Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Planning a Trip

road signs, county clare, irelandWhen I am hit by a desire to travel somewhere, I enjoy the planning almost as much as the trip itself. I like to read books, look at maps, search the internet and talk to people who have been there before. I get ideas from books, movies, television shows, travel magazines, articles in the newspaper and online, and friends and family.

For our trip to Ireland, I bought Dorling Kindersley's Ireland (Eyewitness Travel Guides). My favorite travel book, DK is perfect for initial trip planning. Beautiful pictures and short descriptions of highlights helped me create a list of must-sees. Once I had my list, I was able to draw up a rough itinerary.

I took the itinerary to TripAdvisor, one of my favorite travel websites. Using the search option in the Ireland forum, I read previous posts on the areas I was interested and made changes to my itinerary. I then posted it on the forum, and sat back as people who have been to Ireland before, live there, or are planning their own trips, wrote in with advice, suggestions and travel tips.

Based on the experiences of those on the forum, I revised the itinerary several times. Some of the advice included links to good Ireland travel websites. Visiting those sites, I got more ideas to add to our list. I also read trip reports from people who recently traveled to Ireland, learning from their recommendations.

Trip Advisor has information on lodging and attractions where you can read reviews of specific places. We used this feature when selecting where we stayed and where we visited. I highly recommend visiting this website while planning a trip.

glen of aherlow, tipperary, ireland After reviewing several travel books, we selected Frommer's Ireland 2006 for more detailed information than DK Ireland. We also bought an Ordnance Survey map of Ireland and a detailed map of Dublin.

Because of space constraints (we were determined to do this trip without checked baggage) we left the Frommer’s guide at home and kept only a list of places to see, restaurants to visit. This was a mistake. Frommer’s had quite a bit of information we could have used during our trip, especially in Dublin.

After several months of planning, we went to Ireland for two weeks. We didn’t follow our itinerary exactly, but enjoyed the unexpected. We also had lists of options, not rigid detailed plans, and that made our trip plans more flexible. We had a great time.

I recommend bringing a small journal on your trip to write details of your experiences each day while they are still fresh in your mind. It’s amazing how much you forget once you get home, even with all the pictures to look at.