Planning, not as Scary as you think

I have been planning this post awhile in my head. During my internet surfing and reading others blog, I have noticed how little posts are about planning for a vacation. Yes, they are those out there talking about what to pack, how to pack, what to bring, how to bring it, and where to go. It seems an alarming number of them do not talk about how to plan!

So either you have to cross over to the blogs about planners or you are left to wonder “How does one plan for a trip.” I think some bloggers have shy away from the subject because either they don’t want to come off too anal or they don’t know how to. Basically, they throw everything in a suitcase and go.

So I figured I should take the plunge and write a post about how to plan for a trip.

Before I do so, there are a couple of things you should know. One I do this for a living, I am a professional special events planner for the city I work for. Okay, technically I am the Special Events Assistant, so my job is basically making sure all our events have all their contracts, permits, checks, payments and inspections organized and ready. I make the Event Planner look organized. And I am good at my job.

I have two trips coming up. One is a quick weekend getaway, and the other is a visit to my parents for a week.  Not what I call jetting off to far off places, but there is some amount of planning.

The last thing I need to tell you is about the planner I used. I started using a Midori Travelers Notebook (or at least my version of it), and I really like the system. It’s not very complicated to use, and easily alter to fit your needs. But more on it later.

So here we go.

Step 1: Have an Idea, not a Plan

dscn3650Before you click away, hear me out. Weather, political climate, and family can change your travel plans so have an idea and use lots and lots of Post-It® Notes.

Everything that looks like interesting, any restaurants I want to try, or experience I want to do, I write down on a Post-It® Notes and stick them to my Midori Travelers Notebook.

I designated two per day and stick the Post-It® Notes on it. If I have reservations, I add a pocket for that day so I can stick the hard copy in it.

I use the Post-It® Notes because it allows me to move them around as I pleased. This helps with planning activities or just having an idea on what I want to do that day.

We found out during the trip to Vero Beach that any water related activity would be out of the question (OJ hand was in a cast). So have back-up plans on things to do was great. We didn’t waste time figuring out what to do. We just went and did it.

I also write on the post-it, the name, address, phone number, and time of operations. All the information is at my figuring tips.

Reservations get jotted down on the pages. Sometimes you just can’t go with the flow.

Step 2:  Read up and talk to the locals—do the research

Blogs are an amazing source of information for us travelers. Because you get a chance to find something out about the area that most travel books don’t tell you about.

Before I go on any trip, I do the research. I check out the local bloggers, and if possible, I talk to people who have lived there or are living there. The local dive bars, hang outs, and things off the beaten path are hidden gems that can make your travels something to write home about.

A couple of blogs lead me to a very good café for Sunday Brunch up in Vero. Another one recommended McGee Gardens (and of course mention bring bug spray).

Step 3: Know what time of year

Why anyone would travel to Florida during the summer months is beyond me. Yes, it is cheaper (except for Disney), but we are smack in the middle of hurricane season, which means for the most part, it rains a lot. A friend of mine traveled down here with her family and spent the whole time in the hotel because it was raining.

When she later told me that, I had to ask why in the world would anyone travel here during the summer. It was cheap. There is a reason it was cheap…most travelers know to stay far away from the tropics when it is summer.

If a place is cheap during a certain part of the year, then make sure you do your research to find out why. Alaska is expensive in the summer time, but dirt cheap in the winter for a reason.

Also, there might be something going on, that you are not aware of.

A pastor friend decided it would be a great idea to travel down to Key West with his young family the last week of October. They got the shock of their life, when they realized they were smack in the middle of Fantasy Fest.

Step 4: Start checking the prices

About a year before, I start doing the research on the prices for airfare and hotel, just so I have an idea. That way I have an idea how much the trip is going to cost.

Also talk to people who fly there a lot. My best friend lives out in Hawaii and she has flown from Hawaii to Florida for only $600 round trip. So I know that when I plan to visit her, to look for that price.

Step 5: Plan the budget

dscn3654You need the money to go. I like to get as much as I can pay for ahead of time (at least the flight and hotel room). I create a budget for my travels and figure out how much things are going to cost. The budget is put in my Midori- and I use Frixion Erasable Pens so that I can add and subtract.

It also gives me a chance to look for deals.  Groupon and Living Social usually have some great coupons, for local attractions. Just make sure you read the fine print and check out the website to see if it is a good deal.

Step 6: Book what you can and what you need

Plane tickets and hotel are always good to book in advanced. Usually, I tried to book everything on a Tuesday; somehow I find this is when everything is the cheapest.

I also signed up for almost every Airline and travel sight, because I am all about racking up the points. I also have their app stored on my phone. The apps are a good way to stay up to date on travel plans.

The last thing you want to do is get there and find out that there is no hotel or that you needed reservations ahead of time to do a particular activity.

Step 7: Print out everything and organized it

I don’t know why people do this, save everything on their phone and not have a hard copy of their reservation. I don’t know how many times while traveling, I have seen friends and strangers try to get something off their phone, when the phone is dead. It’s not pretty!

The next step is to print everything out and organize it. Again the Midori becomes handed. I make pockets or paper clip all the hard copies to their day.  Easy to find, easy to get to, easy to use.

I also have all those Post-It® Notes ideas that I talked to in Step 1 there. So if something falls through, I am on to the next thing.

Step 8: Make a Packing List

This doesn’t go into the Midori, but in my daily planner. For some reason in the middle of work I will remember that I need something and it’s a good place to jot it down.

I also do some research about where I am going and what I will need. My first snowboarding trip, I spent a lot of time watching YouTube video and reading blogs about how to dress for snowboarding. I was glad I did. Other than forgetting my butt pads the first day, I was nice and warm while sliding down the mountains.

I used to travel with the packing list, but I was finding out that I really didn’t use it.

Step 9: Make a To-do list

In my everyday planner, I make a to-do list. Things like getting the passport out of the safety box, putting together my medicine traveling kit, and cleaning the house.

I don’t want to realize on the day before a trip that I forgot to get my passport out of the safety deposit box.  I try to knock out as much as possible, like any supplies shopping or travel documents.

The trip up to my parents, we are planning at least one scuba diving and one snorkeling trip. So in my planner is written, locate scuba licenses, buy Benadryl, and pack scuba/snorkeling gear.

The goal is always to have everything I can do ahead of time done a day before the trip, so I am not stressing out the day of the trip. I was so ahead of the game for Alaska, that I went to have my nails done.

Step 10: Grab the Midori and go

So there you have it, how to plan for a trip. Hopefully, this will help you be less stressful when it comes to planning your get away.

href=””>The Happy Wanderer


My Little Problem


I have a problem, and I didn’t realize it was a problem until it was pointed out by my best friend. There is a reason why she is my best friend; she drives me up the wall, the only person I will probably get arrested with, and pointer of my problems. 

It was during a snowboarding trip in Whistler, BC that she finally decided to have an intervention with me. The conversation went something like this. We were getting in the car after a long day of snowboarding and snowmobiling (where I almost ran over our guide).

Me: Can you hand me the parking pass.

Aimee: Why

Me: for my travel journal

Aimee: you want to keep the parking pass for your travel journal?

Me: Yes

Aimee: Heather, you seriously have a problem.

Me: No I don’t

Aimee: Yes, you do. Hi, my name is Heather, and I am a traveling journal hoarder. I will save everything including a sticker I found on the ground for my travel journal.

Me: In my defense, it was a cool free sticker

Aimee: You have a problem.

Me: No I don’t

Aimee: yes you do.

In this argument continue to we got back to the Inn.

Okay, I will admit I do have a problem because I have spent some (a lot) money, time, and energy in creating a rocking traveling journal. And you would think after all this time; my friends will be used to my weird habit of sticking every business card, hand drawn map, parking pass, tour sticker and other things into my travel journal.

But I have, probably, in my opinion, one of the coolest travel journals.

So how did this habit/problem come about? 

When I was sixteen, I went to Europe for the first time. My grandmother (who was taking my cousin and me) gave us both a travel journal. My cousin didn’t write much in it, but me, any chance I got I wrote into it. When I got back, I made my first scrapbook based on that travel journal.

I would write everything down and then transfer everything I had collected along the way into a scrapbook. But the problem was it took too much time and by the time I was getting started, I was on to the next adventure.

Plus, hauling everything home and trying to figure out what went where wasn’t working for me.

Next step came after a trip to Alaska when I discovered that I had somehow hauled about 10 pounds of stuff and only used half of it. It was around that time I discovered Pinterest and found a whole group of people who were just as addicted to travel journals as I was.  There were so many, with awesome travel journals.

I tried the Smash book, and even though the concept was great. I would put too much stuff in it, and end up having the exploding book (usually on the trip).  Plus, as much as I love the Smash books, they were on the way out when I discovered them. So it became harder and harder to find new ones. Plus, after a couple of trips, I now have a collection of Smash book and scrapbooks.

Next was the use of the Composition Book. It was cheap, but it took a while to set up, and the papers had a tendency to crinkle.  Plus, it didn’t look nice afterward, something that a fifth grader would do. It was on another trip to Colorado that I discovered, I didn’t like my planning part with my actual travel part.  Plans have a way of changing, so this book didn’t allow for the evolution of the traveling.

So it was back to the drawing boards for me.

In October 2014, I discovered Hobonichi Planners and Tomoe River Paper – and it was like the heavens opened up, and the angels started to sing.

For the last couple of years, my planner has come from the Land of the Rising Sun (Japan). This is my planner, work diary, home life scrapbook and everything in between. The paper is amazing and thin, there are a very few things that bleed through, making this idea. Plus the layout allows you to use it how you see fit.  And I thought I could use it for travel journal as well.

But there were two drawbacks. One, my whole work life is in that planner, and if it gets stolen, I am screwed. Two, my whole work life is in that planner, which means I am dragging my work on vacation.

I tried to move to the moleskins but it exploded in the middle of the plane. Nothing like having everything going all over the place as a way to introduce you to everyone who has the misfortune of sitting near you.

So what to do, I want a rocking travel journal, but I need something that I can actually use and will not explode on me.

dscn3674It was one day while I was flipping through my Hobonichi that inspiration hit. I really like Tomoe River Paper, it’s lightweight, and in the two years of using it my Hobonichi, it hasn’t exploded. I bet Hobonichi had to do a blank notebook.

I am glad I didn’t take that bet, turns out they do not have a blank Hobonichi notebook, but a little more digging on the internet and I came across this Esty listening that had blank Tomoe River Paper notebooks (in the same size as my Hobonichi).

And to my amazement, it worked great. The only thing was I need something I could plan my trips in and something to keep all that I have discovered in it.

So another search on Pinterest and tons and tons of YouTube video led me to the Midori Traveler’s Notebook. If you are not familiar with it, this is a kind of throw together, everything is customizable, notebook/planner/dairy, that is based on taking out and putting in different notebooks. There are tons of handmade ones out there. I chose a cool handmade one, mostly because I didn’t want to invest too much into it. The real one comes in leather; mine is made of cloth. It also has a bunch of inserts (or you can make them yourself).

dscn3650And the rest is history.

I still travel with two books now. One is the Midori, or at least my version of it. This one contains all my travel information, reservations, credit card, money, and a small notebook for jotting down things. It works as my planner and carry all. I put stuff that I pick up through the day in it, including an area where I can place all those stickers I get on tours.

And my travel journal, full of all my memories, stays back at the hotel, waiting for the end of the day and a glass of wine, where I will tell it all about my journey. Each evening I transfer all my discoveries to its page.

In another post, I will talk about how to make a rocking traveling journal.

I have listed all the information from this post down below

Instagram photos of my travel journal and midori

Pinterest link

Smash Book

Hobonichi Techo

Where I bought My Travel Journal

Midori Travelers Notebook

Where I bought my Midori Travelers Notebook

Happy Travels!

Ready, Set, Done

A Lasting Reminder of Florida Golden Age of Tourist

I moved to South Florida at the end of the golden era of the tourist industry. Back then Parrot Jungle was located in Ft. Lauderdale, Six Flags over Atlantis was a water park in Hollywood, and there was an Ocean World right off the 17th Street Causeway. I can still remember touching to dolphins in a shallow pool that would make any PEDA member pissed. We weren’t very animal friendly back then. 

  In the mid-80s, these traps disappeared as families were more interested in spending time on the beach, shopping, and a more real Florida. So I was kind of surprised to find in Florida one of those long lost tourist destination reimaged.

       dscn3709  In the 1960s The McKee Jungle Gardens opened up. Spreading over 48 acres, it offered the traveler a glimpse of paradise that Florida was trying to sell. In reality, Florida was still a big swamp back then. With its imported tropical plants, birds, and monkey. It was a place of wonder, delight and a detraction of the real Florida. Sadly, like so many of these sites, it went belly up in the 80S.  Most of its acres were sold off and turned into golf courses. But 18 acres were saved and turned into the McKee Botanical Gardens.

While doing some research on what to do in Vero Beach, I came across a local blogger take on this place. She talked about a beautiful garden and something to kill a couple of hours. So I jotted it down in my notes, so if laying by the pool was busted, I had a backup.

           dscn3727     Turns out, laying by the pool did bust, OJ had surgery on his hand, and he was in the cast. So the pool was out of the questions. So after brunch at a great little café in Vero Beach, we headed over to the gardens to check it out.

After paying the $10.00 charge to get it, we wondered the twisting path around the property. It was the tail end of the lilies being in bloom. The ponds around the property were alive with purple, blue and yellow lilies.

There were a couple of unique things to check out. One was a large grill that would be any barbecuer dreams. We weren’t sure why they had a grill, but it is worth checking out.

Another attraction is the sleeping tree, which is a type of tree that grows sideways instead of up and down.

dscn3769 The gardens also had an art displayed done by Patrick Dougherty called The Royals. He is an artist that twists branches into three dimensional shapes. These were three heads like statues that you can walk around and through.

Along the path are reminders of the past. There were the runes of the aviary that once held a collection of exotic birds, a couple of waterfalls that used to be part of a larger exhibit, and the historical markers talking about what was there.

In its own way the gardens, play homage to the past, admitting it once was a cheesy tourist trap, while being a beautiful gathering of native Florida flora and fauna. Florida’s originally named Pascua Florida, meaning Flowering Easter. There are certain times of the year that Florida lives up to its name.

Wandering around the gardens took about a couple of hours, and I would suggest a bottle of water and some bug spray. The gardens are very well kept, in a natural way, so make sure you have a pair of good walking shoes.

I did realize something, I miss these long ago tourist traps of my youth, and I wonder what my today self would have thought of these places. 

                If you are up in Vero Beach, it is worth checking out.

Check out my pictures

Vero Beach Flicr