The 8 Steps of Trip Planning
You start searching on skiplagged. You could go to Portland, Vancouver, or Las Vegas!? Possibilities are seemingly endless. The blood is pulsing through your veins, you stop and think, "maybe I really shouldn't be spending all of my money on this silly 4 day trip to wherever sounds good at that moment." The next day you pull the trigger though and have 3 months before you take off to the place your heart fell in love with first, or the place with the cheapest plane ticket.
I think sometimes we look at a price and all too often think about the physical benefits we'll get from that. Wow. It's going to cost me $500 to fly to see my brother? Jeez. Well.. what If I drove? What if I went to this place that's $300 cheaper? What I've found is that experience often turns around and gives you WAY more than that plane ticket would ever cost, and here's how in the 8 Steps of Trip Planning.
The benefits start as soon as you buy the ticket. This could be to France, Maine, or to see your friends and family wherever they might happen to be, your mind goes into this euphoric trip planning state. You start smiling more, oftentimes uncontrollably out of the blue. I'm no doctor, just an engineer, so I really don't know what blood pressure does, but I know pressure can be bad, and I think your blood pressure instantly drops when you buy a plane ticket wherever you want to go. It doesn't have to be a plane ticket though. Maybe you just booked a hotel, or committed to a friend that you would be there. This is Step 1: The Commitment.
After the commitment comes quick phase of Step 2: Second Guessing Your Decision. In realistic terms, you've really only been looking at visiting this place for 30 minutes, maybe an hour MAX and somehow you chose this place because, there was word your friend from first year of college was going to be passing through, or this person you met at a climbing clinic one day was going to be in the area for a couple days and you could meet up. It's also possible the area just got absolutely abolished by snow and you're going to take advantage of all that fresh powder. Whatever the reason, that first 3 minutes after the commitment, you start rethinking the plans. The good part for you though is, you guessed it, you're committed so you can't back out now.
Which brings us to Step 3: The Obsession. You're going to buy the guidebook, you're going to look at pictures on Pinterest for endless hours. Step 3 should be the longest part of the trip planning process. It is the part in the process that is basically the "Honeymoon Stage" in a relationship. You're invincible in this stage and spending way more time than you probably should be looking up videos, pictures and trip reports. This is where planning a trip really has its benefits because it brings you to the top of the world. Obsessing about the destination is actually an extremely critical part because it comes into play later when you actually start to plan for the trip. You basically need to figure out what is awesome to make sure you hit on that short time you're there. Do you want to see the sunrise. Is there a fantastic river you really need to run if the water levels are up? Does Mike's Taco Stand with the Five Star rating on Trip Advisor open that early in the season? Big questions. At this point in the stage you're going to start forming an idea of how you want the trip to go and what it's going to look like. Step 3 is a crucial part in the trip planning process. If you're not excited to go, it means you're stuck in Step 2, and being in that area for more than 5-10 minutes is dangerous. You don't want to be like biscuits and flake.
Step 4: The Actual Planning. From the time you committed until now, you really haven't planned anything out, but because you have spent so much of your spare time in Step 3 the clock is winding down and you're actually going to figure stuff out. This is where secondary payments may take place. Air B&B locations are decided upon. You lock down the dates for the rental car. Theres a mold of clay that is formed to look like the vacation you have been fantasizing about all this time. A crucial insider tip for this is to NOT PLAN EVERYTHING OUT!! Leave stuff to chance. everything is just in a tentative state in Step 4. Yes, you need to identify your must haves for the trip, but you also need to be flexible with the other time on your trip. Things might get a little stressful in this stage especially if you're going with other people. Don't be afraid to venture away from each other though and spend sometime apart. Everyone needs their own alone time, and everyone is taking time off to get what they want out of the trip.
Now we're on to the exciting part. The panic before you leave when everything seems to be piling up at work and you can't imagine how you would ever take a 4 day weekend, and toss out the question of a full week! Step 5: HOLY CRAP HOW AM I EVER GOING TO MAKE IT?!. Spoiler Alert. You can't stop time. You're going to leave for that trip at the same time if you've got all your stuff done or not. But get it done, really.
Which leads into Step 6: The Trip. Relax, or not, depending on what your goals are for the trip. Don't think about work or what you left behind. Fall back into that obsession stage, but breathe because you're on your way. While you're there make the most of the trip. Enjoy the sunrises and sunsets, the waves on the beach, the wind in your hair and the sun/snow/rain on your face. Take pictures, but stay off your phone. When you're on vacation you don't need an excuse not to text that person back. They don't know if you have cell service or not. Don't reply, enjoy the moment.
Step 7: Unlimited Smiles. Your vacation just went as planned, you have a ton of instagram worthy pictures to share for the next couple of months. When you get back to your job following the vacation you're ready to be as productive as you were on day one. You're chipper in everyday life and dreaming of a time when it was simpler and you were so spontaneous for taking that adventure you thought about for no more than 25 minutes. Which leads us to;
Step 8: Realize you need a break and plan another adventure. Do it. When have you ever regretted it? Those trip costs are mere pennies in what a good trip will do for you mentally for the months to come.
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