As glamorous as it often looks on Instagram, travel isn’t solely defined by the activity of dutifully ticking desired destinations off our bucket lists.
You have your stay-cations, where you explore cities in your own home country and see more of your immediate surroundings.
And you also have your obli-cations. Those real travel experiences, centred around obligatory travel – such as weddings, christenings, family get-togethers and seeing your football team’s away game.
In fact, in a recent survey commissioned by Hampton by Hilton, we each spend a whopping £665 a year on these such obli-cations. So there’s a vested interest in getting as organised as possible in advance to make the most of any trip, obliged or not!
As the designated ‘organiser’ of our household of any obli-cation, it often falls to me to plan the trip, book the hotel and pack the bags.
Not that it’s a bad thing, I’ve always been a planner! And I love organising little surprises whenever possible to make any weekend (or mid-week) trip extra special. A few years ago, I organised a weekend in Manchester to see David’s favourite football team play, and I loved finding a Street Food restaurant near to our hotel for the evening’s celebrations!
And so when I was put in charge of my friend Siobhan’s hen weekend in Bristol, I wanted to make sure I planned a show-stopper of an obli-cation for us all.
So whether you’re planning a romantic getaway, a year-long adventure or an obli-cation of your own, here are my travel tips to master any trip planning…
AD – This is a paid partnership with Hampton by Hilton.
Scour Instagram location tags
Instagram is a great tool for discovering new restaurants, places of interest and cocktail bars – and one of my favourite things to do is create ‘saved’ collections for each trip I am planning.
Even if I don’t visit every place I’ve saved, it gives me a good starting point when it comes to planning the itinerary. And it’s also a great point of reference if you have a spare few hours during your trip and are in need of somewhere to visit to fill them! Or if you’re starting to get hangry and need a recommendation for a good place for brunch, pronto!
In fact, it was via Instagram that I discovered The Florist in Bristol, where we had brunch and cocktails on our final day in the city.
Of course, it was a slight draw that the interiors were oh so photogenic, but the avocado and poached eggs on toast also had very high ratings, so we were pleased to find that the location lived up to our social media hyped expectations when we arrived.
If you want to be SUPER organised, you could even set up a ‘saved places’ on the Google Maps app, where you can input all of the destinations, restaurants, bars and photo spots you’ve discovered via Instagram – and it will pinpoint them all on the map, so you can see the immediate proximity from one location to another – and can plan your route accordingly.
Find your base
Often my first port of call whenever I’m organising any trip is to pick our ‘base’, in other words – where we’ll be staying.
Wherever possible, I like to try and find a hotel that offers a consistent level of service, comfort and amenities, because when you’re travelling here, there and everywhere, it can be reassuring to have a ‘constant’.
Hampton by Hilton have 2,450 properties in 27 countries and territories – and we were lucky that they had availability at the Bristol City Centre property during our stay.
The perks of Hampton by Hilton includes free Wi-Fi, a free hot breakfast and thoughtful On The Run breakfast bags if you’re setting off early for your days activities or you have a jam packed schedule ahead of you.
The Bristol City Centre hotel was very centrally located, which was super handy when we were popping back for comfier pairs of footwear, a quick cup of tea in between activities and a change of outfit for the evening.
The staff were very helpful and welcoming – and looked after our bags even before check-in, so that we didn’t waste any time in exploring the city.
As an added bonus, they’ve recently introduced the Hampton by Hilton Helpline with Andrea McLean, which offers planning advice, words of wisdom and even calming meditation techniques (fabulous if you’re a stress-head like me who always gets pre-trip jitters) to make organising obli-cations as straightforward as possible! You can call it on 0800 689 1914!
Allow for a flexible itinerary
Although I start out planning everything by-the-hour, I do account for the fact that itineraries may need to change in reality.
We might get tired, hungry or even fancy a spontaneous karaoke-session, so it’s good to leave room for flexibility where possible.
On the Sunday afternoon, we ended up going to Bristol Zoo for a couple of hours, because the weather was brightening up and we wanted to spend some time outside, even though my itinerary had assumed the weather was going to be dreary the entire weekend.
We had a great time at the zoo – and managed to get around the entire gardens before the heavens opened again.
Don’t be afraid to use a map
Whenever I arrive in a new place, wherever in the world it may be, I try to allocate an initial hour to ‘getting my bearings’.
This could involve having a little stroll around the immediate area we are staying – or having a look at a physical map to decipher the proximity of everywhere we want to see.
With everything at the touch of our fingers on a smartphone, often we overlook physical prompts such as maps – but I personally love them, especially as they double up as mementos after the trip.
I actually have a box of maps I keep at home – each one with slightly torn corners, faded parts from being rained on or slightly crumpled folds where I’ve lost the ability to fold it back neatly.
Regardless of their tired appearances, I love looking through them and reminiscing on each individual trip.
And even if you’re rubbish at map reading (my hand is up), getting lost somewhere new is often the best way to discover new places off the beaten track.
I’m not suggesting you get REALLY lost, but we’ve stumbled upon some real hidden gems during city breaks after taking the wrong street!
Pre-plan your outfits
Oh the accumulative hours I’ve spent finding stuff to wear out of a teeny suitcase or rucksack. It’s a total waste of time that you could spend exploring your new surroundings.
These days, I pre-plan all of my outfits for a trip – and before I pack them into my suitcase, I’ll snap a quick picture of each so that I have a reference point of what pieces go together once I’m in the hotel getting ready to go out.
This saves SO much time, effort and frustration – and also means I tend to look far less frazzled, stressed and mis-matched!
It does take a little extra organisation initially, but you’ll thank your past self for it later!
What are your top travel tips? Do you have any obli-cations planned this summer?