katya jackson how to plan travels

Over the past few years, I’ve developed a system of planning trips that work quite well for me. I’m one of those people who like to plan most of the things in advance. This saves not only my time when traveling but also helps not to spend a fortune. In addition to that, beautiful photos in 90% of cases require some preparation which involves thorough research and planning.

Here are 5 steps I go through every time prior going anywhere.

  1. Choosing a travel destination

There are a lot of places I want to see and sometimes it’s a bit hard to pick where to go. Sometimes my choice is based on cheap flight tickets, travel time or picturesque scenery to see and photograph. Social media also has some influence on where I want to go. Scrolling down my Instagram feed I see lots of wonderful places I add to my bucket list, such as that famous beach with pink flamingos in Aruba or the Stairway to Heaven hike in Hawaii (which honestly I’m scared to do).

If I only have a couple of days I will go somewhere nearby to make sure I see almost everything in that location. For longer holidays I will go further away.

  1. Research

Next comes extensive research. There are a few sources where I gain all the necessary information.

  • Pinterest

First, I create a new board with the destination chosen and start saving relevant pins (images and articles) to that board. There are thousands of travel blogs on the internet and I find Pinterest the easiest way to navigate among them. Bloggers like to post something like ‘10 must see places in X’ or ‘7-days itinerary in Y’. I love this kind of blogs because they give me an overall idea of what to see, do and experience. It’s also good to see what kind of shots I can take there.

katya jackson pinterest blog

  • Instagram

Next, I go on Instagram and start searching for people who either live there or recently visited places I want to see. If no luck, I look for specific hashtags, for example, #NewZealand #NZMustDo etc. Some countries and cities have their own designated Instagram accounts with a lot of useful information. These are accounts such as @London, @VisitEngland, @TheBaliGuideLine, @InstagramJapan etc. I save all the interesting places to ‘collections’ to refer to them later on. To save any post on Instagram click on a bookmark under the photo and create a new collection.

how to save post in instagram collections
how to save post in instagram
  • TripAdvisor

I like TripAdvisor for 2 things: it gives me an overview of activities I can do and there are tons of reviews with photos about everything, especially restaurants. It has a very good filter system which makes searching for places to eat quick and easy. I really like reading reviews, some of them are really funny 🙂

  • Travel Guides

This is something I started doing only recently and it paid off quite well! Among all the options of guidebooks, I find Rough Guides to be the best in terms of overall quality of information. I got one for my trip to New Zealand and used it quite a lot not only when preparing for the trip, but also on the road. I fell in love with this book when I found info on a very cheap shower for backpackers in a village where all accommodation was already booked and the only option was to sleep in a car. I will be definitely using these guidebooks for my next trips.

  1. Google Maps

When the research is done I save all the places I want to see on a Google map. It’s very easy to do in their app. I search for the place on the map, bring the menu up and click ‘Save’. Voila!

I usually save way too many places than I can possibly visit. But it helps if I have extra time, I pick what is close to me and go there. The only problem with this planning method is that you can’t see whether you saved a cafe, a landmark or a museum. All pins are the same colour and usually in a local language. As a plan B, I have all these places saved as a list in my notes as well.

Below are examples of my maps from recent trips to New Zealand and Bali.

what to see in new zealand map
what to see in bali map

Saving places on the map like this makes next step – booking accommodation super easy.

  1. Booking accommodation

Depends on how my map looks like I start looking for accommodation. I always go to Booking.com because it’s efficient, quick and there are so many options to choose from! Wherever I go I try to find an interesting place to stay. On Booking.com there are not only hotels and B&Bs, but apartments, country houses, and even farms! When I think about my upcoming trip around the UK I imagine renting something like a cozy cottage in a small town. For staying in a city I’d prefer to rent an apartment. Below are some examples of apartments I’ve bookmarked for my future trips:

Habitat’s Campo de’ Fiori Apartments in Rome, Italy

Habitat's Campo de' Fiori Apartments

Luxury and Bright Two-Bedroom Apartment Ile Saint-Louis in Paris, France

Luxury and Bright Two-Bedroom Apartment Ile Saint-Louis in Paris, France

von Deska Townhouses – Ivy House in Hamburg, Germany

von Deska Townhouses - Ivy House in Hamburg, Germany

Staying in flats when traveling makes you feel a little bit like a local and you get a completely different experience comparing with staying in a hotel. You feel like a guest at someone’s home and get to stay in stylish places like on the photos above.

Get €25 off for your next booking using this link.

  1. Final preparations

A day or two before leaving for an adventure I do a few more things. This includes buying travel insurance (even if going abroad only for a weekend), uploading books to my kindle, downloading podcasts to listen (my favourite are Pardon my French and The Minimalists) and offline maps in case I can’t use data on my phone.

That’s pretty much all I do. Is there anything specific you do for planning your trips? I’m curious to know how do you choose where to stay when traveling. Let me know in the comments below 🙂

This post is sponsored by Booking.com. All opinions are my own.