One of the most important tools in guaranteeing a successful trip is planning carefully and making sure that you are prepared for whatever may come your way.
Josh and I tend to pack very lightly.... unless we are roadtrippin' which really decreases our planning stress by a ton. Whenever we fly, whether it's for a quick weekend trip or a two week long adventure, we always pack just a carry-on. When we are traveling via car we pack everything but the kitchen sink -Josh's words- not that I haven't thought about packing the sink though- We have learned how to bring our essentials while maintaining organization.
This post will focus primarily on doing your very best to prepare for that next adventure. What to prioritize, when to prioritize and how to get ready!
Josh and I have created a few simple guidelines/rules that we have found keep us balanced and focused when preparing for an upcoming trip.
**Of course it is important to create your own guidelines that fit your travel style best. These are just the ones that have seemed to help us the most.
1. Keep your eye on the ball - In other words, don't plan two trips at one time. This has become a big one for Josh and I. While planning one trip we may decide we are going to take a trip down the road and purchase tickets, as these things NEED to be planned ahead of time. But, when it comes to really buckling down and specifying what we are going to be doing (touristy things) on our trip we have agreed to only focus on one trip at a time to assure we really are focusing our energy on the most upcoming adventure. We want to make sure we are enjoying the present moment rather than taking it for granted and always seeking whats ahead. We feel so blessed to have had the opportunities to travel and see what we have of the world. We definitely don't want to miss anything important along the way.
If we are thinking about all of the things we are going to do on our next trip we can't really embrace the one we are currently on.
2. Don't bring out the bags yet - This may sound silly but I start thinking about what I'm going to pack on a trip the moment we purchase that first ticket whether it's four months, four weeks or four days away. If I didn't limit myself, I'd have my bags packed way too far in advance and packing really should be that last final to-do before leaving on a trip. By setting this guideline for myself it reignites the excitement in me right before we leave. Especially with trips we have been planning for months in advance, I have found this one to be very important. By the time the actual trip gets here a lot of times I will get the feeling that I already know what to expect because I have spent so much time and effort planning the trip. It almost starts to take away from the eagerness and excitement. But, the second I pull out those bags and start sorting through my closet the excitement and sense of new adventure seep back into me.
3. Prioritize finances - This one is important! Josh is much better about this rule than I am. We laugh because our roles in our travel relationship consist of me picking out everything and anything we could do in our destinations and Josh makes it happen. He is the logistical one. But, finances are certainly essential because travel can get VERY pricey if not planned accordingly. Many folks ask us how we can afford to travel as often as we do. It's very simple and I won't dive into that here but I will say that we PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!! We NEVER pull from our savings or other funds. We have a specific travel financial system and if the finances are not there for the trip we are planning then we change our destination and plans. This is SO important! Never travel beyond your means. Just like the rule of not living beyond your means. It's the same with travel. When we first decide to take a trip we do a rough estimation of what the cost will be by looking into the destination(s), attractions, transportation, lodging, eating, etc. and always round higher than we actually (hope) it will turn out. That way, we know roughly how much we should have saved and how much we will need to save by the time we leave. Finances should NEVER be a last minute priority!
4. Together is better!- We always plan together! Half of the journey is preparing for the journey and I really think part of the reason Josh and I enjoy traveling so much is because it is deeply something we do together. We plan every component of our travels together. We discuss everything before, during and after we plan. This really enhances our excitement and it's a great communication tool. It's a fresh reminder of what the others interests and hobbies are (and sometimes you learn something new too). We feel a sense of accomplishment when we sit on our couch after returning from a successful trip and we can say things like "hey that was a great find," or "I'm so glad we chose to do this or that..." It's just as much planning the trip together as it is actually enjoying the trip together.
Steps to planning:
1. Decide/Agree on our destination
2. Research- Look up anything/everything that looks appealing about our destination. Typically I will go to Pinterest and from there I will be lead to multiple blogs/posts/photographs of our dream destination
3. Finance/Logistics - We sort out all of our dream to-do's and figure out how to make them financially possible. If they aren't we reconstruct our plans and find what is possible. We finalize our stops and focuses. We also make sure to purchase any tickets that may need to be done ahead of time.
4. Continue planning - This is the step when Josh really digs deep. We always create a document online that we can both access/edit as we do our research on our own time so we can come back together and discuss. Being the type A personality that I am I like to have boxes and columns, different fonts and colors, etc. to assure the best organization possible. Typically I will sort/organize based on our destinations. The more we finalize about our trip the more specific our itinerary/planner becomes. I will label a section with our destination, our length of stay in that destination, time of arrival/departure and where we are staying. Then, I will add attractions and touristy information around that information. When we travel on longer or more time demanding trips I will sort our destinations based on "must do's," and "optionals." It's important if you are going to do this that you are honest with yourself. Don't list something as "optional" if you are going to regret not seeing it. You never know when you will go back to that spot. So, live in the present and take advantage of being there. If you come back you can say you've seen it twice. :) I also always have a column for eating. I list multiple options and of course post side note specifics about each place. Using a side note to specify a place helps to remind me what I had read about it. I will occasionally make reservations if it's a place we know without a doubt we want to go. However, most of the time having a few options is okay and that way if there's an unexpected wait or change of plans we have multiple options and aren't scurrying around at the last minute unprepared AND starving.
5. Create a theme - This one doesn't always work out but it's neat when it does. When we took our Texas road trip it became a common theme while planning that each town had a mural. We ended up taking a picture of the two of us in front of the murals in each of our stops. It was just neat at the end to have one common thing to look back on. If you can create a theme for a trip it makes for a goal that you have to strive for and it also makes for a cool scrapbook project when you get back.
6. Check the weather - This is very important especially as you are getting closer to your departure date. Recently we took a road trip to Canada and had to reorganize our first nights destination due to snow. It was a simple fix but it could have been messy and very unenjoyable if we had not checked and planned accordingly.
7. Packing - This one is my personal favorite! I just LOVE to get all packed for an exciting adventure. I start daydreaming about all the fun that's about to take place. I have a VERY detailed way of packing which takes time and effort. But, it ends up being so worth it when traveling and it really does help with packing lighter. * Be sure to check out my "Packing via Organization" post to get a full taste of my packing style.
8. Organize and go - The last thing to do is make sure all tickets are printed (I also always email myself a copy incase I need quick access), passports are in purse (if traveling internationally), double check my trip and clothing itineraries, grab my toothbrush and get SUPER excited! Double check your departure times and make sure to enjoy every second of the journey!
*I hope this post helps you in some way as you are preparing for your next big adventure. If you have specific questions please feel free to comment or to email me. I will be glad to assist in any way I can. *
We are the Bests! Jo and Mo. Founders of BestCapturedTravel.
We have been immensely blessed with many opportunities to see various parts of the world. We live an average, working life in Cambridge, MA but through our many opportunities have developed a passion to see the world. Our goal is to share with other desiring travelers different tips and experiences from around the world as we begin to check them off our bucket list. If anything, we hope to provide a little sense of motivation and adventure to those wishing to embark on their own journey!
We want to share our adventures with you. Follow us on social media.