Identifying and Managing your Trip Locations

If you’re an independent traveler like me, you may travel to many different locations on the one trip with only your own research to guide you. When the different destinations start to pile up it can be a challenge to work out the best places to visit, not to mention figuring out the logistics of how to get to them efficiently.

I use a simple and effective method that helps me manage my trip locations and gives me all the information I need to make informed decisions about where to go, using readily available tools. 

It is a simple process of identifying the places I wish to visit and saving them as favourites while logged into Google Maps. Then using a smart phone with GPS I am able to reference them as I tour a location. 
This can work even without mobile data available if you preload your maps using your hotel’s wifi.

Pre-Planning

Pre-planning can be done anytime up until the moment you leave your accommodation to begin your tour. For major destinations, particularly places you are staying in, I recommend identifying key areas you wish to visit before you book your accommodation, as the vicinity of the sites may guide you with your decision.
I find using a laptop the easiest way to pre-plan, but it is also easy to mark favourites within the Google Maps smartphone or Tablet app, which is the method I use when on the go.
Step 1 is of course to identify the places you are interested in. There are many sources available including websites, tour books, info desks and guide maps. These days I will always give the ‘Things to Do’ list in the TripAdvisor mobile app a quick glance, as it not only shows popular sights by searched location, but also shows feedback. 
Local tourist maps, easily available from most hotel or tourist desks are an invaluable source of data, but are only available locally. Likewise, asking at the tour desk or tourist information centres will give you good experienced knowledge. Google maps itself is also a useful way to identify places based on broad search terms, like ‘museum’ or ‘gallery’.

Identify Places you want to visit

Step 2 is to locate the area on google maps and save them. To do this search for the name of the place and when google marks it, click on the mark and tap the Save Star.
This will place a small gold star at the location. It is important you are logged into with your google account when you make your saves as this will allow the save to be available across all devices with the same account (ie Smartphone or Tablet) and better yet, will save it forever, which is useful if you are returning to a place or want to recap on a trip.

If Google cannot find the place, or if you are not certain Google has it in the right place, simply find the address of the location and search by address. You can tap on any marker and save it, though you cannot name them without creating your own custom maps.

I also Highly Recommend saving key spots such as your accommodation and train stations for reference purposes. I find this very useful for actually finding where I am staying when first arriving in a new town by train or bus, particularly for Airbnb stays which can be in residential areas.

Save Place you want to Visit

 Out and About
If you are travelling in an area with no access to mobile data it is still possible on many devices to store a buffer of the maps with saved spots that is useable offline. To do this view and zoom in on the map area on your device using your hotel’s wifi before you leave, and your phone/tablet should remember the details. I’ve tested this on Samsung and Apple devices with no issues. If you do lose the data while out, you will need to find a free wifi hotspot and recharge.
The actual places you mark as of interest to you will vary from person to person, but the basic logistics will always be the same. What you want is to be able to see on a map where your spots are and work out efficient ways to visit them, using public transport, walking or taxis. Smartphone apps with gps have the added benefit of showing where you are in relation to them.
Practicality, timeframes and unforeseen sidetracks will all come into play, so you should always be flexible and prepared to compromise. It’s good to have a rough idea of your priorities and rank places from must see to wouldn’t mind if we have time. The most important thing is to have all the data available so you can make informed decisions, which is what this method will give you.

Final map with saved places

Example – Planned walk around Melbourne

Tomorrow morning I plan to go for a walk around Melbourne. Using Tripadvisor ‘Things to Do’, browsing Google Maps and using some past experience, I have identified 8 places of interest.
I may not have time to visit them all, so I have prioritised the places I really want to go to. Some of the places I can plan to pass by on the way to my key points. The important thing is that I have identified them and can see them all clearly on a map and work out my walking route to suit.

The places I have identified are:

  1. Crowne Plaza – where I am staying
  2. Degraves St – Interesting café area where I plan to have breakfast. 1 km from my hotel. High Priority.
  3. Block Arcade – near Degraves St. Will pass through on way north. Low priority.
  4. Bourke St mall – Will pass through on way north. Low Priority
  5. Queen Victoria Markets – Bustling market area. Will walk along Flagstaff Gardens to get here. Med Priority.
  6. Old Melbourne Gaol – I have wanted to visit here for years. High Priority.
  7. Royal Exhibition Building – It’s on the way to next place and should make for a couple of good pics. Low Priority.
  8. Melbourne Museum – If I have time I would like to see this place again. They have some interesting exhibits including a t-rex skeleton. I will have to see how I am going for time, as this is just a morning walk. I plan to go to St Kilda beach for lunch. Med Priority.This should be an interesting walk. It looks like a tram line runs along the park that houses the Museum so I will likely catch a tram back into the main city area and take some photos around Flinders Street Station.
    Because I have identified and mapped out all the places I am interested in, it is easy to work out a route that will take me past them, as well as giving me options to take public transport if I need to, as I can see where all the stations are.So, to sum up, identifying and saving locations on google maps that can be accessed on portable devices can be a useful tool to help manage your self-guided tours.

You can also save spots on the go if you get advice while you are on tour or if you like a particular place or restaurant and want to remember its location. This requires mobile data though.
One disclaimer – Google maps is a great tool, but it is not perfect! It is not uncommon for it to list things in the wrong places, though this is less likely for major attractions. It doesn’t hurt to double check against another source, such as a guide map, just to be sure. Also, if you plan to use the gps on your phone a lot, it may chew through your battery. As smart phones are becoming a key tool and touring days can be long, I recommend all travellers have a secondary battery charging device.
What do you think about my trip planning advice? Got a better way to manage your touring? Please let me know below…

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