It’s true, part of me is an admittedly an obsessive planner when it comes to travel. I love pouring over guidebooks, websites, and blogs with trip reports before we land in a new destination. Sometimes I spend so much time zooming in and out of Google maps that I barely need a map when we arrive because I’ve already memorized the major roads. Scouring the reviews ahead of time on TripAdvisor gives me an idea of what restaurants and activities we simply can’t miss. I use OneNote to keep track of it all, including a day-by-day itinerary and packing lists made months in advance. Embarrassing fact: I sometimes even start packing weeks ahead of departure. At the moment I also have trip outlines planned as far as 2017.
Yikes! Control freak much?!
Well, not exactly – let me clarify since that’s just half of the picture. When I put together the plan for a trip, I loosely schedule options for most of the days, and I also include some unscheduled time for exploring. If it’s a beach trip with the idea of relaxing, I just make a few notes on things we’d like to do at any point (snorkel at a recommended beach, try a famous cocktail at a certain bar, etc.), and we just do them as we feel like it. If it’s one of our adventurous or sight-seeing trips, I do put more structure into the schedule as sort of a best case scenario itinerary, and I highlight the must-do items. That way if the weather is completely amazing and everything in the stars align throughout our trip, we have a detailed plan we can follow if we feel like it. Alternately, if the weather is crazy, or we sleep in, or we take a spontaneous detour, we can still try to at least hit the big-ticket spots. Obviously our flights and some excursions have a scheduled time, so we do stick to those as best as we can.
I do go the extra mile to research and plan our trips, but for me the point is to be informed and comfortable once we arrive, and to have a solid plan to make the best of the trip since our time is so limited. But if we get somewhere and we decide to toss the entire plan out the window for something spontaneous, we can totally do that, too (and we have in the past). I’m an odd mix of obsessive planner and laid-back spontaneous adventurer. Chris is the perfect go-with-the-flow kind of person, so it works out wonderfully – we can either stick to the plan, or explore randomly. I’m not at all devastated when we can’t follow the plan because it’s not set in stone and we just have it there as an option.
I know a lot of people love to set foot in a new country without a single bit of research and just let the trip unfold. That’s amazing, too, but because we only have a specific amount of vacation time right now, my only objective is not to spend my time on travel with my face in a guidebook trying to figure out rules and customs, the general layout, and what to see and do. I also don’t want to get home and find out I was in super close proximity to an amazing sight that I completely missed. And anyway, it’s so fun to see a monument, sculpture, church, or landmark and recognize it by name!
So that’s what works for us right now, and I love it! How do you plan your travel? Do you have a detailed day-by-day schedule, or do you mostly wing it?