Getting planned and organized for a trip can be a mammoth task. And let’s face it, we feel obligated to ensure we plan thoroughly enough to make every travel moment count. It’s almost as if we are fearful to miss an opportunity that may be just out of reach if we don’t research and plot each and every move.
Truth be told, I love the planning process. It’s one of the many reasons why I write and share so very much. In fact, I sometimes think that planning is as satisfying as the trip itself! (I’m looking straight at you, Disney peeps!)
I know, I know! A weekend trip to Asheville is a super big difference from a multi country, multi week jaunt across the ocean. While one is just a matter of gathering a few things, the other necessitates my big fat trip planning strategy. However, there are a few things that are a travel blessing no matter what kind of trip you are on.
The Devil is in the Digital Details
My mother often talks about an incredible road trip she took down the Romanticstrassa in Germany. She fondly remembers how each charming hotel owner would simply call ahead to another inn just a few hours drive south. Each place was a new adventure with rooms fit for a princess and picturesque views that are simply unattainable these days. They traveled from Amsterdam all the way to Lake Como using this call ahead system.
Can you imagine it? Just calling ahead!!! One day in advance?! That Europe is certainly not today’s Europe. And, for that matter, it’s not that kind of travel world either. It’s time to face the music: You’re going to have to embrace the digital world to thoroughly plan and track a trip.
I think about starting to plan. With three trips in the future, I’ve got to log in for flights, tickets to venues, ground transport, hotels or AirBandB’s. It’s a lot of log ins and, as a result, a lot of opportunities to screw up well meant plans. On top of that, it takes time. Hours and hours of time.
There are quite a few great digital conveniences that exist for the planning junkie and top of my list is TripIt.com. This travel tracking website and app duo is great to keep your upcoming travels organized in one place. Whether I am simply planning a weekend getaway or I am crafting a multi country, multi week adventure overseas, I use TripIt to file each and every plan. I can keep track of my museum tickets as well as my flights. I can add copies of pdf tickets and boarding passes. It keeps me digitally organized.
If you are looking for one less log in, google calendar can also do a decent job of blocking out times and making sure you have your bases covered. As a frequent traveler, I set up a dedicated free gmail account and I can track and schedule everything from one spot.
Home Sweet Home
Once all that planning has been accomplished and you are ready to go, take a bit of time to think about how you are leaving things.
- Consider a house sitter or pet sitter to check in on your home each day. Be sure to choose wisely and leave detailed instructions! We were on our way out of town and needed someone to just check in once a day on our self sufficient pup. I thought a neighbor’s son would be just fine and while my dog was properly fed and watered just like we asked, our sitter didn’t know to check around the house. We lost two sets of window blinds because my dog couldn’t see out the windows! Ugh! Like I said, detailed instructions!
- If you are an Amazon Echo or Google Home subscriber, consider the automated plugs that let you turn on lights on a timer or automatically. If automation isn’t an option to get ready to travel, this is a good time to dig out all of those old school timers that you have in your Christmas decorations. Why not put them to work for you twice a year?
- Take care of the bills, mail, and deliveries. If your lights go on and off but you have 4,000 Amazon boxes at your door, you haven’t helped yourself at all! I try really hard to not order any last minute things. Although I am very guilty of ordering a travel curling iron at the last minute only to find mine two days later as I pulled out my luggage.
- For bills, I try to ensure that they are all taken care of before I go or I simply add them to my calendar so I get a notification when I need to pay them. Be careful to put them on the day before they are due so you don’t wind up being late because of the time zone you are in! As for mail, think about whether to put a temporary stop in place or if your house sitter can take care of that for you. I try to leave an empty basket on the counter as a catch all.
- Let your bank know that you are getting ready to travel. Your card will get flagged and you could wind up with declined charges. I know I can simply log in and annotate when I am coming and going with my bank. They make it pretty easy.
- Leave your house exactly the way you want it when you return back home. Be realistic, you don’t want rotting fruit, dirty dishes, laundry or gross garbage in your house upon arrival. You want clean beds and baths, some frozen pizzas to heat up and an empty washer so you can throw your travel gear right in. My routine when I come home is to make my first stop the laundry room. I open my bags up and get a load going while I sort the mail. I order take out or throw in that pizza and collapse. Everything else can wait. After all, tomorrow is another day! Right, Scarlet?
On The Road Again
I once planned a trip to Ireland for six people. The trip was a massive undertaking and took a ton of planning and, as a result, tickets and schedules. I wound up carrying around a mini binder tied up with a ribbon that kept us on track for almost three weeks. Thankfully, technology has done a great job of replacing my binder but it can be it’s own challenge on the road. From google translate to audio guides, organizing your phone to be ready to handle all that you planned before you ever walked out the door is imperative these days!
In addition to having all of your plans readily available, your suitcase needs to earn it’s keep too! Having an organization plan with packing cubes and a laundry plan, if you need it, is a quick and efficient way of getting rid of some of that unnecessary travel stress! I like to pinpoint a laundry mat for wherever I’m going to be on my seventh or tenth day of travel, depending on how long I’ll be gone. I may use the ship’s services if I’m on a cruise or perhaps I find a service in whatever town I’m headed through on that day.
I know, I know. Laundry seems to be pushing the over planning a bit too far! Just remember that you are going to be lugging that suitcase and carryon around, be sure everything you put in it is worth the effort. The hard truth is that no one ever says “I wish I had packed more!”
Wrapping it all up
I admit it, I’m a shopper! When I am traveling, I’m a sucker for a gift shop. I like Christmas ornaments and jewelry. I fall for kitchen gadgets and artwork. Every. Single. Time. One time I was in Poland and I bought so much pottery that I had to mail it home. I wound up wasting serious time packing and shipping. It’s one of those times that I wish I had a a better plan in place. Whether you plan on just getting a pretty scarf for yourself or you are loading up on local art, have a plan to get it home that doesn’t waste your time.
Last on my organization list is getting my memories in order. I mean that’s part of the travel point, right? Before I leave, I take a quick look around and I ensure that I know just where a new piece of framed art might work. This lets me have a little guidance as to what to buy while I’m gone. I also pick my digital album layout so I can easily dump photos in when I get home (or even when I’m still on my trip).