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

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