Part of college is travel. For most, it is the inevitable trip to school, the return home for holidays, and, if you are lucky, a semester abroad. Also, let’s not forget the traditional road trip. Most times, this will be planned travel; sometimes, it will be a trip of spontaneity. There are benefits to both methods of travel. The important aspect is being able to travel when it doesn’t derail your academic career or your bank account.
One of the first things you want to clarify when thinking about taking a trip is: What is the point of the travel? You want to define that goal, be it to get away and relax, to travel to see your parents, or to see your favorite band play live in an outdoor arena. The goal immediately identifies the where and many times clarifies the when. Next, you will want to be intentional with what you will do there. Specifying this may seem like a waste of time, but many people come back from vacations and trips wishing they did something but didn’t get to it because they got tied up in less important things.
In this process, you will then be able to define the specifics of the trip. You will have to deconflict the trip with other commitments that you have, be it work, school, or previously made plans. You need to determine the travel path. Are you flying, driving, or taking the bus? This leads you to the budget of how much cash is needed, and then on to what you should pack.
Trips mirror the same process as all projects. You start with a beginning and an end, and then lay out the milestone calendar. These milestones are the key items that will guide and dictate your trip. Using the example of flying home for winter break, you decide beforehand that there are key things you want to accomplish. The first is dinner with Grandma, seeing your friends from high school, and hosting a New Year’s Eve party at your parents’ house. These are all milestones of your trip.
During the planning process, you will also want to consider the pre-trip and post-trip actions. This helps set the stage for the trip and mitigates the aftereffects of travel. The pre-trip consists of the early preparations that you take to ensure you leave with no loose ends calling for your attention while you attempt to relax. Examples include packing, getting a passport, finishing all your homework or assignments prior to leaving, and cleaning your house so that when you return from your trip, you don’t have to clean and then unpack.
Budgeting completes the planning process for travel. You want to go into a trip prepared financially and not get into a vacation, only to become stressed over the costs. By being honest with your estimates and overestimating costs by 10%, you will be able to put money away beforehand and monitor as you go to make sure you don’t put yourself in a giant financial hole by mistake.
We do know that life isn’t linear. There is no straight line, and there is typically never a plan that doesn’t get changed while it’s being executed. This introduces options planning, a method where you can alter your plans mid-project in a controlled manner.
Option planning provides scenarios of different options that can be taken while giving you the chance to choose the best option. Like the business world, where you want multiple choices to get the best opportunity options, planning resembles choosing your own adventure story. For example, you are planning your return home for the winter break, and the day after you arrive, there are multiple opportunities. The first is to meet up with your friend, take your grandma out to lunch, or go skiing with your cousins. During the planning process, you layout all three options and can default to not being rushed and choosing when you are ready.
In agile project management, this is called a sprint. You plan to a specific point of the project where you want to end after a short sprint of work. Then, at this point, you replan what the next steps are. It’s a modular approach to fit the situation. Let’s use a spontaneous road trip as an example. You start your adventure by driving west and reaching a town where you plan to stay the night. That would be your first sprint. The second sprint would be deciding what the next milestone will be. Such as hiking to a waterfall and then driving south to a new city on the ocean. The parameters of the trip are the same; however, you’ve built in flexibility to change your plans based on the current situation.
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