#62: Trip Planning 101

#62: Trip Planning 101

At the time of this posting I am likely on a plane, heading to another country. International travel is not something I ever, in a million years, imagined would be a part of my life, so I don’t take the extreme privilege for granted. I have been super fortunate to befriend people who just happened to be preparing to live overseas. I lucked into a college roommate whose father was transferred to a country I really enjoyed visiting. I have also gone on a number of big trips due to the wise financial planning and uber generosity of my mother, who has been bit by the travel bug in her retirement years. It’s taken an odd combination of circumstances to put stamps in my passport.

I’d like to share with you some of my typical travel prep experiences, so that when you have strategically befriended someone soon departing for exotic locales (and I highly recommend your doing that ASAP), and they invite you to come visit them, you will have a list of my tips, tricks, and cautionary tales.

  1. The first thing I do when considering international travel is locate the target country on a map. I am a geography idiot, and until I was actually headed to Belgium, it never really occurred to me the country made famous by Napoleon, chocolate, and waffles, is roughly the size of Maryland and bordered by a number of other fun countries within a 2-hour drive. I didn’t realize how relatively easy it would be to visit nearby nations once I had made the big leap over the pond. I was surprised by those opportunities and so probably did not make the most of them.
  2. The second thing I do is Google my way into oblivion. I compulsively check airfares, seasonal weather patterns, historic and cultural sites, and hotel and restaurant reviews. Before the advent of the smart phone, I killed many a tree printing out Google results. It’s really the fastest and most efficient way to overwhelm yourself before any trip.
  3. The third thing I do is freak out about the second thing I did. Seriously. There is no way an army could accomplish in a month of Sundays everything I research. So that leads easily to the fourth thing.
  4. Prioritize what is most important to me to see or do given limited time and finances. That step leads inevitably to the next.
  5. Realize/accept/acknowledge I probably won’t get to experience everything I hope to. Unexpected national holidays, unseasonal weather, museum closures, money-changing snafus, and public transportation intricacies will interfere with my best laid plans.
  6. Remember that many of my favorite travel memories came not from something in a guidebook, but from that thing I did when I could not do the thing I wanted to do, or that place I discovered when I (inevitably) got lost.
  7. Obsess over packing.
  8. Obsessively over pack.

The only word that accurately describes my past packing behaviors, all-caps and bold for emphasis, is RIDICULOUS. However, I have made an extra effort to stop the usual madness for this trip. I’ve allowed myself no new clothing or shiny electronics. Layer, rinse out, and repeat is my outfit strategy. I bought one adapter and a set of batteries; that’s it. And I will, with God as my witness, NOT default to overfilling the largest suitcase I own. I’d appreciate your prayers on this last point, because it goes against every packing instinct I’ve ever had that tells me I will surely need All The Things! Because they don’t have stores in other countries, right? Ahem.

So, my friends, I wish you well, and may happy travels soon be yours in abundance. See you on the other side!

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