I’ve booked 4 trips in the past 2 days in addition to the 2 already scheduled for May and June. Want to know how I’m keeping them all straight?
In an effort to speak real Spanish, instead of just adding “o” to the end of French words, I’ve been taking weekly lessons at FluentCity and have not gone away since December. Now, I’m making up for lost time and have at least 1 trip planned per month through October. Plus, I’m considering a lengthy vacation in September but having trouble deciding: Mexico or Malta?
How am I organizing these trips and making sure every necessary component is booked? List making and consistent calendar usage.
Here’s where I’m going and how I’m planning:
May – Ecuador vacation
As soon as I started investigating the country more thoroughly, I realized it would be necessary to make at least 3 Ecuador trips; Galapagos, Andes and Amazon. This is the Andes trip. I’ve been working on planning this trip for 2 months and it is pretty well solidified.
Because I’m visiting 3 towns for 3 nights each and had to organize transportation between them, I created an Excel spreadsheet. Each item (hotel, internal flight,day trips) is listed on a separate line and unconfirmed things were highlighted in yellow. As I booked and confirmed each component of the trip, I removed the yellow highlighting.
I have a separate lists of must-do sights – notated by opening day. For example, I arrive in Quito in the afternoon on Saturday and many things are closed on either Sunday or Monday. Since I have so much to fit in 3 days, it is crucial to itinerize by day.
To keep track of hotel cancellation policies, I notate the dates when each hotel has to be cancelled without penalty on my Outlook calendar.
There is a wealth of information online about Ecuador. Between the travel sites, vast amounts of expat specific info for retirees, and food blogs, it has been easy to plan and the only problem I forsee is fitting so much in to such a small amount of time.
June – TBEX in Keystone, Colorado
Soon after I launched this site last year, I discovered Travel Blog Exchange – a travel blogger conference, but the 2011 Vancouver conference was sold out. As soon as they announced TBEX 2012, I booked a ticket. Picking a hotel was easy – TBEX offers group rates on nearby hotels. I opted for the Lodge at Keystone, because it’s close to the convention center and had the best reviews on Tripadvisor.
Normally, I would be researching restaurants but I will have minimal free time and plan to focus on networking. Of course, I do have a list of places so no matter where I end up, I know the best available options.
There wasn’t much to plan for this trip since the trade show arranged the hotels and negotiated airport shuttle discounts. I did stalk airfare on a variety of sites and noticed it was rising. Although I’ve never flown it and was slightly nervous, I booked a low cost fare on Airtran. Their $25 fee to upgrade to an exit row seat and be able to board first, securing space in the overhead, is fair for the lengthy flight.
July – Philadelphia, Barnes Foundation
The Barnes Foundation’s Philadelphia branch is controversial – but for a reluctant driver, the city is a much better option than the suburban location. I’ve had a Post-it note hanging on the wall to remind me of this major art museum opening for months.
Only the museum ticket is booked. It’s too early to book Bolt Bus for July but I have a weekly reminder set up in Outlook. I could book Amtrak now for $45 each way, but with all my other travel I’m trying to economize.
Every other day, my Blackberry reminds me to check Philadelphia hotels. Every day, Hotwire emails me about some crappy Philadephia airport hotel – or for some strange reason, car rentals. I am waiting for that elusive $99/night room at the Loews or hoping the new Kimpton Monaco opens with some inaugural rates.
August – Portland (OR) business trip
I have never been to Portland or Seattle and am as excited about this business trip as my Ecuador vacation. A very wonderful client will be showing me the best of Portland. If I wasn’t thinking of taking vacation in September, I would have made this a week long trip; as it is I’m staying through the weekend. For a food, coffee and wine enthusiast, Portland is a major destination.
Flights are booked. The options sort of suck. My favorite, Jet Blue only does red-eyes non-stop. I could have saved $200 by flying via Houston, but the connections shown were 45 minutes. Only a fool would take a 45 minute connection in Houston and I’m surprised Travelocity Business would offer it (I know, it’s the airline considering it a legal connection, but it should be outlawed).
The client is taking care of the hotel reservations. They gave me a choice of 3. It took about 5 minutes on Tripadvisor to confirm I would be thrilled at any of them: The Nines, The Monaco or Hotel Lucia.
Thanks to Tripadvisor I also know I can take Light Rail service from the airport to downtown Portland. I’m carefully perusing the Portland Chowhound forum for restaurants for my 1.5 free days now.
August – Washington, DC weekend
Two factors contributed to booking this trip on a complete whim the day before yesterday. A New York Times article about house tours last week (including The White House), which I saved for future reference. Then, a Kimpton Hotels special offer email reminded me of the inaugural rate for their new DC property – Donovan House. I had regretted not paying more attention to this deal when I got the original offer so jumped on it.
I opted for a weekend at the end of August when it will hopefully be slightly cooler in DC, and booked 2 nights at Donovan House for $112/night. An excellent rate for DC. Jose Andres’ Jaleo has been around for awhile, but I’ve wanted to go forever, so reserved Saturday night dinner on Opentable.com.
Although the bus is more economical, it can be greatly impacted by traffic – and traffic in this area in the summer can be horrendous on Friday and Sunday, so I’m taking Amtrak. Since I’m not yet sure what time I can travel on that Friday, and the only current deal I can find on Amtrak is a 14-day advance purchase, I’m waiting to purchase these tickets, but have a reminder set up in Outlook to check occassionally for other Amtrak specials on both Amtrak and Railserve.
Waiting to hear back about the White House tour I requested via my Congressperson. I’ve been advised to check back 2 weeks before my trip if I don’t hear anything sooner. Another reminder added to Outlook.
By the way, if you don’t know about this, it is easy to do. US Citizens apply through the office of their Congressperson; foreign nationals through your embassy. The White House has thorough information about visiting available online here.
A few years ago, I attended a corporate team building scavenger type hunt at the Spy Museum – and I’ve been anxious to return at leisure. The last time I was in DC it was impossible to walk in; reservations were necessary. As soon as I hear if I am scheduled for the White House tour, I will book the Spy Museum.
October – Las Vegas business trip
The annual trade show (for the job that funds my travels) rotates back to Las Vegas this year. I know, people love Las Vegas, but it’s not my choice for a vacation destination and I only go there for trade shows. The restaurants are excellent but I much prefer when this 3 day show is a shorter flight away.
Meanwhile, flights to Las Vegas are very low! I was planning to just look now and book later, but when I saw $359 RTP, including all taxes – on Virgin to Las Vegas and Jet Blue back, I grabbed it. FYI – Jet Blue is now charging $55 one way for the more leg room seat to Las Vegas, which is worth it to me for the 5+ hour flight, but when the fare on the leg is $179, the fee is pretty ridiculous.
The hotels were also substantially less than what I paid last time this show was in Las Vegas, so I booked the Paris; a bargain compared with others. Cab drivers in Las Vegas are notorious for dropping you off at the furthermost entrance to whatever hotel you’re going. From the centrally located Paris, I can walk, or take the monorail, to most hotels (and there are cheap breakfast options).
In August, I will begin scheduling client meals and making restaurant reservations. It is too soon to be planning this now, and many of the better restaurants won’t take reservations until 30 or 60 days before the event.
As each component of each of these trips is booked, I print out the confirmation and store it together with all the other paperwork for the trip on my dresser. Each trip is grouped together and when it’s time to pack, that packet of confirmations goes into my bag.
I also store the confirmations in folder in my Blackberry for easy access; I imagine this would be easier with an iphone or Android.
As long as you are organized, you can plan multiple trips simultaneously.
This article was originally posted May 15, 2012.