If you were to ask my husband what it was like planning a vacation with me, he would first laugh and then tell you he leaves it all up to me. My need for control of situations around me and desire to fit in as many National Park Service sites as possible in a single trip means that it is just easier on everyone involved if I plan our trips. However, due to graduate school and health issues, the planning of our BIG vacation to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska (more posts coming soon) mainly fell on the sturdy shoulders of my husband. Even looking back on this and knowing what I was going through at the time, I still cannot believe I handed the reins over to anyone else. Seriously, I trust that man with my life and love him more than I can express, but it was still scary!

My Trip Planning Process

As a kid, my parents instilled in my that good planning, including a backup plan, are necessary to achieve successful trips. Knowing this, and following in my mother’s footsteps, I plan trips like a boss. First, I will spend an obscene amount of time researching the best places to eat, crash, and adventure for each location that we will visit on our trip. Second, I like to have backup plans for each … just in case. My backup plans have pulled through on several occasions and saved us the frustration of plans gone sour. Finally, I also like to book extra time each day that allow us to spend extra time at a specific place if we are loving it or even cutout early if something isn’t what we expected. So far, these steps have made for some amazing adventures.

Handing Over the Trip Planning

My husband is way more flexible with travel plans than I am. In other words, he’s a figure it out as we go kinda guy and this is what worried me most about handing over the trip planning to him. When he started planning the trip, he just opened his old school notepad on the laptop and started copying links to things he found in it along with a handful of descriptive words. When I would ask to see what he had, the lack of organization nearly did me in. However, it works for him and he was doing just fine, so I had to let it go and just appreciate his research.

I Couldn’t Let Go

Whenever I would have, or more likely need, a break during grad school I would spend a few minutes researching for our trip. After a few weeks of messaging J links to add to his plan, I couldn’t take it any more (let’s be honest, we both were surprised I lasted that long) and started an Excel-based research log all on my own to track what I was looking up. J liked it and we ended up moving it to Google Drive’s Google Sheets program (similar to Excel). While this is not as robust as Excel, it is online and we can both edit the document (even at the same time – which I loved and it came in super handing as we were narrowing down our choices). In the end, it really helped me keep connected to the trip planning, as I could easily look at the links he saved during my breaks and add comments.

As the planning started to wrap up, we each ranked the excursions and locations we had found to determine what we would purchase and plan. From there, J started organizing activities and locations by day so we could get a feel for the trip. He used our rankings to fill the days in and then showed me a few different versions (see sample below). We quickly settled on our itinerary, after I vetoed one of his top ranked excursions of back-country hiking in Denali because I lacked confidence in our wilderness skills, and he started the booking process. As he locked things up, he noted them in the spreadsheet and let me know.

Alaska Itinerary

A sample of our Alaska itinerary calendar.

Lessons Learned

For those of you who know me in real life or have been following me on social media for a while, know that this whole process was equally freeing and frustrating for me. I like to have my hands in every piece of travel planning, but I learned that it was actually more important for my mental health to step back and focus on finishing grad school and getting healthy. This process also reinforced the idea of shared responsibility and opportunity. J is just as capable of planning trips as I am, and in someways he is even better (he’s spends way more time researching and reading reviews than I do) at the process than I am. In the end, I survived handing over the trip planning and have a whole new appreciation for my husband’s patience with my need to stay involved in everything. ;)

Follow-up

Have you ever handed over trip planning to someone else? How did it go? Any regrets?