Systematically eliminating choices

I confess: I sometimes feel overwhelmed when researching choices. I find it really helpful to write options down and then systematically eliminate them as I learn more.

For example, we’re planning how to take 11 people (ourselves included) to Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Based on a few Internet searches, we identified the following options:

  1. Rent a 12-passenger van and take everyone.
  2. Rent a 7-passenger minivan and go in a convoy.
  3. Charter a yacht and go across the lake.
  4. Charter a private tour van from Toronto.
  5. Take a pre-determined Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake tour.
  6. Go to Niagara Falls by bus.
  7. Skip Niagara entirely.

Decisions are less stressful when you’ve got a basic plan in place, like the way that writing is easier once you’ve written a first draft, and like the way negotiations are easier when you’ve identified your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA).

Our “first draft” was option 6: taking an inexpensive bus to Niagara Falls, and then doing a self-directed tour. That beat option 7, which might’ve involved making more preserves. ;)

We briefly looked at option 5 (public bus tour), too, but it didn’t feel like a good fit. So we struck that out.

Our ideal would’ve been to rent a 12-passenger van, but the companies that listed them as available seemed sketchy (mixed reviews on the Internet, complaints about transactions), and the larger rental companies didn’t have any 12-passenger vans available during that period. (Update: the smaller companies reported not having any vans for those dates, either. Moot point, then.)

We played around with the idea of taking a yacht (3) because it would be an awesome experience, but we decided it wasn’t worth it.

  1. Rent a 12-passenger van and take everyone.
  2. Rent a 7-passenger minivan and go in a convoy.
  3. Charter a yacht and go across the lake.
  4. Charter a private tour van from Toronto.
  5. Take a pre-determined Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake tour.
  6. Go to Niagara Falls by bus.
  7. Skip Niagara entirely.

Renting a minivan and going in a convoy (2) was much better than going to Niagara Falls by bus, so we made that our current working option.

A bit of digging turned up the IBM discount for Enterprise Car, which was okay. (I found out from Ian Garmaise that Enterprise also has 12-passenger vans, but none were available for the period we were looking at.)

W- reasoned that it made more sense to rent a minivan for the entire time than to hire a van and a driver, considering many people in our family can drive.

  1. Rent a 12-passenger van and take everyone.
  2. Rent a 7-passenger minivan and go in a convoy.
  3. Charter a yacht and go across the lake.
  4. Charter a private tour van from Toronto.
  5. Take a pre-determined Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake tour.
  6. Go to Niagara Falls by bus.
  7. Skip Niagara entirely.

When you feel overwhelmed with choices, it helps to list those choices and then get rid of them one by one.

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  • http://www.trajano.net/ Archimedes Trajano

    Here’s another one you may want to consider.

    Sacrificial driver.

    Personally, I don’t like doing the Niagarra Falls thing because I’ve done it oh so many times now. Doing so, I have an optimal tourist path for my family and friends who come over and want to see the falls.

    #1 drop them off at the welcome center which is just east of the parking lot.
    #2 tell them just walk along the path until they reach Clifton Hill then head north. (tell them there’s a hot dog stand in the corner so they have a visual indicator).
    #3 tell them your number in case they can’t reach that far.
    #4 drive to the nearest 7-11, they have free wifi and as long as you’re with your car you don’t have to pay for parking.

    advantage to that is there is no back tracking for your guests, they just move forward
    advantage to the driver (if it were me I just like driving) I still get to drive.

    Another thing. most trips just go to the typical spots (Niagarra on the Lake and the Falls)

    I would recommend adding http://www.whitemeadowsfarms.com/ driving there is an adventure with the sudden turns if you don’t have a GPS. Twas fun asking for directions in the local gas stations.

    I am not into wines, but there are several wineries there.

    Personally, I’d skip the Niagarra on the Lake, we usually skip it now because it is overcrowded and things are very expensive. You can see similar small town products in downtown Toronto.

    Anyway have fun!

  • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

    We rarely get to see my family, so we’re happy to pay for parking if it means being able to spend more time with them. My mom particularly liked Niagara-on-the-Lake when she was here, so it’s on the itinerary. Thanks for interesting suggestions, though! =)

  • http://www.trajano.net/ Archimedes Trajano

    Well I didn’t really mean that someone who wants to/has to see the family should be the one to be “sacrificed”, it could be a friend or someone willing to volunteer their time to drive.

    If you have to go to do the backtrack thing, you may want to try and rent one of those kalesa (I forgot how to call it in English).

  • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

    <laugh> True, that! We’re going in a convoy already as it is (large party), but I’ll keep that tip in mind next time I’ve got friends over (or a friend has friends over)… =)

  • http://coevolving.com David Ing

    @sachac BATNA! I see that you’re reading Getting to Yes. (Now, I’ll have to look out when I’m negotiating with you).

  • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

    David: Indeed! Part III has been very helpful. I’ll try to take notes and apply the ideas as we get through these next couple of weeks. I’d love to learn more about negotiation and life through your mentoring. Thank you so much for the recommendation!

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