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1. Everything is possible.
Up until the moment you click “buy” on those airplane tickets, you could go anywhere. Sure you have a budget and places you want to go, but still, for one brief second you can pretend you’re living the life of the super wealthy, that you can jet off to Rome for dinner and Iceland for a mud bath.
Planning a trip is about dreaming and, the wilder the dreams, the better. In that first stage of planning you don’t have to be practical. You can think crazy: I’m going to New Zealand so obviously I should see Australia too, because they’re so close, amirite?!? Sure, at some point you’ll have to whittle it down and count your pennies, but not yet.
2. Nothing ever goes wrong.
You don’t have to figure in the airport delays or the flat tires or the hours spent at the US embassy in Santiago trying to replace your stolen passport. Why? Because in the fantasy world of trip planning these trials and tribulations do not exist. You are a super-traveler and you walk on water. Or, at the very least, you walk through Trafalgar Square without getting pigeon shit in your hair.
3. Ridiculous logistical feats seem totally plausible and not at all annoying.
Sure, I’ll just hop on that 24-hour bus to Igauzu and see the falls for three hours and then catch a plane to Cuzco. Or, we’re driving right by the Grand Canyon, so obviously we should stop — it’s only four hours out of the way. In the planning stage those four hours seem worth it — you’re going to see the Grand Canyon, after all.
And right now, you don’t have to be worry about how hungry and out of sorts and completely disinterested in waterfalls you will be after 24 hours on a bus. You can buy that cheapest flight with the 10-hour layover in Dallas because, instead of worrying about how many Cinnabons you’ll eat in those 10 hours, you can think of all the fun things you’ll do with the 100 bucks you just saved.
4. Planning makes a fantastic procrastination tool.
Whatever it is you do to afford your travels, planning your next trip is probably more fun. And besides, unlike looking at 40 memes of cats trying to squeeze into too-small boxes, trip planning is actually important. You’re saving yourself money by looking at flights from Istanbul to Budapest on 30 different airlines. This is called comparison shopping, and even if you won’t be anywhere near Istanbul in the foreseeable future, you can call it work.
5. You get to buy stuff. Really cool stuff.
I hate shopping under most circumstances. I think two pairs of shoes is more than sufficient for almost every occasion, and you will never catch me at a Black Friday sale. But shopping for an upcoming trip — that’s different.
Whether I’m buying that new, ultra-light rolling suitcase I’ve been ogling for a year, or stocking up on dehydrated meals for a backpacking trip, I feel a palpable boost of excitement. This is really happening! Whee! Plus, stocking up for a trip is an excuse to go to REI and play with those horridly overpriced but totally awesome collapsible bowls, which is exciting enough on its own.
6. Anticipation makes you happy.
Turns out there is a scientific reason for why I love planning trips. In her excellent book, The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin tells us that one of the most important ways we experience happiness is by, somewhat conversely, thinking about happiness. Anticipating a happy thing is just as big a part of happiness as actually doing that happy thing. Amazing, right? (Oh and the other big part of happiness, aside from enjoying the happy moment in the present, is reflection. Yeah, that’s right, I just gave you license to take all those touristy photos that make your family cringe.)