Planning one trip in one year is hard enough, but consider planning 12 trips in 12 months. It’s a lot to keep organized and prepare for. It’s important for me to sit down and plan my time off, budget, flight options, and dates before I even put anything on my schedule. Here is what goes into planning my 12 trips in 12 months.
I am a planner by nature. My mind is always racing with the next trip I’m going to make and just thinking about planning those details is exciting! These are a few steps to consider as you plan out your trips for a year.
Add your mandatory trips first
I start by locking in the dates of any “must complete” trips, especially work-related trips. Those tend to be non-negotiable and you’ll need to make sure you’ve got the dates locked in before planning anything else. Those are dates that you need to work around, and should avoid any scheduling conflicts.
When I originally thought up this idea of 12 trips in 12 months, I honestly wasn’t sure I could actually follow through on it. I only had half of the trips already planned, so I was worried about where the other destinations would be and how I would afford them. But I pushed through, and kept on adding destinations to the list. A few added themselves, like work trips to Toronto and Charlotte, but my holiday trip was all dreamt up. And wala! I made it happen. You can never attain something that you don’t dream of, so let your imagination run with it.
Create an excel sheet
I like to keep everything organized for trip planning, and excel is my best friend for this. It’s a great tool for listing all the necessary information for trips in one convenient format. On my excel sheet, I like to put information like:
- Actual days (Monday, Tuesday, etc)
- What the purpose of travel is?
- Who will be going on the trip?
- How much time off (if any) is required
- How you plan to pay for it?*
- Estimated costs & types
- Actual Costs & types (to be added afterwards)
Below, you can see an example of the excel sheet I used to plan my 2015 trips. This is a great way to get all the really important information in one place, and then you can add additional details as the trips firm up,
Plan your budgets
I think a lot of people have this perception that traveling is incredibly expensive and is only an option for the wealthy. Let me tell you, I work for a non-profit with a small salary and I’m on track to take 13 trips this year, 2 of which are international. It’s absolutely possible, but you have to plan for the expenses and be diligent about saving.
By listing out as many of your trips as you can ahead of time, you are able to anticipate certain expenses and create a budget for each. In order to make this work, you have to commit yourself to your travel plans and stick to your decision.
Making a few minor adjustments to your routine (ex: making coffee at home instead of Starbucks, packing a lunch instead of going out, cut out cable and opt for Netflix), you can save hundreds of dollars per month. I, for example, stopped buying newly produced clothing completely and only shop at thrift stores, especially ones where I can sell clothes for credit. I looked at my spending this year over last year, and I’ve already saved $1450 (yes, I know, I was buying too many clothes) from my spending. All of this has been reallocated to travel expenses, covering the cost of several of my trips.
Coordinate with your calendar
Another very important tool is a calendar. When I’m just in the planning stages, I like to have a physical calendar because it helps me to visualize the months and lengths of stay a little bit better. Once the details are finalized, I transition over to the Google calendar, where I can input the exact dates and locations. What I love about Google Calendar is it syncs up with your email to add on any flights you reserve, hotels booked, etc. You’ve got all your logistics in one mobile cloud based location!
Utilize your long weekends
I like to think about a trips that can line up with holidays or pre-arranged time off so that I can conserve my precious vacation days. Holidays like Columbus Day, President’s Day and MLK Day are the perfect opportunities to take long weekends because they fall on a Monday. If you wait until last minute, you won’t do anything. But if you think about these days as travel opportunities in advance, you can really optimize your time off.
Research flight options
Once you’ve dreamed up a few locations that you hope to visit, start researching flight itineraries. There are certain times of the year that are off-peak times, which are perfect for keeping on a budget. Checking off peak schedules is a perfect way to plan your long weekend trips, since they are usually at obscure times like February or October. You’ll also discover that there are good days and routes to use your frequent flier miles on, and each airline is different. I’ve learned to love scouring through airlines terms & conditions and searching on their reward programs to find the best deals for mile redemption. You’ll need a few hours to research all the different options, and Google Flight Matrix is a huge help.
Now I’m a little more neurotic about planning so you’ll notice all the spreadsheets here. It’s ok if you’re not as crazy as I am. But by applying a few of these steps and principles I listed above, you can be more methodical and meaningful about your travel planning, which in the end, will help you travel more often and more comfortably.