I realize that this is the time of year where a lot of people would have just come home from some kind of vacation. I was wondering - what analytical parts of yourself do you bring to the table when planning for travel or leisure? Or do you completely turn off the engineering part of your brain and just wing it?
For my part, I love a good spreadsheet for travel planning. From coming up with itineraries, picking flights, to making a packing list - the spreadsheets don't go away when I leave work at the end of the day.
What about you?
I am a big fan of Kayak for creating my itinerary. I also use Google Earth to scope out where I am going... the number one question is typically, where can I park? I like TripAdvisor, as well. I even plan day trips, so that I can find tiny beaches along Cape Cod and know what facilities are available, as this is critical with little ones.
Getting a bit deep here: I am currently reading "Buckminster Fuller Inc. Architecture in the Age of Radio" by Mark Wrigley. It talks about how 100 years ago at the dawn of radio if finally became safe for people to venture into the unknown and reach all parts of the world. Safer with the ability to report from the field in real time and call for rescue if needed. The military immediately exploited this capability. If we look at GPS and internet access as the logical progressions of radio, our ability to leave home and find new things is boundless.
One of my favorite things is the ability to share my Kayak itinerary with friends and family. They know where I am and can help me edit plans on the fly. They know when I missed a connecting flight before I arrive at the gate.
A trip is like a project in many ways. There are some fixed points that have to be met and others that are more flexible. So unless I think a reservation is needed, my itinerary will like list 2 or 3 restaurants in the area and I'll pick what is appealing when I get there.
Traveling is an exercise in self-sufficiency. Knowing what to pack is tricky as you do want to pack light, but you do need to be prepared. They say its the journey and not the destination. The amount of time spent waiting for our next departure hampers that notion, but planning ahead to fill that time (even by remembering to pack a book) can help make the whole experience worth it.
Thanks Chad! I've never used Kayak for anything outside of looking up flights. I also agree, its amazing how far one can travel these days with relatively nothing required in terms of preparation or understanding about one's destination. I also appreciate the similarities you identified between a project and travel.
I don't think I can turn off the engineering part of my brain.
When I go on family trips I have a spreadsheet showing, where we're staying, travel times, and destinations as well as a column for comments. I even factor in that some of my family members drive slower (and others leave late) so I have them at different departure times.
Some may find this as adding stress to a trip but to me it just makes sense. I like to "maximize my relaxation" as counterintuitive as that may seem.
I usually use Google Sheets because I can embed links and share them easily. Plus everyone can access it on their phones while we're on the actual trip.
I'm curious if this type of planning (or engineering) to maximize your trip is exclusively and engineering thing or if others do this.
Thanks Daniel. From what I can tell, its definitely more than just engineers who find the value of spreadsheets for things such as organization. I once read an article about this topic and how the spreadsheet was originally anticipated to be used only for certain analytical things, but has since evolved such that many of us find uses for it from anything from lists, to calendars, to home-made chess boards.