I am an adventurous sort. Not the kind who likes doing crazy stunts, high places, or physical challenges, but the kind who likes to go new places, see new things, and discover new worlds. I think I was an explorer of some sort in a past life (could have been when I was also a pirate). BUT I like to have it all planned out. My idea of hell and torment is to show up someplace and not already have a hotel reservation. My other idea of hell and torment is to go to the same place on vacation year after year.
Because of my work life and family life I don’t have as much time to go on adventures as I’d like, so when I do go, I want to get the most out of it. Ten years ago I took the whole family to Japan. I planned it and organized it myself, and it was…AWESOME! This year I’m going to Australia (I’m actually there right now!). And in the spirit of adventure, I thought I’d share my process of planning an adventure to help you plan your own!
- Choose it. Pick a place you are really passionate and curious about, that you feel a calling to go to, that perhaps you dreamed about as a child.
- Read about it. I am insanely attached to the Frommer’s guidebooks. They are organized exactly the way I need them to be and rarely lead me astray. But I also get TONS of ideas from travel magazines. In fact, magazines often spark the desire to explore, and the guidebooks help me make it come to life.
- Talk about it. Ask people if they’ve ever been there and what was good or bad about it. Often, from those personal conversations you get key insights and find places that are easily overlooked by books and magazines. The best part of our trip to Japan, going to the island of Miyajima, only occurred because we talked to my daughter’s friend and she had been there and swore it was amazing. It was.
- Plot it out on paper. A vacation is when you go to one place and stay there. You don’t need to plot that out. An adventure is when you are traveling from place to place within one bigger trip. To do that, you need to get a tablet and write the dates down the side of the page and work out the comings and goings and the getting theres and logistics of it all.
- Do your research online. What’s the weather? When is the rainy season? Do the places look as good or different from what you imagined? Which hotel do you want to stay at? Books and magazines and references are a good starting point, but I want to see pictures. Do the windows open (a requirement for me!)? Check schedules for concerts, museum exhibits, local festivals, and such, as well. The Internet makes planning an adventure infinitely more easy than before.
- Go on social media. I got some great ideas from people by posting on Facebook that I was going to Australia and asking if anyone had any recommendations. Twitter works well for that, too. Just ask!
- Book it! Again, the Internet makes this easy. When I went to Japan I had to use a travel agent. But now, it’s easy to book hotels, trains, planes, cars, and restaurants online. Just make sure you are looking at your tablet of dates and not missing anything.
- Confirm it. Since you won’t have a travel agent to blame if something goes wrong, make sure you print out every confirmation and take it with you. Look over it all carefully. I discovered from reading the fine print that one spa I am staying at in Australia does not allow any caffeine at all! People, I’ve attempted to get off it for this trip, but it was a monthlong process! If I’d showed up in full addiction mode, my whole trip would have been ruined.
- Pack for it. Make sure you have a suitcase that is easy to manage—wheels, backpack, whatever it is you need. Pack light because half the fun of adventuring (for me) is shopping (aka hunting). But make sure you pack the stuff you really need and want. A few trips have been marred by not packing warm enough clothes, for instance. I often take the guidebook along, too, just in case. Or make a little notebook of all the places I’ve ripped out of magazines and want to go to. I also pack art supplies!
- Enjoy it! The goal of preparing well is so that once you’re on the ground in your destination of choice, you are not wasting any time trying to find a hotel or figure out how to get from one place to the next, but rather, enjoying the sites, the sounds, the surprises, the people, and the beauty. It’s also important to leave time just to relax, hang out, and rest. After all, you planned an adventure and now you are on it, and it should be fun! Congratulations!