April 2, 2015

How I Travel: When To Plan?

I thought of another reason I will never be French: I plan my calendar way earlier than two weeks in advance. (Seriously. Ask any French person what they're doing in 2 weeks. They have no idea.)

Here's the start to a new cluster of questions I get asked a lot: how do you travel? Followed by the classic Who (to take), What (to pack), Where (to go), When (to plan), Why (bother) of everything else. I always start with my calendar, so that is why this "When To Plan?" segment is first.

We are already loaded up on places to go and people to see through August!

I love planning travel. I am so excited to find the right plane ticket, the perfect train time, or the best AirBnB location. It's like an adventure puzzle that keeps getting more and more beautiful as the pieces keep fitting together. I know some travelers really hate planning their trips; email me, I'll help you!

With a little bit of creativity and a map full of interesting destinations, family, and friends, we've been able to lay the groundwork for what our summer (basically May through August) will look like. Some of it, Marc and I will go together, but this is what my specific schedule will be. If you want to know Marc's, just ask!

May: Portugal
-Lisbon and the Algarve. Sunshine and cousin time!

June: East Coast
-New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Statue of Liberty, Jimmy Fallon, Tanya S., and Amanda!

July: Cross Country USA
-Washington, D.C., Virginia, Wisconsin, Idaho, and California. Alex, Grandma & Aunt Denise, Jenn's Crew, Tanya B., and Swagerty family!

August: Back to Europe
-Southern California, Scotland, and Netherlands. More Swagerty family, Wise family in Europe, and volleyball camp!

After that: TBD
-We live year-to-year. We'll see what job offers we can come up with, and where we can keep making our Euro lives work best!

Why do I make all these plans in advance?

1) It's cheaper.

I can do more for less. I have time to research prices and places, finding the best combination of dates and directions. The extra time helps me be patient to wait for the better deals, too. (If a destination is too expensive, it gets put on the shelf for later. Like, maybe when-we-have-real-jobs-later. But I also kind of hope "real jobs" never happen.)

2) It respects other people's schedules.

If I would prefer to stay with people, or even just see them at some point in the trip, I make it a point to email them so far in advance that they usually have nothing else planned. If they are busy, I still have time to find a way to work around it. (I hate when people email me a week before they come to Paris. I'm busy, dude!)

3) More options are still available.

I love options. I love making decisions between tons and tons of places, transportation types, and time frames. The worst is planning at the last minute, and THE flight you had to get is sold out or outrageously expensive. (I hate not getting my way.)

4) It's easy for me.

I can never just look at the current calendar month in front of me. I inevitably end up flipping to the next page, then the next, and the next, wondering what I can fit in and what opportunities I can create or maximize. My brain thinks in timeline format. (I am totally directionally-challenged, but I always know what time it is!)

I know a lot of travelers love spontaneous adventures, and have the time and money to jump on planes and trains on their every whim. Europe has granted us some fun trips that way because there are randomly really cheap train tickets, but ultimately, most of my trips are planned way in advance.

Travel (and anything) is best experienced when you know how you enjoy it. For me, I get more and more excited as I plan something. (Exception: our wedding. Should have eloped and thrown an expectations-free party way later.) I do not get more excited when I have no idea what is going to happen next. I do love a great surprise or discovery, but those things usually find me on their own.

What am I going to do?!
When I haven't planned is when I've ended up jumping over locked castle gates, walking 2 hours more than my feet could, sleeping in weird hostels, praying I can trust my life to random strangers, and eating overpriced crappy food. Great stories, but moments I could have lived without!

In a perfect world, my calendar is done a season (3-4 months) in advance. The bigger/farther the trip, the earlier it gets taken care of. Solo travel can be easier to plan because you only have to worry about your own schedule. I start my packing list at least two weeks in advance, knowing I'll make changes, and hopefully eliminating as much as possible to lighten the load.

And why do I do this?

Travel is the best education I've ever experienced.

When do you plan your adventures? Much respect to those of you who can pull off the spontaneous awesomeness!

Keep an eye out for the next segment in the "How I Travel" posts: Where To Go?!