I’m the sort of person who leaves nearly everything till the very last minute, which isn’t exactly the ideal way to travel. So, this year, I’ve started making some serious changes. I’ve gotten more practical with my travel planning and research, and I’ve started putting things on my calendar well in advance instead of trying to come up with a weekend plan while lazing in bed at 10 a.m. on a Saturday.
While I would hardly call myself a planner extraordinaire, using these techniques has helped me get out more this year and plan ahead for a summer I’m really excited for.
1. Set a weekly meeting with yourself to find adventure plans
Earlier this year, I made a recurring weekly meeting on my calendar so I would carve out time to look for things I wanted to do and plan hikes, tours, and trips further out in the future. During this weekly “meeting” with myself, I spend time looking for adventures near and far. I scour Instagram accounts for local blogs that cover new and quirky events and hidden corners around the city. I book tickets for art exhibitions, explore Google Flights in search of inexpensive deals for weekend trips, and just generally poke around the internet looking for treks, paddling trails and swimming spots to add to my list for summer.
2. Make an actual adventure bucket list
I keep a very simple list in the Notes app on my iPhone of places I want to go. I have this organized, roughly, from near to far: there’s a list for local adventures around London, where I live; one for England; and one for the rest of the United Kingdom. On Instagram, I have folders of bookmarked posts organized into “London,” “Europe,” and so on.
Whenever I’m looking for inspiration on where to go or what to do, I can come back to these lists.
3. Schedule email reminders and calendar events for seasonal adventures
I often realize I’ve missed a wonderful seasonal affair when I see Instagram posts of floral blooms, leaf-peeping, or meteor showers. So, now I try to put these on my calendar, or schedule email reminders, a year in advance, while they’re happening, so I don’t risk forgetting the following year. I do this for things like meteor showers, bluebell season, lavender season, and solstices.
4. Outsource it: Book a self-guided or guided adventure
It’s not cheating to let someone else plan something for you. Two summers ago, I booked a self-guided walking trip on the Cotswold Way in England through Macs Adventure and honestly, my life was changed. Literally, I told them “I want to hike the Cotswold Way,” gave the company my credit card, and they booked every hotel and luggage transfer and sent me detailed maps and a guidebook for the trip. Once I arrived at the start of the trail, all I had to do was hike.
Lots of companies offer this kind of trip package, which can be a very happy medium for someone who’s independent and doesn’t want a guide, but also doesn’t want to do the planning. Other companies that excel at this kind of trip include Wilderness Scotland, Exodus Travels, and Intrepid Travel, which all offer guided trips, including custom adventures for private groups.
5. Enlist a friend to help you plan, and be strategic about who does what
Know someone who’s great at plans, or maybe even does project management for work? Amazing: They’re hired. Assuming they’re the kind of high-dose friend you want to spend a lot of time with, join forces with this friend to split up the labor of planning trips and activities. Make a list of tasks—budget, flights, bookings, itinerary research, rental car, packing list, etc.—and assign them all to someone traveling on the trip. Give yourselves deadlines for each task and stick to them, under penalty of getting the middle seat.
6. Block out dates on your calendar before you have plans
I have a pretty flexible schedule, all things considered. But sometimes, too much freedom is a hindrance, and I find myself struggling with the perfectionism of trying to plan the perfect trip at the perfect time at the lowest price. This often means that I spend way too much time trying to figure out how to plan something than actually getting the details sorted out. Instead, I’ve tried lately to block out dates on my calendar for things I know I want to do, even if I haven’t yet figured out how I’m getting there or who I’m going with.
7. Join an adventure club where someone else does the planning
There are hiking, climbing, and adventure clubs all over the world where highly-organized people plan regular outings you can just join. You can browse sites like Meetup and Eventbrite, or search specifically for organizations like the Appalachian Mountain Club or Colorado Mountain Club, to find scores of events where you basically just have to show up. While these events may or may not require a paid ticket and/or a membership fee, you may find it much easier to show up to something that’s already happening than to plan it yourself.
There’s something so satisfying about enjoying a nice afternoon you’ve planned for yourself in advance, regardless of what it is. I’m all about the micro-adventures, the little ways to find excitement in everyday life. So this year, why not plan a sunrise walk for yourself with a visit to your favorite nearby coffee shop built in? Why not schedule some time to plan that backpacking trip you’ve always wanted to take, and put the deadlines for backcountry permit requests on your calendar, and schedule a date with yourself to shop the REI Garage Sale for the equipment you need?
Starting today, carve out space to say yes, so you can do more of the things that bring you joy and stress less about the admin preventing you from doing it.