Wednesday, 4 December 2013

A spreadsheet for happy travels

This week I completed a workplace exercise to gauge my behavioural habits.

Apart from having little trust in others, it also became apparent that I am very much a detail person.

In fact one of the questions to expose this was: "When going on holidays I tend to have detailed travel plans: Always, Most of the Time, Occasionally, or Never?"

Naturally I picked "Always".

While I haven't embraced an Excel worksheet, I do use Word documents with tables outlining the date, location, and key accommodation, transport, transfer and activity details.  This is supported by another folder of hotel receipts, timetables, maps and anything else I might need.

Planning doesn't mean everything is set in stone
A good old fashioned spreadsheet or table may sound like an immediate fun crusher, but I'd like to mount a compelling argument in defence of myself and everyone else out there who loves planning in detail a good holiday.

1.  Planning helps you enjoy the holiday before you've even left home
Planning: gives you a taste of what's to come

I usually start thinking about a holiday nine months before departure.   I start with a broad plan and then fill in the details as the holiday approaches.

I will take my time to research destinations, hotels and transport options, and find this hugely rewarding.   Using Google Earth, Trip Advisor, blogs and a host of other online tools, I can literally see where I'm going and and can get excited by these virtual tantalising tastings.   Sometimes it feels like I'm already there, as if my mind has departed on holidays before my body.  After all, why confine your holiday to just a few weeks when you can spread it out over months?

2.  Planning maximises the "fun on the ground"

Planning: more time to enjoy the good stuff
When I arrive somewhere, I know where the hotel I've booked is and the quickest way to get there. This means I can spend less time on the logistics (transport and accommodation) and more time enjoying the new destination.

I'm not going to spend my precious holiday time in a fabulous location lined up in the local tourist office trying to find a bed for the night (only to end up having to take the hotel that has vacancies for a very good reason!).

I also take it to the next level and know what I want to see at the destination, so I don't waste time wondering what the destination has to offer when I'm already there.

3.  Planning gets you into places

Planning: better access to the things you want

Most people who visit Amsterdam want to visit Anne Frank's House, but because of its size it can only take a limited number of people at a time.   For those who like planning, you can pre-book and pay for your entry online for a specific day and time.   So while all the non-planners stand in queue for literally hours in the hope they'll make it in, you just rock up a few minutes before your entry time and skip the queue.  

The same applies for other major attractions, like Granada's Alhambra.   You can buy your ticket online beforehand, or line up at the crack of dawn in the hope of snaring any left over tickets.   It's really a no-brainer don't you think?

4.  Planning means you can easily adapt to changes

Planning: finding the easier way is easier
The train you were going to catch is late or cancelled?   No big deal, you've got the train timetable so you will just take another one you know is coming soon, but departing from a different platform.   You're running late to pick up the key to your rental property?  No worries, you've got all the contact details of the agent and can easily arrange another option.

Rather than make your holiday rigid, planning actually does the opposite by ensuring you've got the information and tools you need to quickly adapt to the inevitable changes, alterations and delays on your holiday.

5.  Planning gives you options

Planning: more options to choose from
Planners know the opening days and times of the "must-see" museum or attraction they desperately want to visit.  Non-planners turn up only to realise it's closed that day or is closed for renovation until 2016.  Planning means you can schedule your time better and have a range of options at your fingertips, rather than be left with just one option or none.

6.  Planning saves you money

Planning: saves you money to spend on other things
Apart from the fact that airfares, train tickets and accommodation are often cheaper when booked well in advance, planning also saves you money in lots of other ways.  Planners have done their research and know about the cheap city tourist pass that gives free public transport and free admission to key attractions.  Non-planners find out about the pass after they've already spent three times that amount of money on seeing and doing half as much.

1 comment:

  1. Great tips Matthew! I still think this should be your profession!