Not to toot my own horn (TIME TO TOOT), but I’m good at planning and organizing stuffs. On the one hand, I LOVE creating fun experiences that invigorate, delight, and move people — especially myself. But, on the other, planning is stress. But it’s a stress that offsets later stress that could be much worse.
Play the long game
When I travel, I get nervous. I think as a woman, and a woman of color, I’m especially wary of things like getting lost, getting robbed, getting taken advantage of, not knowing what the hell I’m doing, and being in a situation unprepared. Like stranded somewhere with no access to transportation, no way to reach someone who can help me, and no understanding of the language/signs where I am at. I don’t want to be caught with my skirt down, that’s an especially tricky proposition as a woman in an unknown land.
This tends to translate to me being as prepared as I can with studying a bit about navigating the streets of where I’m going in advance — understanding the pros and cons and access points of various forms of transportation. Learning whether I’ll be able to buy or reserve seats (trains, taxis) in advance, and doing what I can online before I get somewhere to avoid depending on hotels and their kickbacks or tourist vampires who take advantage of your cluelessness. That includes researching the types of activities I might want to do, talking to any people who are going with me about what they want to do, researching options, and tracking it all.
- Track it all in one place: You can use a trip app or site, but I go old school and just use a Google doc to build out my itinerary. I then share it with friends and make comments as I go to track little tasks I need to follow up on or changes in planning. The collaborative aspect makes it easy for your fellows to see where your mind is at, pick up tasks of their own, or make suggestions.
- Research transportation to and from all the things you need to go to/from to. Be sure you understand exactly how and when you need to catch that bus or train, or the fact you have a layover and it’s in another terminal from the one you’ve arrived in.Note: You may not have a mobile map. You can’t always count on WiFi or 4G where you’re going unless you buy a SIM, and I tend to be lazy about inserting SIMs from various countries into my phone when I’m on a multi-country trip (there IS a global SIM that I’ve used and liked, but still, that takes effort). WiFi can also be dangerous, in that, you may be getting spied on by someone who has compromised a public network, so I use it thoughtfully and have a VPN for browsing on public networks. But, there are apps for downloading local city maps and using them offline as you travel to avoid getting stuck in situations where you can’t use Google Maps or otherwise navigate easily to where you want to go by phone.
- Add booking confirmation numbers / vendor contact info and address info (along with directions/how to get there) in your itinerary. There’s nothing more annoying than realizing the booking confirmation receipt with how much you paid and where/when you are supposed to be is somewhere in your email and you can’t access it. And right in front of you is a merchant/vendor saying they have no record of you and not helping you out proactively because you don’t have proof. Print out the confirmation email, and put time/place/amounts of money you need to pay day-of so you’re prepared and don’t get turned away.
- When things firm up, prep them in an easy to parse format for yourself and guests to follow later. Whether that’s a spreadsheet, table, or whatever, a solid itinerary makes travel far less stressful, making it easy to quickly find information you need at specific timelines in your trip.
Here’s an example of the itinerary I’m working on right now for a future trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, the land of tango!
Sample Itinerary: Buenos Aires, Argentina
|PICKUP – Taxi Ezeiza (5480-8894)
|Tea with Ele!
|10a – 1p
|Tierra Negra cooking class (Lunch)
|Hippie Tango with Ele’s friend!
|Lunch: Parilla Tour*
** Waitlisted to switch to Saturday lunch.
|Late Dinner & Tango Show @ Bar Sur!
|PICKUP – Taxi Ezeiza (5480-8894)