I’m a planner.
Definitive proof having been offered to you, let’s move right along. *Ahem*.
I am a planner. In fact, I think that not only am I a planner with a very Type A issue with organization, but I also think that I was a travel agent in a previous life. This stuff is fun for me, I love it. Give me a random destination, a budget, some airline/hotel miles, and a bit of leeway in dates and I’m off to the races. You can keep your crossword puzzles and sudoku, I’m plotting a course for Lima, Peru.
My husband is most definitely not a planner. It’s not that he doesn’t appreciate directions, it’s just that he doesn’t want to go get them himself. Once I was suffering from a rather awful tropical malaise and he had to make his own business travel reservations. It didn’t end well.
ME: Hon, what is this charge for Kenya Air?
HUSBAND: That was my flight. It was awful, I had three stopovers. Seventeen hours is just ridiculous.
ME: You know that South African Airways flies there nonstop, right?
HUSBAND: I do now.
It’s that kind of thing. That was the first flight Expedia showed, that was the flight he booked. It didn’t go well, plus we don’t get points for flying on Kenya Airways. I can get rather moody when I miss out on points, poor guy.
In any case, over the last way-too-many-to-mention years we’ve been together, we’ve come up with a system and it goes like this: (a) check out guidebooks for place we’re visiting, (b) check out Atlas Obscura to get more oddball places in the same vicinity, (c) check Trip Advisor to get a feel for the places, (d) discuss places, (e) arrange top picks into the amount of days we have and plot on Google Maps.
My husband, by his choice, is involved in (d), and only (d). We do have a few ground rules, however, paramount among them being THOU SHALT NOT SUFFER EVERYONE TO STICK TO THE ITINERARY IF YOU SEE SOMETHING COOL ALONG THE WAY.
This way my Type A gets to plan stuff out and his spontaneity gets to assert itself. It works pretty well, actually. Most of the time. Okay, we usually have one blow up per trip.
We’ve had blow-ups in London, Madrid, Athens, Budapest, Las Vegas, Bangkok, Honolulu, and Johannesburg. Not disagreements – full on angry arguments. The kind of arguments where strangers don’t want to stand next to you on the subway even though you’re being angrily silent because ANGRY. The kind of arguments where there better be access to delivery pizza or no one’s going to eat because stuff goes *there*.
So why air our family dirty laundry about traveling?
Because Evil Not-a-Jammie-Dodger is normal. This picture?
It’s not always like that.
I love traveling around the world and seeing everything I can, but a bit of realism is in order. Parts of it are going to be awful. I get this. My husband gets this. It’s normal. Travel is stressful and at some point that stress is going to have to escape somewhere. However, the reason it only happens once per trip is because we’ve planned our way around it. People used travel agents pre-internet because you *do* have to have some sort of plan, even if it’s vague and unconstructed – outline form is fine. Maybe you don’t have the time or the background to put the plan together. That is fine also. But someone has to.
Lucky for us in this age of the internet, you have access to quite a lot of the things the travel agents do, making it all a lot more affordable for all of us. And YES – you need maps.
Tool 1 For Less Travel Hassle: TripIt
Oh TripIt, how do I love you? Let me count the ways… First, TripIt reaches into my email inbox and pulls out the receipts I get from airlines, car rentals, and hotels and then puts them IN ORDER, all information listed, within the app. So I get to the car rental agency and they have no record of my reservation?
whaPOW! Reservation number, name, how the reservation was made, club member number – ALL RIGHT HERE, on iPhone, iPad, or computer, as you wish.
How much layover time between flights? What time do you land again? How do you get from the airport to your hotel?
All. Right. There. It’s fantastic. It will even share it with anyone you designate.
I do spring for the pro version, since we travel so often. The texted travel alerts and gate assignment information is absolutely worth the yearly fee. And if you’re taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip, the free version will save you more hassle than you can even imagine.
Tool 2 For Less Hassle: Plnnr
Plnnr does what I spend hours doing – it maps out your trip for you. It’s only available for a few cities at the moment, but the twenty cities it offers for are where most people are traveling. I input information for Washington, D.C. – it asked me how many days, what level of luxury, and what theme I was interested in. Then it generated a full itinerary for me. Sweet! Easy! This was totally made for people like my husband. Planning without planning, and perfect for the day you find yourself stopped over in London without any plans – and yes, that totally happens.
Tool 3 For Less Hassle: XE
I can’t even tell you how ridiculous exchange rates have been lately. Things have been, if not volatile, annoying for the traveler with the bouncing around – some currencies more than others. If you’re traveling outside the US, XE is fantastic for up-to-the-minute exchange rates.
Keep in mind that these rates are an average, so they will be higher than what you see advertised at most Bureaux de Change, however it gives you a good enough idea of what’s going on that you can figure out where you should not exchange money (hint: at the airport).
Tool 4 For Less Hassle: SeatGuru
I hate the middle seat. I also hate the seat right in front of the toilet. Most of all, I hate when someone reclines right into my face before food service so I can’t put my tray out and eat.
I use SeatGuru before any time I spend on airlines because, even if I can’t change my seat out, at least I can brace myself for how horrible it might be and prepare accordingly. Forewarned is forearmed, and all that.
Now, your mileage may vary on any of these apps (except for TripAdvisor. I’m going to take a stand on that one), but if you want to travel (yes), you probably want to have good memories of your travel (for sure), and anything that makes sure you don’t confuse the time your flight leaves or which hotel you finally decided on can only add good things.
Like Panera’s Fuji Apple Chicken Salad, for instance. That’s a good thing.