As i was penning the series on Travel Bucket List, I recalled how often people asked me about how long it took to plan my trips (and i get asked very often). It seemed like mission impossible to them to plan a 5 weeks trip. I think the question behind that question really is how to shortlist places to go or things to do for a trip. Often times when a trip is being planned, one has no idea how to fill the trip duration with activities, which is why it would take a very long time to plan for a trip.
I think die-hard travel bugs have the tenacity to pour through review after reviews to come up with their dream holiday itinerary. That takes a lot of time indeed, if you’re relying on blog posts (especially those with the title that goes something like “10 cafes to visit”), travel articles or even travel guides. You end up with information overload this way, and you’ll typically remain rather clueless about what to include in your trip even after reading many articles.
I found a somewhat unconventional way that helps me make up my mind on places to visit rather quickly: using search engine image results, be it Google, Bing or Yahoo Images. When you search for images of a travel destination, you’re usually presented with the images that are most representative and appealing about that place. As the saying goes, a picture speaks a thousand words. If the images capture your attention and whet your appetite, then go for it. You can’t really go wrong with this approach. Often times, there are surprises in the images, places worth visiting you didn’t know about before, either at the particular travel destination or associated with it. You can usually find out more about that place by browsing the webpage from which the search engine extracted the image.
Google search is also quite helpful for shortlisting tourist attractions to visit. Searching for “<destination> tourist attractions” (e.g. “Spain tourist attractions”) gives you a summarized list of attractions. You’re less likely to miss out on the really significant places to visit if you did your search this way than relying on a few individuals’ recommendation (who may be none the wiser).
There are always more places to see than there is time to see them, so, at the end of the day, you have to prioritize. I think it’s always a good idea to focus on the really significant places of interest (e.g. UNESCO World Heritage Sites) on your first visit, just in case you somehow don’t get to visit the country/region again. Another key factor to successful trip planning is the ability to visualize yourself being at the trip destinations, such that you can estimate how much time you need for every segment of your trip. Google Maps help me estimate how much time i need to get around, be it driving, taking the metro/subway or walking. This helps me set my pace. Maybe not everyone will like this rather regimental way of travelling (some people even go to the extreme of not pre-planning anything at all), but to me, few things give as much satisfaction as checking places off your bucket list. To be able to do so requires planning, like buying entrance tickets and booking the accommodation in advance. Need suggestion on which places to include in your travel bucket list? Check out my ongoing series.