After living in Japan for 3 years I can finally say that we’ve gone on a good amount of trips outside Okinawa. Not as much as i would like, but doesn’t everyone feel that way ;). We’ve visited Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, Ishigaki Island, Tokyo (again with my family), Taiwan and most recently Hong Kong with my girlfriends.
I’ve planned all of these trips myself and after sharing our Taiwan itinerary here on the blog (which has become a very popular post) and sharing some of my tips with friends, I realized that I really enjoy the travel planning process. Yes, it’s overwhelming at times, especially in the beginning stages, but the moment the trip is over and you look back at all the places you visited, all the things you saw, all the food you ate, it’s all worth it.
I wanted to share some insight into how I planned these trips, because sharing is caring, right? 🙂 Everyone has different preferences for travel planning, some hire others to plan their trips, some love reading travel books/magazines, some that swear by travel websites and then there are the ones that enjoy finding local blogs (Me, Me!). No matter how you like to plan your trip, I hope you find something helpful on this list.
Start by doing a simple Google search. Read up on the city/country your visiting, it’s always good to know a little bit of the history, traditions, what not to do, currency, language, etc. While doing research stop and read articles from popular travel websites like Tripadvisor, Lonely Planet and Condé Nast Traveler.
Tip: Don’t just stick to popular websites, also look for local tourism websites.
For this last trip to Hong Kong, my friend Hannah gave me a travel guide that has been passed around her friends and although it was my first time using a printed guide i found it really helpful to have everything in your hands and to be able to highlight (my favorite!). If we had a bigger selection of books on base i would definitely use them more for travel planning.
Tip: Stop by your favorite book store, buy some coffee and pick up a copy of a travel guide. If you plan on buying one then bring a highlighter with you or post-it’s, if not then bring a notebook to write down all of your notes.
It’s safe to say that Pinterest is by far my favorite social media platform. I literally could spend hours scrolling through beautiful pictures and pinning the best of the best onto my boards. I used the website as a tool to plan the last two trips I went on and I fell even more in love (if that’s even possible). Don’t just search for the city/country you’re planning on visiting, but try: Things to do in _______, Places to eat in _______, etc. Click the links and read up on all the information, take notes.
Tip: Create a board specifically for your upcoming trip, make it secret if you don’t want to bombard your followers feed with your crazy pinning.
My second favorite social media platform is constantly filling me with inspiration. My friend Chaelyn has taught me how to use it to find hidden gems in Okinawa (more like hidden cafes, lol!) and why not use it for travel planning! Some cities/countries have instagram profiles full of awesome information, like New York City. Also, look up those local tourism websites you found while googling, they may have an instagram account. Don’t forget about #hashtags! These will help you find locals and all their awesome inside knowledge into the place you’re visiting.
Tip: There’s really no way to save the information you find on instagram, so take notes or take screenshots.
While doing research on Google, Pinterest and Instagram see if you stumble upon blogs by locals or expats. These people have the inside scoop into the best places to visit, so stalk away! While researching on Pinterest before our Hong Kong trip i found the blog A Pair and a Spare, and I found so much information on her blog!!
Tip: If you find some good blogs, follow them on social media to keep up with new posts.
Another friend of mine, Kacey, introduced me to Google Spreadsheets for travel planning. She was planning a girls trip to Mainland Japan and wanted me to join in. Sadly I was unable to go but when I saw how she collected all of her research I was so impressed! If you have Gmail go to Google Sheets website and click ‘Start a New Spreadsheet’. I like separating it into sections like, Airfare, Accomodations, Things to Do, Places to Eat, Blog Links, etc. Color the backgrounds of the titles in a different color to make it look more organized and colorful!
Tip: If you’re visiting several areas in one city or several cities in one country, be sure to write down all the things to do in each separately. It makes planning your days a little easier when you can see how much you want to do in each place.
Tip #2: This is a great place to save all of those links you’ve found interesting while researching.
Another resource i’ve found incredibly helpful is Google Maps. If you have Gmail go to the Maps website, click on the Menu button (left of the search bar), then click ‘My Maps’. Create your own map and save all the places on your list.
Tip: Download the Google Maps app on your phone and your map will automatically be synced up to your phone. This was extremely helpful while in Hong Kong!!
Q: Any other travel planning tips you would recommend me?