Trip Planning – Address the Pain Points First

Toronto. My home town. My option for a micro-vacation. trip planning

Toronto. My home town. My option for a micro-vacation.

Few of us live life free of all restrictions.

Who among us has unlimited funds, unlimited time and no responsibilities. Who can travel anywhere, anytime, for any length of time and as luxuriously as desired. A rare, rare person to be sure.

When it comes to planning for travels, most of us have to be realistic about our limitations while pursuing our travel dreams. To successfully balance life and travel start planning from the point of greatest pain – the point that holds you back the most. Ignoring it will either lead to paralysis and no travel or a trip that causes undue stress.

In my mind there are three possible pain points and therefore, three different approaches to trip planning. One of these may be right for you.

A micro-vacation destination can simply be a hike in a nearby woods. trip planning

A micro-vacation destination can simply be a hike in a nearby woods.

If Your Pain Point Is Time

Time is a huge issue for most people. We live in busy times.

With mobile phones, Facebook, Twitter… we are (if we allow it) accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

By nature, most people will fill all the time available. If a responsibility falls off, a child is no longer in a sport program, for example, we’ll replace that commitment with another.

So how can you deal with the issue of time if you want to travel?

It’s all about setting priorities. If your time is limited due to work responsibilities, then perhaps it’s necessary to go offline for a few hours a day to complete work more efficiently. If time is freed up because a program ends, maybe it’s worthwhile giving serious consideration as to whether to replace it. Even if you’re limited in the number of vacation days you have in a year, these strategies could free up hours or present opportunities for long weekends.

When the issue is time, travel will fall into four possible categories.

  • Micro-vacations
  • Short Getaways
  • A week or two to yourself
  • Career breaks

You can read about each of these here How to Find More Travel Time – 15 tips.

When planning to travel, start with one of the category that fits your life. Then choose destinations that are appropriate. On a micro-vacation you won’t have time to leave your home town but you can approach your town as a tourist. A short getaway may mean going only a few hours away whether by car or plane. It may not be your first choice but it seems important to know that just about any destination has things of interest if you’re curious. Bottom line, you may have to save your bucket list destinations for when time is less of an issue.

My stay at Anand Prakash ashram was an experience that I will never forget (and one I'd like to repeat.) trip planning

If money is your pain point, consider going a place that is inexpensive. This ashram in India was less than $20 per day for food and accommodation. The flight was expensive but at that daily rate a two week trip could come in just slightly under $2,000. This is Anand Prakash Ashram in Rishikesh.

If Your Pain Point Is Money

Money is a big issue for many people but unless you are in very serious financial difficulties, it should be one that you can get around. There are three possible ways:

  • Save to take your dream trip
  • Choose a trip that matches your budget.
  • Schedule your trip when the prices are lower.

So let’s talk about saving for your dream trip first. It can take time. I’ve written about saving money for travel here and saving money for travel within the context of a complex life here.

Unfortunately, saving is about delayed gratification – not something that our credit-laden society is particularly good at. But it can be very sweet to reach your dream destination this way. Research shows that the satisfaction of having saved for a trip, the planning time that this allows and the lack of stress from not being financially in debt after the trip all contribute to getting more happiness from your travels. Read about happy money here.

See how sweet delayed gratification is with this version of the marshmallow test – very cute.

Of course, the second way to deal with money issues is to travel to destinations within your budget or at a time that makes a destination within your budget. Consider:

  • Places you don’t have to fly to.
  • Destinations that are less expensive such as South America or Southeast Asia.
  • Traveling on the off or shoulder season.

You can learn about how to budget a trip here. You can learn about how expensive different countries are here. For information on the off or shoulder season read The Sweet Spot for Solo Travel: the question of “when”.

These are the "Pained Ladies" of San Francisco - one of my dream trip destinations. trip planning

These are the “Painted Ladies” of San Francisco – one of my dream trip destinations.

If Your Pain Point Is Responsibility

Responsibilities are a more difficult challenge than either time or money. Family or work responsibilities can definitely get in the way of travel. But it’s important to remember that you will live up to those responsibilities better if you are a happy, satisfied person.  So set aside any guilt, make yourself a priority and plan the solo trip you want. To make this happen read No Guilt Solo Travel: 6 thoughts on making yourself a priority.

Once you have your head around the balance of your travel desires and your responsibilities, communicate clearly with family, friends, work… to negotiate your personal time and travels. Be confident that taking time for yourself is good for everyone.

  • Janice Waugh

    So true!

  • Jessmicak

    My biggest pain point is choosing a destination…so many places, so little time…

  • angela

    Jet lag. Sometimes it’s not a problem, other times it can ruin a trip.

  • Emma

    I think that my biggest pain point is definitely time. It just seems like there is never enough time to get everything done! Especially when on vacation. It’s a strong urge to want to experience everything that the place has to offer…which is hard to do when stuck on a short time constraint. It’s even worse trying to find time to plan the vacation. Honestly, it seems that micro-vacations might make things even worse, making the vacation seem even shorter.

  • Hamish Healy

    I call it “economic freedom” … when you don’t have to worry about money for anything.
    Then time and work responsibilities won’t get in the way of travelling wherever
    you want to go. Wouldn’t life be grand that way?… but in reality, for most of us anyway, the pain points are precisely as you’ve identified them. So … thanks for the travel planning tips ‘coz despite this mini snags, I’d still travel.

  • leelaurino

    shall report in if I find something interesting……all adventures have something to take note of….

  • leelaurino

    will look for an update on this blog!
    lee at maturesolotravel

  • Barbara

    My pain points are 1: Unavoidable food restrictions and 2: Adaptations caused by age. Since I do my own planning and will travel solo, good organization will solve both problems.

  • Barbara

    That sounds like fun. It’s what I’m doing in Grenada, but Amsterdam is pretty planned out.

  • Janice Waugh

    Nice one Lee. Just let it roll.

  • leelaurino

    great review of what goes into planning a trip…and a trip or travel is NOT the same as the vacation where you put as much into it as possible in a 24 hr day! next month for the first time, i am taking a not planned adventure: shall pick the transportation and book accommodations but after that it is just what happens each day