Trip planning, I’ve learned, can be one of the hardest things to do, especially if you are visiting a place for the first time. Even an 8-day trip — which seemed so long when booked — can end up pressed for time, forcing a condensed schedule and serious prioritizing.
My first stop when planning a trip is to look for any local bloggers — you know, the ones who tell you about hidden treasures beyond Michelangelo and the Mona Lisa, where to find the best cappucino and where to find the perfect picnic spot on a sunny day.
For the vacances d’hiver in February, I’ll be on the go the whole time — first stopping in Sevilla, Spain, where my best friend Katie studied abroad, then on to Rome, Florence, and Venice, Italy, because the pizza here in Aix isn’t quite cutting it.
Though I plan to meet up with friends and my sister throughout my travels, for the most part I am on my own — which has greatly simplified the planning process. My decisions are pretty much made like this (yes I talk to myself when I am alone, usually using the formal vous):
“This looks like the coolest thing ever. You should book it.”
“NOPE. It is too expensive.”
“You have that much money in your flower vase.” (my flower vase is my Depression-era savings account)
five minutes later
ORDER CONFIRMATION: YOU ARE DOING THE COOLEST THING EVER
And, as I know that many people are beginning to plan trips for spring and the vacances and *ahem* to visit me, I wanted to share my favorite apps and websites for any trip, no matter where you’re going.
AirBnB: I seriously don’t know what I would do without AirBnB. For the most part, I’m staying in private rooms in someones apartment, so hopefully I can get some human interaction (entire places can be cheaper if you are traveling with friends, alas, I am not). Florence and Venice don’t have a ton of options for hostels, so these 26€ per night options were perfect.
Trip Advisor : Like most things on the Internet, I read TripAdvisor mostly for the comments. It’s how I found out that the Trevi Fountain is under construction right now (thanks, Rome) and gives first-hand accounts of what the sights are really like.
Tripomatic : With template schedules of the must-see sights planned out by hour, this is perfect when you are planning to go somewhere you have never been. The app allows you to book tours and hotels, then shows you an hour-by-hour itinerary of everything you’re planning. One of the best parts, I think, is that then you can share with friends and ask for more tips. Plus, then you can get directions from place to place through the app, and download an offline version of your trip (but you have to pay for that).
Trip Case : If Tripomatic and Trip Case combined, it would be the perfect travel app. Trip Case is where I’ve been documenting all my reservations, from flights to trains to hostels to tours. A Google label is nice, but Trip Case condenses everything into one neat itinerary. As a solo traveller, this is great because then I can share the itinerary with others so someone at least has a vague idea of where I am.
DuoLingo : As I learned in Mexico, maybe speaking French in the accent of whatever country I’m in isn’t really the best idea. I have basic Spanish (Hola, yo quiero taco, donde esta la sangria, no hablo español, Baxter) and Italian (Io sono di Washington, ciao, prego, parmesan), but this is not really the most useful. Luckily, I can read and understand a LOT more than I can speak because many words are similar to French, but DuoLingo has been teaching me how to say important things, like “la donna mangia una mela.” Better than nothing.
In the coming weeks I’ll post more resources specific to Spain and Italy as I get ready for my trips–tips, as always, are welcome and encouraged! ♦