While I was looking for different travel bloggers to interview regarding Travel itineraries, I stumbled across Ashley who got in touch with me via email. Ashley runs her own travel blog called No Place Like Anywhere.

Everyone has their own style of traveling and Ashley has her own unique way. Since work takes her around the world, Ashley has an interesting take to offer us on how she manages her travel itineraries and remote work.

Let’s see what she has to say, shall we?

Hi Ashley. It’s great to have you with us. Could you introduce yourself and your blog so that our readers can get to know you better?

No Place Like Anywhere

This Boutique bar in Budapest was so cool; this drink was called the Watson and was served in a box you had to unlock.

Sure! I live in Nashville with my husband and our two cats, Cosmo and Dexter. I run the Creative Department for a small e-learning development company, and my husband is our lead writer, so we work together from home. The company started as my parents’ business so remote work and travel have always been a major part of my life, and I come from a family of writers so I’ve always loved sharing stories.

I started blogging early last year as a creative outlet, to share my travel experiences, and actually also as a way to explore my family history a bit — my grandmother gave me her travel memoirs (typed on a typewriter in a 3-ring binder) before she died and I just never took the time to dive into them. Now that I am, I feel like I’m getting to know her finally. One day, I’d like to put together a collection of our family travel memoirs by three generations of Schwartau – my grandmother, my father and me. The blog is the first step in doing that 🙂

During our previous interaction you mentioned that you take your work along with you when you travel. I think that is almost every travelers dream. It must get tough though. Can you talk about some of the difficulties you face when planning your travel itinerary? Is the availability of internet one of the hurdles that you need to overcome?

thriftytravelertips@gmail.com

A local’s only beach in Hawai!

Yes! Without high-speed internet we can’t do our jobs, and if we can’t do our jobs then we feel guilty about how much we travel! 🙂 It’s pretty easy now to make sure the AirBNB (or hotel) has internet and worst-case we can use our phones as a hotspot.

But when were traveling through Europe, for example, we did not get an EU data plan so lived in Airplane Mode (wifi only) the entire time. That meant that every single place we went, we’d ask for the wifi password, turn on our VPN before connecting, and then get online. It actually wasn’t as bad as we expected since every place we went in Europe, whether it was a museum, restaurant, trains, tiny mom and pop cafe, had wifi. We found it to be more ubiquitous than at home!

The other challenge is to balance work-fun on workcations and making sure my team back home can reach me when they need to and that I’m still being a good boss while on the road. I manage 8 people, interface with clients, and lead all of our production/development so communication is key. If I know I’m going to be offline or have a hard time getting online, I spend a little extra time in the days before covering all my bases with my team to make sure nothing gets neglected.

It’s interesting how planning styles change over time. Have you found yourself planning your itineraries differently? How so?

No Place Like Anywhere

A Street Festival In The Hague.

As a planner of all things (parties, work projects, our social schedules), it used to be my nature to plan our activities ahead of time, booking tickets for attractions or planning what we’d see each day. Over time, I figured out that this much planning actually stressed me out instead of giving me peace of mind. What if we were late? What if we changed our minds? What if we wanted to be spontaneous? And my husband is much more laid-back, go-with-the-flow and inclined for spontaneity so he did not like my super detailed itineraries.

So we have a compromise now that works well for both of us: we book all of our travel and accommodations ahead of time, so we know where we’re staying and how we’re getting there, but we don’t book anything else ahead of time. We’ll spend time researching where we’re going and make a list of things that interests us, put together a Google map, and group together attractions, restaurants, bars, etc. and say, “Okay on Saturday we can do this area, Sunday we can do this area.” With just a general idea of a plan guiding us, we can still stumble on the unexpected but still be sure to hit up the must-sees that we don’t want to miss.

A good example of this in action: We spent 2 weeks traveling around Europe before doing a 4 week home exchange in the Hague: 8 days in Barcelona, 3 days in Paris, 2 days in Bruges. We booked our AirBNBs and trains and knew what some of the key spots we wanted to hit up, but we didn’t decide anything until we arrived. We’d ask bartenders and locals we met where we should go and just wandered around. It was so much fun and we saw so much and did not feel stressed at all, and we still managed to see a lot of the big ticket items, meet a bunch of locals, and even stumbled upon a big dance party at 1 am.

There’s a fine line between planning too much and planning too little. 

Last year, we went to Puerto Rico and I wanted to give my husband a break so I literally planned nothing aside from our AirBNB. I looked up the surrounding area a little, all the cool stuff we could do on the island, but then decided that I would try something out of character and not plan a single thing; not even a list of things we wanted to do. This trip ended up being one of our favorite trips, but because we didn’t book anything in advance, we totally missed out on getting to do the bioluminescent bay since all of the tours were booked the week we were there. We still had a blast, and our very spontaneous day of renting a car and driving around the island is my favorite, but I do wish we could have done the bioluminescent bay. I guess we’ll just have to go back! 

Shawn and I love to experience travel like a local. I was really excited when I heard that it is something you enjoy too. How do you manage to make the ‘local experience’ a part of your trip?

No Place Like Anywhere

We discovered the immense beauty of Puerto Rico by getting in a car and driving around.

First off, we never stay in hotels (if we can avoid it. The one big exception is on work trips sometimes that’s the easiest thing to do). We usually opt for AirBNBs, visiting friends or a doing a Home Exchange (something we’ve done twice now and want to do more of). We ask friends or research online which neighborhood would be the most in-line with our personality (for example, we decided to stay in the East Village in New York on a recent trip as opposed to staying in a hotel near Times Square or something more touristy).

Secondly, we don’t go to chain restaurants and aren’t afraid to stumble into what clearly looks like a local dive bar. Then, no matter where we eat, we sit at the bar — this is for two reasons: first, you usually get faster service and don’t have to wait for a table; and second, you get to talk to the bartenders and other patrons. We’ve had some really fun nights meeting locals while on the road. We spent 2 days in San Francisco at the end of our honeymoon, going to 19 establishments in 48 hours. At each place, we’d ask, “Where should we go next?” and head in the direction of whatever recommendation the bartender gave us and would stop at places along the way we found interesting. We walked something like 20 miles and ate so much food and met so many interesting people, including a couple from Sweden that we’re still friends with on Facebook!

Thirdly, we don’t tend to book tours. Part of that is because I’ve come to not like having my whole day planned, and partly because: as a local, do YOU go on tours? Google can provide you all the information you need if you’re interested in the history of something, and giving yourself the freedom to wander on your own or do you own walking tours will let you find hidden courtyards and side streets you wouldn’t get to explore if you were stuck in a group tour. You don’t need a tour guide to tell you how old the Sagrada Familia is or when they painted the Sistine Chapel.

Fourth, we talk to EVERYONE. It might be because we’ve lived in the South for so long that it’s habit for us to strike up a conversation with anyone (we could probably talk to a wall!), but it has led to many interesting conversations with everyone from fellow patrons and servers to uber drivers and people standing in line. One night in Barcelona, we ended up hanging out with this girl from Romania (who we still stay in contact with) while drinking at a bar where the bartender was French-Moroccan. A group of German guys on a bro trip came in, a Dutch guy and his girlfriend did card tricks for us, and a group of French guys came in on their stag night, and we ALL ended up having the most fun, international (and slightly drunken) evening because we just talked to everyone. That was one of the best nights of our European trip and it was NOT something you could plan.

Have friends and family ever joined you on your working vacations? Did it change the way you planned your travel itinerary?

No Place Like Anywhere

A view from Sacre Coeur

Just my parents, as they are the ones who taught me how to “workcate”. 🙂 I learned my travel habits from them so we don’t have to change a whole lot when they travel with me. Frankly, if any friends did want to travel with us, I don’t think we would change how we do things. If they wanted to do a tour or things different from us, then I’d say we could book our accommodations/travel ahead of time and then each do our own thing during the day, meeting up for a meal a day, for example. I don’t want anyone to be stressed or anxious while traveling so I’m a big supporter of ‘You do you’ which also means I’ll do me 🙂

I keep telling my readers that planning a travel itinerary is an art and a skill. It is honed with practice and experience. We would love to hear if you have any tips that you could share with our future travel itinerary planners.

No Place Like Anywhere

A day of wandering around Budapest with nothing more than Google Maps and each other.

Make time for research! Planning an itinerary with desirable flight times, affordable accommodations in good neighborhoods, and that gives all travelers a little bit of what they want takes TIME and PATIENCE. My grandmother’s favorite saying when I was a kid was “Patience and fortitude” and I didn’t truly understand it until I was an adult coordinating our, sometimes complicated, travel plans.

Don’t procrastinate! Too often I hear from friends and family about how stressful trip planning can be, but I think that’s only because they didn’t give themselves enough time to do the necessary research. It can be really rewarding and personally I find it satisfying to make a travel itinerary.

Plan but don’t overplan! Allow for a little spontaneity but be sure not to miss out on the attractions or activities that are on your bucket list. I say aim for 60/40 — if you’re more of a planner, then leave 40% of the trip “unplanned”, and if you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants, then plan at leave 40%.

Group your attractions together! Efficiency and logic play a big role in how I work, so they also affect how I plan trips. It makes no sense to go all the way up to Sacré Coeur then down to the Eiffel Tower and then over to the 1st arrondissement. No. Make a list of the things you know you want to see, group them together logically and wander around the surrounding area to find other gems and memories.

Don’t try to do it all! These places aren’t going anywhere, so if you don’t have time to hit up the Statue of Liberty this time, it’ll be there the next time. If you spend your whole trip trying to see every famous attraction and do every typical thing, then you miss out on the essence of a place and will exhaust yourself trying to be tourist instead of experiencing the city you’re visiting.

Woah! Ashley definitely had a lot to tell us. I think it is interesting how they manage to balance work and travel so neatly. It is the kind of life that would be a dream come true for so many of us! You can catch Ashley on Instagram and Twitter if you like. Don’t forget to stay tuned for our next interview with the next travel blogger. Hmmm… I wonder who that will be.

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