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What’s your travel style: serendipity or advance planning?

Martha5Martha5 4 replies2 threads New Member
When I was younger, I prided myself on my spontaneity in traveling. The goal was to encounter the unexpected — even in well-trodden tourist areas. As I’ve aged — I’m now in my early 50s —I’m feeling a compulsive urge to plan every last detail, down to the route to walk from one site to another and other such obsessive details. I don’t like this latest tendency in myself, and I can’t quite figure out where it is coming from. Is it because of the endless amount of information available on the Internet? Is it because with age, comes the knowledge that there will not be endless opprtunities in the future to go back to the places we visit, and therefore every visit must be maximized?

Anyway, I’m curious about your travel styles. Spontaneous or planned? And has that changed as you’ve aged? And what are your feelings on the subject? Do you wish you could be more spontaneous — or disciplined — in your travels?
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Replies to: What’s your travel style: serendipity or advance planning?

  • washugradwashugrad 1142 replies13 threads Senior Member
    Mixture here. Hubby and I like the fun of being do-it-yourselfers with new cities, new countries, new subway systems, etc to figure out and I spend a lot of time reading guidebooks and travel websites in advance of trips (currently have a stack of about 12 books out from the library as we narrow down our plan for next summer from 'fly into Zurich and out of Paris 3 weeks later' into something more concrete). But anyway, we will probably have a few days where we'd book something in advance (on top of lodging and transportation) and a general idea of the top few things we want to do when we are there but play it by ear and leave room for weather, interesting local events that we didn't know about in advance, just wanting time to be more lazy that day, etc.

    I will say as I'm getting older I agree that I'm thinking more about group tours once our kids are grown (we have strenuously avoided any sort of group tour aside from day outings up until now) but I can see the advantage of having the bus and the guide and not having to think about which train to get on and how to kill 3 hours with luggage when you get to the next city, etc. Will have to see if hubby would be on board with that, though.
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  • romanigypsyeyesromanigypsyeyes 33391 replies767 threads Senior Member
    I just got back from 3+ weeks in Australia with my 60 year old mom and her mid-60s friend. My mom and I are very go with the flow people and didn't plan anything more than a day ahead- and even that was only a few times when we went on organized tours.

    It drove her friend nuts though and by the end of the trip, we were basically having 2 separate trips. She hated the last minute style my mom and I had but didn't want to put in the effort to plan anything.

    In almost every other area of life, my mom is a fairly meticulous planner. (I'm not). But with trips, we both prefer to get there and feel out the situation. Ask the locals what's worth doing and what's not. See how the weather is going to be. See how we're feeling. That kind of thing. You can't know that months in advance.
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  • thumper1thumper1 75463 replies3309 threads Senior Member
    Mixed bag here. Let’s just say...we are leaving for a week vacation tomorrow morning. We haven’t packed anything to take with us, and we have no firm plans except one dinner with a relative. Once we get there...we will wing it.

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  • abasketabasket 19678 replies874 threads Senior Member
    I would land somewhere in the middle. Have a few places in mind to visit or places to eat and perhaps have an agenda about when to visit them but also have some unplanned time and enjoy spontaneity.

    How about trial a spontaneous vacation by going away for just a weekend - unplanned. Or at least unscheduled (which means you might have places in mind, but don't have a timeline in place.)
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  • chercheurchercheur 1296 replies9 threads Senior Member
    If I'm going overseas, I'm a big planner; reservations and tickets are purchased ahead of time. That said, if something doesn't go as planned, I roll with it and try to make the best of it!
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  • HImomHImom 34533 replies392 threads Senior Member
    edited September 2018
    We mostly wing it, as long as we have air and lodging and car (if we are renting one). If we travel with more folks, we tend to plan more but if it’s just H and me, minimal planning and pack maybe 24-48 hours prior to leaving.

    I used to plan more but we like to see how we feel after arriving and see what plans mature. It seems to work pretty well domestically. For international travel, I do plan somewhat more and may even opt for a tour, tho not really a fan of being herded in buses.
    edited September 2018
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  • NorthernMom61NorthernMom61 4179 replies30 threads Senior Member
    edited September 2018
    Combination. If something popular that we really want to do requires advanced tickets we will preorder tickets so we can do that. Otherwise one of our favorite things to do is get a card with hotel information on it, slip it in my purse so we can get a cab back if necessary, a subway map if available, and start walking. We rarely need a cab back. We find the most interesting places, hole in the wall museums, quirky restaurants, interesting parks, and bump into the common tourist sites anyway. We've walked 15 to 20 miles some days, stopping for coffee, attempts at chats with locals, funky meals, etc.

    We also love the local shopping though don't typically buy much, it's just so interesting. Food hauking is particularly fun, we do try some weird things sometimes.
    edited September 2018
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  • 1214mom1214mom 4633 replies184 threads Senior Member
    Some of both.we tend to plan airfare and lodging pretty far out, but we don’t plan our daily activities until when we get someplace, unless there’s an activity or two that might sell out.
    For example, we just went to Maine, via our own car. I found the Acadia lodging for our trip in December or January. I didn’t decide to also go to Portland until a couple of weeks before we left.
    I’d looked on-line and had a list of potential activities for both places, but didn’t decide what we’d actually do until the night before or day of activity. We typically made dinner reservations the day of.
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  • HImomHImom 34533 replies392 threads Senior Member
    Weather also affects our interest in various activities so I prefer not to plan TOO far in advance and mainly try to have a range of possibilities in mind.
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  • shellfellshellfell 3389 replies11 threads Senior Member
    I'm a planner; DH is spontaneous. That's led to a fair share of disagreements as we plan vacations. I cetainly plan fewer activities per day than I used to when I was younger, and am willing to wing it more than I used to, but we've had several disappointments when DH was left in charge and we missed out on activities because they weren't available at the last minute. What I hate most is that all the planning ends up falling into my lap because DH has no patience to search the internet, check for information on activities, etc. Many vacations didn't feel like vacations to me.
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  • HoggirlHoggirl 1743 replies199 threads Senior Member
    OP - I am the opposite of you regarding age. In my youth when I traveled (especially abroad) I felt I had to get “value” out of my trip. It had cost a lot of money to get to wherever I was, hotel was expensive (relative to my level of income and assets at the time), and I wanted to make sure I got my money’s worth while being there. I think I inherited this habit from my parents. They traveled extensively (far more than I have), and were always “go, Go, GO!” In their itineraries. As I have aged, I have found that I am less likely to feel compelled to see and do as much as I possibly can. We are more like @abasket in our travel style now. I have found that I am happiest if I have a tic list of things I want to see, and I make sure I see those particular things. Specifically, if we are seeing one thing per day that I feel like is a must-see for wherever we are, then I am content with that. Some days may certainly have busier must-see schedules than others. So, yes, I would plan out the main things and likely when we would see them (dependent on weather where applicable). Otherwise, I make sure to have some down time that allows for freer exploration and just *beng* wherever we are.
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  • HoggirlHoggirl 1743 replies199 threads Senior Member
    @MaineLonghorn - I grew up an hour from Disney World. It makes me sad that going there now requires the level of planning necessary for conducting a military campaign! Though, I know it does.
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  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 39007 replies2140 threads Super Moderator
    ^Yes, it's quite something. We had a great time, though!
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  • oldfortoldfort 23006 replies292 threads Senior Member
    I planned all of our trips when my girls were growing up, but they are the ones who do the planning now. Our planning includes, air, hotels (I am particular about where I stay), dinners (need to maximize our eating opportunity), few must sees and that may include few day tours. We do not pack our days because we do not like to be rushed. We'll usually do one thing and have leisure meals/drinks. We have traveled enough that if something should go wrong we do no get too upset about it.
    I haven't done any guided tour trips. In the next few years if I travel by myself I may give it a try.
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  • conmamaconmama 4416 replies325 threads Senior Member
    My first big planned trip was WDW, like @MaineLonghorn . I had the plan down to avoid crowds, learned from a book. But the thing is....I loved it! I loved researching and figuring out where we would eat, how to avoid crowds. I planned it to a T and it went smoothly. Thankfully we were all morning doves.

    After that I found how much I enjoy the planning stage. It gives me something to,do while anticipating the wait. We’ve had fabulous dinners, gotten into places we wouldn’t have known about if I hadn’t researched.

    I do think the internet is the cause. I was never like this when we had to just go to a travel agent. Saying that, if we didn’t have the internet now, I bet I’d be doing my own research due to age.

    I find that if I don’t, we tend to wander around not knowing what to do, where the next place to go. Thankfully, DH appreciates me doing that. But we have plenty of downtime scheduled in too.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 7804 replies65 threads Senior Member
    I love the planning and the research part of preparing for a trip. For me, it makes the vacation feel longer ; ). We always have the travel and accommodations booked and I make a rough itinerary. If it's an area where dinner reservations are hard to come by, we might make a few in advance meal plans too. Once we're in country, we are more go with the flow. The list of things to see will change and I certainly don't plan things to the day because of weather. Plus, if a family member suddenly wants to do/see something else, we'll shift.

    My planning stems from a childhood of traveling very spontaneously and hating it. I have vivid memories of getting bumped from flights, not finding sleeping accommodations and driving for hours, getting sick because of no advanced warning of sanitary conditions in some countries, etc..... My mom was a very unorganized person and very fly by the seat of her pants. I always felt nervous and anxious traveling that way because we got burned so many times.

    That all said, I've always hated organized tours. We like to go off the beaten path, have our own transportation where ever possible, and set our own time table. If we love a place, I don't want to have to rush back on a bus. I can see that changing some as we get older, and we've started to enjoy cruising.
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  • My3KiddosMy3Kiddos 447 replies25 threads Member
    We always try to go with a plan. If we're spending the time and money, I don't want to waste either of it trying to figure out what to do, or by visiting something we all hate. Or worse - showing up some place only to find out it's actually closed. Sometimes my plans are extremely detailed (hello Disneyworld!) and sometimes it's just a general plan of where we'll be each day to make sure we get to see everything we really want to.

    That said, last year DH and I ended up on a spontaneous trip that we let others plan for us and really had fun. We were set to celebrate our 20th anniversary with a cruise out of Miami when an impending hurricane canceled the trip. We had about 24 hours to plan an alternative. Got on Facebook and asked friends where we could/should go within certain parameters. Was able to make hotel reservations at a place that had a lot of suggestions. Next post was "What should we do while we're there?" I wrote down the suggested places and restaurants and that's what we did. Had a great time. (Although maybe that had something to do with not having kids with us. Hmmm.....)
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  • MomofadultMomofadult 1126 replies29 threads Senior Member
    First time to a new destination - big time planner. I have routes, approximate times we will want to spend, tricks to avoid crowds, etc. I also have alternatives researched if the planned stop isn't as expected and "extras" to get to if time allows.
    Returning to a city/location is actually my favorite kind of travel. All the logistics have been experienced and I've figured out the best ways to get around, better locations to stay if I need a change, places I want to re-visit and places I missed on the first/second/third visit. These trips are much more spontaneous - i go with want I want to do in the moment.
    Someone above mentioned the internet and if that has impacted planning vs spontaneity. For me, yes! So much information - I feel I can't not look into everything I see. In the old days, Michelin Green Guides were sufficient.
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