Trip Planning De-Stress Tips
Ways to relieve the pressure of preparing for travel
Many people, even ones eagerly anticipating an upcoming trip, do not relish the planning and preparation. And there are times when others, who like me generally enjoy the prep work, would really rather not be bothered. Times when life is already too overloaded. I have discovered a few tips to help ease the stress of travel planning.
Delegate / Share the Load
Have your travel companions take on tasks, be it finding accommodations, booking flights, investigating things to see and do, or running errands. Not only does that take some of the load off your shoulders, it may lead to happier travel companions, who now feel it is their trip too, not just one of yours they are tagging along on. I usually do the research and booking of accommodations when my husband and I travel. Last summer I found myself without time or motivation. He took over investigating bed and breakfast options for our fall trip to the United Kingdom. I was relieved to have someone else take care of this. He also did most of the research into hot destinations for our January escape from winter. And so Panama was added to our itinerary.
Rely on friends who live in areas you are visiting for ideas and recommendations. The day trips our English friends planned for us were delightful beyond anything we would have arranged ourselves and took us to local treasures we might not otherwise have discovered. (Polesden Lacey and Its Society Hostess, London from the Thames, Bankers and Brokers Tour of London’s City History)
Accept recommendations from friends and colleagues who have been there. We had a loose itinerary planned for our five day foray into Wales. Before heading to Wales, we stayed with friends in Hampshire. They had visited Wales many times and had family there. They said a couple of items on our list were well worth visiting, but we altered the rest of the route based on their advice. We are so glad we did. Our time in the Brecon Beacons was wonderful.
Outsource / Use Professionals
We usually do our own bookings online. In this age of Internet self-service it is easy to forget travel agents still exist. There may not be as many of them as there once was, but they are still here. Use them when you don’t have time to search for flights or hotels, when you are finding it difficult to navigate choices on your own, when you do not trust your own ability to make appropriate choices in a strange land, or simply when you want to let someone else take care of arrangements for you. The more my husband and I looked in options for car rental in the U.K., the more confused we became. We headed to our local Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) location and made arrangements through one of their agents.
One of the least exciting, but essential, pre-travel tasks is obtaining travel medical coverage. Many people have a standard company they automatically use, but a small change in one’s personal situation can make that standard choice unavailable or unattractive. There are numerous other options out there, but finding and researching them to select plans most appropriate to you is time-consuming. We rely on an independent insurance broker to help with that.
If you belong to an automobile association (like CAA or AAA), use them to map out driving routes and supply free maps. When we still had our dogs, I spent hours on the Internet selecting good dog-friendly hotels to stay in on our way to and from Arizona when we headed south for the winter. Then I found out CAA had a special book for dog-owners, with lists of dog-friendly hotels. That narrowed down my choices and saved me a lot of time.
Leverage Past Experience
If you are going some place you’ve been before, either as a destination or a stop-over, learn from your past. Avoid what didn’t work, but if you found a hotel you really liked use it again. Of course, in order to leverage from the past you need to remember the details. We wintered in Arizona for three consecutive winters. Each time, we drove a slightly different route there and back, but there was enough overlap to return to some of the same overnight stops. I thought I would remember where we stayed on our first trip. When I began planning for our second year’s drive, I realized I didn’t remember. Hotels seemed to blend together in memory. I subsequently created a spreadsheet to track where we had stayed with basic details about the place and what we liked and didn’t like. It need not be a spreadsheet, but I recommend some mechanism to record this information for future reference.
Packing and determining what to pack can be another stress point. I am a list maker. Adding items to my lists as I think of them stops the swirling in my mind. I’ve now started a spreadsheet (what can I say? I like spreadsheets.) listing all the items to consider in a packing list. There will be some variation by destination and season, but the intent is to refer to this for each trip. Customization for each trip will occur as I identify which specific articles of clothing fill the generic requirements.
Sometimes it is not the tasks themselves which create stress, but trying to think of everything that needs to be done and worrying about forgetting something. If you haven’t done so already, make a list when you get ready for your next trip of all the little things needing to be done before you go away. Things like stopping the paper, turning down the heat or air conditioner, turning off the water, stopping or forwarding mail, getting someone to shovel your driveway or mow your lawn. In each trip thereafter you need only pull out the list and action it.
Not everything needs to be planned in advance. Figure out what you’ll see and do when you get there. Visit the local tourism office. Ask the hotel clerk or concierge. We once discovered a nearby restaurant featured on the television show Diners and Dives by asking the hotel clerk for a recommendation. In Gallup, New Mexico, the hotel clerk directed us to a restaurant located in a historic Route 66 hotel once known as Home of the Movie Stars.
Talk to fellow tourists. We learned about Playita, a calm, shady beach, only through conversation with another tourist and it became one of our favourite beaches in Panama’s Azuero Peninsula.
Choose a Style of Travel Already Pre-planned
If you do not have the time or inclination to map out an itinerary or are too stressed to do so, consider travel options where all the planning is done for you. Guided tours have schedules and sites already lined up. Hotel accommodations are handled for you. This option can also be a good choice when traveling to a place difficult to navigate on one’s own. However, if there are sites you’re absolutely set on seeing, make sure you select a tour that includes them or bypass the guided tour option. Cruises and all-inclusive resorts are other options. Accommodations and dining are included. No special arrangements to be made. The options for tours at cruise ports of call are laid out for you. You may have to make a few decisions, but needn’t do a lot of research on your own. At an all-inclusive resort you can choose to do nothing more than relax around the pool or beach.
I am a planner, a worrier, and someone who likes to have things well under control. I am still learning how to take the stress out of my own preparations. But I am learning. Do you have other trip planning de-stress tips?
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I’m a packing list person too, Donna. I use an app called PackTheBag. It allows you to customize and save lists for specific destinations/types of trips. It also has an extensive category list of items you can choose to add to your customized list. As you’re packing, you simply tap the item in the app once it’s in your actual bag to keep track. I’ve found it to work very well.
Deb, thanks for the information about PackTheBag. I am definitely going to check it out.,
Ahhh… the best tip and one that eventually learned was NOT to plan every detail of the trip. Being a planner, this was hard for me, yet I found that some of the spontaneous side trips were my most favorite!
Jacquie, learning not to plan every detail is hard for me too, but I agree that some of the spontaneous sides of trip can become the highlights.
All good suggestions. I include in my planning process a reflection on my purpose for making the trip. If it’s sightseeing, then my go to trip planners are Rick Steves and Road Scholar. If it’s relaxation and renewal, then I look for an inspirational place to stay put long enough to let nature and beauty do their jobs.
Sydney, I like that your planning process includes reflection on the purpose of the trip. That’s something I’m going to add to my planning.
Good suggestions. For 2,5 years I traveled non-stop and hence developed a system that worked even if I suddenly found out I had to catch a flight in a couple of hours to the other side of the world. It’s all about experience and becomes a habit.
Catarina, travelling a lot and on short notice really forces one to get organized with a travel prep system, doesn’t it? Although you strike me as fairly organized and would likely have developed a good system even with less frequent travel requirements.
Great suggestions! Honestly I never found travel planning very stressful, more exciting. Mostly probably because I really love just to go to the country and decide everything last minute, not everyone would feel secure like this
I too usually find travel planning more exciting than stressful, although I know there are others who feel differently. However, there have been times it’s become stressful for me. Last summer I had other stresses going on in my life and found dealing with travel plans overwhelming. It was good to get help then and give up some control of the planning process.
Good tips. I’ve only taken one big far away trip as an adult. But it never occurred to me to get travel medical insurance. Though I was in my mid-20s, a time when many are unlikely to think of such an issue. I”m not one who needs a big itinerary on a trip. I usually travel just a few hours away end up exploring. But I do love the planning part. And I’m gluten-intolerant so I always research restaurants before I go. I’ve seriously nixed going to certain places because it was going to be challenging to find food to eat. Though I live in California so most local trips to me have gluten intolerant friendly options (but not everywhere!)
Erica, my daughter is also gluten-intolerant and I know that can be difficult sometimes when travelling. And one does not need to travel far to find great things to explore. People often underestimate what treasures they have at their doorstep.
All good advice Donna. But I have to add that I have yet to book a hotel that my wife was satisfied with.
In that case Ken, maybe your wife needs to take care of the hotel booking.
Great advice Donna. I like to use an agent when I am doing something new, like a cruise. It helps not forget anything and they usually give great tips on what to do and see on the trip.
Great list Donna!
I am a born organiser and tend to arrange our holidays. I also did so as a twenty something holidaying with friends.
We do not over plan our excursions and leave ourselves time to rest. I must say the last holiday we had was all arranged by my husband and I enjoyed sitting back while he took the lead.
Trip adviser is excellent for feedback on hotels, restaurants, excursions. I once changed our hotel after reading negative reviews. It was the right decision. Now I check then book.
Phoenicia, it can be hard for those of us used to doing the planning and organizing to sit back and let someone else do it, but it can also be a nice treat if we let go and allow it.
When traveling with my husband, he is the default trip planner. Being the king of points, he arranges airfare and hotels. Once the destination is determined, I look up historical or other things I’m interested in seeing and he puts together a loose agenda. When traveling with my sister, we co-plan the whole thing (except husband still does airfare-king of points, after all. 🙂 ). Sister and I go through locations, houses to rent, other areas to visit. Both options work well.
Love the suitcase picture.
RoseMary, it sounds as if you, your husband and sister have found the division of labour that works for you in travel planning. The suitcase photo was taken inside a local railway museum.
A great post about preparing for a trip or vacation. I think the best thing is to remember whatever happens its not the end of the world. I had an ex-girlfriend that if she accidently packed a brush instead of a comb, it was the worse mistake ever, and I had to hear her complain about it for the entire trip.
Remember, what a trip is for, either work, or relaxing. Either way, just don’t worry about the small stuff.
William, Great advice about not sweating the small stuff.
I definitely agree that not everything needs to be planned in advance, but I do like to take care of the biggies so I can be sure to fit the “must sees” in. One thing that’s worked for me to split planning tasks is to share a OneNote. I’ll then give my travel partner specifics to do or look into. I’m still the mastermind, but at least it takes some of the weight off my shoulders.
Jeri, using OneNote to share travel planning tasks strikes me as something only a writer and editor would think of doing. I can see how it would be very effective. I too like to make sure I plan to do my “must sees”. I may have other things loosely planned but it I don’t see them or do something else instead, all is good.
I have been following few of them.
I agree with you, Trip Advisor is where we go for picking up hotels, few i know plan the entire holiday via the site. Thanks for sharing!
Sushmita, I use the reviews of Trip Advisor (taking them with a grain of salt) to help select hotels too.
For years I made my living in the travel industry and planes and hotel rooms were my second home. At first I used a local travel agent and they did a pretty good for me. But after a couple of years I’d learned enough that I decided to make my own arrangements and continue that to this day. I enjoy the process, especially working the system, not just to get the best prices but also to find hidden gems because I do love exploring. Your point about using AAA is a great reminder. I haven’t been a member for years, but now that I’m back on the mainland and anxious to venture out on some road trips, rejoining makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the great tips Donna!
Marquita, I make most of my own arrangements these (and generally like to do so) and sometimes forget that I can turn to travel agents to help with some things. It can be a great relief sometimes to hand a few things over to them.
Great tips Donna! We make almost all of our travel arrangements ourselves and over the years we’ve got it pretty well fine-tuned, especially the “who-does-what” which shares the work load! Both of us are compulsive list makers and organized so we usually start with the big picture (where and when) and gradually fill in the details. And I definitely agree with your statement that everything doesn’t have to be planned in advance. It’s oftentimes more fun to have a few places that you want to go to in mind and have the freedom to change your plans or add new places when you get a great tip or find an opportunity that’s too good to pass up. The more complicated our trips are, the less planning we tend to do! Anita
Anita, It’s interesting that the more complicated your trips are, the less planning you do. I would have expected it to be the reverse.
I prefer to just wing it when I travel, it makes me feel more adventurous haha, but these are great tips on trip planning. Thanks for sharing!
Rosary, winging it certainly makes the planning easier, doesn’t it? I don’t need everything planned out, but not sure I could completely wing it either.
I’m such a DIY traveler but the thought of handing the reins to someone else sounds wonderful. Haven’t used a packing app yet but that might be fun as well. Thanks.
Elaine, I too am usually a DIY traveler. I like the control and the enjoyment of pre-living the trip. But sometimes letting go and handing over the reins feels like luxury and pampering.
Wow! These tips are so useful and practical, Donna! I am definitely bearing them in mind and incorporating them into my planning!
Thanks Agness. Although I generally like to do all the planning work, it can be a great relief sometimes to let someone else take some of the load or to plan less.