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How is planning a meeting similar to planning a vacation?

As a corporate meeting planner we’re taught (and encouraged) to think in terms of: goals and objectives, overall themes, tag lines and key messages; intended audiences; BUDGET and …..

We’ve learned that in order for the meeting to come off without a hitch (obvious to the meeting participants, at least) there are a multitude of tasks that have to be done in proper sequence, by a select team of experts in order to pull it off successfully. As a planner, we are CREATING an EXPERIENCE for our guests, one that touches upon all five senses.

Such could be said for planning a vacation, could it not -- or, anything else where having a PLAN and a PROCESS play an instrumental role in the outcome? I certainly believe it to be so. Components (or elements) of a meeting may differ from planning a vacation; but, it’s the process you initiate and follow through on that will determine the results – good, bad or otherwise. It goes back to what I’ve said before: fail to plan; plan to fail.

I mean, say you’re getting married instead of planning a vacation? Wouldn’t you need a PLAN and a PROCESS for executing the special occasion? One that identifies your goals and objectives and wishes for the day (that which is most important to you and your intended), friends and family you want to share in this special occasion (your guest list), experts to help you (wedding planner, florist, caterer, etc.), a time line and task list that defines who is responsible for which task – and what the heck is this all going to cost me/us?

Sorry. Sometimes I just can’t help myself.

Back to vacation planning ….

My husband and I are sailors at heart, but knew it was time a year ago to flake up those sails for the last time and move forward with seeing the world from a different view – namely, by land. My meeting planning mindset made for a relatively smooth transition as we were preparing for our first “real” road trip to Florida in February.

As we were putting our PLAN in place, we had to ask ourselves:

  • Why again are we doing this? What do we hope to accomplish by going?

  • Where exactly in Florida do we want to go and why? (Florida is a big, very long state after all.)

  • From a safety and security standpoint, is the area safe to travel to, to walk about freely? What do we need to know about their medical facilities? Will our insurance coverage suffice?

  • What is there to do and see on the way or once we get there? What are we hoping to gain from the experience?

  • What type of accommodations do we prefer? Hotel or resort? Condo? Private house?

  • How many days do we want to stay?

  • How many hours in any given day do we want to spend driving to and from?

  • What is the preferred travel route? The fastest, straightest way or the more scenic, quieter way?

  • And, most importantly: What the heck is this all going to cost?

After much thought, a recommendation from a trusted friend, and a great deal of research we decided on the Panama City Beach area, located in the northern part of Florida referred to as the Panhandle. It’s quieter, more low profile, not as touristy and maybe not as warm as you’ll find in February the more south you go, but it seemed a better fit to our overall lifestyle and personalities. Additionally, the beaches are gorgeous and we found some wonderful state parks to explore.

We made the trip in three long days on the outbound and four on the return, and covered 3,000+ miles. We learned a lot about each other (some good, some not so good, let’s be honest). We learned we like road tripping and want to do more. We also learned that a two-week stay was not long enough; we wished we had more time on the front and back ends of the trip to spend more time in certain cities along the way. For instance, we purposely planned for two nights in Chattanooga on the way down, but had no idea we would enjoy the area enough to want to make it a destination on its own. (We’ve now added it to our overall road trip list.)

We had no idea the extent of Florida’s State Park system and/or how much we would find ourselves visiting them when we wanted something other than to beach it. That being said, some days we were lucky enough to combine visiting a park and a beach in a single visit.

I wrote brief fact sheets up on three of the parks we visited that I’ll share as follow-up to this post just in case you’re considering a visit to Florida in the near future. Coming from Minnesota in the middle of a very snowy and cold winter, we were continually buoyed by the aromatic scents of fresh grass, newly sprouting shrubs, pine needles and the wild rosemary we found on our walks. And then there was the headiness and sheer delight one feels from a stroll on the beach. All very much heavenly. As signage throughout their parks say: “Florida Parks: The real Florida.”

Take care. Plan well. ENJOY!

P.S. If you missed my blog post, “How prepared are you should a medical emergency occur when you’re traveling?” you can find it here → Consider it a prequel to this post.



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