Trip prep is not a simple or a quick thing, especially when you consider all of the unknown variables surrounding travel.
Let’s just say taking off for weeks or months at a time isn’t easy – especially if you’re responsible for running your own business simultaneously.
That’s why when John and I started planning for our 60-day Europe trip happening Fall 2018, I set aside specific and dedicated time for our trip prep.
I’m excited to be sharing my process with you here through a four part series on Trip Prep.
The great news is, there are a set of steps you can follow to help you prep for your trip AND ensure you’re doing everything you can to set yourself up for success – while on the road and at home in your business.
Getting Your Travel in Order
Planning your trip starts with organization.
In order to be able to focus on the laundry list of things you need to accomplish before you go on your trip (hint, hint: you’re going to be preparing a lot of content to be published while you’re away!), you need to be able to free your mind and bandwidth of worrying or thinking about your actual travel plans.
I call this part Getting Your Travel in Order because it’s just that: you want to make sure sure your travel plans are taken care of and that – to the best of your ability – you’re not going to run into any snags when it comes to the fundamental plans involved.
Here are the steps you need to take to make it happen.
4 Steps to Getting Your Travel in Order
Step 1. Your travel plans list
Start by taking 10 minutes to sit down and make a list of any travel plans you think are important aspects or things to be considered when prepping for your trip.
I would recommend creating this list as a project in Asana, which I’m going to talk about in more detail in Step 2 below.
Travel plans are things like:
- Booking your flights;
- What time you’ll leave for the airport;
- How you’re going to get to the airport;
- Your packing list;
- What bags you’ll be using to travel with;
- Where you’re going to stay once you land (AirBNB, Hotel, hostel);
- What type of trip you’re going to take (adventure, relaxing, a mix);
- What activities you’ll do;
- Whether those activities require advanced reservations;
- Will you be renting a car?;
- If you’ll be meeting up with people along the way;
- How you’ll get from one place to the next (train, plane, auto, etc)
Step 2. Have the right tools in place
Now that you have your travel plans listed out, you need to make sure you have the right tools in place.
There are several tools you can use to help you get your travel in order during your trip prep period.
My favorite tool is called TripIt.
TripIt is an app you can use to manage and keep track of all of your travel plans in ONE PLACE, from flight and train reservations, to AirBNB and hotel confirmations, it keeps track of every part of your trip.
Here’s a quick look at my plans in TripIt:
I have the mobile version and the desktop version, and both are super helpful for having eyes on my plans no matter where I am.
I use TripIt Pro, which is a very reasonably priced upgrade ($49 / year) that will provide you with alerts, info, and updates that you won’t get with the basic version.
For example, a few months ago I saved about $75 on a flight I had booked because TripIt alerted me that there was a lower fare posted from the airline.
I got the alert from TripIt, I called the airline, and they refunded me $75.
Once you have your TripIt account setup, it will automatically import travel-related reservations into your TripIt app from your email – as long as you’re using the same email you signed up for TripIt with to make those reservations.
But never fear: if for whatever reason an itinerary isn’t automatically pulled in – or you book something from a different email address – all you have to do is forward the confirmation email to firstname.lastname@example.org and it will import the info.
Worst case scenario, they have a template you can pull up to input the info yourself.
Another tool I like to use is called Asana.
Asana is what I mentioned in Step 1 above, and it’s a very robust task and project management software I use for business-related tasks and projects.
Because I love it so much, I’ve moved all my personal stuff into it, too.
What I love most about Asana is that it’s sneakily simple to use and it reminds me to do things I’m supposed to do or that I’m supposed to follow up on.
As you can imagine, when you’re working on trip prep, being reminded of the things you’re supposed to do comes in handy.
But Asana can’t read your mind – or plan your trip for you – so you have to do the initial setup of getting all your trip to-do’s in there in order to make it work for you. Again, this is why I recommend creating your trip plans list right in Asana.
Even if you don’t have a complete list of all the things you need to do for your trip prep now, use Asana as an on-going task list. When you think of something new, simply add it to the Asana project you set up for your trip with a due date to remind yourself to get it done.
Here’s how I’m using Asana for our Europe trip:
As I mentioned before, John and I are doing 60 days in Europe, and we’re hitting 14 stops along the way (including a 10-day Mediterranean cruise), so there are kind of a lot of moving pieces.
Instead of being overwhelmed by the planning and logistics of how you actually make 60 days and 14 stops happen smoothly, I started with the very simple step of putting the locations – along with the dates we’ll be in each of those locations – into a project in Asana.
Once I took the time to do that, it gave me a place – a single view – where I can start adding plans, links, dates, and notes that I feel are important to making sure my travel is in order.
Here’s a visual snippet of what part of my trip prep looks like in Asana for our Europe Trip:
So make sure you sign up for a TripIt account, get all of your upcoming travel reservations imported, and then start laying out your itinerary and notes in a project using Asana. That will include:
- Your travel plans list you created in Step 1;
- Any / all info you already know about your trip (places you’ll stay, dates, things you want to do);
- The trip to-do’s you want to remind yourself of as you continue planning (making certain reservations, notes on recommendations from friends, restaurants you want to check out, etc).
Step 3: Do your research
When it comes to research, Google is your best friend – but you want to be sure you’re visiting legit sites when looking for info so you know it can be trusted.
My top recommendations for resources when looking for places to stay, visit, and things to do are:
- Rick Steves (for walking tours and audio tours)
- AirBNB (for both places to stay and “experiences”)
- Trip Advisor (for ratings on things to do / areas to stay in)
- Lonely Planet (for reviews of things to do / places to visit)
- Mr. & Mrs. Adventure (for reviews of places to see and activities to do)
But there’s a whole other realm of trip prep that most people never think of – until it’s time to start packing.
So while it’s important to consider your research around where you’ll stay, what places you’ll visit, and the top things to do in each location, you want to be sure you’re also setting aside time to research your travel necessities.
Yep, I’m talking about tangibles, like:
- The luggage you’ll bring;
- The daypack you’ll use;
- What time of year you’ll be traveling (and therefore, what type of clothes will be necessary);
- How much space you’re going to have; and
- Any additional gear necessary (depending on what type of trip you’re taking).
For example, when John and I initially started our trip prep, in addition to me starting to research AirBNB’s and things to do in each location we’re visiting, he mentioned that he’ll only be bringing his backpack on this trip.
Then I realized he was serious.
So I thought, okay, I can get down with this. Traveling for 60 days, packing and unpacking in 14 different places, being on planes, trains, and in automobiles – having just a backpack will actually make everything so much easier.
So you definitely want to take into consideration:
- Where you’ll be,
- How often you’ll be moving around, and
- Whether it’s really necessary to bring all those heels and dresses along, ladies…
What did I do when I realized I needed a backpack I could take on any airline – and feel comfortable carrying on my back a lot – and that would fit all my belongings for 60 days?
I Googled “best backpack for traveling Europe”.
I spent probably about 45 minutes reading several different articles that reviewed top backpacks for the type of travel we’re doing, and I also watched a few YouTube reviews from one of my favorites, Chase Reeves.
Here’s the video that sold me on getting the Tortuga Setout backpack for this trip.
Don’t be afraid to invest your time in researching not just where you’ll stay and what you’ll do while you’re there, but also the tangible travel necessities you’ll need to make your trip comfortable.
It WILL pay off.
Step 4: It never hurts to confirm
As I just mentioned, I spent about 45 minutes on backpack research alone, and that’s not to mention the time I’ve spent researching:
- 14 different AirBNB’s;
- The 1 pair of shoes that will allow me to walk, run, workout, AND look cute with any outfit;
- The ‘must-see’ activities at each stop;
- The Cruise excursions we should do;
- The trains and transportation at each stop;
- What it’s going to take to get Internet / data on our phone plan while we’re traveling;
- Whether we need a Visa to travel to any of the countries we’ll be visiting;
- The list goes on…
But I’m not naming all these things to freak you out, or to overwhelm you… I’m naming them to make sure you’re considering your trip prep from all angles.
With the first two steps we covered here, you should be setup for trip prep success as it relates to getting your travel in order. You’ve got your travel plans listed out, your organizational tools in place, and you’ve done (or will be doing) your research.
But it never hurts to confirm things.
Don’t be afraid to call airlines, reach out to support on travel websites, or spend a few extra minutes reading reviews from others who have already done the things you want to do while you’re in a certain location.
I wish someone would have given me this advice before we traveled to New Zealand and Australia in the Fall of 2017.
I brought along my carryon roller bag, assuming that all airlines are equal.
Turns out a majority of the airlines over there only allow a small carryon bag (I’m talking like a purse or a small backpack), and it can only weigh like 25 pounds!
Not only did I have no clue this was the case, but because I ended up having to check my carryon roller bag every time we got on a plane at the gate, they charged way more than they would have if I would have done it before checking in online – sometimes upwards of $60 instead of $15 – $20.
It’s also a great idea to talk to your friends and family about your travel plans. You never know whether one of them has been to where you’re going, and direct recommendations from someone who has already been there are the best kind.
Wrap up of Trip Prep: Getting Your Travel in Order
As long as you have the right tools in place, take the time to set your trip up as a project that you can go back to any time to add to and review, are being mindful about the research required to make sure you don’t show up somewhere completely unprepared, and you’re setting reminders and due dates to hold yourself accountable along the way, you’re all set!
Getting your travel in order is an important aspect of trip prep, so don’t let it slide till the last minute, and remember to have fun in the process!
Up next in Part II, we’re going to be talking about another aspect of Trip Prep: Getting Your Work in Order. John and I are slowly getting better at unplugging while we’re traveling, but it doesn’t come without a lot of prep beforehand.
I’ll break down the steps we take weeks before our travel happens to ensure we get to enjoy the places we’re in versus trying to put out fires in our business.