Posts Tagged With: travel planning

Magic trip-planning formula?

In most life situations, I like to think I can be spontaneous.  Financial situations, though? No. I like to know what I’m getting into.  Making a travel budget is no different.  Oh sure, I’ll make sure I have some wiggle room so that if something comes up unexpectedly or there’s an activity that I just cannot pass up I can do it, but even then, I’ve financially planned for spontaneity. Some people might see that as being Type A. I see it as a way to travel better, longer, and cheaper. Judge me if you must; follow my lead if you’re smart. 😉 Just kidding, I think that everyone has a different way of traveling and as long as that way works for you, keep on keeping on.

What was my point? I know I had one…ahh, yes, my point was sometimes I wonder if I am too obsessive about being able to accurately predict what I’ll spend on a trip. Didn’t get that from the paragraph above? Yea, me neither, but I swear that’s what I was thinking about when I started writing this post.  I should really work on my editing skills. Anyway. What made me think of this was the following situation: I was researching hostels in Paris, Nice, Venice, Florence, Rome, and Salerno and narrowing down my picks for each city. I realized that a couple of the places would be less expensive than I had previously assumed. That got me thinking about my budget projection for each country, which made me question how accurate said projections are.  That in turn made me wish that there was some magic formula I could use to figure this all out, like accommodation cost = x, food cost = y, transportation cost = z, and activity costs = v. If x=n, you can use that to figure out the average costs of y, z, and v.  This made me break out various Lonely Planet guide books looking for a correlation between accommodation cost and average daily budget.  Yes, I am a nerd and yes, this is really what I’m doing on Friday night. My findings were inconclusive.  The average accommodation costs were anywhere between a fifth and half of the average daily budget for the country.  So no magic formula. 😦  Oh well, worth a try. Then it dawned on me.  As I said earlier, I think that everyone has a different way of traveling and as long as that way works for you, keep on keeping on. So I thought to myself, ok self, what is your way of traveling?  Well, I prefer to walk or take basic public transportation whenever possible.  I value price followed by safety and cleanliness followed by location followed by atmosphere when I look for accommodation.  I eat street food whenever possible for a more authentic experience.  If I have time, I like to spend a couple days just getting to know the place I’m in before engaging in any tourist activities (I find it helps me to get a truer feel for the culture and helps me weed out the tourist traps).  

Knowing all this and my previous experiences of traveling on a budget, I decided (somewhat arbitrarily) that accommodation and transportation usually take up half of my budget and food and activities take up the other half. Out of the first half, it’s probably something like a 70/30 split. 70% of 50% is 35%. Ok, yea 35% of my budget on accommodation sounds reasonable. 15% on transportation. For the second half of my budget, it’s probably closer to 50/50 so 25% each for food and activities.   I put this to the test for my budget projection for Italy.  I picked Florence as my test accommodation because I think that will be close to the average of what I spend in Italy. The hostel that is my top pick at the moment is $24 USD/ night.  If that is 35% of my budget, my budget is $68.57 USD/day which is right on par with what I had estimated ($65-72/day).  

Woot it worked! That doesn’t mean it will necessarily work for other places, because some will have lots of free activities, others will have no street food, others will be very walkable, and still others will involve sleeping in a hut.  The important thing to me is not that it worked, but that I now have a new way to be totally obsessive compulsive about my trip budget planning.  Obviously, this magic (or not so magic if you want to be completely honest about it, which I don’t) formula is tailor made for me and is based on how I weigh each of the four categories.  If you prefer eating all your meals out, but not really doing many paid activities or if you want to cook most of your meals and stay in nice, private rooms or if you are renting a car, but staying in a shit-hole of a hostel or if you…well, you get the idea. You have to figure out what is the most important thing to you.

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My favorite order is out of order…

Today I bought plane tickets for my stint in Spain in October with the ‘rents. So what?, you may ask. You need those plane tickets. To which I answer, why yes I do, but I should first probably buy the ticket that is going to get me to Europe. Minor detail.  My proposed departure date is a mere 2 months and 3 days away and I still haven’t bought my flight over there.  I really need to get my ass in gear, but this damn concussion isn’t helping anything.  

I’m a week behind on my spanish lessons, I haven’t bought my flight to London, I need to finalize details of the France portion of my trip, I need to rework the Italy portion, I need to take a second look at the financial projection (which may lead to nixing Morocco and overhauling Spain and Portugal), I still haven’t opened a Schwab savings account (hello no ATM fees!), I need to figure out how to best utilize the airline miles I’ve been accruing, I’d like to compile a list of possible work leads for Australia, get a YHA membership, buy travel insurance and a dozen other details.

So yea, that’s what I need to do. It would be helpful if I would do things in a logical order, but I know that’s not going to happen. I’ll at least try to get things done by the time they have to get done…for the moment that means getting back on track with my spanish lessons, buying a flight to london, sending in the info for my schwab account and figuring out the first 3 weeks of my trip. Ok, yea, that’s manageable. Those will be my goals for the week.  Paying my rent should really be on that list too…and going the bank to deposit some checks so the rent check doesn’t bounce. Ok, now that’s my list…until I think of more things.

Now, I’ve got to go lie down and try not to think for a while.  If you’ve ever had a bad concussion, you’ll sympathize. 

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Breaking Bad Habits

I used to have this really bad habit. I say used to, because it is something I discovered about myself quite a while ago and am in the process of changing this undesirable quality I saw in myself, or at least lessening its effects.  This bad, destructive, horrible habit is…I plan too much.

On the surface, it doesn’t sound too bad.  You think, “maybe she’s really organized” or “she must really knows what she wants in life” or “i bet she is super focused and ambitious”.  I can only dream that any or all of those thoughts were the case.

No, in reality what that means is that I have always felt so out of control of my surroundings and myself, that I deal with it by trying to plan out the ‘big moments’ of my life, while all I really do is stress myself out about how I’m going to make those moments happen.  In most cases, this desire to control things that I really can’t control brings me more pain than pleasure.

I bring this up because I had another case of the “plannin jeebies” and I’m hoping to control my need to control things I cannot control…as strange as that sounds.

The attack was brought on by a moment of panic as I considered what I should do after I returned from my 3+ year RTW trip (especially silly since I haven’t even left for the trip yet).  At my point of planned return, I will be 30 years old and never held a job much longer than a year (unless something unforeseen happens on the road).  Currently, I have had only short term internships in the subject I received a master’s degree in and no professional experience in the field I am convinced (for now) that I want to be in for the rest of my life.  Reading all that, I kind of get why I’m freaking out.  Any sane normal person would be!

Then again, I’ve never claimed to be neither normal nor sane, so why should I start now.  The old me would take those facts and stress and obsess about how I could have a career as soon as my trip ended and whether I should even go on the trip, because aren’t I wasting valuable time in which I must build my career or else risk failing at life??!?!!?  The old me would then proceed to build my career over the next 3 years and be extremely, irrevocably, distressingly, miserable that I had missed out on the trip of my dreams. Old me, I banish thee!

Instead, I choose to live.

I choose to embrace this amazing life decision I have made to travel. I choose to do this without reservations, without guilt (ok, maybe a little guilt, but it’s guilt against my will!), and without any clear thoughts on what I will do when I get back.

And I am finally ok with that.

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Is there such a thing as too much planning?

Today, I continued reading my Lonely Planet “Southeast Asia on a shoestring” guide, which, like all of the other travel guide I own, I plan to read cover to cover.  Don’t misunderstand (oops, double negative) me, I won’t plan out every single minute of my trip. Nor do I take guidebooks as gospel. I just love reading them. Seriously. It gets me excited for my future travels and gives me an idea of where I want to go, what I want to see and do, how I want to travel, etc. I get almost as much pleasure out of planning and reading about the places I’m going as I do actually going there. Is that crazy?

Maybe so. In fact, definitely so. But that’s ok. If I didn’t love that stuff so much, I probably wouldn’t be going on this crazy trip.  And really, my obsession with trip planning has served me very well in the past. On my first solo trip (9 weeks in Central America), I planned and schemed for nearly 3 years.  This time, it’s been a scant year and a quarter (so far) and I’m planning on being gone about 18 times longer than that first trip.  So really, I’m getting better. Really…

P.S. on the same note, I’ve discovered a new planning tool called BudgetYourTrip…actually I poached it from another travel blog that I enjoy reading, Travel-Stained. 🙂

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