Trip planning: a blueprint

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There is nothing more satisfying than organising that next big trip. All the decision making has been done and you have bitten the bullet, booked tickets and forked over wads of cash to travel agents. It’s a fantastic feeling.

There is a process that takes place when organising any trip. Elements will change slightly from individual to individual but the general blueprint stays about the same. If you stick to this blueprint, in theory, very little can go askew.

The Decision

Without the need to state the obvious, you need to decide on a destination. After a long stretch of travel inactivity, I am finally back on the horse. Due to a family wedding, choosing the destination was taken out of my hands, eliminating the difficult task of deciding where to go but for many people, this is the best part.

Rolling out maps on the floor and scouring the globe for a country is a fun proposition. This might seem easy but if you wrote down a list of places you wanted to visit in your lifetime, it’s not going to be limited to a token trip to England and a road trip interstate. Even if you don’t want to go overseas, there are still plenty of places you wouldn’t mind seeing. My own list contains 20+ countries and several places within Australia, of which roughly only a quarter are affordable and realistic.

Don’t be fooled- this is not as easy as choosing what to have for dinner at the pub (which is still difficult at times, to be honest)- put a little bit of thought into it.

The Research

With the hard part over, now comes the research. If you’re anything like me you make grand plans that you don’t realise are becoming outrageously audacious. You will open a Lonely Planet guidebook and quickly decide that everything is doable, marking every second page with a point of interest. This is what happens during the research phase of trip planning. You become like a toddler walking into a pet shop- “I want that one and that one and that one and that one and…”

In the excitement of finally making a decision, it can be easy to lose perspective of what you can both afford and have the time to do. For example, when visiting Vietnam, a country I mention regularly and would visit more often if I had the time, it is easy to look at a map and think that everything is easily accessible. With so many things to do and see from top to bottom, wanting to do it all is a natural progression. Becoming an expert on Vietnamese tourist attractions via guidebook is fine until you discover that it can be upwards of 10 hours on a bus, train or in a car between major cities and attractions. When you only have two weeks in a country, there is a significant difference between knowing what you want to do and what you can do. The term “Less is more” is fairly relevant.

p1000925

The Booking

For reasons completely unknown to me, booking always seems the most nerve wracking step. Maybe because you actually have to follow through with all your talk about going overseas and this is the point of no return. Or maybe because you have to hand over large quantities of cash that you will never see again. Either way if I had a dollar for every time someone I knew told me they were planning to head off OS but at the last minute didn’t end up going, I would be able to afford to fly to all the different destinations they constantly talked about.

It can be a lengthy process. It never seems as simple as picking a flight and then paying. You have to double check everything and then make decisions about travel insurance and accommodation. Then you have to pay. Not a five minute job. This goes for both online booking and travel agents. My personal preference is to go with a travel agent merely for human contact. Or it might be because I’m lazy. The idea that someone else is doing all the work for me is incredibly appealing.

I get it though. It’s an expensive financial investment and some people are harder to separate from their cash than others. Everyone knows someone like this. They are the ones who would rather take a flight on an obscure airline with questionable safety records, making three stop overs, just to save $100 on a fare. You have to take your hat off to these people, not for the ability to stretch a dollar (tight arses) but for still being alive.

p1000754

The Plan

The final stage involves making a plan you will actually be able to achieve. As opposed to the approach taken in the ‘Research’ stage, you are a little more in touch with reality. This is due mainly to either some kindly advice from your travel agent when you booked or some less subtle hints from your friends. At least the travel agent is tactful about it, usually raising an eyebrow and needing to say nothing more than, “Oh. Wow. Umm, Okay then,” to get their point across. When you ask whether you might be trying to do too much they smile and nod, content that they have significantly improved your trip already. Friends just laugh and say, “How the hell are you going to be able to do all that? You made of money? Idiot.”

On my upcoming adventure to America, I am flying into New York City. I am here for just six days before I need to fly down south for involvement in a wedding. My original plan was to hit up not only New York but also Boston and Washington as well. In hindsight, this was one of the more unobtainable plans I had ever concocted. If I had stuck to this plan I would have had enough time to arrive at each city, stepped out of the taxi, looked around and say to the taxi driver, “That’ll do, on to the next one.” The fact I thought I could do New York in just two days was plain ridiculous. It took my brother’s partner to gently remind me New York is a holiday on its own. Doing one place well rather than several poorly is always advisable, even if it doesn’t seem that way.

The rest is up to you!

P1000909.JPG

It doesn’t matter if it’s your first trip ever or your tenth for the year, going through this process is supposed to be a fun experience, one you should embrace not detest. At the end of the day you are travelling, something not everyone gets the opportunity to do.

Wayward Tip: give the webpage Rome2rio (www.rome2rio.com) a go when planning your next trip. It gives you the cheapest cost of travel between any two destinations you enter and takes out any guesswork. A great tool for planning.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s