Organising a trip is not always an easy thing to do, but with method and a little experience it is something everyone can do.
Hello, fellow travellers! I am Paolo and I am ready to share with you some of my most valuable secrets on how to plan a DIY trip safely.
Today, we talk about how to organise a do-it-yourself trip. Yes, I know, it may seem like a daunting task, but I promise you, with a little planning and a dash of adventure, it can become an exciting and fun experience.
First of all, remember this quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: ‘A goal without a plan is only a wish’. So, let’s get to work and turn our wishes into reality!
As many dovevado.net readers know, the method I prefer is the fly and drive trip, which consists of booking an aeroplane flight and renting a car locally to get around independently.
I usually travel together with my wife Ornella and a couple of friends, Piera and John, with whom we have had many adventures and also some misadventures.
- Choose Destination
- Budget Planning
- How to organise a holiday – the number of days
- Creating an itinerary by joining points
- The method of circles
- Booking your flight
- How to organise a trip: accommodation
- Renting the Car when planning a trip
Choosing the right company for an enjoyable travel experience is the first thing.
If you decide to travel with friends, the first piece of advice I would give for travelling DIY is this: Travelling with friends can be a fun experience or it can risk ruining the holiday for them, but especially for you, so choose your travel companions well in order to have a travel experience that you will remember only positively.
Over time, we have travelled with several couples of friends, but if one does not have the same passions, the same desire to discover and the same curiosity, the risk is not only to ruin the holiday, but also the friendship. So ask yourself, as a first point, what you expect from a trip, and only then consider whether you can tackle it with someone you know, only then can you move on to organising the holiday.
How to plan a trip – general guidelines
Well, getting down to brass tacks, I describe how I do my travel planning and which travel apps I use to organise a trip online without surprises… or almost.
The first thing to do is to choose the destination. We usually do this activity with our companions as a holiday is coming to an end, and more precisely during the journey back to the airport to return to everyday life. A happy conversation, which helps us overcome the disappointment of returning home with the anticipation of the next adventure.
The search for the desired, but above all, never obvious place begins.
Programming The lighthouses in Brittany, the tulip blossom in Holland, the Port wine harvest in Portugal, the Trappist abbeys in Belgium, the Lavender blossom in Provence, a tour of Scottish distilleries and many others, were born in a hire car on the way home dreaming of the next destination.
How to organise a do-it-yourself trip – Planning the budget
Since I am not the son of Onassis, one important aspect is the budget. I therefore start with how much I can spend on the trip and then go into detail.
If your choice will be to take a trip to a holiday village or another organised trip, you can be fairly accurate from the outset in comparing your budget with your travel expenses.
Planning a do-it-yourself trip is much more complex.
To organise holidays on your own, you have to take into account not only the out-of-pocket costs for hotels and transport, the costs for food that cannot be quantified in advance, the costs for attractions, but above all the costs for unforeseen events and, why not, for a few shenanigans that you will have to take into account.
So I always add 100 euros per person per day to the pre-established costs, which must cover meals, attraction tickets and contingencies. We almost never spend our entire budget, but if they are not budgeted for, it can be a pain.
In 1992 in London – I was little more than a kid – because of the devaluation of the Lira, I ate French fries for three days because I ran out of money.
Last year in Belgium we were forced to return by car due to cancelled flights at the modest sum of 2300 euros (which we were reimbursed after 3 months), but which we paid anyway.
The common cash box in the travel organisation
We usually organise ourselves with a common fund that we replenish whenever needed.
One thing I love is that within the group it is not me who keeps it and I never have to worry about paying the bills.
Budget planning may seem tedious, but it is essential to avoid unpleasant surprises. Remember, you don’t have to spend a fortune to have an unforgettable experience, but if I have to obsess about what I spend, I’d rather not go.
How to organise a holiday – the number of days
In planning a trip you now come to the duration it should have in relation to the type of journey you are undertaking and the number of attractions that need to be seen.
Of course, you must also take into account the number of kilometres to be covered by car once you arrive at your destination.
In order to broadly understand the duration of a trip, I start my research on the destination area through tourism promotion sites, travel bloggers and social media.
The first thing is always to type into google: ‘what to see at [nome destinazione]’ or ‘[nome destinazione] what to do’.
From the number of attractions and their distance you will be able to extrapolate the optimal duration of your trip. That said, we hardly ever make trips longer than nine days.
The greatest wealth today is not money, but time… and that is always lacking. so, with experience, it will all become one big game of interlocking.
Plan your trip online – Create an itinerary by connecting the dots
Now, it is time to create an itinerary. This does not only mean deciding which places to visit, but also considering the time we have available, our budget, and the pace at which we want to travel.
Let us not forget that a trip should be an enjoyable and relaxing experience, not a race against time to see as many places as possible.
Don’t forget to leave some room for the unexpected. After all, as the immortal Ferris Bueller said, ‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might lose it.”
So, let’s take the time to research, read reviews, and create an itinerary that reflects our interests and needs.
The method of how to organise a trip will in time become a true art. Write down all the things you would like to see in your destination area and then start planning the shortest route to visit them all… or almost all.
The method of circles – How to organise a perfect trip
For a good organisation of an on-the-road trip it is essential to plan where you will stay overnight and to do this I enclose the things to visit in circles on the map…
I do not like one-night stays in hotels, for two fundamental reasons:
The first is that I hate packing and unpacking; the second is that even the location of an overnight stay, be it a hotel or a holiday home must be a travel experience.
I remember with nostalgia the house in Fort Augustus Abbey on the shores of Lochness where we stayed for three days on our tour of Scotland or the lighthouse in Finisterre in Brittany where we spent two nights between sea and moor.
Choosing accommodation in the right location
For this reason, once I have identified the places I want to visit, I try to enclose them in circles with a radius of about 50 kilometres and then go and find accommodation as barycentric as possible.
This means that I can visit as many as three places in one day covering a maximum of 150 km, which is a total of three hours by car.
This means that in a 12-hour day we have a maximum of 3 hours for travelling and at least 9 for visiting.
Transfer stages in road trip planning
Absurdly, we cover the most kilometres in the transfer between accommodation, in which I always try to include a few places to visit en route.
The first travel app I use is simply google map and later google my maps.
This immediately gives me an idea of the distances.
With this method, I have always tackled road trips with three substantial advantages:
- Visit as many places as possible while optimising driving time;
- Visit all the places you want without the fear that your luggage might be stolen as you would be forced to take it with you and leave it in the car;
- Avoid packing and unpacking every day.
Organising a trip in practice
After deciding on the destination, places to see and consequently the days of travel, it is time to make flight, hotel and car reservations.
Travel Planning: Booking your flight
To book a flight on your DIY trip there are several methods: Go to an aggregator site such as Skyscanner or directly to the companies’ websites.
For European travel, I almost always use Ryanair, which has a good distribution of short-haul flights.
Doing flight searches as an ANONYMOUS USER is the first rule
To avoid getting in the range of the various algorithms that will vary the price depending on your insistence on searching and the possibility of departure, I make the first skim using an anonymous browser link so that cookies are not recorded.
Only when the choice is made do I log in from my MyRyanair account and proceed with the booking.
The number of suitcases to take with you on the plane
This is the sore point of every holiday. We have become quite good at travelling light carrying little more than the bare essentials, especially since we are subject to an objective limitation: the boot of the car.
Travelling with four people in a mid-level car to save on the rental cost, the maximum we can take with us is two large suitcases, two trolleys and two backpacks to avoid the rear passengers having to keep luggage on the seat between them.
The problem always arises on the return journey as we are always ready to buy… our ladies especially.
On my last trip to Belgium, for example, I had to find room for 3 beer glasses, a wrought-iron pot holder and 4 litres of beer.
Buying a suitcase for the return journey
Since even booking suitcases on Ryanair has become an obstacle course the solution we have found if you want to shop during your holiday is to buy an extra 10kg suitcase for the return journey only.
The cost is currently €26.00, which is certainly less than the €69 if the suitcase weight is exceeded.
In this way, one of the trolleys can be checked into the hold and an additional 10 kg of cabin baggage can be placed in a soft bag inserted at departure in the large suitcase.
How to organise a trip: Booking accommodation
When you go to organise a fly and drive trip, the choice of hotels is very important.
Following what I suggested in the previous paragraph, try to book hotels that are as barycentric as possible within the circles you have identified for the various geographical areas.
In this way you will divide your trip into several one-day excursions and return to the same place in the evening.
I no longer have the mentality, the inclination, but above all the age for hostels or camping, and I also think that accommodation must also be part of the travel experience.
So we choose between period residences (being budget-conscious) or given our fellowship we also look favourably on holiday homes.
This second type gives us the opportunity to be able to buy local products in the markets and to be able to cook them in complete relaxation at home, but also to be able to make pasta, something that is never taken for granted and is always longed for.
There are many online platforms that can help you find the best deals. A little tip: book in advance to get the best prices, but especially availability if you are going to coveted locations.
I joined Booking.com’s Genius programme. It is a loyalty programme to which I would like you to sign up for increasing discounts and benefits over time.
Renting the Car when planning a trip
Another key point in organising a fly and drive holiday is the choice of car to rent.
I wrote a long article on how to rent a car that I keep updated after each trip, which you can read by clicking on the link.
Remember that the first criterion when choosing a car is the boot capacity to ensure comfort for all passengers. If there are two of you, it will never be a problem because you will also have the rear seats available, but if there are more passengers, it will be the first criterion of choice.
For many years we travelled with 6 people and our choice was always the minivan, a fantastic solution.
The second criterion is whether to rent cars with automatic or manual gearboxes.
This especially when travelling in countries like Scotland where driving is on the right is essential because you already have to be focused on the road and the automatic transmission will take away a chore for you to think about. The manual gearbox in right-hand-drive cars is set up in the same way as in our cars (first gear is in the top left-hand corner): in addition to operating it with your left hand, to engage first gear you have to push outwards and not pull towards you.
Beware: on a road trip, you will most likely pick up the car at one point and drop it off at another. This must be specified at the time of booking and will incur a surcharge. Another thing you should make explicit when booking is if your trip crosses several countries. Sometimes for unknown reasons this is not permitted and is most likely subject to a surcharge.
Packing when planning a trip
Finally, it is time to pack. Remember to check the climate of your destination close to departure and make a list of things to bring.
With time and experience, you will learn that half of the things you take with you will not be used, so learn to bring what you need while leaving room for your purchases.
Personally, I have a few things I always carry with me: a multi-purpose knife that will come in handy if you decide to have a packed lunch, a headlamp, a scarf and my inseparable North Face light rain jacket.
On longer trips I always put a soft bag in the hold luggage that I use as an extra suitcase on the return trip if the amount of shopping requires it.
Even on our last trip to Scotland, we bought a few bottles of whisky and a tweed jacket and there was not enough space in the suitcases.
Even on our last trip to Scotland, we bought a few bottles of whisky and a tweed jacket and there was not enough space in the suitcases.
The technical equipment for the blog, The Dovevado Backpack
Perhaps the most important thing for me is the ‘Dovevado backpack’ where I put all the technical equipment I will use during the trip.
- Instead of a camera, we opted for a high-end mobile phone. I am an Apple user, while Alberto is an Android user, so I won’t sit here and say what is best so as not to argue, but a good mobile phone will allow you a ductility that perhaps an SLR or mirrorless won’t give you simply because you need different lenses.
- A gimbal also equipped with three feet. This will give you the opportunity to shoot stable and fluid images. WE use the No products found. ,very versatile and also inexpensive
- 360 camera. We use the No products found., a somewhat outdated but still current model with which we can take very interesting panoramic photos and videos.
- An action cam, i.e., a camera that you can carry at the most dangerous times, in the middle of the sea, on dangerous paths or anywhere where a mobile phone might be in danger of being ruined. We use the No products found., it weighs 35 grams, can be hung around the neck and is hardly noticeable. Useful and perfect for special shots
- Our beloved No products found. drone, compact and versatile for our aerial filming. Within seconds it will be ready to fly.
- Wireless microphones No products found. to connect to your mobile phone or camera. Lightweight and compact, they are ideal either to be used with a clip or connected to a lavalier microphone
To these tools we must add all the necessary cables and batteries as well as socket adapters where these are not the same as in Italy.
So, fellow travellers, it’s time to put these tips into practice and start planning your next adventure. As Jack Kerouac said, ‘On the road, life is wild and free’. So, let’s go!