The summer is almost here, and vacation time fast approaches. Whether you’re a college student looking to roam or halfway through your career and taking a hard-earned break, summer travel beckons. Where will you go? What will you do there? What kind of vacation do you want? As millions of people are planning and preparing their vacations, let’s take a look at summer travel planning from the perspective of project management.
First: Travel, or Vacation?
You might travel to your vacation, but travel and vacation are not the same thing! Vacations are for relaxing, travel is for new experiences. Travel requires work and exertion, and vacations should have neither. Are you looking for R&R, or something unique to see and do? Before starting to plan, define your goal – is it summer travel, or summer vacation?
When to start planning?
According to TripAdvisor, 59% of travelers begin their research and planning between one to three months before departure. That means most people start looking at their vacation options for summer around May-June.
How to plan summer travel?
There are so many ways to plan a vacation. How you plan your vacation depends on what you want to accomplish – some people have a destination in mind, or an activity they plan to center their vacation around. For example, if you want to climb Mount Everest this vacation, you already know you’re going to Nepal and spending the time there climbing the mountain. Planning such a vacation is more about getting the logistics down pat. If you’re looking to just spend two weeks at the beach, though, you have a lot of beaches to choose from! Then you may choose to look at options based on affordability, or the local cuisine, or somewhere unique. You may choose a theme for your trip, like planning a trip around cuisine. There are a lot of trends for themed trips – see some here.
We here at Proggio put together a project timeline (which we call a projectmap) on our platform for planning a vacation from scratch. (By the way, we recently did something similar for the Royal Wedding in the United Kingdom – take a look!) Let’s see how project management tools can help plan a successful vacation.
Stage One: Gathering Information
Destinations: What and Where?
The first thing you’ll want to do is decide what you want to do. This could be a list of options – a beach holiday, seeing the Pyramids at Giza, a hiking trip, taking a cruise, or seeing twenty shows on Broadway or West End.
Once you have a few ideas of what you want to do, the next thing is to decide where you’re going. Maybe you’ll look at vacation spot rankings, to get an idea what’s out there. Can you do more than one in a single trip? Using some of our examples, Egypt has beaches, the pyramids, hiking trails, and is on the Mediterranean cruise circuit. Maybe you can pack it all in!
Build your list of possibilities, categorize them, and then you can begin to budget each one to get an idea of what they will cost.
Packages and Price Alerts
While you’re researching your possible vacation options, you’re going to want to set up price alerts on flights and hotels for your possible destinations. You’ll get first crack at any good deals that come up, and you’ll also have an idea for what the market is like for your possible destinations.
You’re also going to want to look into summer travel packages. Sometimes there are wild deals available for flight + hotel packages. You save the headache of booking your hotel and flight separately, and often the price of such a package is negligibly more than plane tickets alone. You can also find packages that include car rentals.
If your credit card offers travel perks, or rewards points redeemable for travel and hotels, you can start your “when and where” search there too.
Stage Two: Building Action Plans
Budgeting your Trip/s
Okay, you’ve made your list of possibilities and matched each with the activities found there. Now it’s time to budget each one and see the cost. You’ll want to plan a Sunday flight, as these are generally cheapest. Are there packages available? Those usually provide savings.
Research Hotel Reviews
While you’re pricing out your options, you’ll want to pay close attention to the hotel choices. Read the reviews! Look for pictures of hotel rooms from other travelers, make sure the location of the hotel is optimal for your activities, and check that those amenities that seem so good are actually the way they appear.
Plan The Possible Itineraries
While you’re looking at the budgets and hotels, you’ll want to start planning the itinerary of your summer travel trip, too. The activities you want to do need to be accessible to where you’ll be staying. You’ll also want to get a sense of the different neighborhoods and their food options. Your itinerary is a jigsaw puzzle – you’ll need to fit the pieces around your “home base.” For planning possible itineraries, you’ll want to look at Google Trips – it’s a really, really helpful (and free!) app. The “Things to Do” section is a gold mine for planning your sightseeing and activities.
Look At Travel Arrangements
When planning an itinerary, you’ll want to pay close attention to travel arrangements. How will you get around when you’re there? Will you rent a car, use public transportation, or maybe a ride sharing app? Can you make it from one stop on your itinerary to another? How do you get from the hotel to the attraction? These are invaluable steps to take when planning what you’ll be doing – without this, you won’t be able to finalize any plans – well, you’ll be able to, but you’ll probably be pretty angry when you discover you’re missing activities right and left while waiting for buses that run once a day, or trying to find parking spaces downtown for your rental car, or just getting lost in an unfamiliar city.
Stage Three: Selecting An Action Plan And Finalizing
Choose Your Destination
There’s the milestone! You’ve put in your legwork. Everything is budgeted, the possible itineraries mapped out, hotels researched and ranked. Now it’s time to decide on a destination – which will become your vacation? By now, you probably have a favorite or two – maybe it’s the one that offers a particular experience you’ve wanted to have for a long time, or the city with the most interesting activities, or the beach that is so pristine with water so blue you’re already relaxing just looking at it. Maybe it’s the cheapest one. Whatever your motivation is, you should be ready to pick where you’re going. (Save the other itineraries you put together for future summer travel, though – they’ll come in handy and save you time next year!)
Book Your Flight!
Ready? Book that flight! A word to the wise, though – many travel websites have restrictions on the fares they offer. Make sure your ticket includes what you want it to – luggage allowance, rescheduling, seat choice, in flight meals, etc.
Shop around, too. Make sure to check the airline’s site too – sometimes you can find good deals or upgrades you would not find on a travel website. And speak to travel agents, too. Having a person on the other end of the line is helpful when you’re looking for answers before you book.
Book Your Activities
“Wait, what about the hotel?!?” you’re asking. Good question. The reason to book your activities first is simple – you’ll want to put yourself in the most convenient location for your itinerary – and until the itinerary is finalized, you don’t know where that will be! Booking those activities is also a good way to beat the lines…and avoid the disappointment of being turned away at the door because the attraction is already full for the day.
Book Your Hotel
Now that you know what you’ll be doing and when, you can plan your lodging accordingly. Maybe you’ll move hotels over the course of your trip, to better fit in everything you want to do.
Rent a Car/Buy a Railpass
Here is where you want to finalize the travel arrangements for your itinerary. Staying downtown? Get a public transport pass. Does your itinerary take you places you can’t get to by rail or bus? Rent a car, look at ride sharing app availability, or taxi companies. Know how you’re getting to where, and when – and set it up ahead of time, so there are no ugly surprises.
List of Restaurants You Want To Eat At
It isn’t a vacation, or travel, if you don’t get to have the local food. Look at the highest rated restaurants and build a list of places you want to eat at. You’ll be happy you did when you have those perfect Instagram shots of the local delicacies – and the memories (and maybe recipes) of new and interesting dishes.
Book Travel Insurance
Yes, you should! (You may be covered by your credit card for this – it’s worth checking with them.) Whether you miss your flight and trip due to unforeseen circumstances, or your airline loses your bags, or require a hospital visit while travelling, travel insurance coverage is a very good way to avoid huge headaches, and potentially massive costs, down the road.
Stage Four: Launch
Board Your Plane and Have Fun!
Make sure your passport is ready, your carry on packed with what you’ll need, and your ride to the airport arranged…and have a blast! You’ve covered every contingency and planned every day of your vacation to the max – now it’s go time. So go….and enjoy your summer travel!