The Best Travel Planning Tools to Plan Your Next Trip
Have you ever tried to plan a trip about a place you know nothing about? The easy travel planning tools would seem to be the big search engines, right? You could try them, but there are so many paid ads, mega-sites for hotels, car rental, airlines, etc., taking all of the top positions, that the smaller sites that give you the real insider information get buried or don’t show up at all. It’s time to try new tools to plan your next trip.
Trip Planning Tools for Portugal
We’re planning a trip to a place we know very little about – Portugal. This will be a road trip, about four weeks, in September and October.
Like many other travellers, we want to know where to visit in Portugal, where and what to eat (lots of fish, pork, tarts), harvest festivals, musical events, historic sites, museums and interesting things that we don’t even know how to ask for.
Sure, we’ll hit the cliché tourist places (see what we think about cliché tourist attractions – you might be surprised), but what we’re really looking for are the insiders’ guides on things to do in Portugal and how to do them best.
Pinterest, a Better Trip Planning Search Engine
You might think of Pinterest as a site where people post pictures about fashion, decorating and make-up. That’s true, but it’s also one of the best travel planning tools with plenty of links to insiders’ websites.
Searching for “Portugal travel” brought up pages of images with links to sites, many with very specific focuses. There were Portugal travel itineraries, listings of beaches, a French chef’s guide to eating in Lisbon, hotel recommendations, locals with in-depth info on interesting towns I’d never heard of, listings of festivals, etc. Exactly what I was looking for.
Combine Pinterest With Evernote to Keep and Sort All the Good Stuff
If you’re not using Evernote to plan your next trip, or indeed as the digital filing cabinet for your life, you’re missing out. Evernote is an online service that lets you save links, files, notes, emails… all kinds of digital information that you can file in folders and add tags and notes. You can sync across devices and then search your files and notes from any device.
In this case, I created a Travel Portugal folder and used various tags to help me find the information later.
This makes it easy to access when you’re actually on your trip. Get out your phone and you have all your files there.
Now Add a Calendar and Maps to Your Travel Planning Tools
Typically, for a longer trip, I’ll figure out a basic itinerary on paper before inputting it into Google Calendar.
I start with any specific events first to make sure we’re in the right place at the right time. For example, on our southern U.S. road trip, I knew we wanted to be in Memphis over a weekend so that we could go to Sunday service at Al Green’s church.
Then we use maps to figure out distances and plot routes, so we know what to expect for driving or train times. A little bit of jiggling and shuffling around, and there’s the trip agenda.
Go Back to Evernote and Pinterest to Fill In
Once we know where we’ll be on what days, I’ll go back to look for specific hotels, Airbnbs, sites, events, restaurants, wineries etc. for the days we’ll be there.
Where necessary, I’ll make reservations and input that into the calendar.
If this sounds like a lot of work, it’s not really. It’s actually part of the fun getting ready. Pinterest, Evernote and the Google tools make it easy. The next time you’re planning a trip, put this combination to work for you.
You know what else helps? Buy some wine from the country you’re planning to visit. It’s only since we’ve been thinking about Portugal that we’ve been drinking Portuguese reds and whites. What took us so long? Delicious, and at bargain prices too. We’re looking forward to drinking it with the locals!
Choosing a Guide Book? Lonely Planet is our Favorite
Along with the websites and other travel planning tools, we still like to have one guide book handy. We’ve tried them all, and these days we prefer Lonely Planet books. Although we love paper books, we’ve started buying the digital versions to read on our iPads, which we take with us anyway.
Here’s a handy trick with digital books and Evernote. Get the PDF version of the books and upload a copy into your Evernote folder. That automatically makes them accessible to all devices that have access to your Evernote account.
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