The Ultimate Project Management Challenge: Planning an Around the World Trip

In September 2003 my husband, two daughters and I took a 4 1/2 month trip around the world. During the journey we visited 12 countries on four continents while home schooling the girls, who were in 5th and 7th grades at the time. One could call this the ultimate project management challenge in that there were all kinds of interrelated tasks that had to be completed before, during and after the trip to ensure it was safe and successful. Combining the education of our daughters into the trip made the planning even more challenging. By treating this as a project and employing many of the same best practice concepts, we were able to divide and conquer the planning and trip task management.

Just like a real project, a charter was created, which was reviewed with several people for feedback, including the school principal. Out of this came a one page scope summary of the trip that was easily communicated with others and modified as we moved into more detailed planning.

A schedule was created to incorporate all the various pre-departure activities, from setting the destinations and day-by-day itinerary to creating the budget and financial plan, to determining the logistics with the house (which we rented while we were gone), to formulating the education plan. Then, once we returned, we had many post-trip activities to complete as we settled back into our work and school routines. We kept a Microsoft Project schedule that was over 1000 lines.

Many documents were created to track the planning of the trip. Among the most important were the visa requirements, as we were visiting so many countries, and the detailed, day-by-day itineraries.

The education plan was just as important as the trip itinerary. We began meeting with the school principal over a year before the planned trip and his help and support were instrumental in making this a success. We discussed the logistics of home schooling both the girls, subject by subject, including the trip education materials and test administration / communication with the teachers on the road while in such places as Zambia and India.

A couple of months before the journey we began meeting with the teachers as well. The result was a week-by-week education plan for each girl, that listed the lessons, dependent on where we were going to be, what we were going to see and how much time we had that week for schooling. For example, those weeks that we were in Africa on safari were the poorest for studying.

Overall the trip was a great experience. We had the time of our lives and the girls gained a world view that they carry with them today. They were both ahead in their lessons when we returned and, most importantly, we all came back safe. Applying project management best practices was a major factor in the overall success of this journey.

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