An essentialist's guide to trip planning

The Japanese author Kondō Marie put out a book several years ago about decluttering. After finally reading it last year, it occurred to us that in a sense, that’s what we’re trying to do with the stuff of travel.  We’re not travel minimalists, though that probably comes close to what we’re trying to do. 

We’re travel essentialists – we don’t want to take too little, but we only want to bring just those things that are needed, and nothing more.

We make clothing that works in just about any social or cultural context, which packs lightly and has great travel features but doesn’t advertise them.  We want you to be able to ignore us and focus on the trip, and not on whether you look appropriate or how much you’re carrying.  But more than that, we want to champion an idea of modern exploration.  The problem is that modernity often means "more is more."  

App overload  

In today's age of apps and information, sometimes the planning aspect of travel can feel fragmented.  There are tons of great pack lists and itineraries out there, maps and guidebooks, and waterproof sleeves to carry it all in.  But sorting through ten different confirmation packets while in line for a flight check-in or carrying your Lonely Planet guidebook out to the bars is a little cumbersome.  Or, you can pack all that stuff onto your phone, and carry with you those burdens: you’re never really unplugged and present in the place you spent so much effort to get to. You have to worry about data connections and rain and charging and app crashes, and you can’t always hand your $700 smartphone to a stranger to try and get directions from the map you saved.

A case for paper 

You do have to carry information with you though, and it can be heavy in its own way.  So, just like our apparel, we’ve honed the idea of a trip sheet over years of our own journeys to help you travel more lightly.  Essentially, you just identify all the critical information you need for the trip (and no more), and put it on one sheet of paper in a convenient, well-designed way.  

 

Trip sheets  the idea of "right-sizing" the information you bring, just as you can declutter the pack you bring.

 

At first glance, this may look data-heavy.  But, when you consider that this one sheet replaces multiple maps, guidebooks, lists, and other info, it really does save time and space. 

It helps to put the sheet together so that it folds into eighths, and to display the data which is most important or which needs to be checked most discreetly on the sections which can face outwards.  Really, these are great guides, but you can compose a sheet any way you like.  The most important thing we’ve found is getting the key data down to one sheet of paper that folds up discreetly in your pocket. 

What to put on your trip sheet

We’ve found some of the list below worth including, but only as needed:

Flights

departure (highlighted) and arrival time/date, length, carrier/flight number, confirm/ticket numbers, seats, layover lengths, terminals, connection lengths, visa needs and options, airline help number

Rental cars

on-site or off-site/shuttle-to-lot, times, brand, cost, confirm #, office hours/phone number, toll way payment systems and routes, any IDP/license/age/insurance requirements

Train / ferry / bus reservations

especially for night trains and long-hauls, departure/arrivals/trip length, connections, next available departures, prior and next stops to destination, terminus, car/seat numbers, special platform/terminal locations, transport options/hours to/from terminals, notes on trains that separate halfway through the route or have branch routes, food service/bathrooms, cost

Hotels

check-in/out times/dates, hours of property entry, address (also written in foreign language for cabbies etc.), front desk phone, cost/amount still due, confirm #,

Rail pass

number, activation instructions, help line, duration, line/quality restrictions, what to do in case of loss,

Weather forecasts

actual simple forecasts for the near-term, climate averages for the longer-term, weather conditions idiosyncratic to the area – like sideways rain, extreme cold, or dust storms, Celsius to Fahrenheit conversions

Exchange rates

using a unitary conversion for native and foreign currency, as well as a rule of thumb for odd rates (e.g. for 1:8, use also 5:40, to make mental conversions easier), options for obtaining cash in-country

Tipping conventions / other etiquette

amounts, contexts, other local obligations and niceties

Dialing info

local area code calling conventions, country exit code, international country numbers, dial-in country codes for your home country, consulate and embassy phone numbers/addresses (plus addresses in local language/literation to ask for help with),

Useful, more logistics-oriented, phrases 

“Excuse me”, “thank you”, “where…”, “hotel” or “bed”, “food”, “bathroom”, “hospital”, “medicine”, “police”, with phonetic pronunciations and local literation,

Time differences

both relative to home and to the last place you were

Maps, maps, maps 

where are the hotels, how’s the city or island or country laid out, subway maps, bus routes, major highways, airport terminals, sites of interest, etc. for the places you’ll actually need them for – getting off a subway at 11:00pm and trying to find a hotel seven blocks away can often be much more daunting than you’d expect

Some white space in the margin for notes – things always come up

As a bonus, not only can it be fun to put one of these together (not for everyone, of course – often it's worth just winging it, or other times you know enough already to skip the sheet), but these also can serve as a great memento of the trip.  We’ve sometimes found that, even more than pictures or souvenirs, the trip sheet can take you back to the immediacy of the trip and finding your way more than any keepsake.  It helps remind you where you’ve actually been. 

0 comments

Write a comment

Comments are moderated