I read a remarkable study recently in the New York times that said the single act of planning a holiday can bring more enjoyment and excitement than going on that holiday. At first that sounds crazy, but then you start thinking about it a little further and spending every night researching enjoying the emotions of “I am going travelling soon what should I see and do” bring a special feeling of joy.
Everyone has their own style of travelling – my style is very different to many of my close friends but that doesn’t mean they are right, or that I am right – it just means we are different, I enjoy the freedom of taking each day as it comes whereas they like to plan and book all of it in advance so they can enjoy the trip when they get there without having to worry about planning.
In this article I look at the argument for and against planning and booking everything in advance.
The argument for planning
The enjoyment factor aside planning does have a number of advantages, especially for the time-poor.
- Know how you are going to spend your time
Some people need a plan, need that security and knowledge of where they are going to be every day, with hotels booked and tours pencilled in, not having to worry about where am I staying tomorrow can certainly be a good thing.
- Get early bird deals
If you know where you are going to be, and what you want to do you can really leverage those early bird deals, cheap flights – a better deal on a hotel or take an amazing special on a tour that you have been eyeing off.
- Get the research out of the way
For some people they hate researching, especially on the road and knowing that today you fly here, tomorrow you go there can be reassuring, especially if you want to fit as much in as possible. Further to my point above about research I know someone who planned their whole trip around the US to number of hours driving between cities, so meticulously planned, but for them it was the perfect way to see everything they wanted to during their escape.
- Sit back and enjoy the trip
Once you are all planned then you can sit back and take each days activities as you planned them. That can be its own sort of relaxing, especially for a shorter trip. With everything paid for it is also like you have a “free holiday” to use a favourite economic expression – once its paid it’s a ‘sunk cost’ so your holiday seems soo much cheaper when you only need to buy food and go shopping (that of course depends on your appetite for shopping)
The argument for winging it
There is a lot to be said for winging it or taking the unplanned approach, and in my opinion is the only way to travel for a longer trip
- Take each day as it comes
Live in the moment, have the freedom to do what you want, where you want. If you like a place stay, if you don’t then check out and leave – if you feel like partying do that, if you want to unwind by the pool then do that instead winging it gives you that flexibility.
- Let experiences guide your trip rather than tourist sites
When you travel, especially when you backpack you are bound to meet people, like-minded people and unless you are going to Antartica, they have either going where you have been or have been where you are going – who better to ask for a recommendation than someone who has just been there.
I was once in a hostel in Italy talking to a fairly quiet girl travelling from China, she didn’t really have much to say except when I asked her about Barcelona and if she knew somewhere to stay and seeing her eyes come alive was all the convincing I needed, and needless to say that it was one of the best places I have ever stayed in my life.
- Score the last minute spontaneous deals
Or change your plans spontaneously at the last minute. My trip to Koh Phanang was exactly like that, sort of wanted to go, but was probably going to unwind in Bangkok – we met some people, and saw the opportunity to score some really cheap last minute flights, got a good hostel recommendation and our trip, just like that had changed.
- Live with the freedom of not knowing what you are doing next month, on the weekend or even tomorrow
It can be so liberating being able to change your plans at a whim. That is freedom some people strive for but are left with the realities of life, needing to work, pay bills and not drop everything to go travelling.
There is no right or wrong way, although a degree of flexibility is a massive opportunity do things a little differently if you don’t like how things are panning out. For shorter holidays where you are only travelling for a few weeks and want to fit in as much as possible having more structure is often the right way to go about it!
If you get the opportunity to travel for a longer period of time – and it is something I can not recommend highly enough then you should plan loosely – have an idea of where you are going for a couple of weeks but don’t book too much because if things change then or you change your mind, having that flexibility can be exactly what you need.