Improve Your Travel Experience through Better Planning

Tired, disheveled travellers rush off the Eurostar platform to join a long line of people waiting for a London cabbie to get them to their London digs. We walked past them, crossed the road and a few minutes latter stowing our bags at reception before heading off to explore London. As we bought tickets for the Tube, many of our fellow travellers still waited for that elusive cab. Good planning made all the difference.

I use a simple planning technique, starting with a rough plan and then layer in the detail as I book hotels and transport. So for my next trip to Europe, I started with this plan:

  • Amsterdam 3 days (Assen TT MotoGP)
  • Belgium (Bruges, Brussels) 2 days
  • Amiens, France (Australian WWI Battlefields) 2 days
  • Paris 3 days
  • Bath, England 2 days
  • Cotswolds 2 days
  • York 2 days
  • London 3 days Total 19 days

Next calculate a rough travel time between each destination (We are using trains throughout the trip):

  • Amsterdam to Bruges 3 hours
  • Bruge to Ameins 3 hours
  • Ameins to Paris 3 hours
  • Paris to Bath 1 day
  • Bath to Cotswolds 3 hours
  • Cotswolds to York 1 day
  • York to London 1 day

On a long summer day, three hours travel is easily absorbed into a day leaving time to explore at your destination but the longer trips have added three days to our vacation. We elected to not visit York and recover those three days keep our time in Europe to 19 days.

Once you have a good itinerary, you can start booking accommodation and travel. I start with hotels and then find flights to suit those bookings but if you find a good airfare book it first.

Choose accommodation close to your transportation, for example, we stay at the County Hall Premier Travel Inn in London minutes from Waterloo Station. Often this central location is great for sightseeing with many attractions within walking distance. Study a city map and determine the best compromise for your experience.

Now, list the attractions you wish to visit each day. I usually limit our day to two or three major attractions, and give us time to relax over lunch, experience the country rather than visit it. Make advance bookings for popular attractions or find out where to buy tickets without waiting in long lines. For example, you can buy a combo ticket at Rome’s Palatine Hill that includes the Colosseum then walk straight in past the queue (Thanks Rick). Use your guidebook and Internet travel sites to find the tricks that will make your travel easier and more fun.

Finally, have a back up plan for rainy days or unexpected closures. The key to a great travel experience is knowledge, don’t leave home without it.