PLANNING (ˈPLANɪŊ/) NOUN
THE PROCESS OF MAKING PLANS FOR SOMETHING.
“THE PLANNING SHOULD BE EVERY BIT AS ENJOYABLE AS THE EVENT ITSELF”
Planning trips is a past-time of mine that helps me sate the travel bug. It is very much a part of the journey and – when well-done – can really make a difference in your overall experience. Always having a trip planned and another trip in the pipeline to plan gives me something to look forward. It’s my little secret to always feeling like I am on holiday.
When I create an itinerary it’s always for a period of a week or two. A meticulously planned, printed out, spiral bound excel packet complete with printed copies of booking confirmations is created and off I go. When’s the next flight, what time does the car come, what time do we need be at whatever location, what’s the address of the hotel, etc. My brain is constantly going and is three steps ahead. Knowing I have my spreadsheet to quickly reference details of my itinerary gives me the peace of mind that all is sorted and I can simply enjoy.
I know what you are thinking – “with all that effort to plan a two-week trip, how in the hell are you going to manage planning seven months?” The answer is simple – adapt.
Don’t get me wrong – my current spreadsheet is a masterpiece – but we don’t want it to be too set in stone. Too Rigid. Too Planned. Flexibility is something we wanted to build into our journey. Here’s how we did it.
Here are 5 steps we took to plan our trip around the world.
Having both done a fair bit of travel, Rob and I decided to independently create a list of places around the world that we wanted to explore and prioritized them. Doing so independently meant that we wouldn’t be influenced by the other’s list or travel past. We wanted to avoid as much overlap as possible so we can make memories in new places together. We compared lists and reviewed where there was overlap.
//“BEST TIME” MATRIX
Narrowing down the list was tough. Seeing the world isn’t about racing around ticking off boxes. We reminded ourselves of what we both wanted to experience on our trip to begin whittling down our plans. We plotted our locations on a matrix that was broken down by month by continent by the standard “best time to visit.” The matrix wasn’t purely about nice weather, but could we do what we wanted to do in that time period? For example – we ended up taking Japan off the list as the best time to climb Fuji was also the best time to trek the W Trek in Patagonia. One was prioritised and the other left off the matrix for another trip in the future.
People often make the mistake of focusing too much on the money part up front. If you wait for the perfect time to go on a trip around the world it will never happen. Don’t make the mistake of trying to fit a trip within a budget. Fit your budget into your trip. Your budget will dictate your mode of travel, type of accommodation, and how often you eat out. These are decisions we make while at home, so why not do the same on the go? Focus on what you want to get from your trip and let the budget come later.
So we knew where we wanted to go and the general direction that we were going to take. We put our destinations in a calendar-like excel file to start eyeing out what the journey would look like with an element of time layered in. We began fleshing out the trip by focusing on loose time frames and larger activities we were looking at within each destination. Key here is being flexible – this is not a marathon. Starting with the bigger picture view of the trip will make the following steps easier.
Now it’s time to commit. With an idea of where you want to go and when, you can start to create a trip skeleton by booking some of the larger, long-haul flights. We did a bit of research on the standard Around the World tickets and found it was actually cheaper to book legs of the trip for our destinations individually. We also looked at our Air Miles coffers to see what we had available to us. Knowing our basic route, we were able to identify when we could use our air miles and ended up scoring a series of free and cheap flights. Tweaking your departure date here and there can also help save you money. In general, mid-week and holiday flights are cheaper.
From there it’s about taking each leg of the trip in bite size chunks. What do you want to see, what would you like to do, where would you like to stay, etc. The level of planning you do at this stage depends on how your personal preference. Some will have every detail planned. Others will use the skeleton to go where the wind blows.
To ensure we allowed ourselves room for spontaneity, we tried to strike a balance of both.