Vacation Planning 101: Research is Key

Happy Tuesday Love Bugs! Long time no blog, I know! But I just have to tell you… I am writing to you today with the absolute fullest heart! I’ve had the most AMAZING weekend and now, I’m sitting here on my parents back deck, with the sun in my face and my iced mocha and for the first time in a really long time, I feel completely relaxed. I’m thinking this week of vacation is exactly what Trev and I both needed. We’re spending time Up North doing the things we love (I’ll be heading to the beach, and Trev will be fishing his heart out) and then this weekend we’re heading down to spend some time with Trev’s family.

Anyways, I can’t wait to tell you guys all about our weekend at The Homestead for our Anniversary, but I didn’t want to miss out on today’s Travel Tuesday post. So I decided I’ll wait until Thursday to share our little mini vacation with you.

Today, it’s time for Part 2 of my vacation planning series. Last week, we talked all about how to choose your next travel destination. (If you missed that post click here!) So it’s only logical that this week, I share how I do my research to plan my next vacation.

I know… research is most certaintly not the best word in the English language. In fact, the second I hear it, I start to think of all those 20 page papers I had to write in college and scrolling through thousands and thousands of articles on GVSU’s online library “researching” my topics. But I promise you, this kind of research is the BEST kind of research.

I 1,000% believe that you can’t plan a good vacation until you know as much as you possibly can about your final destination. (Unless you’re going for the whole spontaneous trip thing.) I like to think of it this way…

When we chose our Honeymoon destination (Banff, Alberta) I knew only one thing about it. Lake Louise was there and it was really pretty. Why did I know that? Because I’m a huge fan of The Bachelor and they went there on Sean Lowe’s season. If I had went along with just this knowledge, we’d probably have spent an entire week just wandering around Lake Louise. But, because I spent hours and hours researching the area we did all this…


Shameless repost of a bunch of Banff photos. Why? Because exactly one year ago today, at this very moment we were boarding our flight to Calgary!

So moral of my story? Research, research, research before you start to plan! So grab a cute notebook, pen, computer and a drink. It’s time to get our research on!

LOL this is NO JOKE my travel research for Banff. So excuse the horrible “circle graph” and spelling errors. But I promise you, if you research with markers it’s so much more fun! ALSO I SPELLED BANFF WRONG GOOD. FOR. ME. bahahahahahahan

I start my research by finding the answers to these 10 questions.

  1. Where am I going? Duh. I know. But I always like to write it at the top of the page in GIANT LETTERS because you know, that’s just the teacher in me.
  2. What is the weather like? Figure out when you’re hoping to make your vacation happen, and then check out the average weather for that time of year. It’s good to make notes because later on, when you’re doing the actual planning, it will be good information to have!
  3. Where is the closest airport? Another Banff example… you can’t fly into Banff. You have to fly into Calgary and drive there. Make a note of the airport code. (You won’t have to look it up later!)
  4. Should I get a rental? Some times, vacations need rental cars, sometimes they don’t. Dreaming of that all inclusive trip to Mexico? Getting a rental car would be a waste of your money. But in the mountains? You’re probably going to need something with 4WD to get you back to those trails you’re just dying to hike.
  5. What are the main “attractions”? Theme parks, National Parks, Museums, Shopping, Landmarks, Historical Markers, Restaurants what does this destination have to offer? Jot down the things that look most interesting to you.
  6. What are the most popular “attractions”? What does EVERYONE do while they are there? Chances are, you’ll want to do it too. It’s popular for a reason.
  7. What are the costs? Get a general idea of costs in the area. Obviously, a trip to Paris is going to cost you more than a week at an Airbnb in Montana.
  8. What hotels are in the area? Or if you’re not looking for a hotel, what AirBNB, HomeAway, VRBO looks good to you? Write a few down to look into to get the best price when you go to plan to your stay later on.
  9. What kind of deals can you get? Did you know Groupon always has great travel deals?! I always just absentmindedly scroll through them when I’m bored. They have really great deals on full trips, BUT if you’re looking for discounts on local attractions, this is the place to find them. Just keep in mind, the deals don’t last forever. So if you see one that you really want, scoop it up quickly!
  10. Read some blogs. This is my absolute FAVORITE way to get information on a new place. I literally go to Google and type in my location with “travel blog”, “blog” or “blog post” after it. You wouldn’t believe some of the incredible blogs I’ve stumbled upon that way! 95% of our Canada trip was planned thanks to awesome bloggers and their incredible photos.

And to help you with your research a little bit more, I thought I’d share my favorite websites for all my travel needs!

Trip Advisor  is easily my Number One when it comes to Travel Research. I freakin’ love this site. I love that it ranks everything by how real people who have been to these locations rate them. You have no idea how many times Trip Advisor has saved my butt from wasting precious time/ money on an attraction that just wasn’t worth it. If you don’t have an account, seriously sign up. It’s free! And once you visit, you can add your review to help others. (I love adding reviews. I’m weird… I know.) I use Trip Advisor for everything. Literally everything. Accommodations, attractions, hikes, food, whatever I need, Trip Advisor has! 

Official Websites I don’t really know what to call this one, so I’m just going with Official Websites. Wherever you’re going, you’ll find the official travel website for it. In the US, it’s usually Visit<InsertStateHere>. You can easily find these official sites on Google, and they will give you a lot of random information that will prove to be helpful in the end! I like official websites mostly for the videos! I love to watch the videos that show these places at their very best. 

ExpediaTrivago, Travelocity and Kayak are all pretty much the same thing. They’ll help you compare prices and see what’s out there. Each one is a little bit different, but really it doesn’t matter which you choose. Personally, I usually use Kayak and Expedia. But you do you, boo boo!

And if you aren’t looking for a hotel, don’t forget to check out Airbnb,  HomeAway  and  VRBO (which is basically HomeAway, but I figured I’d mention it anyways!) And a side note… if you’re heading to a big city, check out Airbnb anyways! They do this really awesome thing where they tell you about all the neighborhoods in the city. It’s laid out super simply, and will seriously help you when you start to make your plans! For an example, check out their guide to London’s neighborhoods here. (PS… I can’t ever find it on the actual website, because I just don’t have the patience. I just Google <City> Neighborhood Guide Airbnb and it comes up!) 

YouTube  Travel Vlogs are my jam. Seriously, I could watch them ALL DAY. Head over to YouTube and watch some. You’ll be obsessed too.

What websites do you use when you start to plan your travels?! Next week, it’s all about finding your hotels and tickets for the best possible price. Be sure to check back then, or subscribe to have my posts delivered straight to your inbox!

I’m off to go run some errands for my parents and then plank my butt in the sunshine with a good book.

I’m back tomorrow with a special Wedding Wednesday post that you won’t want to miss, especially if you’re getting married soon! I pinky promise you, I will SAVE YOUR LIFE.



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