How I Plan All My Travels

jana meerman australia flatlay lonely planet-10

I'm the type of traveler who, when they get to a new country or city, likes to do absolutely everything possible. Every UNESCO site, every famous attraction, every hike, every not-so-famous attraction... everything.

I travel with the mindset that I might not get the time or the chance to come back so I want to do as much as I can so I feel like I've really seen a place.

How do I figure out exactly what there is to do, though? How do I turn all my research into a practical way to travel? How do the late nights of travel-planning and dreaming turn into an itinerary?

I'm sharing it all here in just five steps. These five steps are the way I plan every single trip and how I keep track of all the places I'd love to one day check off my extensive bucket list while I visit every country in the world.


1. Research

First of all, you've got to do research. This is the stage where you'll find all the suggestions, ideas, tips and secrets to where you might want to go and what to do in your destination.

I find my suggestions here:

  • Blogs - I suggest Bloglovin' as a great way to view all your favourite blogs in a feed with the ability to search for posts on any topic.
  • Guidebooks - I carry a Lonely Planet with me all over the place; it's the perfect way to check out tips without a wifi connection.
  • Instagram - there are so many photos and accounts out there with gorgeous shots from all over the world to inspire you.
  • Trip Advisor - one of the best places to find real reviews about things, plus tips on how to get from place to place from travelers who've been.
  • Google - for each new place I go, I type 'top things to do in [country/city name]' into Google and use a handful of articles as suggestions.
  • UNESCO - the list of global UNESCO heritage sites is always a place I check because I like to visit as many of them as I can while I travel.
  • Screen savers - this one is totally random, but the default Microsoft screen savers on my lock screen are an endless source of inspo!

2. Pin to Google Maps

Once you've found things you're interested in seeing, type them into your Google Maps and 'pin' the location as a star. As you continue to pin things, you'll soon end up with a map full of your personalized suggestions.

This is what my Google Maps currently looks like for Iceland. I say currently because it's always expanding!

jana meerman google maps iceland

3. Make Route

Once you have all your stars, you'll be able to detect that they create clusters. From these clusters, you can figure out your route.

jana meerman google maps iceland route

4. Plan Days

So now you have the route sorted, you might want some kind of an idea as to what you'll do on each day or how far you'll get. This is also the most important step if you're only visiting a city versus an entire country. It's basically the same as step 3 except instead of planning a route based on clusters around a whole country, plan your days based on clusters in a certain region.

For example, check out what Lisbon, Portugal looks like on my map. You'll spot clusters of things which allows me to plan various day trips or sections. Easy peasy!

jana meerman google maps lisbon

5. Be Flexible

Once you know your route and you're pretty much ready to hit the road and start exploring, always be flexible to new ideas and suggestions you hadn't even considered. No matter how much research I do ahead of time, the locals always have more secrets to share.

Plus, as you're driving from one place to the next on your starred list, you may pass other things that you hadn't even looked into.

Basically, what I'm saying, is use the stars as a baseline and then go traveling with an open mind to what other opportunities may come your way! Good luck!

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