Planning a big trip can seem a daunting task. Trips under two weeks often involve flights, lodging, packing, activities, and transit. If you’re touring more than one location, there are additional lodging and transit accommodations to make. When I travel, I often explore wide regions and string together many trips of shorter duration; this can make for some complicated planning. If your trip is longer than two weeks, bigger questions may arise: What will you do with your home? Your pets? How will you afford it? Should you get travel insurance?
These questions can take the excitement out of planning and replace it with anxiety, fear, and insecurity. At worst, you may begin to doubt your intentions and ability to take the trip in the first place. I’m currently planning a trip to South Africa, Namibia, and Mozambique, and stringing together three diverse countries over a large region has proven difficult for sure!
Here are some tips to help you bring the excitement back to planning and work through those initial feelings of stress and anxiety:
1. Become a Lister
Write it all down. All the worries, fears, things you’re unsure of. When my head is buzzing, I find it’s best to get it all down on paper. Then, I can forget my worries knowing that I can return to them later. While some of you may prefer to write in paragraphs, the list is really helpful for sorting through what needs to be done and making a plan.
Now that it’s on paper, choose to move on to step 2 and tackle the list now, or if you’re already feeling overwhelmed, praise yourself for taking the first step and go about your day. With your worries on paper, you can declutter your mind and focus on the present.
2. Categorize Your List
Do they fall under the categories of transit (flights, trains, cars), lodging (hotels, campsites, airbnb), worries/fears, places to see, things to do, food? Re-list the items in their appropriate categories, and please do not neglect your worries and fears.
Sometimes my list of fears is long, but that’s ok and totally normal. It is truly the challenging things in life that help us to learn and grow. It’s also important to do some research on anxiety producing items ahead of time so you feel prepared and confident. I think anxiety can be a useful tool to help you take necessary safety precautions before you go on a trip.
3. Begin tackling categories one at a time
Will today be a transit day? Lodging day? Decide how you will be making your decisions. I find it’s usually best to get flights to and from the general area early-on to score the best prices, and I figure out the details from there. Depending on how broad the region you’re exploring, you may also need to do some research on the activities and local transit before choosing your incoming and outgoing flights.
4. Celebrate your successes along the way
Did you make a list in step 1? Great!
Did you purchase that flight? Awesome!
Did you gather research, even if no formal decisions were made? Well done!
My spouse and I sat together for three hours doing research for our upcoming trip to Africa this past weekend and made absolutely none of the decisions we hoped to make during the session. While we did answer some of our key questions, I think we added more to the list than we answered!
Expect that planning will take a long time and celebrate each milestone. For us, the information we gathered was valuable, even if we added more tasks to our lists. Did we celebrate? Heck yeah we did ?
5. Make time
Planning is time-consuming. When I begin spending most of the weekends in Seattle rather than exploring nearby mountain ranges and waterways, this is how you know I’m planning something big. The less I seem to be traveling, the bigger the final plan. But it is worth it, because the lessons and perspectives you gain from interacting with different communities through travel helps you to grow as a person.
While this is not a comprehensive list, it is an excellent start to breaking complicated plans into manageable parts. It is also an excellent strategy for alleviating the initial anxieties surrounding travel plans. In the future, I’ll share each step of my own planning process for trips according to these guidelines and additional strategies for breaking the complexities of travel into manageable parts.
Also, I’ll cover some important tips for knowing when to let go of the details of your trip to allow for a true adventure, filled with unexpected and joyful surprises.
How do you begin tackling travel plans?
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Thanks for sharing!