15 Aug How to Plan for Travel: Set your travel goals
This is Part 2 in my countdown series with one blog post per month containing travel tips to get my family, friends, clients and you ready to go for your next vacation overseas. From August 1 through June 30, I’ll be counting down the tips by how far in advance it’s optimal to plan. If you stumble across this blog post in February, and you’re planning a trip in May, you’re not too late. You’ll just have to do things at a heightened pace.
How can I get organized for travel: 11-12 months before
Set Your Travel Goals
WHAT?!?! I’ve gotta set goals even on vacation?!?!
But before you call me an uptight party pooper, allow me to give you an example of what happens when you don’t do this.
Once upon a time, I traveled with a friend to a faraway place. We’d had long talks about where to go, and we both couldn’t wait to start our next adventure. The clashing began from the moment we arrived. Since I’d saved up funds to take a trip to this never-neverland, I wanted to see and experience as much as possible. I wanted to have breakfast and leave by 8 AM, sightsee like a banshee until around 3:00 or 4:00, then relax the rest of the day – enjoying a long, relaxing dinner; strolling a bit in order to walk off dinner; then hitting the hay by 10 PM or so.
M wanted to sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast, head out whenever, stop for a two hour lunch, have a late dinner, and end the evening with a late nightcap.
I wanted to hit the museums, meet locals, and soak up as much knowledge as possible. M wanted to go shopping until it was time to bake on the beach all afternoon.
We got on each other’s nerves, and this almost ruined our friendship. How could this have happened? We’d agreed on the cities we wanted to see and talked about livin’ it up! Yes, we sure did. But we did so in generalities. We never defined what we wanted to “see” and what our definitions of “livin’ it up” and “adventure” were.
So in order to prevent your dream trip from turning into a vacation from hell, be sure to set your travel goals.
Questions to Answer:
Which country/countries do you want to visit?
Which cities do you want to visit?
What’s your travel style?
Extreme sports, bars, museums, shop, read, sunbathe, cafes, foodie hotspots, etc.?
One city per day, or one city for three or four days, or one city the entire time?
Early bird? Night owl? Burn both ends of the candle?
Speedwalk everywhere, walk calmly, shuffle forward in slow motion, or sit?
What do you want to see, experience, and do in each of the cities?
Are you comfortable going your separate ways during the day and meeting up for dinner if you don’t have the same interests on particular days?
How much time will you need in each city to do what you want to do?
Are there any special events occurring in a destination city around which you’ll need to plan or possibly book hotels earlier than a typical six months out?
Is there a certain date or timeframe around which you need to plan (a special occasion, specified time off from work, etc.)?
If you plan to stay married or stay friends, you need to communicate clearly.
If you use a travel agent, you need to know the answers to these questions in order to explain to the agent what you want.
If you do a tour, you need to know the answers in order to know which tour company will fit your needs.
Where to Research:
I find that if I start on the Internet, I become overwhelmed because there are so many choices. A link from one page leads to another page with ten links, and then everything just swirls together. I prefer to start with a good guide book, gain some great background knowledge, then do some narrow searches online for more details.
My two favorite travel book series are:
Europe – Rick Steves
Everywhere else – Lonely Planet
Those books work for me because they fit my travel style. In addition to visiting major sites, I like to wander off the beaten path and learn about and experience local culture. I like to stay in two- or three-star places. I want to be able to find information in an easy-to-read layout in the book. If this doesn’t describe you, take the time to find travel books that do fit your style. Ask your friends and relatives about what they use.
If you take the time to research and set your travel goals, you will be a much happier camper on vacation.
How to Plan for Travel series:
Part 1: Budget
Part 2: Set your travel goals
Next time: How to choose your accommodations