Treat Your Family Like Stakeholders When Planning A Vacation

I started planning family vacations the same way I plan projects at work. Think about it: a project has a definite start and end date exactly like your vacation, which means it can be treated with several project management principles you already use in the workplace. Family members are your internal stakeholders and you definitely have a budget to manage. If you come from a family of ‚Äòwe’ll figure it out when we get there’ personalities here’s some tips on how to project manage your family when they visit.

Treat your family members as stakeholders

Identify your family’s needs and style of communication. I live on the opposite side of the world from my family, so more formalised communication is required to keep everyone in the loop. Email through reminders, schedule Facetime planning sessions and try and always keep a paper trail of the bookings you make. In the workplace I have a special folder where I file approvals and keep an approval log. You’ll never know panic until it’s Boxing Day and you’re unsure of the time of your scheduled Hobbiton tour.

Create a timeline

I create a projected timeline for my family so they have an idea of the travel days, possible landmarks to see and visualise where their ‚Äòmust dos’ fit into their overall trip. I use Google docs since multiple people can edit the document at the same time. I also link in websites to activities with associated price tags and restaurants to make the experience a bit more tangible. I like to list options to alleviate some pressure from accounting for every minute of every day. Similar to a project, the hardest part of this is not getting upset if you need to redo your timeline several times. Pro tip: add Google Maps links if necessary as well to show driving distances if your stakeholders get cranky sitting in the car.

Identify goals

Important questions to ask your stakeholders include ‚ÄòWhat do you want to do and see on this vacation?’ ‚ÄòYou’re travelling all this way – What would be a couple activities you would like to experience?’ You’re both investing a lot of money into this project so it’s important to get stakeholder buy in on the activities you are going to do together. If there are some leftover activities then you have some excess that can be carried over to when you have buffer in your schedule or these activities can be saved for another vacation (or new project).

Add buffer

If you refer to my previous article, you’ll remember that I always add a buffer in my projects no matter what. Buffer during your vacation can be ‚Äòchill days’ or ‚Äòtravel time’ to allow yourself time and account for any unexpected delays or traffic. It’s important to know your stakeholder’s travel style in this circumstance. Do they like to power through and sightsee as much as possible or are more cruisy and like to take their time while exploring? Or maybe your stakeholders get upset if you book too many things in one day. This will inform how much buffer you add to your timeline.

Set expectations

I know that if I don’t set expectations with my stakeholders, I am setting the project up for failure. For my visitors, I had to set expectations around cultural differences in New Zealand and how everything from tipping, driving and communication differs to North America. Nobody wants a disastrous vacation which it’s why you need to talk about all the niggly things the same way you would in a kickoff meeting. Check the weather, roads and your spreadsheet regularly for potential risks that may pop up and keep your stakeholders in the loop. You’ll be thankful you shared that one pager on Great Barrier Island roads and electricity – even if your stakeholders didn’t read it.

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Smartsheet is an online work execution platform empowering organizations of all sizes to plan, manage, automate, and report on work. Over 80,000 brands rely on Smartsheet for project and work management.

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