Adventure Planning 101

by Amber Carbo on March 20, 2018

At some point in our lives we become an adventure planner. Whether we are leading a local hike, or we are asked to put together a weekend in Tahoe, there are many ways in which planning skills come in handy.

As an experienced “adventure planner,” I have coordinated events ranging from a day trip to Big Sur, to a two-week stay in Peru, to a month-long backpacking tour through Europe!

After many late nights, last-minute changes in itineraries, and long hold times with hotel service desks, I have gathered a few tips & tricks to help with future adventure planning!

Without further ado, here a few ways to make those group plans go a little more smoothly:

1. Rally the troops.

The first step to any adventure is finding those willing to go with you. Now is the time to send out the word that an adventure is brewing! Start texting some friends and gauging interest. Once you’ve rounded up a few adventure buddies, create a group chat or Facebook event page.

This will be the single point of truth for all planning needs!

Pro Tip: Short. Concise. Direct. This is how to get responses in a group chat.Bonus: In a Facebook event page, you can create “polls” that make it super easy for people to select the options.

Photo by Roya Miller

2. Survey for ideas.

After giving a few days to a week to rally the troops, now it’s time to set up a survey. I use Survey Monkey because it is 1) easy to use, 2) a trusted source, and 3) it’s free!

I recommend keeping the survey to less than 5 questions. Mine went something like this:

Q.1 — What do you want to do for this reunion?

(Give 5 answer choices as well as a “free response”)

Q.2 — What dates work well for you?

(Give 5 answer choices on, preferably, three day weekends)

Q.3 — How much money are willing to spend on this reunion?

(Give 5 answer ranges, ex: $25–50, $50–100, $100–150, $150+)

Q.4 — What other ideas or suggestions do you have for this trip?

(Make this a “free response” so others can share their ideas, etc.)

Must do: Make this survey anonymous. Everyone will feel more comfortable admitting their time/money constraints if they know their responses are private.Pro Tip: Leave this survey open for one to two months to give plenty of time for everyone to figure out their calendars and request any needed time off work.

3. Create a GoogleSheet

As responses start coming in, open a GoogleSheet to track the favorite weekend, most common ideas, and spending goals. This will significantly impact the rest of the planning process! If no one wants to spend more than $100, then you know a flight/long trip is out.

Must do: Invite the other trip members onto it so they can view plan progress and pitch in too!

4. Research Campgrounds & Activities

Researching is one of my favorite things to do. Though I understand this is a daunting task for many who do not share my love for digging through the internet.

Here are a few tips to finding your next adventure:

Step 1 — Start with your network: Putting a shoutout on Facebook or other forms of social media is surprisingly successful! Ask your friends and family, where have they enjoyed camping or hiking?

Step 2 — Now ask Google: See if any of the recommendations have great reviews online as well. Start with “Name of Campsite” “Images” and see if you like the area.

Step 3 — Reservations: Find the website to the place you want to stay. Many places now offer online reservations, making it super easy to pick out the perfect spot!

For California & USA AdventuresReserve California is the standard site for online reservations in all CA state park campgrounds! Whereas Resrve America is the same for other place in the beautiful USA.Pro Tip: Don’t fall into Analysis Paralysis! There is so much out there that you can get caught up in the mire and start to lose sight of your goal.

Photo by Tommy Lisbin

5. Solidify Dates & Desired Location

Once most of your responses are in, it’s time to set the date and desired location. I recommend narrowing it down to the top 2–3 places and asking for input again. It’s as simple as typing in the group chat:

“Here are the top 2 dates/places, please “like” the one you would prefer”

“1 — Sept 2–3 Air BnB a Beach Cottage in San Diego ($150/person)”

“2 — Nov 10–11 Camping at Joshua Tree National Park ($130/person)”

Pro Tip: Less choices makes it easier for everyone!

6. Travel Checklist

One of my favorite parts of planning is checking items off my packing list. I have several different versions of checklist (GoogleSheets, for the win) for different types of adventures.

One way is to use the power of the internet once more and search for Travel Checklist that others have shared.

Need a hand? Check out this template: here. Many items may not apply to your trip but you can use the basics to get you started!

7. Manage the Money

This one can be tricky, so don’t overthink it.

Step 1 — Estimate expenses using the GoogleSheetStep 2 — Calculate cost per personStep 3 — Share cost estimates to the groupStep 4 — Collect funds (Money Apps are your friend, I use Venmo)

Instead of trying to guess every expense, stick with the “outside-a-normal-expense” items. For example, everyone will have control over their eating out, drink consumption, and souvenir spending.

Utilize your GoogleSheet to account for total costs, divided by number of people, to get an estimated per person cost.

Need a hand? See a mock template created by me: here.

In addition, transparency is key when collecting money to avoid any confusion. I usually take a picture of the receipt and share it with the group so everyone knows how the math went down.

Pro Tip: Don’t put off money collection, it makes life easier if you just get the funds as soon as possible. This also helps people not forget!

8. Reservations & Important Tasks

After everyone has browsed the current plan standings, pick a few reliable friends to assign important tasks to. This will save one person from having to front all the big expenses and keep track of every detail

Once everyone knows their individual tasks, the campsites will get reserved and the hiking gear will be packed! Just keep an eye on the spreadsheet to make sure people are updating it when their tasks are complete.

Pro Tip: Give everyone a “Let’s Get This Done By” date to ensure there is a deadline to meet!

9. Get Confirmation

A few days or a week prior, send out individual reminder texts to make sure no plans have to be adjusted last minute. We want everyone to be there, but you also need to know if someone is going to be absent.

Better to know sooner rather than later is someone can’t make it, or you’ll end up like my Cal Poly friends at a bonfire…with no firewood!

10. Enjoy your next adventure!

Wrap up the adventure with the peace of mind that you planned an exciting endeavor.

But remember: Every trip has its hang-ups, but that’s part of the fun!

Like the time my husband and I got to Shaver Lake with a tent and no poles.

We look back and laugh at these moments, so be ready to roll with the punches and enjoy your time with friends.

Photo by Josie Farrior

I would love to hear any tips & tricks you all have gathered over the years so feel free to share in the comments!

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