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Planning for a Trip: Make Your “Hit the Ground Running” Plan for a Smooth Arrival

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I know some of you out there shun all aspects of planning for a trip .  Come on, admit it.  You know who you are.

You love spontaneity and surprises.  Unexpected twists and turns that lead you in unknown directions are the icing on your travel cake.

While I am not opposed to the occasional unexpected twist or turn on a vacation, the last time that I want that sort of thing to happen is on the day or arrival, when I am exhausted and just not plain fresh from sitting in an airport and then on an airplane for umpteen hours.

Answering these questions will give you a bare minimum plan that will get you to your hotel, fed and out to see something on your arrival day with the minimum number of possible surprises.

#1: How are we going to get to the hotel?  I don’t know about you, but when I get off a plane, dropping my bag off and a shower are the first things on my mind.  This is often the first arrival hurdle that you will need to conquer:

  • Does the hotel offer shuttle service?
  • What time do the trains/buses stop running (in case your flight is late)?
  • How much does the train/bus cost?  Will you need exact change?  How do you purchase tickets?
  • If you are renting a car, do you have directions from the airport to the hotel?
  • Do you have a general idea of where your hotel is located?  Print a map before you go.
  • Worst case scenario-How much will it cost to take a taxi to the hotel?  Where in the airport is the best place to catch a taxi?

#2: How are we going to get some of the local “green”?  On your way to the hotel, you might want to think about getting some local currency.  Here are some things to think about:

  • Have we let our bank know about our vacation plans?
  • Will our cards work in the country that we are visiting?
  • ATM or Currency Exchange booth?  In most places, the ATM will give you the most competitive exchange rates, but check with your bank to see what the exchange rate and fees are  through the ATM will be before you go.
  • Do we have a pin number for our card (most countries require a 4 digit pin number for ATM transactions)?
  • Will we need a “Chip and Pin” card (certain countries in Europe have switched over the the “Chip and Pin” system.  We had trouble getting currency from the ATM in London Heathrow because of this)?
  • What is the approximate currency exchange rate?
  • As a last note, make sure you have some of your own currency on you when you arrive, just in case.  You can always take cash and exchange it in the airport if you are having trouble with the ATM.

#3: Ok, now we want to see something.  Seeing something on the first day always feels like it gets my vacation off to a good start!

Eiffel Tower Paris France

  • What is close to the hotel?
  • What are the hours and admission prices?
  • Is there a city pass with a number of different activities included that would save you money over a number of days?
  • Are there any activities that we could do in the evening, so we are not so pressed for time (in case you need a nap and a refresh when you arrive)? Some museums and other attractions that are normally only open during the day have one day a week where they have later hours.
  • What is your backup plan in case the first plan doesn’t work?

#4: We are starving!  What are we going to eat?  Before of soon after you arrive at your hotel, you will probably need to eat.

  • Are there any good restaurants around the hotel?
  • Are there any markets or stores around the hotel?
  • Does the hotel serve breakfast?
  • Are there any easy, reasonably priced restaurants near the attractions that you are planning on visiting in the evening?
  • What are the hours for the restaurant that I am interested in (keep in mind that hours for restaurants in other countries might be different than what you are used to.)
  • Is the water safe to drink?  Any foods that we should avoid?

#5: Communication:  Depending on your priorities, communicating with friends and family when you arrive might be one of the first things on your mind.

Red Phone Booth Scotland

  • Will my cell phone work where I am going?
  • Do I have any wifi access in the airport?  It might be worth hanging out in hte airport and having a cup of coffee if you need to message friends and family or look up any travel information that you are missing (especially if you don’t know if your hotel offers free wifi.)
  • Where can I buy a local sim card for my phone?
  • Is wireless internet access readily available?  Is it free?
  • Does the hotel offer free wifi?

#5: Now I lay me down to sleep…

  • Try to get to bed at a decent hour.  If you don’t feel like you can sleep, try some exercise.
  • Don’t sleep too late, but give yourself a little leeway if you are not up at your normal time.
  • Plan a relaxed day on your first full day.  Try to put the really full days further into the trip when you are acclimated to the time change.

#6: Bits and Pieces:

  • Have a cheat sheet handy with common words and phrases in the local language
  • Try to have some snacks/trail mix/energy bars handy in case you need food and can’t find a place to eat right away.


Anything othe essential tips to share for the furst day?  What other things do you make sur that you do when you arrive in a new place?

Shanna Schultz

Hello, my name is Shanna, and I am a detail obsessed travel addict on a mission to make planning your own family trips fun and easy! I offer tools, guides and resources to help you through all of the steps of planning meaningful, memorable family vacations. Come over and check out our Facebook community where I share real tools and resources to help you move the needle on your travel goals. Let's start making those travel dreams real, y'all! Life is too short to spend dreaming...let's start DOING!

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Pingback: International Travel Tips: 13 Things to do on Your First Day in a City

  2. These are great tips!! We always do some travel planning – like figuring out how we’re going to get to/from the airport or train station – but some things we leave up to chance (like finding interesting places to eat). Getting lost is only fun when it’s halfway deliberate… and you don’t have a heavy pack on your back. 😉

    1. Shanna Schultz

      Yeah, dumping the luggage is priority numero uno. I guess I haven’t quite gotten the knack for finding good, non touristy restaurants down yet, because when I am tired and hungry on the first day and I don’t have a plan, we always seem to end up in the first restaurant that we can find (which usually has ho hum, mediocre food).

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