Although I don't always need to plan ahead when travelling somewhere (much to the surprise of one friend I spent time with in San Francisco last year), here's what I do when I choose to:
- Create a new map in My Places on Google Maps.
- Add the conference hotel and event location to the map. I like to use the schoolhouse icon for the actual conference, and the bed icon for all lodging. You can change the icons by editing the map, clicking on the location you want to edit, and then clicking on the icon.
- If driving, look at the route and see what's nearby. For this trip, we decided we wanted to stay a couple of nights in Vermont; even though it's not directly on the way, it's close enough, and the fall colours will hopefully be spectacular.
- For everywhere you are staying, research interesting sights to see and restaurants you want to eat at. Mark all of these on the map. You can filter down later if you want to put together a schedule for yourself, or you can just pick and choose while you're there. Having it all on the map will help figure out distances and driving/walking/public transit routes.
- If you really want to make sure you're organized, create a Google Doc (or similar) for yourself to track your itinerary, research on hotels and sight-seeing, and conference scheduling. I've been doing all that and more in my document for this year's Grace Hopper, but I'll soon start using the conference's mobile app to get even more organized.