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How much fun is it to plan your trip!?

This will be my 6th straight year to travel in Europe. I have used Rick Steves's tours twice, twice with Cosmos, and once with a WW2 travel company, "Beyond Band of Brothers. I finally have decided to strike out on my own.
Even when using a Tour Company I usually stayed a few day longer at a particular city, but never rented a car and picked hotels and really went out on my own.

I have found the research, always with Rick's products, can almost be as much fun as the trip itself!

For this trip's research, I rolled a business trip into a visit to Rick's Edmond office. What a great resource that was. If you are a real cheapskate, you can use Ricks products in a library type setting.

I felt like a bum so I purchased Rick's guide for the Netherlands!

Anyway, my question is how many others enjoying the planning?

Posted by thousandsofkates
73 posts

I enjoy it very much! I love being able to tailor the things we do to our own interests and pace it to what we typically want to explore and what we would typically want to breeze through or skip altogether. I love being able to pick our hotels so they really suit our needs (close to what we want to see? styled in a way we would enjoy? meets our price point?).

Honestly, I also really enjoy planning the rhythm of the trip, busy times balanced with fun breaks, history mixed with modern life, and I especially enjoy finding things I know will be a wonderful treat for my travel companions (a teen and a senior) and watch them enjoy the surprise (this is admittedly less difficult because they both aren't nearly as interested in research and planning as I am so surprises come a lot easier that way).

Our little group's first trip was with a Trafalgar tour. It was nicely done but I found it really irksome to have to keep to other people's plans and not be able to be where we wanted to be and for as long as we wanted to be there. I know some people want to just enjoy the trip and not "hassle" with the planning (probably lots of people which is good for tour companies like Rick's, right?), but to me it was more a hassle not to be able to plan!

I'm happy for you that you've found you are enjoying this task. Have a wonderful vacation!

Posted by stoutfella
East Peoria, IL
533 posts

I have enjoyed my eight months of planning very much. Now that we're a week from departure, not so much. After all this time, I just feel like I've probably missed 100 details and fear we'll end up in the dreaded "I don't know, what should we do now?" scenario. Arrrggghhh!

Posted by christa
alameda, ca, usa
1545 posts

I love the planning part--I travel solo so it's all about whatever I want to do, when I want to do it and for however long. I first do a preliminary to see what's open on what days and anything else that dictates which days I need to be somewhere, then I book flights and hotels. I might leave it alone for a few months, then about 3 months out I start fine-tuning--do I need a train ticket? Do I need to purchase a timed ticket (Eiffel tower, Anne Frank, etc)? What's the best way to get to Keukenhof, etc? If it's an unfamiliar city I'm going to I start studying maps and learning their metro. Anything special I need to find, like flea markets or antique shops, map those out, too. Then I fill in my little notebook--all my pertinent flight and hotel info, with a page for each day's activities that are definite--as I travel I use the back pages as a journal. All of it is wonderful fun and I've learned the most important thing is to leave plenty of un-planned time for happy wandering.

Posted by Christi
Cotulla, TX, United States
2353 posts

I have always enjoyed the planning part. My current trip is 75 days in Europe followed by a 15 nt trans-Atlantic cruise back. I started planning over a year in advance - plenty of time to work & rework & rework & tweak & shift! I have finally hit double digits - 98 days til we leave!

I tend to not plan out every minute - I pick the places we will stay and have a list of things we would like to do there. For the can't miss I will plan ahead but most we just wing it. I love studying the map, google street view, and nearby day trips.

Posted by Jill
Boulder, CO
1352 posts

I LOVE the planning! I would venture to guess that most regulars on this forum do also:) I've planned all of our trips (usually a year out)! Been planning our 5th trip - for 2018 for the past 4 months. Talk about working and reworking an itinerary!!! for me planning is a big part of the whole experience and a Joy!!!

Posted by Louise
Denver
50 posts

Love, love, love it!! As a busy attorney by day, trip planning is my stress relief :) We're currently planning our 2nd RS tour (Berlin, Prague Vienna), with a pre-tour to Krakow, for this August. This will be our 6th trip to Europe since 2010. We loved our first RS tour (14 day BOE in 2015) and can't wait for this one!

Posted by Pat
Ind., United States
156 posts

I fall in the "love the planning " end of the spectrum. I so enjoyed planning our trips in the States when our children were young. Now that needs a lot of attention to detail when you are trying to accommodate an age range. But when it came to planning our first European trip even though I did a good amount of the planning, I didn't have the confidence to go ahead and do it, so ran it all passed a travel agent. After that first trip, I learned about RS and his philosophy and decided to go for it. Giving up the planning aspect was not easy (I really do enjoy it and spend a good deal of time living the trip before going). But it was just a wonderful experience with great guides, and after all, we did go off on our own after the tour. So the next trip was another part RS tour, part on our own. We decided that both methods have a lot to offer, so we are now planning to do a My Way tour in the spring. It sounds like the best of both worlds especially since we will be planning our own extension.

Posted by Jean
Mill Creek, Washington
1971 posts

I love the planning process but can definitely relate to Stoutfella; the last week I purposely quit looking at the internet and just concentrate on all of the plans & ideas, other than checking the weather forecast each day.

As soon as we've selected the 1-2 countries we'll visit, (10 months before the trip), I spend weekends first determining which main locations we might want to go. Then I spend hours looking at pictures of numerous towns located in between the main locations. We like the less touristy areas to enjoy the ambiance, so we mix it up between large cities, local small towns, mountains and/or lakes. I aim for us to travel by train 2-3 hours between locations, and we like to stay in smaller towns 2-3 days and larger towns or scenic areas 4-5 days. Typically, we'll return to a couple towns that we stayed previously and also see several new ones.

The Day of Excitement - our airline tickets or a special hotel that I didn't want to pass up are first reserved!

We don't like our days specifically planned out, except for reservations needed or museum open days. Otherwise, we're looking through the ideas for the next location that I prepared during the year while we ride the train to the next locale and together pick out what would be fun.

Posted by Yanksteve
Germantown, Tennessee
85 posts

I like the macro-level planning - picking countries/cities, hotels, transportation between cities. It's the mapping out the daily itinerary in each place that I don't really like = probably because there are too many choices on what, how and when to do things.

Posted by JS
Bay Area
3032 posts

It is a necessity imo and I enjoy it as it immerses my thoughts toward anticipation.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
16624 posts

I think this was said by Winston Churchill, but many people have said something similar,

"Failing to plan is planning to fail."

I'm not going to spend a thousand dollars on airfare and stay up all night to get to Europe and then say, "now what?" When I get there, I know what I am going to do.

Have you ever seen a Rick Steves tour that says, "we don't know where we going or how we are getting there?" Would any one take a tour that didn't give you a detailed itinerary in advance?

I plan extensively. It is fun for me, but I am also paranoid about getting there and then getting nothing done because I didn't plan?

On a recent trip that I planned but didn't get to take, I knew the bus schedules to the train station and what was the last train I could take and still get a bus connection home. On the other hand, I planned to be there 12 days and take 6 side trips, and I had detailed train and bus schedules for my trips, but I hadn't plan to make the side trips on specific days. That I would play by ear.

Posted by Shelley
Central Valley, California
258 posts

LOVE to plan the trip! I have only been to Europe twice, 5 years apart, within the last 20 years. So those two "plannings" were very pleasurable for me.

At the moment, I don't have any real trips planned, so I read everyone's trip reports with relish. And I like to sit for 90 minutes a night, looking at this site, alternating with Google flights, imagining which city I would like to try out next. ...Vienna - or Amsterdam? And that trip (solo) would be all about the art. Either city, wouldn't care. Just so I could stare as long as I want to, in front of whatever piece I want to....

Christi - WOW!! 75 days in EU, 15-day cruise back! R-E-S-P-E-C-T !

Posted by avirosemail
northern CA
733 posts

I'm more like Lee -- time and money are precious and limited and should be used carefully. Spontaneity and providence spring from structure rather than chaos. [Luck favors he who is prepared; Fortune favors the brave, etc.]

But as I get older I'm finding that rather than follow an itinerary like a carriage on iron tracks, it behooves me instead to loosen up a bit. My version of loosey goosey is to divide the day into three or four segments and have a small handful of choices within each segment, deciding which option based on the conditions in the moment -- both the external weather and my internal weather. Look at the next gallery? Stroll in the park? Aperitivo in the cafe while people watching? Introduce myself to those girls holding open a map? All are worth doing and have merit -- they pay a return, so I've invested beforehand by studying the map, the artist on exhibit, the food vocabulary and what show is coming up later on the other side of the park. I've kind of overplanned, actually.

I'm not as flexible and many of the regulars here in the forum, though. I make all or almost all my lodging reservations ahead and will also sacrifice train and bus timetable flexibility for better pricing or a specific departure time that compels me to keep within a sensible framework. If I leave the decision about whether to catch the early train until the night before or the morning of, I'll end up not catching the early train, so I know enough about myself to reserve it ahead. That's one of the few things about package tours that appeals to me -- it can be a kick in the pants that makes sure you have a full day's activities even if you were up late the previous night. For me the downside of group touring still outweighs the benefits, though. I will revisit the issue every few years.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
3032 posts

Love planning - I actually quite enjoy looking for our accoms - I tend to airbnb now, and I'll spend a few hours looking for accoms in each place, and I'll make a wish list, then pare down the wish list, make notes, get a top 10, narrow to top 5, then top 3...(then get disappointed that I took so long and my #1 choice got booked...lol).

I usually know a year (or two - 2019 - Venice for Carnival!) out where we want to go (next year - Scotland in May!). About 8 mos before I'll do some light planning - decide maybe where to go, what to see, how many nights...then I'll totally ignore it for a few months, then 4-5 mos out I start my airbnb/accom search, pin down our flights, then do the booking...then I ignore it again until about a month ahead, when I really start getting into planning how to get around via public transport (or car if we are renting, which is rare), checking opening days and hours for places, writing down day trips from anchor locations, having my must sees and 'if we see it cool, if not, cool' sites...in a former life I would have been a travel agent...

It does take time tho, and a lot of people def have a time deficit these days. It's easy to get frustrated and settle for accoms, so I'm glad I can have the time (and patience) to sift thru dozens of listings and reviews. But I get enjoyment out of it (I'm a planner!)...def not for everyone! My sister tells me she's going to have me plan her trips for her...

And I love seeing the end result - on the plus side, I get the praise from hubby when I find something neat and unexpected to see (thinking of when we went to LA and I took him to the Bradbury Building, which featured in one of his fav movies, Blade Runner, and he was just tickled that I found out about it)...then again, when my planning kinda fails or is lax, then I get the blame (thinking of when we just tried to go to Kinderdijk, didn't check the online map to see exactly where the bus stop was (too early in season for direct ferry) and we ended up missing the bus stop and wandering around for a bloody hour before finally finding a bus stop to get us there.)

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
3032 posts

I will say, I generally don't plan what we are going to do each day - if we are somewhere for multiple days, I'll let the weather decide for us, and how we feel that day. Just spent 5 nights in Amsterdam, knew we wanted to do day trips, but we mostly looked at the weather and let that determine - ok, looks like clouds and rain, let's not do Keukenhof today. So I do enjoy the loosey-goosey aspect a bit.

On the flip side, we returned to Paris and only had two days. I knew arrival day the d'Orsay was open late, so we planned to do that and I mapped out some parks and churches to see on the way. But the next day, I didn't have any firm plans, so we just kinda aimlessly wandered (and I had a full on head cold, so I was a bit...droopy).

And I really should have remembered more about holidays. We stayed in Dordrecht and one day we went to Kinderdijk, the other to Gouda. If I'd been paying attention to the days (they do tend to blur together when you are away from your routine!) and thought about it, we would have switched the days...instead, we went to Gouda on Easter Sunday, so pretty much everything was closed. We should have went to Gouda on Sat, and Kinder on Sunday...bad planning on my part there. So sometimes planning the days in advance is a better idea.

Posted by stmurray2
265 posts

I love the planning of our next adventure. We always travelled on our own, my husband and I, but within the last year have taken two tours to areas where I was not as comfortable, and familiar, with planning. I have to say it is nice for someone else to handle all of the logistics but I miss the flexibility that traveling on our own gives us. There is also always the "people" factor. There always seems to be at least one constant complainer and another loud mouth who has a smart aleck comment to make about everything! We will continue to travel mostly on our own but mix in a tour or two until maybe that is the only way we are able to travel is with an organized group. I plan the big things, after we decide where we are going, and my husband likes the daily planning, or not!, when we get on the ground. Also, we try to remember that regardless of how much we want to plan and control our trips there are going to be things that don't go as planned for whatever reason and that is okay. Those moments make for great stories and usually you meet some wonderful locals along the way. Looking back at some of our earlier trips we realize now, with almost 20 years under our belts, we would plan somethings differently but that falls under the category of live and learn!!!

Posted by Claudia
Land of La
3768 posts

I'm lucky enough to know when I'm going to travel ( in the Fall ). The process starts early, researching online. Checking out NatGeo's Traveler Magazine. Talking with friends.

Where do I want to go? What will the weather be? Is there a direct flight? What's public transport like? Will I need a car? What is available via AirBnb?

Once I've settled on a locale I persue this Helpline, buy a guidebook or two ( adding to my travel reference library which I share with friends and colleagues ) and set about planning a loose itinerary. I also sign up for airfare alerts from my preferred airlines.

In all honesty by early Spring I've usually settled on my travel dates, reserved my accommodation and purchased my flight.

Knowing I'm going somewhere is a carrot at the end of the stick for me psychologically. In between I work hard and relish the thought I'll be traveling in October or November. Either seeing new sites or returning to places I've been before and discovering new things there.

Planning the adventure is part of the joy.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
5042 posts

Planning's half the fun. But it's easy to get obsessive about every little detail including where you're going going to every minute of every day and what restaurants you're going to eat in.
When planning a trip, I start by making myself an itinerary of cities and that's based on what cheap flights I can get. I fly open jaw into one city and out of another.
With the advent of cheap European air lines, I'm not above visiting 2-3 cities close together and then pick an out of the way place on the way home. For example, we just returned from a cruise to Rome and flew to Budapest for a week. Then we returned home via Oslo.
Before I go, I read at length on Wikipedia about every town we go to. And after I obtain accommodations, I'll read about the city's public transportation and how to get around. And I go on Googlemaps and learn about what's around where we're staying.
We make our day to day plans based on how we feel. Some days, we really put the miles in. Some days, we sleep late.
We try to travel city to city by trains--if it doesn't take over 3-4 hours. Otherwise, we'll fly or rent a car. We also will rent a car to see the countryside--staying in bed and breakfasts or on farms. Seeing their societies up close and personal adds so much to any trip.
You should find the Netherlands to be very easy to travel through as it's a completely modern society. And it's so nice that just about everyone there speaks good English. I'm of Dutch ancestry and feel completely comfortable there.

Posted by Susan and Monte
Granite Bay, CA
1588 posts

For me, planning is a way to experience the trip twice, once planning and then actually going. I do have a love hate relationship with it, though. It can get difficult and overwhelming, so that is when I set it aside. I usually start planning 9-12 months in advance and by 6 months I'm watching airfare and looking at apartments/B & B's. We often travel for 4 weeks so there really is a lot of planning to do. Starting so far out gives me the time to shelve it when it becomes too stressful. But, I'm known for over planning, too. I walk the streets on google maps, look up restaurants etc. but when we go I have a list of "must sees" and a list of maybe's. If we have pre-bought tickets then we go there, otherwise we fly by the seat of our pants but we know the choices of what we might do in each location and decide how we feel each day. We always book in advance and usually rent a car for the whole time. I think the most difficult part is setting the itinerary to see what you want, but in a sensible order not too far from each other. We love to mix countries on a 4 week trip....such fun to have a lot of contrast!

I can't imagine not having control over my plan or the hours of my day! We have been known to spend hours at our B & B over breakfast with people from other countries. It's such pleasure to have the option of doing what we want!

Posted by Beehelp
Dallas
16 posts

I cannot plan in advance. What I do is look at the map before my departure.

Posted by aquamarinesteph
362 posts

I LOVE planning trips, even trips I know aren't on the immediate horizon. For me, the idea that I COULD go there starts me searching for hotels, things to do and see, transportation, etc.

I plan our US trips on my own. When we travel outside the US, we travel with a tour group. Despite my best efforts, my foreign language skills are horrendous. I master the basic phrases you should know, but beyond that I start mixing up languages. Come to think of it, I have probably amused people in many countries that way.

Anyway, while we like to go with a tour group, we always plan to either arrive before a tour or stay later (or both), and in that case I always do extra research to see what looks fun. I also love to read up on all the stated places we'll be seeing on any given tour to see what we might want to do in our free time.

I love to plan and read up on possible destinations, but I don't think that's over planning. For me, knowing the options of an area means making the best choice based on our interests, but if something else (sometimes better!) comes up we're not locked into doing a specific thing.

But I love to research and plan a trip.

Posted by Blue439
Battle Ground, Washington
181 posts

Planning is addicting and I suffer (with pleasure) from that addiction. Last autumn, I booked a central European river cruise - something that requires almost no logistical planning - watch the calendar, pay by the deadline, think about packing, go to the airport. Have fun.
Spring is a wonderful time of year to visit the Danube. But, not long after the decision was made to book this adventure, my wife suggested a Scandinavian adventure - Iceland, Norway and Sweden - where she has cousins. Planned entirely by me - air connections, car rentals in Iceland, international driving permits, accommodations, activities, etc. So seductive was the planning and anticipation of this Scandinavian adventure (to begin in mid July of 2017) that I began to regret the "obligation" I had to fly to Budapest to embark on the Danube.
Of course, once we arrived in Budapest, I forgot (temporarily) all about the seduction of Scandinavia. Are you kidding....Budapest is the place to be! Fantastic! And, while on the boat, floating up the Danube, we met a wonderful person who lives in Paris - and she invited us to visit her in the autumn. I'll skip over how spectacular Vienna and Prague were (don't miss them....but they probably are on your list) and go to the planning of our French trip, which came about unexpectedly. Easy to do.....consider it done. But we also met another person on the boat who travels all over the place, and we discussed a spring 2018 revisit to the Danube...this time starting in Romania and ending in Hungary. That trip is now planned, and is the focus of my thoughts....so much so that I feel somewhat "burdened" by our upcoming Scandinavian "obligation".
I realize the "addiction" but the recovery is always a hundred times better than the anticipation.
I'm thinking about Spain, this morning......

Posted by Jill
Boulder, CO
1352 posts

Blue439 - I soooo agree! I am also suffering from this addiction! I love the planning, but am finding this year that having too much time to plan can be a curse! I'm second guessing every decision for our summer 2018 trip! Can't tell you how many times I've changed the potential itinerary! Hoping when I buy airfare I'll be able to lock it down and just get into planning based on our stops!

Posted by Kaeleku
888 posts

Me and my wife seem incapable of planning, and in fact dislike it. Currently we are procrastinating on planning a trip to Belize, we bought the tickets a month ago I have no idea where were are going, doing or staying yet...

Many times we don't pack until a few hours before leaving, even on long trips. Our planning typically consists of some high level goals for a trip and then winging it on the ground - a combination of some quick research on the internet, talking to B&B owners, finding local festivals etc. This occasionally burns us but usually not. For example in Cyprus, our research was limited to the knowledge that there were three UNESCO World Heritage sites (my wife's obsession). So it was a surprise to me when we picked up the car and found out Cypriots drive on the "wrong" side of the road, my first left hand drive experience. But it was also a surprise the quality of some of the craftsmanship we saw in some of the shops on the northern side of Nicosia, as well as the architecture, and we spontaneously popped in on an intimate lecture and demonstration of a "whirling dervish" where they explained the philosophy and history of the Mevlevi, and the meaning of the various movements and parts of the ceremony. We could have planned and known all of that but it was that much sweeter just discovering it and experiencing it organically.

I'm a firm believer that you can be plopped down in any city in the world and find interesting things to do. But I think constantly striving to not miss anything and only do the "best" things by obsessively planning is really antithetical to traveling, and IMO I would probably be constantly disappointed. The way we travel, we just go, experience, and if we like something we like it, if we don't we don't, and we move on, sometimes even leaving a town early that we don't like, and going somewhere else. It must be terrible to have all of these pre-conceived high expectations and then to encounter something that doesn't meet expectations and being trapped in an inflexible framework of pre-booked hotels, attractions and transportation.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
4634 posts

I, too, LOVE planning! I usually travel solo and add independent days to a Rick Steves (or Road Scholar) tour.

Even with a tour, I still do a lot of planning. I like to know my options for free days or free partial days. City walking tour in the AM on the tour? What do I want to go back and spend more time on - Cathedral or Museum? What's in the tour departure city and do I need to get there one day ahead or two? I could kick myself for not doing this on the 21 Best of Europe tour. I did not give myself a full day in Haarlem and I should have! Spent an extra day ahead in Amsterdam but really would have enjoyed seeing more of Haarlem. I DID do this for the GAS tour and arrived in Trier 2 nights ahead. I loved seeing the Roman ruins and enjoying one of the museums there. A few days ahead of the Best of England tour starting in Bath allowed me to do some of the activities associated with the Jane Austen Festival, which I knew about from my research.

I am never disappointed with planning. I have, however, been disappointed by not planning. Special festival that I didn't know about? Holiday closures? Darn!

-I was in Paris in April and knew May 1 was a holiday. I had a selection of activities to do with most all the museums being closed. I might not have keyed in on the closures if I hadn't been reading this forum or the Trip Advisor Paris forum. Drill down to the daily level of planning and it turns out the Alpine Garden at the Jardin des Plantes has a charge on weekends and holidays and another garden was closed on the holiday. It's free on other weekdays. I'm not really cheap but yep, I slotted that in to a day that it was free.

-A couple of years ago I did Rick's Paris and Heart of France tour. After the tour I was at Napoleon's Tomb and saw a couple of tour members. They had planned to depart that day for Belgium but there was a train strike they didn't know about so they had to scramble for another night in Paris. I went back to my hotel and spent 2 minutes online on the TA Belgium forum and saw a thread with a notification of the strike that had been running over the previous few weeks. To be honest they were first-time travelers but I felt bad for them even at the same time knowing they had not done enough research.

I go to Yellowstone every year. Yep, I plan my path for each day. Sometimes I stick to it, sometimes I don't - but it's a no brainer when I set out from lodging in the AM. Research? Yep, check ebird lists for what is being seen, special websites with wildlife sightings, get caught up on what is going on in the geyser basins with what is hot and what is not.

I am definitely someone who has a planner chip in my brain. Not got the one for math, but planning, heck yes!!

Posted by Diane
New York, NY, USA
415 posts

I and my dad love to plan! Sometimes we feel like we dont need to take the trip we've planned it and discussed it so much.
That said, i did enjoy our last trip which was a group tour... so planning was minimal. LOVED IT! So relaxing to not be responsible for figuring out how to get there, what to do next (though we do have that laid out when we plan the trips ourselves) Even enjoyed just deciding to eat in the hotel.
Think next time we will do a combination group and free tour. And as we get older are starting to enjoy a slower paced tour with more time to relax at hotel or cafe. that said, I still think you need to do a lot of reading/planning so you know what you are missing.. For example, knew there was a museum we would have enjoyed on our last trip, but it was not on the tour and we didnt squeeze it in. Felt better about missing it intentionally than just missing it. Did the same when we picked the dates for the trip. Made sure we went during a festival and could make it... would have been disappointed to have gone the week we originally thought of and then learned about it.

Posted by Nancy
226 posts

I am the planner in my family and I mean my family. I plan trips for sisters get togethers (5500 miles over 6 weeks from FL to Maine last fall), BFF (2 weeks in the Galapagos and Quito) and grandchildren (2 weeks in Paris and London). I love the planning, the organizing and the anticipation. I become obsessive 'cause I want everyone to have a great time and I worry that they won't. I look at multiple choices, change the itinerary and make everyone approve of what we do. I want to make sure that everyone is ok. That drives me a little nuts. Currently, I am planning a graduation trip for our grandson with us. We are going to Paris and London. I have tried to put in things he might want to do, places that will broaden his horizons and had him give me a list of 10 places in both cities. I have made the necessary reservations so we won't be waiting in line all day, just half the day and now the countdown begins (11 days to go). Now I am worried that we are booked too tightly and he won't enjoy. What a neurotic pain I am. But yes I love to plan. DAMN IT!

Posted by rbolosan
7 posts

Love it and scared. My 2nd and my wife's first trip to EU. This next one which is a year away will be a retirement trip. I'm enjoying the planning but at the same time scared because I may missed something major. The challenge to maximize the use of global pass and things to see, do and where stay in each city is a big challenge. I'm not sure if I need to book hotels already since the planned time is end of peak season going into the shoulder season, September to October. I would like to just go and look for a place to stay wherever and whenever. Most stations are closed after last train departs. I still have a lot to check.

Posted by John
Van Nuys, CA, USA
463 posts

Wow, I wish I could hire one of you people that love to plan! I don't. I do it because I want to see as much I can and because the trip is expensive, but I have a full-time job so it takes many many nites and weekends to get it done. So strike one there.

The guide books gush about just about every town so its hard to figure out which places I'd want to visit and how much time to spend in them once you've visited the places at the top of most lists (RS is one of the few that is opinionated, but his coverage in many places is limited such as nothing on Bologna, Bari, etc).

Coupled to that is the brevity of many descriptions of towns or sights, even in more detailed books such as the Michelin Green guides. If you have a car that is less of a problem, put together a list of lots of potential places and if you go to one and you don't like it then go on to the next. But I prefer to travel by train which often means you need to make these decisions of where to visit in chunks of several hours.

And there's the quote "No plan survives contact with the enemy" which seems apropos. You can plan and plan but unless you can read German you won't know the S-bahn station in Munich is closed on the weekend you wanted to use it to go to the airport. Planning doesn't help when your train across Tuscany stops inexplicably for 45 minutes at some out-of-the-way town and you miss your planned connection but you don't miss the conductor on the next train going to La Spezia who doesn't speak English but does make clear his displeasure with your ticket which apparently is not valid on his train.

Posted by twist6015
15 posts

Love it ! Plan trip is the part of travel fun. So in the beginning, I will carefully plan my journey and arrange enough time to enjoy exotic life.

Posted by Lynn
Olympia, Washington, USA
17 posts

Sometimes can’t decide what’s more fun planning or being there! It’s easy I decide on the country (so far we’ve done France Spain Ireland Germany Czechoslovakia) buy the Rick Steves book, read it from cover to cover, decide which places we’ll visit, make all the reservations per Rick Steves recommendations and enjoy the journey! We add another fun element to our European trips, we use homelink.org and exchange homes and cars with like minded families who want to visit America. They are always very helpful with things to do and see in their countries and that just adds to what Rick has to offer:)

Posted by Mayor Ed
Chino Hills, CA
28 posts

Meticulous planning is additive... and it does reap rewards of 'traveling like a local'. I am a huge fan of Rick's books and use it as a base for my European adventures. Then all the comments in the Forum are reviewed along with looking at TripA and Lonely P. Save the $$$$ and make the adventure plans yourself. And if it doesn't work on some days "it is what it is."

Posted by dmmerry
9 posts

As many of you I find the research, the planning, the communications with others is the very best part of travel. It’s just plain fun! I start planning my annual spring travel 15 months before. I start by attending the Rick Steves’ Travel Festivals in Edmonds. I read the travel books. I watch the TV shows.

Don Merry

Posted by dmmerry
9 posts

As many of you I find the research, the planning, the communications with others is the very best part of travel. It’s just plain fun! I start planning my annual spring travel 15 months before. I start by attending the Rick Steves’ Travel Festivals in Edmonds. I read the travel books. I watch the TV shows.

Don Merry

Posted by Barbara
Walnut Creek, CA
363 posts

Oh no! I am going to be the outlier here. I hate that much detailed planning. Well what I dislike is figuring out how to get where, what hotel, etc. But I do like researching what's to do and see at each stop. So I do a mix. I am taking my 9th Rick Steves trip this winter and will arrive 3 days early. I am not going until December (Paris city tour) but have planned those days out already. Maybe overplanned😁

For me I think it comes down to the fact I am a single traveler who does not like traveling alone. So to me planning the actual travel details are a burden.

Sadly, I have also been known to make a kamikaze shopping trip the day before I leave to get something because that is when I am packing. I am now trying to be better and at least start the process a month out!,

Posted by lesmorse
1 posts

I love the planning process. I’ve not taken a tour, but have now planned two trips to parts of Europe. Each trip was three weeks, the first to Italy, and the second was a recent trip to the UK with a focus on Scotland. I use the Rick Steves books, websites, audios, and then augment using Trip Advisor, 1000 Places to see . . . , and other web resources. I love the independence and not being in groups. Sometimes we splurge on guides for just my wife and I or small groups. I have enjoyed the time - which is good because to plan it at the level I do takes a lot of time. Best of all, excluding my time planning, the trips have been less than a tour and we splurge on luxurious excursions at times. I am now planning some Eastern Europe travel.

Posted by Lucille Zimmerman
Littleton, CO
1 posts

My husband and I have taken two Rick Steve's trips. Best of Europe in 14 days and we spent a week in The Netherlands beforehand. Last fall we did the Villages of Italy tour. We spent a week in Germany and Austria beforehand. Next fall we are signed up to do the Best of the Adriatic tour (Croatia) so we are now in the stages of planning to see Prague, Cesky Krumlov, Vienna, and the Moravia wine region beforehand.

We like to book our trips about a year ahead of time. And then we plan. It's an absolutely essential and enjoyable part of our trip. We read books, keep a folder, and print out paper calendars. We sit in the hot tub and dream. We talk about past trips, and the past friends we've made. We book private guides based on Rick's recommendations. We call Rick Steves' headquarters. We email old guides. We talk to restaurant owners. We google and yelp like crazy. We follow people on Instagram. We make friends via the internet, friends who tell us they'll show us around when we arrive in their country. We listen to podcasts. but and our favorite thing to do is watch drone videos on Youtube.

We've been married for 31 years and these trips are one of the most important things we've done to keep our marriage fun and alive.

Posted by jenmaehelms
9 posts

Back in the early 80's, I went to Europe on a high school trip. Being a teenager, I did have a fun time, but I did not enjoy all the time spent on the bus and all the stops for shopping. I didn't come to Europe to shop! I said I'd never go on a trip like that again and I haven't. I totally enjoy the planning process of any vacation. I used Rick's guides for two European vacations and planning those vacations to Europe have helped me plan many vacations in the states. So much has changed thanks to the Internet and smart phones. I'm planning a European vacation for next summer and I'm so thankful for all the advances in technology that will help plan this vacation. The first time I used Rick's books was in 1996 and I ripped his books apart like he told me too and just brought what we needed. :) I got out my 20+ year old copy of "Europe 101 History and Art for the Traveler" and plan on rereading it with my daughter who is going with me. Personally, I think that planning is half the fun. :)

Posted by Bette
Northport, NY, USA
10 posts

I meticulously planned every vacation when my kids were small. My husband and I, both teachers, had summers off, and we went on family camping vacations all over the US that were a mix of learning about nature and history, along with silly fun things. Planning and preparing were essential as one of our children had a serious illness that made travel challenging.

Now, all these years later, my husband and I are retired and I'm perfectly content to let someone else do the planning. We did one trip to France on our own when one of our children was a college student there, but since then, no more planning for me! We just signed up for our 9th RS tour. I love letting someone else attend to the details so that I can concentrate on preparing, which is what I enjoy. I so look forward to poring over the guidebook and learning more about where we'll be visiting. What sights will I see, what new foods will I try, what will feel the most different about where I'm traveling? Thinking about all that is the fun part for me.

Posted by gjo60
2 posts

We have been traveling to Europe for almost 30 years.
Have never taken a tour. Too restrictive. No freedom to change anything.
We meet people in B&Bs and find out about a river trip on the Rhine that is free with our rail pass.
Decide we want to stay in Brugge for a couple days longer.
Do not want to travel with with a group of people all clambering to get into the same attraction.
Flexibility allows us to discover new treasures along the way and have & make the time to enjoy to our hearts content.
Rick's books provide a great starting place but no one can cover it all for everyone. (Frommers is like a phone book and useless in our opinion).
Last trip we flew into Luxembourg and the only reservation we had was the plane ticket leaving the same airport 30 days later. Make a general outline of where we want to go and for the most part we follow that route but alter the number of days and add side trips as we discover the wonders of the area we are in.
We are getting a little apprehensive about all the refugee issues and are taking a hard look at how we are used to traveling.
Next trip is to Sweden, Finland, Riga & Tallinn.

Posted by ChrisR
Boston
4 posts

When I was a young woman, I had to plan all of my travels myself for monetary reasons. Learning to plan a trip on a strict budget was part of the fun because it forced me to be creative in my research and planning. I also got to experience places off the beaten path more frequently (because they're often cheaper) and had a larger variety of travel experiences due to the need to keep my accommodations & food spending within my budget. I would pick and choose my "big ticket" items first (museum fees, can't miss hot spots, excursions, and occasional fine dining) and temper them with hostel stays, camping, low budget hotels, free sights, and cheap eats. Because of this, I have experienced sleeping in some unconventional places, visited tiny towns and attractions, and passed through some amazing landscapes.
Now that I'm a little older (and a little more financially secure), I have been trying out tour groups and even went on my first cruise recently. Slightly different experiences that I find very useful now that my time is more limited than my budget. There's something to be said for having someone else take care of the more technical details of travel. Now I spend more time enjoying the places that I travel to rather than having to devote some of my precious vacation time working out the logistics.
Still, I spend plenty of time researching the area I plan to visit. It's always good to know about a place before you go regardless of who is doing the planning. I'm also in the beginning stage of researching the logistics of around the world travel, which I hope to do for my 50th birthday in a few years. A sometimes overwhelming task, but still fun, exciting, and (hopefully) educational.

Posted by cala
Birmingham, AL
658 posts

I agree with Susan and Monte that extensive planning allows me to enjoy the trip twice. Our trip to Scotland next summer will be my 12th to Europe. First two(in the previous millenium) were group tours. All but one trip(to Lisbon and Spain) since then were independent, but RS Eastern Europe is on my bucket list because it would be too tiring trying to cover that many places in that amount of time on our own. We usually prefer independent because I don't like most tour itineraries because they either go to touristy places that I don't want to waste time on or they don't go where or for as long as I want. Despite what I just said about tour itineraries, a big advantage of tours is that they take me to places I would never have gone on my own-a bull farm in Ronda and a hotel on the beach in Torremolinos that was one of my favorite places I've ever been. Whether on tour or not, I do extensive research to plan the places we want to see. Flights (Platinum flyer husband's Delta points) and accommodations in major cities(Hilton points) do not require any planning on my part as my very well-traveled husband handles those.

Posted by rjrietkerk OP
44 posts

Thank you for posting evidence that the planning can be more fun and emotionally uplifting that the actual trip! I had thought that prior, but now that I see actual scientific studies, I realize that I was on to something!

When I have had a really stressful work week, I gather all my RS tour books, and maps, and with the aid of the internet start reviewing the various trips. Makes for a enjoyable Sat morning.

Posted by yosemite1
Placentia, CA
796 posts

I love, love, love planning my trips. My wife,on the other hand, likes to be surprised. When we went on our first tour ever, RS Best of Italy, my wife didn’t ever know where we would be two or three days later. It was fun to watch her reaction when we got to a city that she knew nothing about.

Posted by jayhamps
Liverpool UK
412 posts

Planning is half of the fun of the trip. What I find even more fun is having everything planned out then when you arrive just forgetting about it and just going with the flow.

Posted by Jean
Mill Creek, Washington
1971 posts

I've been spending a substantial amount of time this past week researching options for activities for my upcoming trip to Italy next August/September. I love the entire planning process, plus I've been waking up in the mornings this week in the midst of dreams of being in those locations! I've been watching videos this afternoon of the Arezzo Jousting Festival, so tonight's dream could be in full medieval costume - ha!

Posted by Carroll
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
1949 posts

For me, there are three parts to every trip - planning, taking the trip, and making the photo book when I return. I enjoy all of them! Most of the planning is super fun, but there are parts that I hate - mainly the transportation.

Posted by Laura B
San Francisco
3359 posts

Depends on when you ask me the question -- sometimes my answer would be "about as much fun as a root canal."
Fun at the beginning ... but at a certain point I hit a wall. May be selecting accomodations, or finding train connections that don't leave too early or get in too late or have us running to find the track in 7 minutes or spending €€€. By the time we're finally out the door, though, it's all good.

Posted by Laura B
San Francisco
3359 posts

Agree with Cracow that having someone who knows the area is useful -- as is a support group of fellow-travelers. Anyone living near one of the monthly Travel Group meetings should consider dropping by to share information/opinions on European travel.

Posted by Libby
88 posts

My husband & I are planning (meaning I am planning) our 1st European vacation for Sept. This will be my first trip overseas & my husband's first in over 20 years.

I absolutely love the planning!! We are spending 3 weeks in Austria with our last 2 full days in Venice. We are taking a day trip to Munich, climbing the Zugspitze, traveling on a few more day trips but as far as any other plans, it's come as it may. There should be an Almabtrieb in the area while we are there, so that looks fun.

I have completely enjoyed researching the area, learning the history, and looking at videos & pictures. I've even watched the series Commisario Brunetti to see the scenery in Venice.

The planning is part of the fun, the anticipation! Even planning what we need to pack and leave behind has been fun.

Posted by Plumeria
33 posts

Like most everyone here, I, too, love planning trips! The researching, organizing, packing...sometimes a little shopping. ;-) Even if we're on a tour, I like to have places we want to see or things to do in our spare time narrowed down. There's a certain amount of anticipation and excitement that makes it so much fun. I have to admit that whenever we get back home, I probably suffer little planning and vacation withdrawal, haha! (What do I do now? Haha!) So it's great having this forum to read about how excited other people are about their trips!

Posted by diveloonie
Eagle River, AK
480 posts

@Plumeria.....I also suffer from post-vacation blues when we return from a trip, but I have found the cure! Start planning the next trip! I currently have three in the works!

Posted by natnatroswell22
30 posts

I always enjoy planning & organizing etc. before taking the actual travel because who would want a disorganized journey? Also, I see it as the first part of the travel or I mean, It's like you've traveled twice by doing planning :D