How to create your Annual Travel Calendar and ensure you travel more?
Creating an annual travel calendar is one of the first things we do as the new year starts. It not only gives us a clear picture of what our travel plans look like, it also ensures we maximize the opportunities to travel. In other words, designing a yearly travel calendar helps us travel more. If you have always dreamed of travelling more, if travelling is important to you, don't let your hunger for travel just be a dream. Make it a plan. In this article we guide you on how to go about converting your travel dreams into plans by creating an annual travel calendar.
0. What is your travel appetite?
The first thing, step zero, is to understand what your travel appetite is. Different people tend to have different amount of hunger for travelling. Some are okay travelling once or twice a year while others prefer travelling once a quarter and some like us need to be on the road every month. There are no right and wrongs here. It is just a question of personal preference. How many times in a year do you want to travel? Let's assume you absolutely love travelling and want to maximize the number of times you can travel.
Now that you have high travel appetite, below is a simple framework that will help you move forward. All you need to answer is these 3 questions -
Time is always a constraint which limits the number of days you can travel in a year. You would already have an idea about the number of leaves you can take from your job. The whole idea is to utilize your leaves efficiently in order to maximize your travel gain.
1.1 What does your holiday calendar look like?
We assume you have some sort of job/business/college - full time, part time or freelancing. This means your free time is in some ways governed by your company or college or customers. So the first task is to see how your holiday calendar looks like. What days and dates in the year do you have holidays? Your holidays would typically be religious festivals, government holidays, bank holidays etc.
1.2 What are the travel times that pop up from your holiday calendar?
There will be times in your holiday calendar where you ought to take leaves and travel. Identify such must-travel times from holiday calendar. In the table below, we have highlighted some situations that you will see once you study your holiday calendar. Based on these it is easy to see which holidays from your holiday calendar will be right for which type of trip.
1.3 Set your potential travel calendar
Now you should be in a position to create your potential travel calendar. One that has weeks and weekends marked for travel. For example in below calendar - Jan 14th & 21st Feb are holidays so 11-14th and 21-23 become your potential travel dates.
At this stage you can also mark specific times when you know there is a holiday but you would not prefer to travel for any reasons. The reasons could be things like kid's school or a critical time in your job or exams etc. So you will be left with potential travel dates through the year.
Now that you know when you can travel, its time to figure out where to travel. This decision can be influenced by many things such as -
Your bucket list - There would be some places in your heart you always wanted to go
Wanna go list - There would be places you have heard are really good and would love to visit
Researched list - If the list of above 2 is not big enough, you need to research and create a list
2.1 Create your Destination repository
Based on the above 3, you need to create a laundry list of places you would like to visit. This is a repository of destinations with reference from your home base. The list should look like -
As they say - when you are thirsty, it is too late to think about digging a well. You know you are going to be thirsty to travel, you know you are passionate about travel, then you should always have a wanna visit list of destinations handy and update it at least once a year. Of course you want to travel the world, but not in next couple of years. So this destination repository does not include every place in the world! It only includes places you are interested in travelling sooner.
There will be less number of 1 or 2 weeks leaves that you can take through the year. So don't go overboard with far away places which would be longer trips. If you can take 4 full weeks off in a year, its okay to have say 8-10 destinations in your list which you can prioritize and plan to cover in couple of years. Ensure you have enough places listed which are day trips/ weekend trips/ long weekend trips as these would be much more frequent opportunities than full week or 2 week trips.
Ideal time to visit may need some basic research and can be decided based on your preference. For example a beach destination in India like Goa or Andamans may be preferred in winter months of Nov-Feb but not so much in summer/monsoon or you might want to specifically avoid them in December due to excessive crowd and exorbitant costs. Similarly Himalayan destinations like Uttarakhand, Spiti Valley or Bhutan may be preferred in Dec-Jan-Feb if you want to experience snow or may be preferred in Apr-Aug if you want to avoid cold. Its your personal choice. Write your ideal time to visit in this column.
2.2 Set your travel calendar
Now all you need to do is perform a simple mapping exercise. Based on ideal months, which destination fits which month in your potential travel calendar. For example, if ideal time for Goa and Andamans is Nov-Feb and let's say it is a 3 or 4 day long weekend trip for you, check when in those months do you have 3 or 4 day long weekend from your potential travel calendar that you created earlier in step 1.3.
It is better you start with longer holidays such as 1 week or 2 weeks holidays and set them in your calendar first. Once this is done, you can then try fitting shorter holidays such as 3 or 4 day long weekends. You can set weekends and day outings during time periods when you don't really have a holiday for an extended time period. Let's say there is no holiday in whole of July and August, set your weekend trips and day trips in these months.
Another suggestion is to do with 'Features of the destination' column from your destination repository. We prefer mixing up the features. For example, we tend to avoid consecutive mountain trips or beach trips and mix things up. So a mountain trip is often followed by a beach trip, which is often followed by a cultural trip etc. We also try to have one village experience, one high altitude trek and do one adventure sport every year. This ensures a variety of unique experiences through the year which we crave for.
We also try to have one repeat destination in our calendar every year. We realized that first trip to any destination is usually about exploring the key, important, most popular places in a destination. However there is a lot more which we realize during the first trip which we miss out on because there is little to no information about it on internet. So few years later, we like visiting the same destination again to explore the offbeat side of that destination. This may not apply to every destination but is true for many of them.
Now that you know when do you want to travel and where you will be travelling, it is time to get a basic idea on 'How' part of things. At this stage you need not create a detailed itinerary and figure out all costs involved. This stage is about figuring out a vague estimate of how you would like the trip to be. Do you want it to be budgeted, moderately priced, luxury or say a mixed one.
3.1 What is your Annual Travel Budget?
The first step is to understand how much you can spend through the year on travel. We can write a separate article on how to do your budgeting exercise but here is a quick brief on what to do -
What is your estimate annual income?
What are your estimated annual expenses?
Expenses could be fixed costs such as your rent, household expenses, mobile bills, internet cost, grocery etc.
Expenses could be variable costs for which you may have a vague idea such as clothes, electronics and gadgets, books, movies, medical, gifts etc.
What are your estimated annual investments?
Annual Travel Budget = (Annual Income) - (Annual Expenses) - (Annual Investments)
If travelling is really important to you and you want to maximize its budget, you cannot impact your income much and you should ideally not tamper with your investment plans, so the only option is to narrow down your annual expenses. So it is okay to use an android phone or repeat your clothes every other week or not to see the latest movies. All such things that you miss out on will be compensated by what you get when you go on an additional trip.
3.2 Do a basic research
There are various decisions which can influence the overall cost of your trip and you need to choose which option is best suited for your comfort and cost. It is again advisable to start from longer 1 week or 2 week trips and then go for estimating costs of smaller trips. An easier way to do this is to simply search for packages offered by travel agencies. You might see a range of packages from cheaper to costlier ones and this would give you a rough idea of what the costs could be. If you are referring to popular and well known companies which offer holiday packages like SOTC, Thomas Cook or MakeMyTrip, reduce atleast 25% from the costs they offer as you can simply plan on your own and prevent yourself from paying the profit margins these big companies tend to add.
3.3 Add vague cost estimates to your travel calendar
No matter what your annual travel budget is, you should be able to pack in enough trips to feed your travel hunger. How? There are all sorts of options available when you go on a trip. Lets say in terms of transportation - You can hitchhike, book Non-AC/AC trains or buses, share rides, drive your own/ rent a car or motorbike or fly. The transportation costs would vary widely based on the option you choose. Similar is the case with accommodations - there are plenty of options with wide range of costs. Your trip costs are solely dependent on your choices.
You can now add a 'Type of Trip' column to your travel calendar that says - Budgeted/ Moderately priced/ Luxury/ Mixed and also add estimated cost if you want to.
For us, over the years we have mastered the art of meeting our annual travel budget so we do not really do much research on the money part early on the year. We know that whatever the destinations be, we will be able to make it budgeted or luxurious type of trip based on what we plan to do. For example if a destination has lovely luxurious resorts or boutique hotels that we really want to experience, it becomes a luxurious trip. If we are going to do sightseeing whole day, we prefer budgeted/medium priced accommodations. There is no point paying higher amount and not staying in. We even do mixed trips where couple of days we spend in a luxurious property followed by few days in budgeted ones thus ensuring that the overall cost of trip is averaged out.
Points to note
There are some other things you might want to keep in mind -
While this exercise will ensure you travel more, note that ultimately it does not matter the number of countries or places you visit. Quality of your trips matter much more than how many trips do you have in a year. What matters is how well did you experience the places you visited. How enriching is your understanding of people, culture and everything else the destination has to offer.
It is perfectly fine to have 'TBD' (To be decided) in few places in your travel plans especially for smaller trips. For example its okay not to finalize which destination you will travel to on a weekend 5 months later. It is just a weekend, you have your destination repository, so sooner or later you can finalize it.
It is okay to modify your travel calendar as you progress through the year. Life happens and there will be unforeseen circumstances which will force you to change or cancel your current plans. However you should still be able to achieve something like 70% of your plans which is great. We have many times changed our plans through the year due to situations like friend or relative's wedding which was not known early in the year, self or family's health issues, work, unpredictable political situation or simply bad weather.
We have personally always felt planning a trip maximizes your knowledge of the destination and ensures you make the most of what a place has to offer. Unplanned trips while fun are many a times governed by ignorance. For example you suddenly decided to go a to a place and packed your bags. When you reached the destination, you realized you should have brought some nylon clothes as there is also a waterfall to visit where you will get wet or you should have got your tripod along to click flowing water. What is even worse is when you come back and chat with a friend who tells you that a small diversion would have taken you to a gorgeous waterfall which you missed. However, 'spontaneous' could be your style of travel and if you feel it suits you, go ahead.
Hope the above exercise helped you plan your travels for full year. If you have been implementing suggestions in this article so far, your dream of travelling more is now a plan and one step closer to being a reality.
Did you know that our annual calendar is always published on this website and you can join us on any of our trips. Checkout our annual calendar for this year in 'Travel with us' section and feel free to get in touch in case you want to know more about any of the trips. If you enjoyed reading this article, share it with your friends. You can pin below images.
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