Today’s post about planning your next adventure was written by Kate Stull of Popforms. Her article is packed full of great advice that I am finding so helpful as I start to plan my next big trip.
Every summer, I travel to France with my boyfriend’s family – and every summer, without fail, the weeks leading up to the trip are complete chaos. Luckily, when I use that time to set goals and make practical plans to improve my trip, those chaotic early weeks usually result in a more fun, more adventurous, and more relaxing vacation.
The better you plan, the more prepared you’ll be, and the fewer decisions you’ll have to make in the moment, when you’re supposed to be having fun! In the last few years I have collected a few key tips that help me make the most of my time leading up to a trip, and of course, during the trip itself.
Today I want to share my four favourite tips for taking care of the boring stuff early, so that you can have a more fulfilling and amazing vacation.
Start early and make lists
I start making lists weeks before any big trip I have coming up, so that I have plenty of time to remember things that are so easy to forget until the last minute, like cell phone chargers and prescriptions.
Find a journal or notebook, and start recording your ideas as you think of them. Even if it feels silly to write down “pack toothbrush” (how could you forget your toothbrush, right?), it’s good to get in the habit of writing down your good ideas as you have them.
The more notes you take on simple stuff, the more notes you’ll start to have on bigger things too. Think about it: if you’re writing down “pack toothbrush”, you’ll be much more likely to make notes on when you’ll need to do things like renew your passport or buy train tickets. Revisiting your notes often will make it so much easier to remember the important things that will help your trip run more smoothly.
Think about money (more than you think you need to)
You’ve probably already budgeted for things like plane tickets for your big trip, but have you thought about what you’ll eat while you’re traveling? Or where you’ll stay, how you’ll get there, and what costs are associated with the place you’re staying? I almost always end up spending more on travel than I expect to, simply because it’s easy to forget many of the small costs of living that can add up quickly when you’re without your usual home base.
For example, if you’re staying with family on your trip, you can probably expect your accommodation to be free – minus the cost of cooking a nice dinner, perhaps. But if you’re staying in a hotel not only do you have to budget for that, you’ll also need to feed yourself three times a day. Decide in advance how much you can afford to spend on food each day. Can you go to restaurants and coffee shops, or should you be buying baguettes and preparing little snacks to carry in your bag as you sightsee? If you’re camping, you may think you won’t be spending much, but there are still costs to consider. Do you need firewood? Bottled water? Are there nightly camping fees?
In your planning notes, try to write down every single thing you think you’ll need to spend money on during your trip. Record it all, down to a $2 subway fare. The more you think about this stuff in advance, the less you’ll be making decisions on the fly, and the less you’ll be unpleasantly surprised by expenses.
Plan out your work and fun time
If you’re lucky enough to be able to work from anywhere, you’ll probably be able to keep working even during your travels. And while it is awesome to get paid while you’re exploring a brand new place, it’s also too easy to get completely sucked into the work mindset and not live your adventure to the fullest.
In the weeks before your trip, think about what you’ll need to get done for work while you’re gone, if anything. What needs to be finished? What has a deadline? What is flexible? What are your manager’s and peers’ expectations of what you’ll accomplish while you’re gone? And if there are things you’ll need to do while you’re away, when will you get your work done?
Don’t assume you’ll just figure it out on a day-by-day basis. That makes it incredibly hard to make spontaneous choices while you’re traveling. It’s better to plan that Monday and Tuesday will be work days holed up in your hotel room, while Wednesday through Friday will be reserved for travel. Alternatively, you could try devoting your mornings to work and your afternoons to exploration.
When you make a choice in advance about how you’ll spend your time, your trip will be far less stressful. You’ll be able to communicate to your team about what they should expect from you, so you won’t get any surprise urgent emails right before you head out for a day trip. Plus, you’ll be able to enjoy free time completely, knowing that your work is taken care of.
You don’t want to feel guilty for having fun when you think you should be working, or spend all your time working and wishing you were having more fun. You want to be present, whatever you are doing.
Set an intention and write it down
Too often in my life, I have found myself going on trips both big and small just because someone else invited me. I never gave much thought to why I wanted to go somewhere, and as a result, I often found myself wasting time doing nothing, or just sitting around in cafés to fill the time between scheduled activities.
Travel is an incredible opportunity, and the more you know why you want to be somewhere, the more you will get out of your time away.
Now, this doesn’t mean writing down a long to-do list of sights you must see or things you must get done. Instead, think about how you want to feel. What do you want to be able to say you did when you get home? What one theme or word would represent a successful trip for you?
Whether you’re going to Hawaii for a week or living abroad for months, this really works – just scale it to the size of your trip. Try to think of a theme or an intention, and record it. That way, it’s cemented in your mind and you’ll be able to stay present and aware during your travels. If your goal is to relax and connect, write that down. Revisit your notes often, and make it a point to do things that are in line with your intentions.
Do the boring stuff early, so that you can have fun later.
Travel is supposed to be fun, but it can quickly become stressful if you’re making decisions about things like money, schedules, and work in the heat of the moment. By planning your trip and being practical in advance, you can ensure that all the right choices have already been made and that you’ll feel free to soak up the amazing experience of being in a new place.
And that’s what it’s all about.
What do you do to plan for an upcoming adventure? What’s your favourite way to stay organized while making plans?
Kate Stull is a blogger and the co-founder of Popforms, a company building tools to help technical leaders be more amazing at their jobs. She also just launched a Kickstarter for The Spark Notebook: a notebook that combines the function of a big life-planner into a beautifully designed, simple notebook. Whether you’re planning how to get work done abroad, or you’re just looking for a beautiful space to plot your next trip, The Spark Notebook is a perfect place for your big ideas. Check it out here!