Once a trip is booked, it’s time to make or break it with the whole “what to do” thing. This is the part I both love and hate. I like a mix of itinerary and wandering based traveling, so planning the what to do and when always stresses me out. I never want to have the day planned minute by minute, but I also love having an overlook of all the important things which need to be done. And restaurants. I love getting the insider tips on restaurants, because who doesn’t love food?
I like to focus on a mix of tourist attractions, insider favorites, and places I stumble upon while traveling. To plan out the first two, I sometimes look out for travel books (for bigger trips), but generally I turn to my favorite websites for the most up to date and honest information:
This has to be everyone’s favorite. I mean, come on! Tourist attractions and restaurants listed by popularity, plus suggested itineraries. And everything includes reviews, for additional research. TripAdvisor is the first thing I look at because it has the most. That way, I can start with a large list of things that I want to do, which gets narrowed down as I begin to browse my other sources. TripAdvisor is also the best for food because you can search for a specific cuisine or neighborhood and get an updated ranked list (with reviews, prices, and menus).
Back in 2013, I purchased the NYTimes 36 Hours book for Europe. This was before my dad and I did our Prague – Munich – Geneva – Paris – Edinburgh trip, so I referenced it for the planning. I have to admit, at first I thought it was a rip off because it only listed the places recommended by the author. Therefore, there was one 36 hours itinerary and no deviation. However, once I hit Munich, I started to realize that it gave me great ideas for unique things to do. I unfortunately had to lose the book (baggage weight restrictions) but always check out the online version when planning a trip – a quick Google search will do to find it. From a less common museum to a fancy boutique to the best restaurant in town, the articles give great tips on things to do in each city.
[I first read about Museum Brandhorst in 36 Hours and it is my favorite modern art museum to date. Definitely a must see when in Munich]
Conde Nast Traveler
The luxury-seeking side of me absolutely loves scouring Conde Nast Traveler for advice. For each city, they have a list of hotels, restaurants, shopping, and things to do. It’s one of my favorites for cross-referencing against the TripAdvisor sights, and also a great place to find nice restaurants for a special night out. It’s very condensed, but also provides useful information on when to go, how to get there, and travel tips.
I mentioned in both my Munich and Florence posts how much I am beginning to love Viator. I try to make the most out of each trip I take, and to me that means seeing areas outside the major city. After all, that is usually where the true beauty and culture are. While I’m not huge on city tours, I find the Viator tours to be a nice break from running around and trying to hit as many monuments as possible. They range in size, explain the full itinerary on their website, and at least the ones I have been on have included a mix of touristy places and hidden gems. It’s a great way to see an area without making a huge effort in the planning department – also great if you do not have a car. I don’t think Sean and I ever would have made it to Neuschwanstein Castle without a guided tour bus taking us!
[A view we never would have found on our own without hiring a car in Tuscany]
For each individual city, a further Google or Pinterest search never hurts. A bit of browsing can lead you to fantastic articles, blog posts from travellers like yourself, or photos which inspire you to see a certain part of town. I try not to do too much research since I don’t want to stress myself out, but love having a range of options when getting down to the nitty gritty of trip planning!