Just yesterday one of my friends was asking me the question, “How do you manage to pack and plan well for a one-month trip abroad to several places? It seems like such a daunting task!”
I directed her to Part 1 of this series about packing well. But I also realized she was befuddled by a larger issue: “How do I close up my life here and then live my life in a completely different context for a month?”
The first step to doing that is to consider what your absence will be like at home. Go through the issues systematically. Here are the major considerations for most people:
Home – empty for entire time?
Visitor or house sitter in the home while gone?
Pets – what to do about them?
Houseplants – how to not kill them when gone?
Outdoor plants/yard – how to keep them healthy and alive?
Mail – Put a hold on it?
Bills – Pay in advance, make sure all are automated, pay while on the road?
Neighbors – Inform them of my/our absence?
When it comes to planning the actual trip, there are certain considerations you might want to keep in mind:
Make sure to have an overarching plan for the entire trip. As discussed in Part 2 and Part 3, the overall plan should reflect the balance of wishes of all parties in the group.
When you’re traveling, things almost always take longer than you expect. Can you double the time you’d usually allot to the activity?
Don’t forget to consider time for transitions.
Don’t over schedule. It might night be best to schedule The British Museum and Buckingham Palace in the same day, for example. Usually one large activity per day is sufficient. If you can squeeze something else in later, then it’s a bonus. Especially if you’re in a group.
Leave plenty of margin for rest stops. You may need it, especially if you’re traveling in the heat.
Frame up each day beforehand, but allow for flexibility to move activities around in the event issues arise.
Make sure everyone has an accessible copy of the plan. If this is in something like a Google Doc, make sure changes happen so everyone can see them. Another good idea is a group text, keeping you connected with all members in your group.
As much as you have the entire trip planned out, a flexible mindset is key. Things come up. People are people, so someone may get a bout of food poisoning, or another may forget his wallet somewhere. Expect little things to disrupt your plans so, when they do, you are not wallowing in disappointment. Rather, you are prepared. And, especially, if you can see them as part of the journey itself, then you will be able to adjust your expectations.
Speaking of expectations, it is this gap between expectations and actual reality that often stands in your way of fully enjoying an experience.
For example, when we were in Dublin, Ireland last summer, my husband and I just wandered around for what seemed like forever until we found the place we were looking for. It was hot and we felt disoriented. We could have seen it as a waste of time. But, instead, we chose to be right where we were, and enjoyed the moment just the two of us (as the other people in our party had paired up for their own explorations).
When you choose to be where you are when you are, you lessen the gap between your expectations and the reality you’re experiencing. And, traveling or not, I’ve found that to be a key to really appreciating deeply the moment you’re in. It might not be glamorous – or it may – but it is what it is, and savoring it for that tends to bring the greatest joy.
What have your experiences been with planning for a trip?