A road trip in the UK or Europe is one of our favourite things to do. We especially like France and enjoyed road trips in the USA too. We book self-catering accommodation or the odd night here and there in hotels. Package holidays are not usually on our shopping list, so we’ve got our own independent methods for booking and itinerary planning. Before we set off on our summer travels this year, I thought I’d share some of our favourite travel planning hacks and finds, and share the plan we’ve made for this year.
1. Make a pinboard of ideas
Make a list of your possible destinations using Pinterest. If you make a mood board when you redecorate your home, why not make a mood board for your travel? Pinterest is ideal as an early itinerary planning tool. You can collect together all the useful articles and web pages about possible destinations. For example, take a look at my board “Places – British Southwest” to see how I’ve collected ideas for one area.
2. Double check the route
Check all destinations against Google maps or Via Michelin. Some places are further than you think! Schedule time for your journey carefully. We had some drama when we discovered that Brittany is far, far away, whereas places in France that appeared much further on the map were two hours closer in car travel time.
3. Use satellite view
Searching for a great beach? Use satellite view on Google or Bing to check out the coast. I like beaches with dunes and pine forest, but maybe you like a bustling town or quaint harbour nearby. Pick your ideal location then use “search nearby” to hunt for independent accommodation such as cottages. Holiday parks are visible on satellite view, and you can usually click on them go straight to their websites. You can also use satellite view to make sure your chosen quaint cottage is not on a dual carriageway.
4. Use the smaller companies
When you’re searching for accommodation websites, go straight to page 4 or 5 of your search results to find the less well known ones. You can also find some gems through tourist information office websites. In the UK there’s a very big list of accommodation sites and agents on the Visit England website (they run the tourist information offices).
5. Search the web in a foreign language.
If you’re travelling to Germany, search in German. If you’re travelling to France, search in French and so on. You will get utterly different results and find things which you would never have found just by searching in English. Best of all you can find much better value accommodation. Use google translate to help you.
6. Visual location search with Instagram
Search destinations on Instagram as many independent travel businesses are using it. A picture speaks a thousand words and more and more people are finding their next holiday this way. This year we will be visiting two places I discovered through their enticing Instagram feeds – Wigwam Holidays Evenlode in the Cotswolds and Votre Vacances in western France.
7. Use a printed road atlas for itinerary planning
Google maps doesn’t have it all! A printed road atlas highlights all kinds of useful things for tourists such as viewpoints, picnic sites, national trust land, national parks, ancient monuments, museums, farm parks, motorway service stations, car parks, park and ride, pubs and tourist information offices. You can get a feel for an area with the printed road atlas, and see how much there is to do. You might even find an amazing theme park that you didn’t expect! This year we will be visiting France’s second biggest theme park Puy du Fou.
Now we have done our itinerary planning I’m excited to introduce our destinations to you. I’ve interviewed the people who run some of the accommodation and attractions we will be visiting. It’s special to discover these businesses in their own words, really showing their passion for what they do. I’m so glad they have agreed to work with me and I hope you’ll follow our experiences on social media.
Read the interviews here: Family Travel Destinations – our top picks, interviewed