This is an overview of the method. 

Later we’ll dig into the details of each level. You will see topics repeated (such as Events) because at each level we’ll look in more detail than the previous level.

Think of your flight. As you approach your destination: 

  • at 30,000 feet, the pilot is thinking “where’s the airport?”
  • at 10,000 feet, she is thinking “where’s my runway?”
  • at 1,000, she’s thinking “is my runway clear?”
  • and on the ground, it’s “where’s my gate?”

30,000 feet

In the first pass, I document where we might go and what we might see, in not too much detail.

Consider such things as: 

  • What country or countries? What cities, towns and other specific places?
  • What month? What date constraints are there? 
  • What’s the anchor – the must-see event or place? Is it date-specific?

Discuss it with your fellow travellers; add delete and change.

Once that’s nailed, what’s near there?  

  • Step 1: reachable by local train or a rented car, etc. 
  • Step 2: maybe worth adding an intercity train or a short flight? 
  • Step 3: you know, why don’t we just return home from Xxxx?

What airport (or other hub) will get you to and from the key points? 

  • This is where you’ll need to refer to the COVID-19 and travel section. 
  • Check Google Flights and maybe your favourite airline, or the one you have points with; look especially for whether they have a nice simple routing

We’re assuming that you’re planning now for travel later. 

Even so, you need the latest information on what COVID-19 restrictions would affect you if you travelled now. Then you’ll have to find sources to help you predict what to expect when you travel. 

  • Latest info on where’s safe?
  • links to COVID information for countries, states/provinces and cities
  • Heathrow and Singapore speak well on how to do COVID planning

Add text here about protecting yourself financially,  being covered by trip cancellation and interruption insurance, and making sure you can get home somehow.

10,000 feet

In the second pass, I put in all the details, such as hours, distances and timings, not yet trying to work out all the logistics. 

Here you will loop around in increasing levels of detail, doing the following:

  • put places on the map and start grouping them; you’ll probably realize that some places are a bit out of the way and will burn a lot of time
  • gather details of the sites you want to consider 
  • be sure to include when they are open and roughly how long you’ll want to give each place. 
  • document how important each one is (must-see, try to see, maybe see)
  • get the website and Tripadvisor links, and dig into them. This is where you’ll drop some places, or change their priority, or adjust how much time they get
  • work out where to stay – at least a general area or two; pick a few candidate hotels, and dig into their details. See if they have the kind of room you want at the price you want. If so, details can wait. 
  • sketch what things belong together, and might fit into a reasonably-paced day
  • see if it looks as if it will fit in your constraints
  • start collecting logistical details such as airport maps and websites, KML map layers for your Google maps, maybe some relevant tourist web pages you can dig through for such things as “how to see Haarlem in half a day” or “bicycle rentals on the Via Appia Antica.” 

1,000 feet

The third pass is for sorting it all out. 
Here you will: 

  • Nail down your hotel, and study its transportation options and nearby restaurants
  • Finalize a schedule in which places fit together and you can visualize how your day will work; include coffee breaks and lunch!    
  • Realize that you have too many places, and work out more creative ideas. 
  • Maybe decide to take a train or bus instead of walking – or vice versa

But the pilot is crazy

In this analogy, think of yourself as a search-and-rescue pilot. You’re used to making a high-level pass, maybe flying lower over a valley, even lower to check out a lake, then up high again to get re-oriented, and maybe back to that valley for a closer look. Maybe you’ll get a report over the radio that Lake Slurpafuzzee is no longer part of the search but we need you to take a closer look at Gotham City.

Fasten your seat belts

In the final pass, I’ll try to create a working page for each day or half-day or specific section. This can be two-sided, but if you’ve been concise it will fit on a single sheet of paper. Yes, paper. Each day we pull the day’s pages, and put the active one into a clear sleeve (rain ain’t stopping us!).  We carry phones and iPads, but often it has proven easier to have that reference sheet in an outside pocket.  

For a busy day, go half a day to a page. 

By all means have copies on your devices. As you go through the day you can scroll the active page into view. But remember you may want to keep your device available for map purposes.

What it all leads to

footnote: the red text above was added after the trip for possible use in advising others

How did you DO that?

As we go deeper, I’ll show you the work behind the scenes (such as how did I know that we needed to leave at 9:30?) and the maps and details that support it.

Scroll to Top