How to Plan the Perfect Trip by “Casual Scheduling”
Whether organizing things comes naturally to you or not, you may have experienced either over or under scheduling a trip. You know, when you get back home and feel like you need to take a second break because there was no time to rest in between the all the table reservations, sightseeing, cocktails and activities, or when you can’t get tickets to the one thing you wanted to do because they had to be pre-booked four months in advance and you did not plan very well.
Planning a trip can be daunting, especially when travelling to a new and unknown destination, and especially when planning a trip for a group of people where everyone wants to experience different things. Unless your trip is a themed one with a clear purpose (like a yoga retreat or a skiing holiday), you would probably like to get the best of all worlds at your destination; see the most beautiful places, eat the most delicious food, participate in the most fun activities, create some fun content for your social media accounts and recharge your batteries at the same time. Sound about right?
It’s no secret that the best memories can’t be scheduled, but skipping out on planning and pre-holiday research altogether puts you at risk of missing out on great experiences just as much as over scheduling does. There is an art to planning a trip that is the perfect combination of well organized, spontaneous, memory generating, relaxing and adventurous – but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Step 1: Decide On Your Destination
What do you want to do, see and experience on your trip? What kind of food would you like to eat? How would you like to feel when you get back home? (If your answer is ‘well rested’ then maybe Las Vegas isn’t your ideal destination).
Think about the purpose of your trip and find a few destinations that matches what you want for your trip, then ask your travel companions (if you have any) to do the same before narrowing down your list(s) to the destination that feels like it fulfills most of your criteria and your vision for the trip.
Step 2: Start Your Planning Super Early
Ironically, planning a trip with room for some spontaneity will be easier the earlier you do it. The benefits are many; less stress, more time to be excited about your trip and a wide variety of activities to choose from without having to worry about the availability of tickets. The biggest benefit is definitely the fact that flights and accommodation is typically cheaper earlier on.
Step 3: Book The Basics
Transport: Book your return flights/train/car as soon as you’ve picked out a destination, but if you are travelling at your destination (ie. changing locations) keep your transportation as flexible as you can. Sometimes you love a place so much that you want to stay there for longer, and sometimes a place is less exciting than you first anticipated. Leave some room for spontaneity.
Accommodation: Depending on your destination and availability, Airbnb is a really great way to experience a new destination in a more authentic way than you would at a hotel. Do your Airbnb research before you go, and make sure your Airbnb has great reviews and all the facilities you require for your trip. Some Airbnb hosts provide really great local guides for their guests too (and if they don’t, you can always ask them for recommendations), which is a really great to experience the neighborhood or even the whole city in a completely different way.
Depending on where you are, how long you are travelling for, and your personal preferences and budget, booking different places to stay or even mixing up Airbnb’s and hotels can be a great way to experience your destination. If you are travelling for a week or more, booking accommodation for the first few days of your trip and leaving some room for flexibility to move around can be an absolute adventure. Apps like Hotelstonight and Airbnb make last minute bookings seem like a walk in the park, and gives you the opportunity to go with the flow and live in the moment.
If not having booked all of your transport and accommodation in advance feels stressful to you, just book it. The last thing you want to be affected by on your trip is stress and you’re still left with plenty of room for spontaneous adventures.
Step 4: Make A List Of The Things You Want To Do But Keep Your Options Open
If there are one or more activities at your destination that you know you want to experience, do some research in advance and find out whether or not you need to make pre-bookings, and if you can; get flexible tickets, which could save you from a lot of unnecessary holiday stress. Keeping your schedule as flexible as possible leaves plenty of room for day-to-day planning.
A top notch tip for creating irreplaceable memories: talk to the locals. Whether you’re travelling to LA or the Brazilian rainforest, the locals will add more value to your trip than any online guide ever will (except the ones on so/ambitious, naturally). If you know anyone who knows your destination well, hit them up on Facebook or send them an email asking for recommendations. If you (against all odds) can’t get any recommendations, check local Instagram hashtags, Pinterest posts, and why don’t you post a status on Facebook asking for advice while you’re at it?
If you have specific restaurants that you want to visit, make sure to make a reservation for these before your trip. There are two reasons for doing this: first of all to make sure you they are not fully booked, and second of all to avoid spending your holiday booking restaurants when you could be out enjoying life. A good advice in terms of restaurant bookings is to not book restaurants for more than every other day of your trip. This leaves some room for exploration and going with the flow, at the same time as you get to eat at the places that you want to.
Step 5: Keep Your Mind And Your Heart Open
In order to really experience anything in life, keeping an open mind and heart is essential, but this is especially true when you’re traveling and creating new memories. Snap your photos (if you must) and then put your phone away and smell the roses; absorb your surroundings, enjoy the moment, take deep breath and save the feeling in your heart for a rainy day. Whether you’re enjoying a delicious meal, watching the most amazing sunset, or sweating on a mountain hike overlooking a beautiful city; pausing for a moment to actually enjoy your surroundings rather than stressing over whether or not you’ll make it to your next pre booked activity is what ‘casual scheduling’ is all about.
[Please feel free to share your thoughts and reflections in the comments section]