Planning An International Trip

Or, "God, Can't Someone Else Do This For Me???"

Actually yes, someone could do this for me, they're called travel agents. Y'know, the most coveted career card in the game of Life by Milton-Bradley. Apparently these people still exist, but my can-do, DIY attitude combined with a desire to save cash and avoid "tourist" attractions has me going it alone. Has anyone under the age of 50 ever used a travel agent? If so, what was that like?

Well here I am, knee-deep in browser tabs, trying to figure out where I'm going to go, when, how to do it for cheap, and, the meaning of life. Traveling is meant to make a person feel free, and yet here I am suffering from chronic fear, doubt, and buyer's remorse every time I nail something down to my Google calendar. Considering the difficulty of planning one month in Northern Europe in summer, it's this moment that I'm sort of glad I scrapped my hare-brained scheme to travel for an undetermined period of time. I definitely would've ended up sleeping in dumpsters.

I had assumed that the internet and its myriad resources - Pinterest, TripAdvisor, Google - would help me plan the perfect trip, but instead I find myself overwhelmed with information and choice. So many beautiful photographs! With artfully placed text on top of them! And listy Buzzfeed posts about why "Norway Will Blow Your Mind" and "You Won't Believe How Fucking Face-Meltingly Gorgeous Estonia Is". My dream to explore Scandinavia and see sights off the beaten path away from the gaze of dozens of other tourists was crushed rather quickly, as it's clear that one needs a car (and thus an excess of cold hard cash) to depart from the pre-ordained tourist tracks and sights.

Le sigh.

The route thus far.

The road trip of Iceland highlighted in an earlier tutorial post about how to plan a trip with Google Maps is still in effect, and this is the portion that happens after Iceland.

I'm looking at four nights in Stockholm, Sweden, followed by three nights in Oslo, Norway then onto the "Norway in a Nutshell" Tour that will take me from Oslo to Bergen. After the tour stops in Myrdal and Flam, I'm going to spend one night in Gudvangen (probably a huge mistake, as there seems to be literally nothing there) during which I will  have some time to rest and unwind. I'm imagining I will need it, but we'll see. From Gudvangen the tour continues to Voss, then to Bergen, where I'll stay for three nights.

After Bergen I'll get a flight to Amsterdam via Oslo, and spend nearly a week there before heading on to Copenhagen for the Roskilde Festival at the end of June. Basically I am just connecting the dots.

Now, back to those tabs...

Resources that can actually help you:

  • GOOGLE MAPS may not be the first thing you think of when trip planning, but it can be indispensable before and during travel. Check out this full-length post about it
  • PINTEREST will help you to organize the things you want to do as well as spark inspiration and wanderlust. The downside - it's easy to get carried away and set up unrealistic expectations for your trip. Use it more to organize the things you'll actually do, create maps and build itineraries.
  • HOSTEL WORLD is the best place to find a hostel, browse user ratings, and book a bed without paying the entire cost up front or worrying about cancellation fees if your plans change.
  • TRAVEL BLOGS are the best way to find out about activities that would be great for you, hear a person's first hand experience, and see real photos of where you're going, which can be infinitely more helpful than most dry, picture-less (!!!) guidebooks. The good thing is, there are tons of them out there and there's definitely one that will speak to you. The bad thing is, there are tons of them out there and you'll have to wade through a lot of swill before finding something up-to-date, relevant, and useful to you and the sort of travel you're interested in.
  • GUIDE BOOKS. OK so I know I just shit on guide books, but if you can handle the TLDR'ness of it all, they are packed with tons of info in one handy place. I'd recommend reading before you travel and making notes in your phone or a smaller notebook to take with you to avoid the extra weight and bulkiness.
  • TRIP IT is a website and app that automatically keeps all your travel plans (plane tickets, hostel reservations) in one place and neatly organized and easy to look at. 
  • COUCHSURFING is a great way to find a free place to spend the night, under the right circumstances. Hosts are far more likely to host single people over couples, and girls over guys (sorry boys.) Ask in advance, write personalized messages, and post a public trip so users can offer to host you. If you're freaked out but the idea of staying with a stranger, it's still a great way to connect with locals and get advice on what to do and where to go, or even meet up with them for a coffee and chat if you're traveling solo.