Life and Style

College 101: Planning a Vacation Without Losing Your Mind

OK, experts: I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I’m taking a vacation trip to Florida, which is something that I have wanted to do for years and years. The bad news is that I am incredibly stressed about planning that vacation.

I’ve never been much of a planner. I’ve never been particularly organized. I’m the type of person who tends to get overwhelmed and make simple mistakes when planning… or not actually plan at all. Then, when the big moment arrives (the test, the big project, the party, or, in this case, the vacation), I’m lost and panicking and ruining everything.

I really don’t want to muck up this trip. Experts, can you give me a simple guide to planning right?

We sure can!

Look, we know that planning isn’t exactly fun. But it’s work that you put in because you know that it will pay off later. A well-planned vacation is going to make you happier and reduce your stress levels; a poorly planned one will do the opposite. If your vacation is stressful, you’ll miss out on all of the good and healthy effects that vacations have. That’s no good!

So you need to plan. And the first and hardest thing about planning is this: You need to start!

The earlier you start planning, the easier that things are going to be. Big attractions, from theme parks to boat tours, get booked up early, explain the experts at Get Wet Watersports. If you want to reserve your spot, you need to act early. Plus, getting a head start on all of this planning stuff might give you more flexibility and help you spot opportunities for savings. The early bird, as they say, gets the worm!

It sounds as if you have a problem with organization. No matter when you plan, you are going to need to keep things straight so that you don’t end up with flights at the wrong time or hotel reservations in the wrong city. One simple thing that might help is keeping all of your planning materials in one spot. Make a point of moving every confirmation email and every reservation number into one computer folder (or print them, if that helps, and move them to a physical one). You may also want to keep one document with all of your information in one place: You could open an Excel document or Google Sheets document and fill it in with details like flight times, hotel reservations, and, of course, how much everything will cost. This will also be a nice thing to have when your trip finally arrives — it’ll help you to stay organized as you travel.

In that same document, why not create a schedule? With the help of guide books and tourist destination websites, you can choose activities and sights to see and add them into a schedule that will give you an at-a-glance visual layout of your whole trip.

Here’s something you should keep in mind about your schedule, though: You need a margin for error. It sounds as though your planning often ends in chaos and frustration. That may be the result of under-planning, but it can also be a consequence of overplanning — or, perhaps more accurately, overscheduling. Are you giving yourself enough time to get from place to place? Are you building cushions into your planning?

A “cushion” here means giving yourself more time than you think you might need to get from one activity to another. You never know when you might hit traffic. Carving out sections of your schedule to leave blank can be a big help, too. You may want to take a break and just relax instead of rushing off to the next thing — or you may want to call an audible and head to some attraction you hear about at the last minute.

Give yourself a cushion everywhere you can — not just in your schedule, but in your budget, your packing (pack light, but not too light), and more. Giving yourself these little margins for error can help when you are running late, or spend a bit more than you meant to at the bar, or get clothes dirty unexpectedly, or… well, you get the idea. Be kind to your future self!

Is planning easy and foolproof? No, not always. But if you get a head start now, keep things in one place, and give yourself a little margin for error, then you’re sure to have a blast down in Florida. Enjoy the sun and surf!

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