“How did you plan your trip to…”?  This is one of the most common questions I get while I’m on, or after I’ve come back from, one of my solo trips.  The answer can vary depending on the trip, but I’m going to share my 5 steps to plan a vacation, specifically my December 2022 European Christmas trip.    

I worked my way from biggest to smallest.

1.  Flight (and some Hotels) Using Delta Vacations

I have booked two trips with Delta Vacations in the past.  One of them was a trip to Amsterdam in January 2020 that I LOVED.  It was so easy.  The other was canceled due to the world closing, so I had a voucher to use from that.  I began to search random airports for round trip flights to Europe to see if I could find any decent deals.  The only problem is that I didn’t want to start and end in the same place; I wanted more flexibility to see different cities and countries. I decided that I needed a bit more help trying to plan this because on the Delta Vacations site, you’re really limited to simply booking the flight and then hotels in that city.  I often ended my search there and would just book the trip on my own, but…

Did you know that you can completely customize your trip with Delta Vacations?  All you have to do is give them a call and one of their representatives will help you with every single aspect of the planning.  I spoke with a lovely lady and told her my thoughts on wanting to see Christmas lights, winter weather, and listed a couple of airports I was interested in flying in and out of.

This incredibly kind woman helped me for well over an hour and couldn’t have been more professional and also enjoyable to speak with.  After crunching some numbers, we landed on a plan.  This plan was only going to be part of my trip, so let me tell you which parts were booked through Delta Vacations:

  • Flights (outbound - Atlanta to Milan and inbound - London to Atlanta)
  • Hotel in Milan: 1 night
  • Hotel in London:  4 nights

Essentially, I planned the front and back ends of the trip and had to fill the gaps in the middle.   I knew that I wanted to see snow and the countryside, so I started googling train options.  I’d seen so many videos on Instagram of the beautiful red trains chugging along through the snow-capped mountains in Switzerland and had always wanted to be on one in person.

2.  Hotels, Trains, and a Day Trip with Railbookers

While searching Swiss trains on Google, I ended up finding a company called Railbookers.  They plan entire vacations around railways including flights, hotels, tours, and more.  I filled out their online form with what I was interested in and waited for a response.  

That day, a representative called me to help plan my itinerary.

I did not want to spend a ton of money, so I had to kiss my dreams of those red trains goodbye.  I told the Railbookers rep that I really wanted my entire package to be no more than $1,200 for the 4 nights (thinking that was impossible), but to my surprise, he went to work looking up hotels and trains that would take me from Bern, Switzerland (I was crashing their with a friend for the weekend) and to London, where the tail end of my trip was booked.

He did it.  He made it happen.  Here’s what was included in my Railbookers package:

  • 3 Day Swiss Pass (This allows you to ride on most railways, buses, and boats for the duration of the pass.  It also provides a 50% discount on many mountain railways and cable cars as well as free entry to over 500 museums in the country.)
  • Train from Bern, Switzerland to Interlaken, Switzerland
  • Hotel Baären:  2 Nights (Sigriswil, Switzerland)
  • Round trip train ticket to Grindelwald
  • Round trip gondola ticket from Grindelwald to Jungfraujoch railway station (“The Top of Europe”)
  • Train from Interlaken, Switzerland to Brussels, Belgium (via Frankfurt, Germany)
  • NH Collection Hotel:  2 Nights (Brussels, Belgium)
  • Eurostar Train Ticket from Brussels, Belgium to London, England

3.  Experiences

Once I knew I had all of my flights and hotels arranged, along with almost all of my trains, I began one of my favorite steps of planning my solo trips:  the experiences!

Ever since I went on my first Airbnb experience in 2021, I have been booking these on every single trip.  They’re tours and immersive experiences that are incredibly easy to find and book because they’re located right in the Airbnb app.

Experiences I booked:

I also booked tickets to see Cabaret in the West End in London, but this was done through the show’s ticketing site.

4.  Train Tickets

Any train tickets that I didn’t have from Railbookers, I was able to book next. This included my train from Milan to Bern. I don’t always book every single train ticket in advance; it depends on whether or not I know exactly when I plan to leave a city to head to the next one.  I typically use an app called Trainline. It’s really user-friendly; you can see the schedules for trains for any city and country as well as book your tickets right on the app.

5.  Packing List and Getting Organized

Once most of the logistics are out of the way, I make a packing list and start to slowly get items and clothing ready so that I don’t forget anything important. I also like to organize any important documents that may be needed, both physically and digitally, so that they’re easy to access. I often will even make a spreadsheet (along with the TripIt app for more details) of my schedule that has all of my accommodations, trains, etc. and their prices so I can keep track of costs.

Leave the rest for the trip!

I am not a foodie, so I’m not somebody who makes restaurant reservations in advance.  I’m also not someone who frequents museums (unless there’s something very specific I want to see), so I usually am not booking formal tours during my planning process.

While I like to have a lot of my trip planned, I also like to leave some room for rest and spontaneity.  Sometimes you need a day to just relax and reenergize.   Other times, you don’t know who you’re going to meet or what opportunities may arise while you’re there.  One example is a day trip that I took to Stockhorn, Switzerland with two friends of mine that I spent a weekend with.  We planned that outing the morning of and had the most fantastic time.

Planning a vacation can seem overwhelming, but if you break it down to one step at a time, it’s much more manageable.  I always recommend starting very general and working your way towards the details.  Get your flights out of the way first.  Then, decide what cities you want to stay in and find your accommodations.  Next, begin looking for activities, tours, experiences, museums, etc. that you want to see and do.  

About the Author

Hi! My name is Terry and I'm a former elementary school teacher. After 13 years in the classroom, I decided to take my side hustle of creating educational resources full-time.

Now, I work remotely and have the time and flexibility to do what I've always wanted to do more of: TRAVELING. I've created an online space where I can share my adventures along with tips for anyone who has had the desire to seek adventure, but may have things holding them back. Whether it's financial reasons, or you simply don't have anyone to go with - I'm here to help you get inspired to just go for it and book the trip!

If you're looking for that push/motivation, follow along with me! Make sure you check me out on TikTok and Instagram, too!