Planning a Summer Vacation Using Project Management Principles

As summer begins to peek its warm and sunny head out in the coming days, many of us find ourselves in the mood for travel! Vacationing is fun year round, but our “big” trips are often planned for summer. You can’t go wrong with trips to the beach, a getaway weekend at the lake, or even an exciting destination to a big city.

We have discussed some good Project Management tips in our Valentine’s Day Blog as a Project post, and we have gone over some great traits of Project Managers with our Project Management Traits of an Athlete. You might be noticing a trend that PM principles can be related to many different events in life. Here are some core principles that you should be using when planning a vacation this summer!


Understand what type of vacation you want!

There are many options available to us when we travel. Some options may include remote getaways to beaches, oversea travel, or even just a “staycation” away from the busy work life. Understanding what you want to achieve with the vacation can help kick start what you plan to enjoy the most during the time off. Setting goals is key to help all members of the project “see the whole picture.” It also give clear perspective of the direction of the project, or in this case, the vacation plans.

Setting goals for vacations can be a fun group objective with your family members. Some goals might be but are definitely not limited to:

  • Identify what you plan to achieve
  • Define an acceptable budget for the vacation
  • Determine which landmarks you want to visit
  • Where to stay and eat
  • Plan out the activities for each day, but, ensure you have buffer/contingency days/time to just relax or have miscellaneous activities/experiences
  • Reach the ultimate goal of relaxing and having fun!


Budgeting for the trip

One of the key Project Management concepts to apply to a vacation is to review and determine what the vacation budget will be. No matter how small or large your budget might be, planning where to spend your pennies is always a best practice!

Vacations are a time to relax and get away from everyday life, but for most of us, money is not an infinite resource. Putting in the effort ahead of time to understand the budget will make for a more relaxing and enjoyable vacation.  Also, monitoring your budget while on vacation will make your return to real life less stressed. A few tips for budgeting a vacation might be:

  • Determine what your overall budget will be
  • Plan for known costs (Gas, hotels, flights, rentals, and excursions/attractions)
  • Set a daily threshold on your budget (depending on what is in store for that day)
  • Stick to cash and only use the credit card for emergencies
  • Put in a buffer/contingency in the budget


Enjoy (but manage) the trip!

One of the main ways to lose control of a project is from lack of leadership and direction. Every successful project needs someone to lead the way and maintain order when times get stressful. This same principle applies to a vacation. Planning out the trip is just step one of the vacation, now it is time to execute on the vision!

Keeping yourself accountable to the schedule of what is planned will help control costs, maximize the value of the vacation and limit external influences/distractions that can throw off the experience.  Be sure to identify your leader. A family vacation is usually led by a parent or guardian, for a friend’s trips, the leader might be the one who organized the vacation. Identifying the leader shouldn’t be too difficult, these people usually love the task and volunteer, but make sure that person is aware and capable of rallying the troops as a top priority!


Capture the memories!

Every project needs to be seen through to the very end. Project success can be measured by analyzing if goals were met and reviewing analytics in retrospective. Translating this over to the vacation, was it everything that you expected from the vacation? The memories and memorabilia (pictures, videos, souvenirs, stories) of the vacation will help gauge if you successfully met the goals of the vacation you established when you first started the planning process. Take time to reflect on your experiences and identify what successes you had and what challenges you faced. This will help in planning an even better vacation for next summer!


Written by Casey Robinson, Senior Consultant, Arrowhead Consulting


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