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How to Plan an Active Vacation in 6 Easy Steps

jumping on haleakala

When you’re offered the opportunity to do a jump photo on top of a mountain above the clouds, you take it.

Step 5: Book it

Here’s where I would suggest another spreadsheet (shut up, I know), this time to keep track of what you’ve booked, what the confirmation numbers are, and whether you paid in advance or made any sort of deposit. It’s astonishing how hard it is to remember exactly what you’ve already paid for when you’re five days into a blissful vacation and heading out on your seventh adventure and someone’s asking you for a credit card.

This sheet can also be a great location for you to keep track of a number of other important things, like:

  • Is transportation provided or do you need to get there yourself? If it’s provided, when and where will you be picked up and dropped off? If it’s not, where do you need to be, and when?
  • What do you need to bring? Dramamine, bug spray, a bathing suit, layers?
  • Do you need to confirm a day or two in advance? We needed to make a call to confirm for several Hawaii activities (helicopter tour, manta ray snorkeling and riding bikes down Haleakala, I think).
  • Is it weather (or anything else) dependent? If so, what’s the refund policy? Many tours we looked into offered a replacement tour, but not necessarily a refund, if it was canceled or unsuccessful (like, say, a whale watching tour with no whales). If your schedule is jam-packed, that might not work for you, so know your options ahead of time.
  • What time will you be back at your hotel? We were surprised by how long some of the tours we took lasted (not to mention how much longer it took us to finish certain hikes than we’d planned). The night we went to the summit of Mauna Kea for the sunset was a late one, and we still had to pack up for an early flight the next morning. Oof.

And, once it’s all booked and confirmed, it’s not a bad idea to create an itinerary for yourself with everything you need listed in chronological order. That might just be a printout of your spreadsheet, but — surprise, surprise — I popped everything into a Word doc and kept it in a folder. It was really handy, not just for keeping track of payments and confirmations, but also so we knew exactly what we were doing each day. I can’t keep all that in my head, and even if I could, who wants that kind of responsibility on vacation?

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  1. Sarah says:

    Great tips, Kristen, thanks for sharing! Do you have a template you could share that you used for your planning? My husband and I are going to Germany this fall, and I would love to use your ideas for our trip!