With much of the world facing a second COVID wave and the vaccine rollout coming along (…slowly), many of us continue to live in lockdowns, curfews and social isolation. If this was not in your five-year plan — well, you’re not alone.
By Carla Bragagnini | Outpost Travel Media
(feature photo: Team Outpost in Thailand, Outpost/John Price)
As an eternal optimist, I want to point out some silver linings. We live in the age of information, where a search bar not only answers our questions, but often predicts it for us. It’s incredible that with one click, we can connect to anyone, anytime, anywhere in the world. Additionally, the inability to engage in our normal social activities has given us a plethora of extra time for binge-watching, bread-baking, and yes, travel planning.
For us travel types, it’s difficult not being able to venture farther than the local grocery store right now (and that’s only if we make it back before curfew). But with the gifts of time and technology, lockdown can be used effectively to plan future travel (when it is safe to do so).
Trip planning allows you to feel inspired, which is so needed in these times. It may feel strange, but just know it’s OK to make future plans — and studies show it’s good for mental health, too.
Pick a Place and Duration
First things first, you need to decide where to go (taking time and finances into account). It can be a rescheduled trip from last year, or a new bucket-list spot, a place you know nothing or everything about, close to or far from home, and can last a weekend, a week, or several months.
Perhaps it’s planned around an activity — surfing, yoga, photography, trekking — or discovered by searching “best places for rock climbing in Europe.” This is your adventure — anything goes!
Trip Details | Start with Good Questions
Once you know the destination and duration, it’s time to make key decisions. Do you want to travel alone, or with a loved one? Organize it yourself or join a tour? Think about your travel style, and accommodation preferences — from camping to luxury hotels, tuk-tuks to rental cars. Consider potential travel dates, but keep it flexible for now.
Start from Scratch |
Start with the main facts. What is the language and currency? When is the best time to go and how do you get there? A travel guide is a great resource at this stage. If shops are closed near you, order one online or download an e-book (for freebies, check out World Nomads and Insight Guides).
Amazon Kindle Unlimited has a 30-day free trial. Search travel titles and ensure the e-book is labelled “free with Kindle Unlimited membership” to qualify (titles include Lonely Planet Morocco, Fodor’s New Zealand, and Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget).
Plan the Budget | Not as Daunting as You Think
For this step, you’ll need clarity on the destination, duration, and travel and accommodation preferences — keeping in mind, the pandemic gives you time to save up! Guide books are helpful for pricing meals, activities, and transportation. Check out accommodation websites for specific prices.
Work out your daily costs, multiply by number of days, and add flights and extra for contingencies. Sign up for a travel rewards credit card now to earn frequent-flyer points and travel perks.
Collect Inspiration | Photos Paint a Thousand Words
This is the fun part, when your trip starts coming to life! Visually, it can mean typing “India travel” or “New York highlights” into Google Images or Pinterest, or searching “#indiatravel” on Instagram (and following the hashtag) and saving your inspirations.
For non-visual folks, a simple Google search will pull up lots of blogs and listicles — “15 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in India,” or “32 Best Things to do in New York.” Enter the place and “sights” into Google for a top sights list. Save your favourites in a digital doc or on a customized Google map.
Plan Your Itinerary | Start with Your Imagination!
For an organized tour, search for companies and read reviews online. For self-organized trips, look up existing itineraries on blogs or tour operator websites. For example, search “New Zealand itinerary two weeks,” “wine tour Argentina one week,” or “cycling itinerary Tuscany.”
Use existing itineraries as a starting point, coupled with your own research. Read activity reviews on Tripadvisor, and use Google Maps to estimate distances and travel time between key spots on your itinerary. Look up transportation options (rental car, train, bus, etc.), keeping local restrictions in mind.
Use Google Images, Google Maps Street View, or YouTube to visualize locations. I recently watched a video drive-through of Raglan, New Zealand, a spot on my surf bucket-list. You can also view virtual walking tours, travel video guides, or documentaries on YouTube.
For off-the-beaten path locations or destination-specific travel advice from like-minded people, check out forums like Reddit, Lonely Planet (read only), Booking, Fodor’s or Tripadvisor. For outdoor adventures, consult local chapters of outdoor organizations and find useful tips here. Leave some flexibility in your schedule and avoid over-planning. I like visiting a tourism office on arrival for valuable local advice that could influence my trip.
Flights and Accommodation in the Digital Age
Start searching for flights, just to have an idea of rates — Skyscanner, Google Flights, Momondo. Set price alerts to monitor select flights. Follow restriction updates (but always confirm via official government websites). For accommodation, book the entire trip or only the first days (which gives you flexibility to talk to staff, hosts, travellers, or locals to plan your next steps on-location). Accommodation options include apartment rentals (Airbnb, VRBO), hotels (Booking) and hostels (Hostelworld). Due to worldwide restrictions, it’s a good idea to hold off booking for now.
Reach Out to Everyone and Anyone
Once travel begins to open up, post a shout out on your Facebook page: “Do you know anyone living in Lima, Peru?” Or, message friends privately. For local insights, Zoom or message people who have visited your destination, or who have friends there. Visit online forums (see above), or Facebook groups (for example, this Italy Travel Planning group).
Schedule Time | Plan to Plan
Now that you have the tools, make sure you set aside weekly planning time. Put it into your calendar, and call that time slot something fun, like “Italian Adventure.” For this example, look up Italian recipes to snack on or play Italian radio in the background (you can listen to international radio stations here). You’ll feel inspired, as you inch toward your goal.
Travel Now | Yes, it’s (sort of) Possible
You don’t have to get there to enjoy yourself. When planning a trip to Mexico City, watch a Mexican movie, learn Spanish online, listen to Mexican music, take a Mexican cooking class, visit attractions live with a local guide, or visit a museum tour online. There’s no reason why you can’t start your trip right now! Stay inspired by listening to travel podcasts: The Thought Card, Jump, or Extra Pack of Peanuts, to name a few.
Real travel will happen again before you know it. In the meantime, time and technology are on your side. And in the vein of eternal optimism — at least travelling this way means there is no jet lag. **