Get the most out of your vacation—and life—with just a little planning.
When I was 13, my parents and I went to Europe on vacation.
It was miserable.
My father wanted to hit all the major sites, while my mother just wanted to relax. Because they couldn’t agree on what to do, none of us got the vacation we’d hoped for.
This happens to friends and family traveling together more often than you’d think.
People have different ideas of what they want to do on vacation, and that’s fine—there’s no right or wrong way to enjoy yourself.
Where they go wrong is thinking that they can go on vacation together with no forethought and have an amazing time. A little planning is key to making sure you’re on the same page as your travel partners.
That’s why timeboxing is just as necessary on vacation as in everyday life. And if you’ve never used this time management technique, then on vacation is an excellent time to start.
Figure Out Your Needs First
Family and friends may make the mistake of thinking that because they know each other so well, they don’t need to discuss a plan for a vacation together.
However, that’s not always the case, and it’s not fair to believe that if someone can’t read our mind, they aren’t a good partner or friend.
Creating a basic vacation plan is the only way to ensure you and your companions set realistic expectations for the trip.
Planning may seem like a chore or the antithesis of the vacation sentiment, but it only takes a few minutes.
First, brainstorm what you want for your trip, and have your travel companions do the same. Then, come together with your lists to figure out a simple plan for how you will spend your time on vacation.
That process is far more productive than bringing a blank sheet of paper to the table.
In fact, the same concept applies to all domains of life, including the workplace and your relationships. You have to know what your needs or ideas are before discussing them with a partner or group.
Even a person who wants to do nothing on vacation has to plan to do nothing when other people are involved. If you want to sit on the beach for six hours, great! By communicating that plan to your fellow travelers, you can be sure they won’t distract you from how you want to spend your time.
My wife and I recently took our 13-year-old daughter to Germany. The three of us each shared what we each wanted to do there: We wanted to relax and be with family, and my daughter wanted time at the local trampoline park with her grandparents. All of that was timeboxed into our agenda.
Contrary to what some may think, planning doesn’t squeeze the spontaneity out of vacation. My daughter and her grandparents set aside time for each other, but what they did with that time was up to them in the moment.
Plan for Vacation, Plan for Life
Because a vacation is usually a defined short period of time, it’s a great opportunity to start timeboxing.
Generally, learning how to timebox your day-to-day can be a struggle. People are turned off by having to think about what to do with every moment of their day. But when you’re planning for fun rather than work—that’s a different story!
Suddenly the question isn’t, “How can I plan my day to be as productive as possible?” but instead is, “How can I pack as much fun and relaxation into my day as possible?”
Vacation can kick-start the practice of timeboxing. Once you see how well it works, you’ll be more motivated to continue it at home to pursue traction—aka, action that moves us toward what we want.
Save Yourself from Regret
The worst thing to happen on a vacation is that you regret a trip or feel it was a waste of time and money.
Timeboxing can prevent that regret.
By figuring out your priorities on vacation and scheduling them into a calendar, you can better make sure you do them. Timeboxing is also your best chance of fitting in everything you and your companions want to do when it seems as if there couldn’t possibly be enough time.
In that way, travel is a microcosm for life.
Many people spend their days staring at long to-do lists and wondering how they’ll ever find the time to achieve what they want.
When you’re on your own, it’s easy enough to do what you like with your time. But when you have people in your life—friends, partners, kids—you have to make sure everyone’s needs are met, including your own.
Personal regret and interpersonal friction—both on vacation and throughout life—can be solved with just a little planning.
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