Trip Planning Strategies from the Pros

Thatch's most effective travel planning strategies to save you time, money, and effort when planning your next trip.
Abby West
COO & Founder

With a bottomless pit of information online, planning your own trips can feel incredibly overwhelming. At Thatch, we've developed several strategies that can help make the process a little less stressful and a bit more fruitful.

Will you wake up with room service or your own kitchen? Photo by Michelle Henderson

Articulate Your Trip Vision to Pick a Destination

The key to choosing a destination is really understanding the vibe you want for the trip - and what your non-negotiables are. Some people surprise themselves with how flexible they are certain aspects of the trip (price, flight time, country) and how rigid they are about others (lodging style, culinary options, safety) once they verbalize the pieces that really matter.

Try visualizing the first morning of the trip -  where are you waking up? What will you do that day? What kind of food will you eat? Are you hoping to feel stimulated or relaxed? Then work backwards from that to find destinations that fit your description.

Will you stay in the thick or things or the quiet outskirts of town? Photo by Roman Kraft

Pick Neighborhoods Before Booking Lodging

Lodging is one of the biggest outlays of cash on a trip, so there's temptation to book before doing anything else — that can be a mistake, especially when the cheapest rates are often non-refundable. A great deal on a hotel or a beautiful rental that's too far from the things you want to do or that sits on a loud street when you're looking for quiet can ruin a stay.

Before even opening a booking site, figure out what part of town you want to stay in.

Before opening a booking site, figure out what part of town you want to stay in. Refer to your vision for the trip and find the part of town that cultivates that vibe. Focusing on one or two neighborhoods greatly reduces the options you'll have to sift through when comparing style and price. As a bonus, the time you spend researching neighborhoods often uncovers other time-sensitive activity and restaurant reservations you'll need to make.

If you simply can't resist getting something on the books early, book a hotel with free cancellation in case your plans change. Rental platforms like Airbnb almost always keep their service fee even if the unit itself has free cancellation.

Heavily filter your flights to only review the most relevant options. Photo by Marten Bjork

Filter Flights to Fit Your Needs

This is another place where a tiny bit of pre-planning really helps. Before you open up a flight search engine, think back on past flights that went well and those that went poorly. Did cramped seats or tight layovers add to stress on travel day?  Figure out what you want to optimize for and set filters that reflect those needs, like non-stop routes, or flight departure times after 8 am. Be sure to check the box for fares that include carry-on luggage if you'll have it so you aren't frustrated by artificially low basic economy fares.

My best advice for booking flights is not to try to game it - book early, and trust the info shared by sites like Hopper or Kayak that tell you if they expect prices to rise or fall. If they are predicted to fall, set a price alert so you can make a move as soon as rates change.

And, an oldie but goodie: if you're price-sensitive on flights, try to fly closer to mid-week rather than on a Friday or Sunday.

Group nearby sights together on a single day to avoid wasting time in transit. Photo by Emma Dau

Plan Your Days Geographically

Day planning is time consuming and many people skip it, assuming they can piece things together once they're on the trip. You can, but we find planning ahead to radically improve your trip. Without proper day planning, you'll end up spending a lot of time with your nose in your phone, hangrily Yelping a place to eat or throwing in the towel and going to the closest tourist trap. Or, you might miss out on activities you really wanted to do because they are closed on the day you show up or too far from the areas you find yourself in.

Try plotting places you're interested in - recommendations from friends and spots you've researched - on Google MyMaps, which will let you see which ones are clustered together. Do some additional research to define your top destinations and change the color of those pins so they can serve as anchor activities, then see if you have enough other places nearby, like cafes, restaurants, and other sights, to maximize your time in that part of town. Be sure to check the hours for your anchor activities to make sure they fit the dates you'll be in town.

Whenever you hit a wall in the planning process, we're here to help. Photo by Frame Harirak

Outsource the Planning to Someone You Trust

All of this planning takes time and effort. That's why we built Thatch.

We pair our clients directly with an Experience Creator, a digitally-native, organized, and savvy travel partner. Think travel agent, but designed for the modern traveler. Our ECs get to know our clients and their travel goals. Then, the EC does the heavy lifting of research, triangulation, booking and logistics, checking in with their client frequently via chat in our webapp. The client leaves on their trip with a fully editable, app-based itinerary so they have complete control over their experience, while feeling fully prepared to have a great trip.

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