If you’ve been following my newsletters, then you’ll know that I finally got to take a vacation to Europe that was originally planned before the pandemic. In my last newsletter I discussed how planning a vacation is like planning for your business. Looking back at my trip, it’s clear how that planning paid off – even when we faced the unexpected.
Here’s a tip for those of you going to Portugal: bring a baby. Now, of course we planned to bring a baby, but not for travel benefits. However, in Portugal, having a baby allows you to skip some lines. We visited a historic castle, and instead of waiting in the long line, once the workers saw a baby, they just waved us in! This was a pleasant surprise.
A much more unpleasant surprise was waiting for us on the way out of Paris. We had already seen the most iconic buildings and monuments – the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and Versailles. For our last day, our plan was simply to visit the Catacombs under Paris, and then take the Eurostar train through the Chunnel into London. What could go wrong?
Unfortunately, there was a bomb threat at the Paris train station. Everything was roped off, and everyone had to evacuate the station because of a suspicious package. They did a controlled explosion and no one was harmed. We were very grateful that everyone was safe, and the trains resumed service, although they were delayed. Fortunately, we’d called ahead for someone to pick us up from the station in London. The driver could see that the train was delayed and waited for us there.
We were very glad that we planned for that day to be mainly a travel day. Yes, we had been to the catacombs in the morning, but once we left, the remainder of the day was dedicated solely to travel. We hadn’t scheduled any activities in London in the evening, so we didn’t miss anything that day. We had budgeted the time to recover if something went wrong.
This is important when scheduling for your business as well! Yes, you have to factor in commute times to get from place to place, but that’s not the only thing to plan for. When scheduling your day, you have to plan for multiple things to go wrong – for meetings to run long, for technology to malfunction, for communication to break down. You don’t want any of these things to happen, and you should be taking all possible steps to prevent these problems, but remember Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong. How are you going to recover if something goes wrong?
This means budgeting the time to fix these problems. Try to make sure you have scheduled time between meetings to avoid one mistake derailing your entire schedule. Make sure your prospective deadlines are reasonable for both your company and your clients, so that you have enough wiggle room to fix an unexpected issue. Remember, it’s always better to turn something in early than late!
But you also have to budget in time for your own rest and recovery as well. On one of our days in London we had planned to do a 2-hour bike trip. Unfortunately, there were no e-bikes available, and the place closed at 6. Instead of waiting for bikes and rushing our trip, we just decided to go back to the hotel to eat and relax. We had a full day before that and we were exhausted! Yes, it meant that we missed one activity, but it was worth it.
Bomb threats aside, I had a really wonderful vacation. It was wonderful to spend time with family and friends, and I got to see so many amazing places across Portugal, France, and England! From a business perspective, it was also very interesting to see how the tourism industry in these places have been impacted by COVID. Some of the tourism companies and people that we were working with before the pandemic were no longer in service. Some places had adapted, however, with their pandemic signage still visible reminding tourists how to be safe. I was, of course, disappointed when COVID postponed my vacation three years ago, but now I feel very satisfied saying it was a vacation worth the wait.