Do you ever wonder how people travel around the world seemingly without effort? Seeing photos on Instagram or Facebook of a new place every week makes travelling look appealing. But if we pull back the curtain, what happens behind the scenes?
People either love or hate travel planning. Those who love it find the project management, organizing, and logistics thrilling (hi friends!). Those who hate it are exhausted by the decisions, planning, and budgeting (hi Dad!). All the moving pieces are like a big puzzle, with the picture you later see on Instagram; effortlessly captured on a perfect day.
Truth #1: Do you have the skill set?
This is not meant to be an ugly truth, but certain people naturally lean towards project management, organization, and logistical planning. Are you one of those people? If not, do you want to be? Some people don’t have the time or energy to learn or enhance these skills. If you fall into that camp, that's okay! Travel agents and consultants still exist exactly for those people. If you feel confident in your organization skills, travel planning probably comes easily to you. There's no right or wrong answer, but it's important to know yourself and your skills well enough before you begin planning so you know where and when to ask for help.
Truth #2: It's not easy
Travel planning is not for the faint-hearted. Yes, you can get lucky and accidentally stumble onto a great deal or book a hotel in a phenomenal location without realizing it, but you can also get stuck in some weird places, or end up paying far too much for transportation. You need to consider all the details of your trip prior to booking anything.
- How many people during your trip? Is everyone traveling together?
- How long are you traveling?
- Budget - including food and spending money
- Location - including time of year, high season vs low season, weather
- Tourist attractions or off the beaten path
- Travel documents
- And so much more…
Travel planning takes research, understanding of your destination, understanding of the local culture, and at least a general outline of where you want to go. This also usually means hours on the computer or your device of choice. Even if you prefer to travel on a whim and see where the road takes you, it's good to have an idea of where to start and finish and an overall timeline. It's also important to have a backup plan in case something goes wrong or if your plans change. Travel planning is challenging and can make or break any trip or vacation.
Truth #3: Hurry up and wait
Planning a trip often feels like a hurry up and wait experience; especially if you're looking for a deal. You know where you want to visit, but waiting for a deal feels like a gamble. If you book at one price and a lower price comes along, you missed out. On the other hand, if you book and the price goes up, you got saved a ton of money! And not to mention, when those deals come out, you have to jump on them. They often have limited availability, or are only valid at a specific location, especially if it's a mistake fare for an airline.
Once you've booked something, the trip becomes real. Then, you start working on other aspects of the trip, like lodging, transportation, special activities or tours, travel documents, and more. Suddenly, the wave of things to do turns into a tsunami and the process overwhelms you. It doesn't have to be that way! Like all big projects, if you break up the process into small manageable pieces, you can easily accomplish everything.
Truth #4: Convenience vs. Price (When deals aren't worth it)
The convenience vs. price debate is one of my favorites. How much are you willing to pay for a little more, or a little less, convenience? Need an example? If you save $100 on flights by flying home a day later, but have to book a $150 hotel room to stay overnight, is it worth it? Maybe it is worth it if you get to make your overnight a stopover in a new city or extend your stay by one night. If you want to get home quickly, it may not be worth the savings.
Convenience versus price pops up frequently in travel planning - save money by buying tickets for an attraction in advance? Or have the freedom to do what you want when you want? Take a slower, local, cheaper train ride or a more direct, high-speed train? Rent a car or uber everywhere? Like most things, there is no right or wrong answer, you simply have to know what's most important to you to plan and budget accordingly.
Pro Tip: I go for convenience 90% of the time. The time and energy wasted to save a little bit of money has never made me say "that was totally worth it!" There are exceptions, but my general rule is: convenience wins.
Next time you scroll through Instagram and see an image of a beautiful location or a selfie on some exotic beach, remember it's not all sunshine and unicorns getting there. Loads of hard work, planning, and decision making goes into each and every trip. Don't let that discourage you from planning your dream trip! And if you have questions, let me know and I'll do my best to help you! Remember, travel should be part of your life, not an escape from it.