01 May 2016

How to Plan a Trip

We are getting ready to embark on an international adventure. Each time I travel abroad, something is a bit different from the time before. My first overseas trip was as a sophomore in college (see below) and I packed a few belongings in a hiking backpack. Another time, I was moving to Salzburg, Austria, for a semester. I have flown across the ocean while pregnant, anticipating future trips as a family. I have prepared for foreign lands with a newly-walking child, in a time of unsettling terrorism. I am now strategizing on traveling with a three-year-old who is full of wonderful opinions and ideas, which can be extra challenging on the road.

When I look back on all of my travel adventures, I realize that something was scary or unknown about each of them. Whether I was a young college student, a newly married adult, a careful pregnant woman or a tired mother, there were always "what if's." Something always seemed hard. Looking back, I think about how easy it was to travel solo, but at that time in my life I didn't think it was so "easy." So today, as I am preparing for our trip, I remind myself that we will overcome any obstacle, big or small, and that we will remember these times as the "good old days." If we waited until we were comfortable to leave the confines of our home and city, we would never leave.

Life never really gets any easier. We just adapt and learn and then things go ahead and change again, leaving us to ever evolve and grow.

What I have learned is that planning ahead of time really pays off and this is especially true when traveling with children. Maybe this seems obvious. I should have logged the research and time I have spent preparing for this trip, just to see what it takes, but honestly, I love the planning almost as much as the traveling. The time it takes is part of the journey. I don't typically plan out daily itineraries, simply because I like to have flexibility. But, I have also made the mistake of doing too little research on a destination, and leave feeling like I really missed out.

My strategies change every time I do these trips, but I feel like I am learning something about better planning. I am reading more blogs and articles, finding more resources, plotting points of interest on google maps and keeping better track of places I would like to see.

I start by buying travel books (usually the kind I can hold in my hands, write on and dog-ear) for the cities or countries to which we are traveling. I seem to gravitate towards Lonely Planet, but have also bought Rick Steves and Fodor's books as well. I like to read about a country's history and highlights in these books. I check out the suggested itineraries and note top-rated sights to see. This only scratches the surface though and one must dig deeper.

My next stop is usually to search for travel blogs, especially families that travel. It is important for me to look at what has worked for other people traveling with young children. Our adventures are much different from 20-somethings studying abroad for the first time. We simply can't pack as much into one day and can't see as many cities in one trip. Families usually need to be more discerning on what they'd like to accomplish and leave plenty of time for wandering and playing and eating gelato. Seeing what has worked for other families can be some of the most helpful information for planning your own trip.

Social media has also become an important source for checking out hotels and boutiques, finding trendy new restaurants and shops and discovering what locals are doing on the weekends. Instagram is my preferred source, but I have also found travel groups on Facebook and some video footage on Snapchat. I cannot wait to check out some of the licorice shops, gardens and brunch spots I have found in Stockholm and I drool over all of the Iceland scenery popping up on my Instagram feed.

Once I have an idea of the lay of the land, I start searching for places to sleep. Usually in foreign countries, we opt for vacation rentals. The space and comfort of a home seem to help with jet-lag and adjusting to a new country, especially for children. Sometimes, though, we are lured with the luxuries of hotel life... Once I have narrowed down a list of homes or hotels, I read review after review after review. I usually will not entertain a place that has not be reviewed - I am not brave to be the inaugural family to spend the night! So far, we have been pretty lucky with our choices and I feel like the research has paid off.


We will be spending 6 days in Iceland, taking day-trips in a conversion van, from our home-base in the south of the island. We decided that a rough itinerary was necessary to get a handle on how to best organize our days, to minimized travel time and maximize sights seen. Also realizing that we will need to be flexible if car-time becomes too much and we need to slow it down. This is where google maps came in - I entered our airbnb rental, places we thought sounded interesting (hot springs, waterfalls, restaurants, spas, glaciers, puffins, boat rides, Icelandic horse rides, etc) and figured out what to group together in day-trips. It's my first time trying this and I hope it works out well. If day one is a bust, we will start from scratch and come up with something else!

I am feeling well-prepared for this adventure to two very different countries. We will be sight-seeing in hip Stockholm as Spring is in full bloom, followed by driving the remote lands in Iceland. Packing is going to be a challenge...that's next on my list of things to get a handle on.

I hope you continue to follow along with us to see how all of my planning pans out!

Little Kiki about to board a trans-Atlantic from Paris to Salt Lake City

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