I love planning trips.
But I mean, I really love planning trips. When my two friends mentioned they couldn't decide what to do for their honeymoon, I forced my trip-planning services upon them and planned their trip for them.
I totally PM'ed the sh*t out of their honeymoon.
I just treated honeymoon as a product, and went through the same steps I would go through to roll out a new feature.
You can plan a big, international trip this way too.
Here are 5 steps to planning a trip like a boss... I mean, like a product manager.
1 - Start with JTBD + identify constraints
Everyone has different goals when taking a trip. Does the trip-taker want to relax and recharge? Do they want to eat a lot, and consume loads of alcohol? Are they looking to be active and do lots of activities, Step Brothers- style? Whatever the goal, define it. It will decide what the trip options are.
Also identify constraints. You can't go to China if you only have 5 days. Just like software development, time and budget are the main constraints you want to identify. The State Department's "Do Not Travel" list should be a third.
2 - Make a short list of destinations
Based on what the trip-taker JTBD, I tapped into my travel experience and gathered a short list of 5 destinations. If you don't have a ton of travel experience, ask your friends who do, or consult the internet - there are plenty of travel bloggers. Find 3-5 options that fulfill the trip's purpose.
Include some pictures - visuals are worth 1,000,000 words.
3 - Choose your top destination, and make a short-list of things to do
Now that you have a destination, roam the internet or friends' experiences to make a Top 5 things to see and do. You might end up with a Top 20 list, but, just like a backlog, this list needs prioritized. You have a limited amount of time for a limited number of activities, so you have to rank the experiences you'd like to have.
4 - Details, Details, Details
Once you have your *prioritized* Top 5 Things to Do, you need to start getting into details. How far is it from Point A to Point B? What are your options to get there? What is the time vs. cost trade-off for transportation options?
Once you get into these logistical details, you may find you have to further cut your list of priorities. You're a product manager, so you've had to do this many times. Instead of explaining to your boss why Feature X didn't make it into the release, you just have to explain to your spouse why you actually won't have time to swim with dolphins in that particular corner of the Adriatic sea. (You'll do it next trip.)
Goal of this step: An itinerary with transportation schedule.
5 - Make reservations + Make concessions as needed.
Now that you have an itinerary acting as an outline, delve into each place and start to book hotels, transportation, and excursions. As you start booking your trip, you may run into road blocks. The hotel you were dying to stay in is fully booked, so you have to shop for an option B. That sunset cruise on a pirate ship is $3000 per person, and it's just out of budget. (Maybe shop for a sunset cruise without pirates. Sigh.)
Also, you may have the most detailed plan in the world, but once you're on the ground in a foreign country, things may not always go as planned. As when building a software product, sh*t happens, and sometimes you may have to improvise. Roll with it.