This is the way to go full-circle, to bring closure to your experience. Again, you don't need to do it. But if you do, you'll be glad you did. (Part 5 of 5)
Wrapping up your experience with sense & style
With this article, I’m wrapping up this five-part series on how to make your next family adventure the best it can possibly be. We’ve been through the planning, preparing, GOing, reentering & reflecting stages – albeit on a basic level.
What’s left? You may wonder.
I contend there is one more stage – Follow up! I believe follow up involves these areas:
- Reconciling the finances of the trip;
- Evaluating the logistics of the trip;
- Leaving any lodging reviews, etc;
- Printing out and/or make an online album of the experience, if you are so inclined. Or put together a cool video (maybe a project for the kids);
- Making sure you have good notes from your trip – and the reflection – stored somewhere, just in case you want to do a similar trip again in the future – or you want to help someone else do it;
- Being in touch with key people you visited and/or met along the way.
In this article, I’ll explain each of these areas in a paragraph or two. Of course, we could dive deeper. I probably will, at another time. For now, the goal is to touch on each from a more eagle’s eye view.
1 | Reconcile the finances of the trip.
Everyone has different comfort levels and needs when it comes to finances, and, of course, those vary depending upon stage of life, too. My husband and I are more relaxed in this area than we used to be. Our newlywed son and daughter-in-law, who accompanied us on a trip to Europe last summer (link), were keeping track of every single expenditure.
This is the time to pull those expenses together and determine how you came out. It’s a good idea, whether you are more loosey-goosey or more rigid on the financial front, to come up with an overall idea of how much you spent on the trip and how well you stuck with your budget. It can be a reference point in the future, for yourself and others.
2 | Evaluate the logistics of the trip.
Unlike the earlier reflection, this is simply a (mostly objective) overview of how the trip went (bird’s-eye view) and a day-by-day breakdown. What went well? What could you have done better? Where did you pay more than you should have? When did you score a good deal? Did you take time to separate (one parent with one kid, for example, or parents get a night out if the kids are old enough)? How did that go? Try to be as objective as possible as you review the logistics.
3 | Leave any lodging reviews, etc.
Did you stay in any Airbnb or VRBO places? If so, make sure to leave a brief review. People want to know how their place worked for you, and they’ll review you back if you do (which, if you’re active on either of those sites, usually works to your advantage). This should not take more than a couple minutes for each place, but it’s part of the follow-up process and often insures they would have you back in an instant (assuming you were good visitors).
4 | Preserve the experience for posterity
There are many ways you can do this. One is using an online photo or video album. Perhaps that’s enough. Or, perhaps, you want to actually print something out for yourself, or one for each kid.
There are so many ways to do this now – very simply – so I won’t go into great detail. But an overarching rule: Keep it simple, don’t take too much time, but dedicate up to an hour to get it done! Put that hour on your calendar before life takes over.
Another option might be a video of the experience, either with video clips you took along the way, or a digital diary where you string together photos with some music. You probably know how to do this, but involving the kids in the process, if they’re old enough, is the best.
And, if your kids are upper elementary or above, giving them the responsibility for the project can work out so well! If you’re homeschooling, of course, this fits well. If not, you can be their “client;” they can learn how to produce something for someone who will reward their efforts in some way. Have fun with that!
However you choose to do it, they key is to do something, and do it within the first month after returning. If you do not, you’ll miss it. Trust me, I know.
5 | Make sure you have good notes from the trip – particularly the planning – stored somewhere secure.
I prefer Google Drive for this. It’s simply an easy choice, allowing you to share documents and spreadsheets as you plan, and then keep them for as long as you need them. There are other tools. Evernote and Bear are two that come to mind. The ability to share is key, particularly on the planning end. But, even for a repeat trip, that ability to share is likely to come in handy.
Of course, a handwritten journal can work! If your notes are clear (at least for you), doing it that way may be just as good. Up to you!
One more point about notes. I would spend some time – up to two hours – after the trip to do some reflective journaling. Think about highs and lows, things you’d do differently, how you could improve the experience, how you could help others do a similar thing someday, how you have changed as a result.
6 | Be in touch with key people you’ve met along the way.
Keeping a running tab of those you’ve met up with – either planned or spontaneous – is a good idea when you’re traveling. Keep the connection going! Follow up with a quick note via email, text, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or some other means. Even better – handwrite a note to the people you met. Is there anyone who doesn’t like to receive a heartfelt handwritten card these days?
Do you need to do all these things? Of course not! But doing what I’ve suggested really does help you feel as if you’ve gone full-circle with your trip. It brings an incredible sense of closure. And it does put you in a position to take a similar trip again in the future. You can always use your notes from one trip to inform the next, even if the location(s) is different.
Most of all, have fun with the process! Really, that’s what it’s all about. That’s where some of the richest memories lie.