Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh, Scotland. Summer 2013.
…It’s a very good place to start.
So if I’m posting/you’re reading this at the beginning of March and your trip is during June and/or July, you’ve hopefully done some of the work I’ll be posting about already. If so, GREAT! This can be a checklist of what you’ve done, or ideas of what to add. If not, don’t fret! You still have time. You should, however, get the ball rolling—at least, if you are like the average American who needs a plan of where they’ll be staying and sleeping (at the very least) before they head off. So, here we go (keeping it relatively simple and stress free. The ABC’s if you will. After all, you don’t want to hate the planning so much, you never want to go anywhere ever again):
What you will need before sitting down:
Pencil(s)—different colors if you’re getting fancy
A calendar and/or supplies to make one (poster board)
Computer/ internet access
Guide book(s)—optional and should really be bought after the first part of planning
And most importantly, an idea
Start with your notebook—the best option is a small (dimensionally, not just thin) spiral bound that you can fit into a day bag or purse. You’ll be carrying this around with you before and during the trip so make it manageable but thick enough to have room for budgeting and journal notes throughout planning and traveling.
After writing your information—name, address, phone number, ect.—on the introduction or first page, go onto the first clean page and write down a few questions to guide your process such as:
Where are you going?
What is your time frame?
What is your budget? (we’ll focus on this one and those after more in a later post)
What are your interests?
Do you want a theme/ objective?
What is your mode(s) of transportation?
On the next page begin by answering WHERE you are planning to go. This can be the country/countries or state(s) or even city/cities depending on the breadth or the detail you know before you do any research. Leave some space to fill in specifics later, ie. cities or specific stop points. (Leave this as is for now. You’ll circle back when you begin your research)
Next question to consider—this will take place looking at a calendar (and, yes, I recommend an old school paper version), rather than your notebook— what is the TIME FRAME you’re looking at? The time frame you give yourself really dictates if you can hit all the places you jotted down for question one (even before you look further into specific events or not-to-be-missed destinations). For example, if you put 3 countries in the Europe—even relatively small ones—but give yourself two weeks (some of you may laugh but, trust me it’s been done), you may find yourself swarmed and in WAY over your head. I’ve done road trips a-plenty wherein 2 weeks have actually been plenty, while the last trip I took was 5 weeks through Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England and I did not want to come back because there was still so much to do!
If your trip is contained within the span of a month, using the calendar as is should be fine. If not, like my five week trip, you may want to consider making a special trip calendar. This can also be helpful for shorter trips if you want to write your plans out on a larger surface than the average pre-made. You can set up a calendar on a large (to fit all the days and possibly details) piece of poster board. Set up your squares just like a calendar—7 days across, though it doesn’t matter what day of the week you start on (just start with the day you leave). This may pan out well later as the people at home can simply look through your calendar to see whereabouts you are.
My trip/planning notebook and trip calendar.
The last trip I took—the five week, four country one I mentioned—was the first I planned all by my lonesome. I took the budget and the countries and did it all. I say to really start the process of planning now based on that trip planning experience. I was auditioning for a free lance editing job while planning so I can tell you, life knows exactly when to speed up on you; right when you need it to slow down. I put together one of the calendars I’ve described and, I’m telling you, it saved my life. Really simply, these are my foundational blocks—my ABC’s of trip planning… well at least part one of them.