Tag Archives: Chowhound

OCD Vacation Planning: Website Guilty Pleasures

18 Jun

One of my favorite things to do in life is plan the most perfect itinerary for trips. I’m not as bad as I used to be – at the age of twelve, I took my grandparents’ awesome National Geographic map set and used a ruler to map out the exact time each leg of our road trip to DisneyWorld would take. I then created a detailed-to-the-minute itinerary for the entire 12 day trip, down to roadside bathroom breaks and what order to go on rides. I’m sure I drove my parents crazy.

Man, if twelve-year-old me had had access the Internet, that DisneyWorld trip would have been crazy.

The OCD has stuck around, so I still love to research the hell out of every trip to maximize enjoyment and minimize the possibility of overlooking some once in a lifetime experience. However, I’ve learned to not over-schedule (mostly) and can appreciate how leaving some windows of open time allows for spontaneity and flexibility. But to go on a trip without doing the research on what the best things to see and do would be such a waste of time – you could miss your one chance to experience something you’d love see by not realizing it’s closed on Tuesdays. Also, I need to know about everything, even if I can’t possibly see it all, so I know what I’m missing. It doesn’t seem as bad if I’ve made the choice to forgo it, rather than by chance.

Currently, I am using three websites to help plan our upcoming adventures, particularly for the October trip to Napa Valley:

TripAdvisor: I feel like TripAdvisor should be the first place you check before you go anywhere, perhaps even in your own town. Users rate attractions, hotels, restaurants, etc., upload their own pictures, and participate in helpful forums. The website also provides mapped search results so you can narrow options down to a particular neighborhood or block. Also, if you log in through Facebook, you can see if any of your friends or friends of friends have reviewed a particular place, which might be more meaningful and reliable than the word of total strangers.

[Chowhound](http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/1): This is particularly useful for our trip to Napa, as that trip is all about food and wine experiences. The Chowhound Bay Area Board is a forum with local foodies and oenophiles doling out advice for the non-native foodies and oenophiles planning their trips. One of my favorite things people do is post their proposed itineraries for critique and suggestions, then follow up after the trip is over to provide their own “trip report”. It’s great to see what works and what doesn’t for those going ahead of you. Hopefully you can avoid their mistakes!

TripIt: Once you’ve figured out some of the places you’d like to go, made hotel reservations, rented a car, or booked a flight, this website organizes all of your information into an itinerary. This is awesome – if you want it to, it can pull confirmation emails directly from your inbox and automatically create a Lodging item on your itinerary. It can also create driving directions between to addresses listed on your itinerary and automatically add them. Basically, when you go on your trip, you won’t need to dig through your email searching for contact info or confirmation numbers. Everything will be neatly organized into an itinerary.

This can be helpful for planning stages as well – as you fill your itinerary with activities, you can visualize how cramped your schedule might get if you add too much. By adding driving directions between each point, you can ensure that you have plenty of travel time built in!

TripIt is a website, with iPhone and iPad apps available as well.

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