When I am at home running around NC I tend to do things on the spur of the moment. A trip to a new museum or to the pottery shops when the relatives visit are easy are to do quickly and do not need a real plan, but if we are traveling on more than an overnight trip, seriously planning starts. I tend to use an 8 steps process for planning my travel, this may seem extreme but it really provides a good guide so I do not miss anything. I guess this is a leftover of my time in the military.
I start by deciding what to I want to see or do on a trip? What is the mission of the trip? Do I want to take pictures of landscape or enjoy watching the kids play at the beach? Once you have that figured out you have the ball rolling to create a great plan.
Step two is to tell all travelers so they can start their own plans. For example, I have told my kids we are going to visit their grandparents. My daughter is busy trying to make plans to spend as much time with her friends that live in the same town as possible. I guess this step is not required if you are a dedicated solo traveler but I tend to look at travel as a team sport and think it is more fun with family and friends.
My third step is to sit down and make a draft schedule for the trip. I sketch out an itinerary with just the basics of the trip. This lets me work with dates and helps with budget planning for the trip.
Next is to start doing thing for the trip. This may be as simple as buying a new piece of luggage or as complex a applying for a visa. This is the point where all of the details get done and worked out.
Step five is to conduct a recognizance. This is usually done on line or with a guide book. Here I am looking for restaurants, festivals or other things to do in the area along with my major to do item. This is where I find things like the restaurant that is right across the street from museum, this is where I can fill in those little details to the trip.
The next step is to create the final plan. I put as much detail as I can into this “final plan”. I will detail flights, hotel reservations, rental cars, special meals and such. I also detail as much as I can about anything that will cost money so I can have a clear idea of what the cost of the trip will be and have a good grasp on the budget.
The last step in my travel planning is to make sure all of the folks traveling together know what the plans are. Now this does not mean I except a large group to do everything together, but this give us all a single base plan to work off of. From this point we can revise the plan so everyone enjoys the trip.
Of course no pan ever survives first contact, so you must understand it is a plan, not a contract in blood, so you can always adapt the plan as you go.