In addition to being the Cheif Editor of TravelExploit.com, I am also a Project Manager. I manage people, budgets, technology, change, and sometimes even travel. I’ve realized that the tools and techniques I use to plan, control and execute business projects readily apply to planning trips and should be used in order to maximize your budget and enjoyment while traveling.
I want to illustrate my point by defining a project: “A project, by definition, is a temporary activity with a starting date, specific goals and conditions, defined responsibilities, a budget, a planning, a fixed end date and multiple parties involved.”
Now think about your last visit with your family, Carribean cruise, or safari. Didn’t your trip have all of the above qualities? it was temporary, or you never would have come back; it had both a start and an end date; specific goals (a day at the beach, seeing the Eiffel Tower) were attained under specific conditions (time, money, weather, culture, etc.); you were responsible for buying tickets, attaining visas, and packing your clothes; you operated under a budget and plan, even if loosely defined or not written down; and, multiple parties were involved (even if you travel alone, you still have to ride on a plane, speak to a customs officer, check in to a hotel or order lunch from a person), if traveling with another person you need to make sure they want to go, coordinate time off work, make sure they can spend the amount of money required, etc.
All of the above represent challenges, goals, positive opportunities, constraints, and risks. Project management helps you control all of these things by planning, collecting information, evaluating qualitatively and quantitatively, and realizing how effectively your goals are attained.
Formal planning is not for everyone, otherwise we would all be project managers. But everyone can do just a little planning on the front side and significantly improve the quality of their vacation. We’ll call this Travel Management 1 or TM1, which includes scheduling, decision analysis, creating a work checklist, and budget allocation. Depending on how large of a trip you are taking this can take as little as 15 minutes using the .pdf worksheet I’ve created.
Travel Management 2 or TM2 is the second level of planning and control which utilizes in-trip analysis to measure trip and budget performance. Depending on the level of detail you want to commit to, this can take anywhere from 30 seconds a day to 5 minutes utilizing a second .pdf worksheet I’ve created. You will be suprised at how little time and effort you need to invest in order to reap tremendous benefits.
Travel Management 3 or TM3 is the third and final level of trip control. Again, this can be as simple as reviewing the information collected in TM1 against your actual feelings about the trip once you’ve returned, and seeing if you feel it all worked out as planned. If you also did TM2, you will be able to see at a quantitative level how well you performed against your predictions. Or to say it a different way, how well your predictions performed against reality. Finally, recording a few observations or “lessons learned” at the end of this exercise will provide a great resource for when you start planning your next trip.
I recommend storing all this information in an office folder or in a file on your computer. Yes, your friends will enjoy seeing the pictures you brought back. But if they like them so much they actually want to go visit that place, they will really enjoy reading over your TM files.
I hope that you can now appreciate the relationship between project management and travel success. The above is a very high-level overview of how you can use project management to improve your travel experiences. Along with the worksheets I’ve provided here for free, you now have an effective foundation for project control.
This article is the beginning of a series on Travel Management. In the coming weeks I will go into greater detail and unleash more powerful tools for analysis, trip budgeting, and intelligence sharing. In the meantime, feel free to send me your thoughts on actively managing your trips. Additionally, if you are already using your own techniques to do so, please share them in the comments section.
Link to access worksheets (newsletter signup required).