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.