Travel planning with a busy schedule

I’m Farirai, I’m 27 and I really love to travel. I work full time as a chemical engineer in South Africa and I’m a travel blogger. I started this blog, Gophari, to be a voice that keeps it real about the barriers that stop Africans from traveling. The goal is to break these barriers and empower more Africans to travel their country and the world.

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Ok now let’s get into the topic of this post…

How to plan a trip when you have a busy schedule

In the past three months I have travelled quite extensively in South Africa. I went to Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Kwa-Zulu Natal, North West and Western Cape. I also spent a few days in Mauritius. I have taken five days of leave so far so it has mostly been weekend travel.

Between balancing a career, chores, getting enough sleep and keeping up with your favourite shows, there isn’t much time left to put towards planning a trip.

So in this post I am giving advice on how to get a trip planned using the little time you have. This post is for everyone with a busy schedule. You deserve a holiday!

Why planning is better than winging it

1 – You spend less

I get a thrill out of spending as little money as possible on travel. This wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t plan.

2 – You don’t waste time during your trip

Your time off is meant to be relaxing – not stressful. Doing little or no planning shifts all the work you could have done before the trip to during the trip. That’s not fun.

3 – You can fit a lot into a short time

A busy schedule means you don’t get many days off. If you plan, you can fit a lot into a few days. Watch how much I did while in Durban for 48 hours.

Tips for quick & easy travel planning

I have broken up travel planning into three parts – transport, accommodation & activities. In the end I will talk about putting it all together to form an itinerary.

Let’s start with two general tips that have helped me get my travel planning done:

Use the in between moments

There are things we need to do and sometimes there are “in between moments” that we can use to get less critical things done. Examples of these “in between moments” are while waiting in the queue at the bank or while using public transport. Use these moments to make progress with your travel planning, even if it’s small progress. I wrote this blog post during a lot of small in between moments. Don’t wait to have a long period available specifically to plan your trip because that time may never come.

 Write things down

One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves is that we will remember. If a friend mentions a cool place to try out or you hear a helpful recommendation on the radio, write it down so that you don’t have to search for it again when you need it.

Planning transport

Getting there and back:

  • Use Rome2rio to quickly get a list of the different ways (flight vs bus vs train etc) of getting to your destination. This includes travel duration and an estimate of cost.
  • If you choose to fly, use Skyscanner price alerts to receive emails when the price of your flight changes so that you don’t need to repeatedly search the flight
  • Buy your bus/plane/train ticket online or telephonically

Getting around while there:

  • Uber is operational in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban & Port Elizabeth.  Consider this if traveling in other locations in South Africa.
  • If hiring a car, make your booking online or telephonically and as soon as possible to get first pick of the available cars.

Planning accommodation

  • Decide your accommodation budget first and use this as a search filter (Don’t waste time looking through options you can’t afford). Booking.com, Airbnb and Agoda all have a filtered search feature.
  • Apply all of your deal breaker requirements as filters E.g WiFi, air conditioning etc
  • If using Airbnb, apply the “superhost” filter to only see high rated, reliable options
  • Note/screenshot the check-in and check-out times when you book so that you don’t need to look for these later

Planning activities

  • To get a list of things to do, read a blog or watch a vlog about that location. Bloggers give useful information in a concise way so it won’t take long to find what you need.
  • Once you have a list of activities, call each and ask the following 5 questions in one phone call (alternatively do a Google search though that could take more time):
  1. How much is entrance?
  2. Do they accept card payments or will you need to pay with cash?
  3. Do you need to prebook or can you simply arrive?
  4. Are they open every day or only on certain days?
  5. What time do they open/close?

Create an itinerary

Once you have your transport, accomodation and list of activities sorted, piece everything together to form an itinerary.

I type mine out on a note on my phone. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just a high level  day to day breakdown of what you will do and in what order. This is where the opening times and days of each activity need to be considered.

E.g.

  • Friday: Catch the bus from Park Station at 5pm
  • Saturday: Arrive in Port Elizabeth at 9am. Pick up car from Avis. Stop at Addo elephant Park. Check in to accommodation at Tsitsikamma.
  • Sunday: Zipline at CanopyTourSA booked for 10am. Blackwater tubing activity booked for 2pm.

Having a rough plan is especially useful if traveling in a group. Who else can relate to wasting time trying to agree?

I like to use Google maps for a quick check of directions and distances between activities to help me create an itinerary that makes sense.

For a more detailed breakdown of the steps to follow for planning an international trip, read my blog post about how to plan a trip to Greece. Though it is written about Greece, the same steps are applicable for other international destinations.

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Thank you for reading! I really hope this post has been helpful. Please do let me know what other topics you would like me to cover.

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