How You Do: Planning a Trip

[I used to think I knew everything…until I found myself stranded in the middle of adulthood with no map and no one to guide me when I got lost. I have learned a lot since then – from how to balance a checkbook to how to sew on a button – and will share my wisdom with you. Every Monday I will be back to teach you how to do something useful, even if it also happens to be completely random. Because, hey, you never know when you just might need to know how to change a tire…or mix a perfect martini.]
Fall Break may be over, but those few glorious weeks of winter vacation are so, so tantalizingly close. And while it’s nice to hang out with your family for a little while, let me guess—you want to get away. Far, far away. Preferably somewhere closer to the equator.
Am I right? Yeah, OK.
Even if a vacation isn’t in the cards right now, odds are you’ll be planning some kind of trip in the future. And at first doing all that planning by yourself (or even splitting it up with friends) can seem overwhelming. There are so many logistics to handle… booking, scheduling, packing, etc.
So why do it yourself? Let me help!
1. Booking. If you’re traveling by car or bus or train (or hitchhiking), you can count on prices for gas or tickets to stay nearly constant. Look out for special student deals or travel packages, but you shouldn’t otherwise have to worry about fluctuating fees. If you’re going by air, though, make friends with FareCast, a sweet site that compiles data on changing air prices and will make predictions for you about when are the best times to buy. And triple-check your arrival and departure dates to make SURE you don’t double-book yourself with any other activities.
2. Scheduling. Personality plays into this to a certain degree. Do you like to go with the flow and take things as they come, or are you the type of person who needs to have every hour of your trip planned out? (Hint: If you’re 100% one or the other, don’t travel with someone who’s the opposite.) Even if you’re a more casual traveler, there are still a few things you really should plan in advance of getting your tickets:
– Accommodations. It will suck if you have to spend the night in a park because your friends in the destination city are all on vacation as well and you don’t have enough cash for a hotel.
– Logistics. How are you going to get to and from the airport/station? Do you have a map? Will you need to rent a car? About how expensive is the place you’re going?
– Emergency. If you get lost, who can you call for help? If a sketchy guy starts to follow you around and tries to strike up a looong conversation, do you know someone nearby who can bail you out if needed? If your wallet gets stolen, do you have a backup form of currency?
3. Packing. There are many things you can go without, so try to stay light—you’ll be happy you did. But don’t forget clothes. Plan your outfits so you don’t overpack, and try to reuse key items. Remember the underwear and bras. Pack pads or tampons if you might need them. And medications. And SHOES. No matter where you’re going, pack at least one very comfortable pair. Even if you think you know the weather ahead of time, include one outfit for cooler weather and one outfit for warmer weather. Bring snacks, too. Finally, don’t rely on your cell phone. Make a paper list (yes, paper) of all the numbers in your address book. That way, you can still get out of a tough situation if you happen to lose your phone.
These tips should get you through the planning stages and get you onto that plane to paradise.
From all of us at CC, happy travels!
[Image courtesy of]

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