The 7 Stages Of Holiday Planning
Recognise any of these?
I’m notorious for leaving my travel plans to the last minute, but there’s a lot to be said for having enough time to prepare. In fact, the experts recommend having something to look forward to for good mental wellbeing. Getting your trip together early also means less stress for you and less pressure on your bank account.
Regardless of your timeline, getting ready for a holiday can be an emotional journey. So let’s pause, reflect, and feel our way through the seven stages of holiday planning together.
#1 The travel epiphany
Maybe you’re burnt-out at work, feeling a little pasty, or hankering for some new experiences. Signs start to emerge: you’ve been loving Korean food, binge-watching Narcos, or developed an interest in African wildlife. Suddenly, it hits you: you’re going to go on a holiday.
This period is wonderfully vague. Not 100 per cent sure of where you’re going? No worries! At this point in time (pending study breaks or work leave), anything is possible. You contemplate putting your life on hold for a couple of years in exchange for following the sun from continent to continent. It’s nice to explore your limits, but it’s likely that you’ll have to rein it in and solidify some plans.
#2 Doing your research
Buoyed by the endless possibilities posed by both Planet Earth and the internet, you compile all the info about your chosen destination that you can get. How necessary is it to speak Mandarin in China? Which bits of Morocco are good for tourists but not too touristy?
On your first visit to a library in years, you trawl the bookshelves for guide books before returning home to continue the search online thanks to blogs and websites (including AWOL, of course), and post the obligatory social media announcement, “Has anyone been to Jordan recently? Send me your recommendations pls!”
You start exchanging meaningful and often intimate email exchanges with people you’ve either never met or haven’t seen for a long time – the only thing that binds you is that they’ve been somewhere you haven’t.
#3 Decisions, decisions
You map an itinerary and try to convince yourself that, yes, visiting three Greek Islands, Turkey and most of the Balkan states in just three weeks is definitely possible. Consoling yourself with the knowledge that there will be future trips to look forward to, you whittle your plans down to a few key areas that you can do “properly”.
But the struggle continues! Where are you going to stay and what are you going to do? In fine-tuning your itinerary, you find yourself down an online-listing wormhole that began with enthusiastic curiosity and ends in despair. “MrCharisma says on TripAdvisor that the Van Nam hostel was cheap and had everything they needed! But ruthandhammy says it was a nightmare!”
You move on to the next option, then the next, until your brain is ready to explode.
#4 Goodbye money
Whether your credit card gets a workout at your computer or a travel agent, the sudden purging of your funds by booking flights, insurance, visas and accommodation is challenging, to say the least. Despite a moment of panic where you envisage selling your teeth on eBay to recoup the money, you close your eyes and commit to ripping that band-aid off – you’ve just made a necessary sacrifice for the experience this holiday will grant you.
Everything’s going to be OK. Now that you’ve done the deed, you can shout “flights booked baby!” from the rooftops and continue planning.
#5 Spiritual preparedness
If you’ve been organised, your preparations aren’t restricted by logistics; you can prepare your entire human being! You can enrol in a wine-and-cheese appreciation night to really make the most of your sojourn around the Loire Valley. Or, with flights booked to Russia, perhaps now’s a good time to read your way through Tolstoy’s notable works.
You enjoy the anticipation, and take on longer projects like brushing up on the language of your chosen destination. Plus, because you’ve planned this months in advance, this trip gives you hope! No day is super sucky when you can close your eyes and visualise your holiday ahead.
#6 Are we there yet?
In the final weeks before your departure, you enter Struggletown. The holiday is so close, yet seemingly further from your grasp because you have to force your way through several days of zero care-factor, especially in the workplace. At the same time, there’s nothing more satisfying than declaring, “Soz guys, I can’t do that – this time next week, I’ll be sipping fresh coconut in Bora Bora while you suffer”.
You treat yourself by buying things and doing activities specific to travel preparation. Maybe it’s getting a cute passport holder, or investing in a new neck pillow. You might even get yourself a new hair colour because this is the holiday you, and you’re (hopefully) leaving this dreary weather behind.
#7 The last-minute rush
No matter how anal you’ve been in planning your trip, last-minute hurdles are inevitable. It’s always the little things that you forget, and you can find yourself doing a pre-flight dash to the local chemist or 24-hour Kmart.
The pre-flight packing situation can get ugly. Sweaty and bleary-eyed, you’re weighing and re-weighing your luggage to discover it’s still overweight, or spending long periods working out which key goes with which lock. Relationships with friends, partners or parents get tested in arguing what constitute “necessary” travel items. You had grand plans to download all the movies and create all the playlists, but you never got the chance.
You depart for the airport in exasperation because going on holiday is stressful. But once you’re at your destination, you realise it was all worth it. Before you know it, you’ll be back home and wishing you were still there because holidays are the best.