Question from last week, which stretched into two blogs:
What’s the easiest way to plan what we’re going to do when we get there? I always want to plan things so that we don’t waste time doing nothing, but I get overwhelmed trying to figure out a timeline for things.
Last week, I talked about making a timeline. This week, I’m including all the miscellaneous tips I have left over.
First of all, three tips to help anyone avoid time-wasting:
Know thy transportation. If you’re traveling via public transit, get a map of the entire system and study it while you’re on the bus so you know how to get where you need to go. If you’re taking a car or walking, keep a good map on hand. If you know how to smoothly navigate from place to place, you’ll have a much easier time of it.
As I mentioned last week, make your plans around geographic locations. My sister and I enjoy wandering all over cities and doubling back on ourselves several times, but it’s not very efficient.
Have a lot of backup options. When you plan your day around one big event, you might find it takes a lot longer or shorter than you expected. That’s why backup options are so handy— you can discard them without any loss to the quality of your trip, or find time to visit that ornamental rose garden after all.
As I was compiling these lists, I realized that some of my posts directly pertained to traveling in a group. Travel with two or more people can get more complicated, but it’s lots of fun. Here are my best tips.
Choose a leader. Ideally, the leadership should be fluid, but at any given time in the trip, there must be one person who is taking all the choices and opinions into consideration and making the final decision. Otherwise you waste incredible amounts of time trying to figure out simple things, like “Where should we eat?” “What should we buy at the grocery store?” “Which museum should we visit today?” A sympathetic but decisive leader eliminates the endless debates and discussions.
Figure out a money system. Here’s what’s worked for me in the past: each person on the trip takes a turn putting $20 of gas into the car. (This was traveling with a bunch of single people: you’d have to take in account married people.) Each person also pays for his or her own food, making deals with other people (“Want to put in half to buy this huge pack of lunchmeat?”) and sharing as they wish. (Hint: Communal food causes conflict very quickly.) Split hotel bills into even fractions. This is the easiest way to make the finances fair.
Be open to splitting up for a while. When I traveled to the Grand Canyon with a couchsurfing friend, Amanda, I appreciated that she knew when we should go our separate ways for the day. We hiked a few miles together in the morning, and then she decided to chill, have a little picnic, walk her dog, and take a nap in her trailer. I wanted to hike the rim as far as I could, so we parted ways and met up at evening for dinner. Both of us had a much better time that we would have with a compromise.
Whether traveling solo or in a group, be sure to have a strong leader, figure out details in advance, and stay chill about your schedule. After all, the point of all this planning is to help you relax and enjoy your trip.