I’m a planner. My family used to ride me about my keen ability to miss deadlines and slow things down because I was busy building a plan. But for me, planning was a way for me to organize all my thoughts, all the things I wanted to do on a trip, before actually executing. My family didn’t understand, but I knew the secret about planning. I knew that you build a plan so you can throw it away later.
This affinity for planning is probably why I love the idea of travel hacking. If you don’t know, travel hacking is the act of searching for and acquiring rewards points and elite statues with hotels and airlines. The goal is to get free stuff by taking every advantage of the system. It’s perfectly legal, but take some work.
Ok, so back to planning. This is a two step method: 1) Make the plan; 2) Toss out the plan. Seems weird, right? Let’s take it step by step.
Plan the Trip
When I was a kid, whenever I’d go on a backpacking or camping trip with my Boy Scout troop, I had certain rituals that I’d complete every time: pull out my backpack; lay out all my gear on my bed; open my Scout Handbook to the packing checklist. That checklist was what kept me following the Boy Scout Motto: Be Prepared. And that checklist is what kept me from having frostbitten toes or sunburnt cheeks many a time.
The idea of planning is abhorrent to many people. Piles of guidebooks, stacks of pens, passports, maps, notebooks, outlines, checklists, and calculators…the very thought of putting a plan together strikes fear into the hearts of some travelers. Yet, from checklists for what to pack, to itineraries for where to go, having some kind of plan allows for the next phase of the method: Throwing the plan out the window.
Throw It All Away
Ok, so I don’t really mean to literally trash the plan you spent so much time creating. The benefit of creating a trip plan is that now you have freedom and flexibility on your journey. You don’t have to think about everything you need or want to do upon arrival at your destination—it’s already there for you. But now you have the flexibility to say, “Hey, there’s a cool thing across the street. Let’s do that instead!” You can now simply wing it instead of following the plan strictly by the letter.
Plans not only build safety and security for a trip, they also create freedom and flexibility. The exact opposite of what you think may happen by planning out your vacation or road trip will, in fact, be the savior of it.