As I type this, I’m roughly 35 thousand feet in the air. I didn’t intend to be on a flight this this weekend, but my plans changed at the last minute. I checked my schedule and rearranged a few things, and here I am getting face time with some clouds.
Jetting off across country may sound exciting and fun. And, it is. But, for people like me who love to plan ahead, last minute trips usually are a source of stress. There’s an odd combination of excitement mixed with the feeling you get when you go through the triple loop of a rollercoaster. There’s something about an unplanned trip that can make your stomach do a few summersaults.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do in preparation of your next spontaneous adventure. Here’s what I did over the last two days to add this quick trip to my schedule without too many hassles.
Call in the troops
Most of us have people in our lives who can help us out in a pinch. Be sure to have those friends/family members on stand by and speed dial in situations such as this. They may be able to jump on the computer for you as you pack and help find a way to the airport/train station/bus terminal/car rental shop, research what kind of weather to expect at your destination, and help you find a way to get to/from the airport/train station/bus terminal at your destination. Really good friends and family members might also agree to watch your pets or house sit for you or make sure that your plants get a little sunshine and water while you’re away.
Let technology be your friend
Check in or get your tickets in advance online, if possible. It will save you few minutes and help things go much more smoothly on travel day. Luckily for me, I checked in for my flight a day in advance and pre-arranged to automatically check-in for my return flight on Sunday. The airline I flew then sent my electronic boarding passes to my email address. Advance check in and electronic boarding passes also mean quicker boarding times and no paper clutter when I get home. Of course, it does help if your smart phone (or tablet) is charged. I lucked out there, too. My plane has power outlets so I can charge up and have enough battery power to make calls once I land.
It also helps that I have a few tools that I normally use to get stuff done. Today’s post comes courtesy of my iPad, Bluetooth keyboard, and Evernote account. Both devices fit easily in my Butler bag and are lighter and easier to carry around than my laptop.
Have a few things ready to go
The nice thing about spontaneous trips is they are spontaneous. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t do a little advanced planning for when those moments arise. I know someone who always keeps a packed bag in the trunk of his car. His go-to items include a sweater and some T-shirts so that he’s ready no matter the weather. If a full bag isn’t your style, you can keep a packed toiletry bag in your luggage with a travel toothbrush, small tube of toothpaste, comb, 3 oz. shampoo bottle, and other supplies. You might even like to make packing lists for different types of trips — weekend at the beach, weekend in the mountains, trip to see mom, four-day conference — ahead of time and save these checklists in Evernote so you won’t forget anything the next time you travel.
Staying current with your laundry also helps to make sure you always have clean clothes when you need them. You won’t miss out on a trip because you have to do a load of wash. Owning an overnight, duffle, or weekend bag will also come in handy, and you can save time at the airport by having your name/address tag already filled out and attached to the bag. If you travel often, you may also benefit from an extra phone charger, so you don’t have to go searching for one before you leave.
Chances are, by rearranging your usual plans to make room for the unexpected trip, you might be reducing how productive you would normally be. If that’s the case, use some down time, like when you’re on the plane or waiting for your connecting flight to get some work done. That might mean writing out your grocery or to-do list for when you return, reading that book you’ve been meaning to crack open (that book for me is The $100 Startup), or drafting a report.
Live in the moment
Sure, get stuff done (if you have time) so you don’t have an overflowing plate when you get back. But, don’t get so focused on working that you lose sight of having a bit of fun. Take advantage of the new opporutunity you have, whether that’s meeting new people or having new experiences. Your mind and body will feel less sressed and you’ll come back ready with lots of memories and stories to share.
Yesterday (June 20th) was the first day of summer for those of us in the northern hemisphere. I, for one, am very happy about the start of summer. The days are longer and there are so many fun things to do, like taking road trips and long weekends at the beach. I’m really looking forward to sharing new experiences with my husband and 5-month-old. Planning ahead will be even more important for us since we are now traveling together as a trio.
To make sure your summer travel plans go off (mostly) without a hitch, follow these simple steps:
Figure out everyone’s schedules
Whether you’re taking a weekend trip with your girlfriends or heading off to a week-long family vacation to Epcot, it’s important to know when everyone’s available. This may sound obvious, but it is essential and perhaps the most challenging part of planning. Get this information as early as you can and find out if there’s any flexibility with dates (just in case one or two people are not available when everyone else is). Sites like WhenIsGood.net and Doodle.com can help easily coordinate this task. Once you know when everyone has time off, you can pick a date and then you will need to…
Decide where you’ll go
Once the vacation dates are selected, figure out where you’ll go. Will you be taking your annual trip to your favorite destination or will you go some place new? Are white, sandy beaches on your mind? Or, would you prefer something more active (like a hiking vacation)? Once everyone agrees on the location, do a little research to find out if there are any special events that you’d like to attend, and add them to your calendar.
Decide who will do what
Who will be responsible for making the flight and hotel reservations? Or, will everyone handle their own arrangements? If you’re taking a road trip, figure out if you’ll drive to your destination together or if everyone will drive their own car. If you’re carpooling, do you need to rent a larger vehicle and who will handle that? Who will bring the snacks and drinks?
Decide how to take care of trip expenses
When traveling with a group, it’s important to discuss how the trip will be paid for before you travel or make reservations. Will one person pay and then get reimbursed? When will he/she get reimbursed? Who will pay for gas and snacks? Do you want to reimburse exact amounts or do you think it will all “even out in the wash?”
Decide what to bring with you
The last time I took a road trip, I brought the world with me. Since I would be on the road for eight hours, I wanted to have everything I could possibly need at my fingertips. When you’re driving with a child and dog in the car for more than an hour, you really don’t want any surprises. As it turned out, I didn’t use half of what I packed. But, now I have a better idea of what I will use the most and this will help me when it’s time for our next adventure.
Here are some things that will be helpful to have on hand (depending on your specific circumstances):
- First aid kit
- GPS and/or paper map
- Paper money and coins (for tolls, snacks)
- Cell phone and charger
- Sun screen or sun block
- Books, magazines, or Kindle
- Baby gear, if you have a baby
- Children’s games and music, if you have children
No matter where you decide to go this summer, put a few plans in place first. Planning may not seem like fun, but thinking things through ahead of time will make the trip less stressful.