21 May 2015

Multi-Stop Trips | How to Finalise Your Route

You may remember a while back I wrote a post about how to start planning a multi-stop trip? If you're planning a road trip, interrailing or off travelling for a few weeks or even a few months, these posts are for you. If you haven't read the first post, perhaps you may want to take a little look there first...

Initial Planning Stages of a Multi-Stop Trip

Now you've decided when you're going and you have a list of all the great places you want to go, it's time to deciding on your route.

1. Create a visual map of all your destinations using Google Maps.
A list of places or a Pinterest board full of city shots is all very well, but you need to actually see them all on a map to get a good idea of a suitable route.

One of the best ways to do it is by creating your own personalised google maps. I found this really tricky to start with so I'll try make it easy for you...

  • Make sure you're logged on to Google and head to Google Maps.
  • Click in the search bar and there should be a little link to 'My maps'- click it.

  • Click the Create button to get going.

  • Now you've got your map open you can add different layers. I normally just use the one layer, but you could create a different layer for places to eat, attractions, hostels etc.
  • If you click the little arrow by 'Base map' you can change the style of map.
  • Use the search bar to start searching for places, restaurants, attractions, road names etc.
  • Now you've found your item you need to press 'Add to Map' to actually permanently pin it.
  • You can then change the colour/shape of the pin. Have a key and customise it according to what it is... Say cities are yellow stars, hotels are green dots, and blue diamonds are bars etc. By hovering just to the right of the name in the left hand box a paint pot symbol will pop up. 
  • Also look for the pencil that is in the bottom right-hand corner of the box that pops up when you click on your pin. You can add notes to all your pins. Add your booking numbers, personal recommendations, links to their website or photographs.
  • Another nifty little feature is the directions feature. It does limit your directions to several stopping places. If this happens just add another layer and add another set of directions.
  • If you were doing a city map, then you may want to use cycling/walking directions. Unfortunately it doesn't allow direction by public transport at the moment which is quite irritating.

So you've got your map and you've got a rough idea of where you're going - what makes logical sense BUT there are other things to consider...

2. Look at what routes tours use.
Tour operators are a pretty good place to start as you get an idea of what is attainable in the amount of time you have. Looking at tours, may enlighten you to convenient or interesting places to stopover, especially if you need to break up the journey, but aren't sure where.

3. Refer to road trip guide books.
Again, these guys are kinda the experts so it is worth reading a guidebook to get ideas of things to do on the way. It doesn't need to become your bible and it isn't the absolute authority on the matter, but you'd have to be seriously stubborn not to even consider a guidebook.

4. Ask on Thorn Tree and Trip Advisor
We stupidly asked about our route after we'd started to book accommodation. We got some really helpful advise about what destinations were really worth it, places that were perhaps very similar, the best roads to take and also one particular journey that appeared fine but in their view was barmy!

A lot of the people on these forums are locals or well-seasoned travellers with a passion for travel, but with that passion comes conflicting views. Don't rely on just the views of one person, look at many sources before you finalise your route, because once you do it will be costly to change it later on.

Ultimately though you need to know what you want to get out of the trip for their advice to be effective. Tell them how old you are, your budget, how long you have, whether you're prepared to hire a car, whether you want to hike for days or want all the amenities, culture or partying, chilled out towns or cities... 
Date stamping a train ticket in Italy
5. Decide when a route does have to be fixed and when it doesn't
Whether you absolutely have to set your route out in stone will depend on the region, country, continent you're going to and whether it's high or low season. Solid advice is to have your first few nights fixed, book ahead in peak seasons and phone ahead before arriving in a city with no place to stay!
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