How to Use Scrum to Plan Travel

By Mark C. Layton, David Morrow

Vacations are amazing opportunities for relaxation, exploration, and connection as a team…and for using scrum. Even travel for business can accomplish similar objectives. All too often, however, teams, families, and friends struggle with frustrations about financing and finding time for travel, as well as differing opinions on what to do and how to relax. Also, circumstances can change at any time with travel, both before and during the trip.

Scrum is a major planning tool that is perfect for this kind of project. Think about it: You have an exact date and often a fixed budget; everything else is prioritization of the scope of the trip. Instead of one person calling all the shots and hoping that everyone likes the decisions made, working together as a team brings about engagement and satisfaction from everyone. For example, everyone would work together to come to a consensus on the following things:

  • Create a vision plan of the trip or vacation.
  • Set calendar dates.
  • Know your budget.
  • Create a vacation backlog of items from the stakeholders (such as family members and travel companions).
  • Prioritize the backlog to achieve the best result possible.

With family travel, every member of the family can and should participate in what an ideal vacation looks like to them. Keep in mind that if taking a trip becomes a family habit, this year’s vacation vision may not have the same ideal qualities as last year or next year, and that is the point. Reviewing the plan as a family provides insight on how to focus the budget.

As in any scrum project, the vacation budget is the factor that you want to fix first. If family members are focused on activities that cost a higher value, the family can examine more budget-friendly places to do them. If a specific location is the highest priority as a family, the vacation can be planned around more budget-friendly options in an ideal location.

Don’t be afraid to include children in discussing priorities according to budgeting. Although they may or may not have the responsibility of saving the money in the bank or setting the total budget, they should be involved in a trade-off decision as a team. You might say, “We can snorkel in Hawaii or go ziplining, but not both. Which would you like to do? It’s important to teach kids that setting financial priorities and sticking to a budget are major family life skills. Scrum thrives when everyone involved has ownership of decisions.

Rather than a simple vote structure, in which each member only says yes or no, try fist of five, followed by dot voting.

In fist of five, you show your support for an idea. Putting up one finger means total resistance to the idea, whereas displaying five fingers means it’s a great idea. For a decision to pass, everyone in the family should at least have three fingers up, meaning that even though they may not love it, they don’t hate it and are willing to support the decision. Using fist of five voting first allows narrowing a pool of options that no one in the family hates. You follow with dot voting for a final decision.

In dot voting, all family members have five votes each. They put dots on the choice they want vote for, and they can put all dots on the same option or one on different options, indicating a preference for certain decisions.

Items from the product backlog need to be executed by each family member. Reservations need to be set, but changes based on the reality of availability or price, or perhaps changes in expected weather, need to be addressed on an ongoing basis. This approach allows the major items with higher risk to be done early, with risk declining as the date gets closer.

As dates for vacation grow closer, fewer large decisions will be in progress, and vacation planning will evolve into tasks that need to be accomplished before departure. Keep an eye on the calendar and establish short sprints to accomplish any remaining items.

Break the product backlog items down so that items are easily moved to the Done column. Shopping for the appropriate clothing and also packing for the trip can’t be done in the same week without causing stress and chaos, for example. Place shopping in a sprint that’s long enough before the trip so that when it’s time to pack, items are available. In fact, in an earlier sprint, do a mock packing activity to help you identify things that you’ll need to shop for so that no surprises occur during the real packing the night before you leave.