share and contribute. It’s important for each of us to express our desires and agree upon what kind of vacation we want to experience.


2. Be flexible.

While it's important to have a game plan, be sure you leave yourself free to make unexpected discoveries.

For our recent trip planning, the hotel we originally agreed upon was not available for a few of the days we would be there, so we found another place. We made the reservation about four months ago.


3. Make a list. Or two.

When it comes to plotting our itineraries, Wally has a system which he refers to as A-list and B-list. A-list activities are top priority, and B-list less so. For example, on Instagram I saw that someone we follow, @alexblock, visited a restaurant in Chiang Mai called As Café. It has a 3D printer that will make a pancake in the likeness of your face. When I told Wally about it, he said, “Definite B-list,” but I'd argue that it's a strong B+ for sure. Who wouldn't want to exclaim, “I’m gonna eat my face?”

What type of things made it onto our A-list, you ask? Ziplining through the jungle. An elephant sanctuary. And temples. Lots and lots of temples.

There really are a seemingly endless amount of things to see and experience in and around the second largest city in Thailand. Pretty soon we had a short list(s) and were able to come to an agreement on prioritization.


4. Don't try to pack too much in.

Originally we debated tacking on a few days in Bagan, Myanmar. I'll admit I'm slightly obsessed since having read that it’s one of interior designer Vicente Wolf's favorite travel destinations. But after some thoughtful consideration and gentle affirmation from Alana Morgan of the indispensable blog Paper Planes, we knew we had made the right decision to stay the entire time in Chiang Mai.

Why rush things? It’ll be fun to really get to know a place, without rushing off to another country. –Duke