After enjoying many great trips in the past few years, I summarized a 5-step-process that has worked pretty well. Hope you find it helpful!
- Decide on destination and do research. First of all, we need to know which part of the world we want to go. Is it Scandinavia? South America? Grand Canyon? Japan? Then we do research on when is the best time to visit, and what are the must-go places in that area (natural wonders, famous landmarks, aquariums, galleries, shows, restaurants). We also need to figure out means of transportation and visa requirement (if any).
- Draft a trip plan. Once we have an idea of all the things we want to do, the next step is to put together a trip plan. Usually it is an Excel spreadsheet. For each day – depart from X, arrive at Y after Z hours, place to stay, activities, and notes. This helps us think through the details and decide how many days we need. The file also serves as a central location for all the information related to the trip. By now you probably have realized that we are the ‘moving around’ travelers rather than the ‘sitting at the beach for a week’ type.
- Make arrangements. After sleeping on the trip plan for a few days and feeling comfortable with the time allocated on the road and at each place, we start to book flights, hotels, rental cars, tours; buy tickets and rail passes; apply for visa or pay reciprocity fees, etc. The trip plan comes in handy to make sure we have the correct dates for everything.
- Overcome challenges and have fun. Finally it is time to go! All sorts of challenges are waiting – an unfamiliar rental car (where is the button to open the trunk or gas tank?); access to hotel rooms (touch, swipe, or dip the card?); complicated shower (turn the knob left or right? push or pull?). If we are in a foreign country where we don’t know the language, it also requires a certain amount of wild guesses and body languages, and we particularly appreciate menus with color photos of the dishes. From place to place, we execute the trip as planned but also welcome pleasant surprises and spontaneous activities.
- Wrap up. All good time comes to an end. But there are lots to do after we return home (some of these tasks are done during the trip). Load/organize/print photos, share on Facebook and WeChat, write blog articles, tell family and friends about the trip. Of course we have to deal with post-trip depression, but no matter, the next exciting trip is just around the corner…