As I write this, there are two months, four days, twenty-two hours, eight minutes, and thirty two seconds until I board a plane bound for Edinburgh, Scotland… but who’s counting? ;) Once these two months and some change are up, Michael & I will be traveling to Scotland to travel the country via road trip, beginning and ending in Edinburgh with stops in Stirling, Falkirk, the Isle of Skye, Inverness, Aberdeen, & St. Andrews.
That’s a lotta travel for an eight-day period. I was only slightly intimidated by my travel goals this go ‘round, thinking that I had enough travel planning experience to guide me through this preparation period, too. With just over two months until our trip to Scotland, I’m beginning to find that I’m utterly underprepared. Typically by now I have booked everything I need and am anxiously counting down the days until I arrive in my destination. At this point, I’ve only solidified the flights & rental car, and planned where we're going & when. I'm still currently researching locations to stay in each of our destinations. This is the first international trip that I've planned without an outside organization there to help. There are no support systems like the ones that you have when you travel with an company. Michael has been a tremendous help, especially about making me book the flights & solidify our plans, but I'm still at a setback. Simply put: I underestimated the planning that goes into a road trip of this magnitude.
I’ve learned that in organizing an international road trip without the help of a travel agent or an outside organization you need to plan carefully and be more thorough in the details. There are so many things you need to solidify before you can even begin booking rooms & activities. How long will I be in this location? How far is Location A from Location B? How long will it take me to drive this distance? Do I want a longer amount of time here or here? How much is there to see & do in this region? Is this area accessible by car? There is a lot to take into consideration.
When you begin to plan your international road trip - or domestic road trip, for that matter - you have to plan everything to the tee.
Begin with research. There are so many places in Scotland I wish I could see during my eight days there, but it's simply not possible to do it all. I researched the country and nailed down the places that I knew I absolutely had to see and what there is to do there. By knowing my must-sees, I was able to come up with a length of time to stay in each city or region. I also decided that I would have to pass some things up that are just too far away. Skara Brae & the Callanais Standing Stones are two archeological sites I would love to visit but happen to be too far north to travel via car in a short period of time. Because of this, I had to remove them from my list. As sad as it is to know I won't be able to see them, I know I won't be wasting precious time on a boat or ferry when I could be seeing other, more local, sites.
Next, solidify the dates & times & layout of your road trip. Decide how long you need (or have) for your trip. After your research, you should have a good idea of places & sites you want to visit, so you should be able to solidify a time period for your road trip. Solidify dates based on this time period and book your flights... after researching the fluctuation of prices of course! The layout of the trip is key in planning, too. How long do you need in each stop on the road trip? Depending on the things you've researched, you should be able to confirm time frames for your stops.
Make detailed plans of what you'll be doing in each of these destinations but don't plan your trip to death. I plan on booking activities that require a pre-purchased ticket and just letting the rest of the trip flow organically. Naturally, I'm going to have a list of things I want to do in each destination, but we're going to do them as we go so the trip still feels natural & relaxing. Just about the worst thing you can do when planning a trip is over-plan. Organizing something like this down to the minute creates stress, and travel is supposed to be fun! Don't over-do it on the planning; plan just enough to know what's coming next.
Once these are solidified, you can start the fun part - booking! I love booking different aspects of travel; purchasing & confirming makes it seem real. I always try to start the booking process with hotels, but in this case I began with the rental car. I didn't want to book a room on the Isle of Skye and not have a way out of Edinburgh! Once you confirm your car, you can start confirming your hotels. I book with Airbnb and it makes all the difference! It's like living in a destination instead of being a tourist. It's also much more affordable. Airbnb is a website on which local residents can rent out a room or their whole house/apartment/flat and travelers can book them. You get a place to stay in the location of your choice for less than the cost of a hotel, and you get the local experts to give you insider details! It's definitely a win-win situation. I highly recommend staying with Airbnb.
After you've booked all of the necessities, you can book your activities. We don't plan to book too many for this trip just so we can have the freedom to do what we want. We do plan to purchase tickets to some of the famous August festivals but other than that we're going with the flow and booking tickets as we go. This is our first time traveling internationally together - other than a cruise, but that didn't take much planning - so we want it to be as carefree as possible.
The planning process can seem like a big undertaking, but the beauty of trips like this is that you're the creator! I'm a bit of a control freak so I love that I don't have to stick to a script or itinerary and can be creative in what we do & what we see. If we don't like something we can simply change it ourselves without the risk of ruining an itinerary or being stuck. The work is worth it at the end of a trip that you've completely organized yourself.
I plan to continue to provide lessons that I've learned through this travel experience so if you have any ideas for ease of travel I'd be happy to give them a try. I can't wait to get this trip started and share my travels exclusively through Mad's Muses!
Hi, I'm Madeline
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