So everything is planned. All the tickets booked. All our places of stay. Cars reserved. Bathing suits bought. Bags packed (and sent in advance). Grandmas birthday cake eaten (she happened to have her birthday just the day before we go). And by the way, we are leaving tomorrow.
Directionally Challenged Assistance
That is the day when I start to check the airline website again, to make sure that I got the check-in time right. I check the route from the airport to the hotel (or lodge, or villa). I check how to get the key. And so on. I do not worry. Yet. I just want to make sure. And that I know how being sure will help me. For instance, if the key is in a box with a four-digit code, do I press the buttons or turn them? How does the lock box work? How do we get into the elevator, and when we do, how do we get out when we get to the right floor? Do we go right or left?
I know, I do not really have to worry about these things. If we go right or left when we get out of the elevator is something we can worry about later. When we get there. But the less insecurity there is, the less worry there will be, and less frustration.
Getting lost can be interesting, if you do not have a couple of hungry and tired children to drag along, and have to meet your wife or husband in a certain place and a certain time.
Some people (chronically directionally challenged, lacking a sense of location and direction) find ways of coping with the situation, like bringing maps or compasses. Or my wives mother, who will ask the first passerby to help her when she gets lost. Which would be a good strategy if she had a clue about the destination. Like, what it is called.
Five Year Olds Are Cuter
When you are 80 years old and never have had to find your own way, you become completely dependent on others. You can get by only by throwing yourself on the mercy of others and asking how to get to your destination. Which works if there are people who are willing to be nice to a little old lady. And speak her language.
If you get lost in a foreign country and do not speak the language it does not matter so much if you are five years old or eighty. You will end up in the care of someone who can take you somewhere you will be taken care of. I probably should make a T-shirt for grandma for the next time she gets lost.
Street Maps Are Good At Home
The best way of handling the situation, though, is not to be lost in the first place. The second is to speak the local language. Both require preparation, but learning a new language takes a lot more preparation than finding the way using a map.
Regardless of where you are going and whether you speak the local language you need to find your way around your destination on a map. At least Google Map, with Streetview and Google Earth. Navigating foreign destinations from the comfort of your own home is great fun, but does not compare to actually being there. In particular since you can not see all of it. Look at Thai streets and you will be severely challenged to figure out if you can push a stroller around somwhere in there.
Checking The Budget
You can apply the same thinking to the budget. Before we leave, I check my calculations. I know how much I make per month. I know what we are going to pay (or at least how much I can afford to pay). I know how much I can afford to pay off my credit cards. So this is why I need to book far ahead in advance. So I can pay for the trip when I get paid.
The alternative (since I know how much I earn, how much I can pay, and how much our trip will cost) is to save the money ahead of time. Then I could pay off the entire trip at once, and get a small interest payment to boot. The disadvantage of that is we would either have to decide where to go in time to start saving, or we would miss out on booking the best-priced seats. As you probably have noticed, there are no fixed prices for airline tickets any more. The airlines set the prices according to projected demand. But it is not so easy.
Travel With Cargo
An airline loses money when nobody sits in a seat when the plane takes off. Unless they are on a route where there is plenty of freight. Then they may not want those pesky people who cost money. Air freight does not require stewardesses, booze or blankets. It is happy to sit in the cargo hold and make money for the airline while the reciever and sender are happy because they are getting their stuff earlier and faster than they would if they had to wait until a cargo plane would be full and could be scheduled.
This is something you can use for yourself if you want lots of seats, by the way. Like an entire row to lie down on. An airplane can only transport so much weight (and volume, but that is usually less a concern with people than freight). So if there are routes with lots of freight, airlines may be inclined to prioritize stuff over people and limit the number of people if they have lots of freight.
At The Mercy Of The LCC
Those routes are from destinations where they make time-critical goods to destinations where they use time-critical goods. To be able to use it to get seats, there has to be a steady demand for goods.
This means only a few routes are concerned. Those time-critical goods are not very common and they are not sent all the time. And there is another problem: This only applies to long-haul airlines. Which means it does not happen on the routes where low-cost airlines fly. So unfortunately you are completely at the mercy of the low-cost carriers, the likes of Ryanair and Air Asia, when it comes to scheduling cheap short-haul flights.
Better Than Flying
Sometimes there are better alternatives than flying. In Japan, anything within a one hour flight is accessible with a four-hour train ride. That may sound like a no-brainer until you consider the time it takes to get to the airport, check in, pass security and passport control, and hang around waiting for boarding. And while there may be a flight every hour, there are trains to the big destinations every ten minutes in Japan.
But you already bought that airplane ticket, booked that AirBnB, and rented that car. You have done everything you could to create the smoothest trip possible - haven't you?
It is useless to worry now. You can no longer control your choices. You have made them, trust the people you bought from to deliver. Manage what you can control, and adapt to what you can not control. Just before the trip there is no way you can manage your choices any more. Just try to execute them to perfection - so you make the trip as smooth as possible.
I am Wisterian Watertree, recently moved from Bangkok to Tokyo, with a brief visit to Honolulu on the way. I write about travel, especially with our three beautiful kids (two girls and one boy, soon turning four and a half - yes. they are triplets). Travel is education and fun rolled into one, and if you are like me, that is something you want to give to your kids. If you want more tips and want to find out when I will publish something, get it from my email list. If you want to be personal, drop me a note on email@example.com, or if you want general tips, follow me on Twitter @wisterianw.