If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Planning for any trip, especially a big trip, is a serious undertaking. There are seemingly innumerable details to keep track of and no matter how many times we check and double-check our packing list, we always seem to forget something.
Today we’re giving you a new way to look at the Ink+Volt Planner; it can do so much more than help you track your professional goals and projects. We’re going to show you how you can use it to plan your dream travel experience.
Ready to go on the trip of a lifetime? Grab your planner and let’s go.
Step 1: Define your goals, expectations, and aspirations
The difference between dreaming about a trip and going on that trip is a single step: deciding you’re going to go. It’s how you turn your dreams into plans.
In the back of your Ink+Volt planner, you’ll find a handful of dot-matrix pages, perfect for brainstorming and freehand planning. Turn the first blank page and turn your journal to landscape orientation. Let’s make a mind map!
Write your destination in the center of the page, small enough that you can write around it on all sides. Draw a circle or other shape around your destination and begin brainstorming all the things you’d enjoy doing on your trip by drawing lines radiating out from that central destination.
(If you’re visiting multiple destinations, create a two-page mind-map by keeping your planner upright and writing your trip title in the center and your individual destinations in corners of each page. )
Around your destination(s), consider all that you might want to do:
- Monuments, places, or natural spaces to visit
- Food and drink to try
- Shopping destinations or cultural crafts to purchase
- Specific experiences like the top of the Eiffel Tower or the Great Wall
- Local daily experiences like visiting pubs, shopping at markets, and having brunch on the beach
- People you’d like to meet
- Events you’d partake in, such as theater shows or flamenco dancing
- Cultural activities to try like Brazilian jiu jitsu or snow-shoeing in Norway
When you’re brainstorming, don’t focus on how much time you have, whether you’ll be able to afford an activity, or any other nagging constraints. There will be time to filter things out later — don’t limit yourself now before you even get started!
Review what you’ve included and highlight the most important ideas. Anything that’s unmissable – if it’s the reason for your trip, highlight it. By prioritizing a portion of your ideas and leaving the remainder as happy bonuses, you’re building the bones of step two.
All those that you can find specific dates, locations, and prices for, add those details to the next page (so you don’t cram the paper you’re on!). Write out the idea and its logistics. Sometimes, this shows us just how expensive our trip could be!
Step 2: Outline your trip logistics, including travel dates, budget, and planning timeline
If you have a flexible travel timeline, research the best time to travel to your destination based on your highest priority dreams. Keep any notes in the dot-matrix pages of your planner. Once you’ve chosen your travel dates, add them to your Ink+Volt planner calendars (monthly and weekly).
Get specific with your budget.
The longer you give yourself to plan a trip, the easier the budget will be on your monthly expenses. Will you be funding the trip with money you have saved up already, or will you need to save excess from the months between now and then? Either way, you need to know how much you’ll be spending on the trip in advance, so you can budget correctly.
In the dot-matrix pages, outline your budget with no fewer than these line-items.
- Airfare or transportation cost to destination
- Transportation during trip (estimate per day)
- Daily food allowance
- Daily or weekly shopping allowance
- Tours, shows, attractions, and experiences, listed individually (don’t estimate a total entertainment cost – we almost always underestimate!)
- Pre-travel purchases (ie. hiking boots, swimsuit, new suitcase, etc.)
- Incidentals: laundry, personal care items while traveling, etc.
- Emergency fund
Create your planning timeline.
Work backward from your travel dates, choose a day to purchase your transportation, and kick-off your trip planning. Pick a time to book that makes financial sense (eg. early when tickets are cheapest, or when you have enough money to not rack up credit card interest paying off the ticket) and put it on your calendar.
Certain parts of your trip will require pre-booking, such as your accommodations or a rental car. Add deadlines for when you need to book these things to your monthly calendar, monthly goals, and weekly spread.
Try to split up your bookings as your budget can manage, and spread them out over the course of your travel planning timeline. If you’re planning your trip 6 months out, try splitting up your bookings to 1-2 per month, and see where you can save a few dollars by booking early. Save your tickets, receipts, and reservations in a specific folder in your email inbox so they’re easy to find in a pinch.
After each booking, add the activity and its time/place to your weekly spread. As you plan, your trip’s weekly spread(s) will start to get very exciting, only heightening the pre-travel hype that’s sure to ensue.
If your trip involves a big life-changing activity, use your planner to organize your training plan.
Why not try to learn the local language before traveling to a new country? If you’re going somewhere for a race, a major hike, or something exciting like selling your handmade jewelry on the streets of Venice (okay, I know a girl who did!), use the tools already in your Ink+Volt planner to prepare yourself.
- Set weekly goals to complete levels in the language learning app Duolingo
- Use the 30-day challenge to build your walking or hiking endurance with daily cardio activity
- Set weekly goals to complete portions of any projects you need done before you leave for your trip
- Outline articles, blogs, or documentaries you want to take in about your destination in your monthly calendar
Set your overarching goals, like reaching a level of language proficiency or maintaining a hiking pace over a period of time, to complete as close to your travel date as possible.
Then, working backward, break your goals down into manageable monthly and weekly milestones, recording your progress in your Ink+Volt planner as you go.
Step 3: List the items you’ll need and separate those you still need to purchase
Often when we plan a big trip, we find that we’re lacking in certain areas. You may need a new raincoat, walking shoes, or travel backpack. You might want to invest in new travel-size self-care product bottles, packing cubes, or a secure passport case. You may actually need a passport.
While it’s common for a passport to only take two weeks to receive for naturalized or born citizens, give yourself as much time as possible to sort out any international travel details.
In your planner, record the dates you’ll apply for any passport, paperwork, or visas, the estimated date of arrival for these items, and the important contact information you’ll need if there are any hiccups.
Refer to the brainstorm in the back of your planner for your “need” list. This will become the basis of your packing list and inform your trip shopping list.
Break up your travel shopping over the course of your travel planning timeline.
If you are in need of new walking shoes, buying those early and breaking them in will keep you blister-free on your trip. If the luggage you want will take 4 – 6 weeks to arrive from Switzerland, purchasing that first and saving other purchases until closer to your travel date will be easier on your budget and your stress level.
If possible, plan to complete your shopping no later than three weeks before your trip.
Instead of saving your packing until the night before you leave, consider packing days in advance, even a week in advance. This may leave you limited on your favorite wardrobe choices, but you can sacrifice your normal fashion routine for the peace of mind that comes with preparedness.
Give yourself no less than three hours to pack your bags, and schedule this time blog in your weekly spread. For an added boost, add “pack my bags” to your weekly goals and check it off once accomplished.
If packing is contingent on shopping, laundering, and experimenting with different methods of cramming your suitcase, schedule accordingly.
At this point in the trip planning process, in your Ink+Volt planner you should have:
- Mind-map of your dream trip, including destinations, activities, must-sees, and priorities
- Travel logistics, broken down over the course of your planning timeline leading up to departure
- Trip budget, including your specifically scheduled expenses, shopping list, and flexible expenses
- Booking timeline for lodging, transportation, attractions, events, activities, and tours
- Packing list, including items you already have and those you need to buy, broken down into a purchase timeline
Step 4: Outline your preparedness plan, for emergencies and for daily life
This is a short but mega-important part of your travel planning: quickly list the risks you’re facing during your trip and draft your solutions.
- Do you experience motion sickness on planes? Stock up on dramamine before you go to the airport.
- Will your bank card work abroad? Will there be fees? You may need to let your financial institutions know in advance that you’ll be traveling so they don’t accidentally shut down your card when they see unexpected foreign transactions.
- Worried you’ll have bad jetlag? Think about how you’ll combat it (eg. packing melatonin to help you sleep,, bringing a *loud* alarm clock, etc.)
- Do you have allergies that could be triggered on your trip? Come prepared with necessary medicine.
Record the contact information for your medical professionals and emergency contact on a laminated sheet of paper, card, or page in your passport so they’re easy to reach if something goes wrong while traveling.
If you’ll be in specific destinations for periods of time, make a note in the back of your planner where the nearest hospital and drug store are located, should you need care quickly. You probably won’t need it, but if you do — you’ll be glad you have it.
Step 5: Create your travel itinerary
By the time you’ve booked your tours, experiences, and transportation, you have established the boundaries of your itinerary. Those are the places and times where you have somewhere to be, and any other time is fair game.
Revisit your list of dream activities for your trip. What have you already scheduled? What do you still have room in your budget for?
If you wanted to visit a fish market and cook and culturally-authentic dish at your Airbnb, turn to your trip’s weekly spread(s) and see where you can fit in a morning at the market and an afternoon of cooking.
For the shopping and museum visits, give yourself 3-4 hours in a day to experience a neighborhood or establishment, penciling it in between meals at your dream dining spots.
Not quite sure what you’d like to fill your itinerary with? Research your destination and create a list of things that sound interesting in the same neighborhood, so you can spend as little time on transportation each day as possible.
And of course, leave space for spontaneity! You may discover that you’d rather have whole mornings, afternoons, and days open for on-the-spot opportunities. Make sure your budget allows for a few surprises here and there.
Step 6: Decide how you’ll create, curate, and collect your memories
You don’t have to be a world-class photographer to create meaningful memories on your trip. But in order to make the most of your time while traveling, it’s helpful to have an idea of the memories you want to capture beforehand, so you don’t miss the opportunity!
Have you ever been somewhere, done something, or experienced an amazing event only the exclaim afterward, “I wish I had taken more pictures!”
With your itinerary in front you, jot down little notes of what you might like to capture during those experiences. Will you want a photo in front of the Cathedral in St. Petersburg? Do you want to capture each of your meals so you can see the entire trip in food? Are you obsessed with storefronts and want to capture Shakespeare’s in London from different angles?
This mini-shot list will help you stay attentive to your in-the-moment experience, as well as to the memories you want to create and capture for years to come.
What about keeping a travel journal?
When I went to Brazil, I sat down every night before bed and wrote about my day. I tried to be as detailed as possible – even to the point of being mundane. This had two major effects on my travel experience:
- After my trip, I was able to re-live, write about, create stories from, and eloquently share the highlights of my experience, with nothing forgotten or misconstrued by an overwhelm of details.
- During my trip, I was far more attentive to detail with each passing day. I’d pull out my journal to take a note, describe a sight, record a conversation I overheard that impacted me. I had a richer experience paying close attention, preparing myself to record the details at the end of the day.
You may choose to write about your days in the back of your planner, depending on how much space you have. You may want to pack a Code & Quill Scribe Pocket Notebook in the back pocket of your Ink+Volt planner for daily recording.
Pairing a loose ‘shot list’ of memories to take, videos to capture, moments to remember, with a daily journal of your travel experience make for a lasting travel record you can enjoy for years to come.
Pro tip for those of you who want to share your travels through Instagram and Stories: Rather than filming videos in-app and sharing them as they happen, take photos and videos using your camera or your phone camera and post a curated summary at the end of the day, scheduling your Instagram grid posts for one-at-a-time with stories from your travel journal.
Step 7: Prepare for post-trip assimilation
Before you leave for your trip, prepare to come home. Not all of us have the luxury of taking an extra two or three days to relax and recoup after a trip. If you need to go back to work the very next day, this step is all the more important.
Depending on the duration of your travel, where you’re going, if you experience jet lag or food sensitivities, or if you’re the head of a very busy household, keep this pre-trip checklist on the fridge in the weeks leading up to your departure:
- Empty dishwasher and sink
- Empty hamper and clean wardrobe
- Clean sheets, bed made, bedroom tidied (not a post-packing clothes explosion)
- A few non-perishable food necessities in the pantry
- Pet care until the next day after travel so you can pick them up and spend time with them as you assimilate
- Car cleaned and with a full tank
- Self-care necessities fully-stocked
- House tidy as if you were having guests
- Trash emptied and the outside dumpster cleared
The trick to a comfortable reassimilation is to require of yourself as little effort as possible. You want to slide back into your life the way you slid into your hotel or your Airbnb. Completely set up with a clean slate.
In your planner, schedule the activities you’ll need to do to bring your house to this clean slate status.
Outline how you’ll process your memories (so they don’t stay cooped up in your technology).
Imagine that you make all the memories (and more) from your travel shot list. You photograph the food, video the street performances, take innumerable selfies in front of priceless artifacts and ageless monuments. You come home with full memory cards and enough written in your travel journal to publish a book.
What will you do with it all?
Before you take your trip, imagine how you will want to relive it.
If you enjoy making videos, schedule in your calendar a few chunks of time to process your media and create videos from your travels.
If you know you want to have a printed album of your photos, research which service you’d like to use, like Artifact Uprising or Shutterfly. Add the printing cost to your budget and schedule blocks of time to process your shots, organize the book, and purchase your printed album.
This is the kind of project that could easily get pushed to the back burner…forever…if you don’t put it on your to-do list promptly, so prioritize it!
If you’ve always wanted to try travel blogging, or if you want to share your experience in more detail over the next few months on Instagram, use a free service like Later or Plann to pre-schedule Instagram posts with thoughtful captions pulled right from your travel journal. Schedule blocks of time to familiarize yourself with your chosen publishing platform, pair images with stories, and to share your posts with friends and family.
If you’re like my grandparents and love to give a trip slideshow, you might be surprised how much your family will love the experience. Schedule time post-trip to sift through photos, pair them with stories, and set a date with your family to share your presentation.
I know, I’m really hammering it in to “schedule a block of time” in your planner.
But you know where I’m going with this – if you’re planning a trip and putting immense effort into curating an amazing experience, get the most out of it!
Make time in your life to process the photos, tell the stories, and relive the memories. Put it in your calendar weeks in advance so when you’re home, life has resumed, and there are a million decisions vying for your attention, you get to say,
“Nope, I can’t today. I’m totally booked processing the videos from my trip into a killer montage. It’ll be done next Thursday, want me to send it to you?”
Step 8: Reflect on your travel experience
While this section is meant to be for your post-travel reflection, I encourage you to actually write these prompts on individual pages in the dot-matrix section of your Ink+Volt planner before you leave for your trip.
Having these questions in mind in advance will help you to spot details and experiences that may spark the most interesting reflections.
- Did you learn anything about yourself? What was it like to be outside your regular routine?
- What emotional or psychological challenges arose while traveling?
- Was anything missing from the trip, or from your preparedness for the trip?
- What did you miss most about home?
- Will you be implementing anything new as a result of this trip, such as a new habit, food, or activity you learned while traveling?
- What’s one thing you’ll definitely do for your next trip to make it amazing?
Reflections are a powerful tool for processing growth, and travel is an excellent opportunity for growth. Even if you didn’t intend to change on your journey, it’s likely that the sights, sounds, surprises, and people had a lasting effect on your perspective.
Give yourself time to process this impact, revisiting experiences in your journal and unpacking how you feel about specific situations.
If you found that you felt your best waking up with the sun, walking in the early morning light, and then getting ready for your day, consider adding a morning walk to your morning routine.
If you felt better than ever subsisting on the local diet of fish and leafy greens with red wine and tiramisu for dinner, implement like-foods into your regular meal planning at home.