There are many different ways to approach trip planning and we’ve tried several of them over the last ten years.
First there was our trip to Europe after college that consisted of us not planning. We’d get off the train in a new town and walk around until we found a suitable backpacker lodge for the evening. We’d ask the front desk for restaurant recommendations and our fellow travelers for activities in the area that they'd enjoyed. This fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach can work really well in many parts of the world. It can also mean that you spend the night on the train station waiting room bench because all the hotel rooms are sold out.
Then there was Peru which was also us not planning - we sourced everything out to a travel agent. There were a few reasons for this but it mainly had to do with Ben, who was 20 months old at the time. I wanted a tour guide’s local knowledge of child-friendly activities, a car to be waiting for us when we arrived at the airport, and hotels with cribs. Definitely the most expensive way, but so worth it in this particular situation.
This trip was planned entirely by us. I spent many, many hours on TripAdvisor reading reviews and pouring over NZ guide books from the library. And in the end, we had a few hits and a few misses, not surprising, given our inexperience with the country. There is definitely an argument for using a travel agent: they’ve been to all the places they recommend and can weed out the winners from the losers.
In the end, we made most of the car and hotel reservations in advance but waited until we’d set foot in the country to make activity plans.
And then everything went onto the master spreadsheet. After my passport and credit card, this was the item that I least wanted to lose as it had all our travel details: flight info, hotel confirm numbers, drive times/directions, and activity recommendations.
Here is an example of a daily entry. Click on photo for close-up.
First, an overview of the day’s plans. In this case, it was a big driving day: Going from Russell to Rotorua, with one hike to break things up around mid-day.
Followed by the driving distance, estimate of how long it would take to get there, and basic directions.
Then the activity details, including a short description (and possibly a DOC website link):
And lastly, hotel information (including confirm #s, which have been removed here), costs, type of room, dates of reservation, etc:
We lived by this thing while traveling! We also found the NZ isites to be a great source for maps and tourist magazines with coupons. There were only a few tours in which we showed up without clipped discount vouchers in hand.
Hope that helps with your next trip.
All New Zealand Posts:
All New Zealand Posts:
Part 1: New Zealand Travel Route: The North Island in 8 Days
Part 2: Auckland: the cosmopolitan heart of the North Island
Part 3: Waipoua Forest: giant trees and pretty views
Part 4: Bay of Islands: Swimming with Dolphins
Part 5: Karangahake Gorge: an abandoned gold mine in a stunningly beautiful valley
Part 6: Rotorua: The Yellowstone of New Zealand
Part 7: Tongariro and Whanganui National Parks: Two of the “Nine Great Walks of New Zealand”
Part 8: Waitomo: Glow Worms Galore!