"Not all those who wander are lost."

At least I think that's what J.R.R. Tolkein said. This is most certainly NOT a criticism, but I've noticed that some people come to this board to ask advice about their itinerary. Sometimes people's expectations are unrealistic because they want to pack in seeing as much as possible. I understand this. For most of us, Europe is a long way to go to NOT try and pack in the sightseeing. However, all these itineraries make me wonder if I'm the only "wanderer" on this board. I plan, that means, "make a list" of places I'd LIKE to see at each stop (sometimes I don't even do that), but then I end up seeing about half of what I had "planned" because I wandered off.

It starts when I head out towards Point A. Then I'll find something interesting along the way to Point A. I eventually get to Point A, but sometimes, by then it's Point C, D, or F. Not to mention all the interesting things that I don't need to stop and see but just take the time to gaze at as I stroll by. It took me nearly all day to get to York Minster. York is a wanderer's paradise.

Are there any other wanderers here or are most people on a schedule of some sort?

Posted by Ruth
Midwest, USA
79 posts

Thanks for the replies. You all are very interesting. I'd love to hear your wandering stories - perhaps something you discovered because you didn't plan.

Ed - I once watched two people at one of those "information" booth places in Waverly station trying desperately find a place to stay in Edinburgh that night. It was a weekend in mid-summer and every place the woman called was filled. I wouldn't mind what you might call large-scale wandering, but I'd rather have the piece of mind that there is a bed waiting for me. How do you do it? Call ahead a day in advance or just show up and hope for the best.

Tom - I prefer "recommended sights." "Must-see" suggests that if you missed it you failed in your mission to see (fill in country or city name).

Lee - If your plan is to not have a plan then you fail to fail. :D

You can have a lot of fun going to a place just because it's on a map, even if nothing particualrly interesting is there. At the very least you can tell people you've been there. I see it as the opposite of going to those "must-see" places Tom doesn't want to get started on. haha!

Posted by Debbie
Sunnyvale, CA, USA
290 posts

It depends on who I am with as to whether I'm a wanderer or not. When it's just my daughter and I in Europe we only have a very loose plan of what to see and we detour quite often from that. We have all the info of what interests us, but are very relaxed on when or if we see them.
But when I'm traveling with my husband (and sometimes family or friends come along too) I turn into the chief travel agent/conceirge and literally have to set up a detailed itinerary. Even then I always leave one day per week completely open, just in case things do not fall in place like planned. The whole time during the trip I carry a very mini sized spiral note pad that fits in my pocket with complete info of sights, restaurants, etc. We see quite a bit, but I definately need a few days to relax after it is all over. All that said, I would definately pick my relaxed vacations with my daughter over these planned out trips hands down.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3511 posts

That is much the way I travel. Some of the highlights of my trips have been completely by chance. Often, I get pointers and advice from other travelers I meet along the way.

Some things require - or offer a big discount for - advanced booking and a day will revolve around that. Especially in Europe weather is so changeable that I often end up choosing where to go on a given day only the night before. Which is just one reason I travel with my computer.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3314 posts

One of the things that I really like about my walking tours is that I arrive only knowing that we'll be walking somewhere in the Scottish Highlands within an hour and 15 minutes of the Black Isle. The actual places depends on the weather, how well the group is walking and other random events. It has always resulted in a wonderful trip. This year has been better than ever because I am fitter!

Also, I had made all sorts of museum plans for Amsterdam, and then the Dutch were in the final and everything went up for grabs. The Van Gogh Museum will still be there the next time I'm in Amsterdam. ; )

Pam

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

You're asking about small-scale wandering.

I thought maybe you meant, do some of us leave home with the idea of going to Country A, change our minds to County B on the plane, then go to Country C when we land?

Nope....... Never..... Well, maybe once in a while (about half the time?).

Some people wonder why I'm not a big fan of making reservations.

Posted by Toni
Charlotte, NC, USA
2847 posts

I love to wander (and wonder!! lol). And you are absolutely right about York. It is a great place to wander. The center of London (Picadilly, Covent Garden, Leicester Square, China Town, etc.) is a great place to wander. Cardiff Wales is also a wander's city. Salizburg is a great place wander. That's what many of us here recommend to the newbies- its just that they are sometimes hard to convince.

Posted by Adam
Boston
2634 posts

By the time we depart we are carrying in our heads and bags much more information that we could possibly use in two trips. Except for the "use" of deciding what to see next.

We've also made most of those choices, tentatively and subject to revision, before we go, so we do have an itinerary--and many permutations.

Mostly we end up following that itinerary pretty closely, but sometimes we make changes, since, as the man said, all that is gold does not glitter.

Some of our days are pretty tightly wound, but we try to build in time for serendipity too.

Posted by Cindy
Moreno Valley, CA
153 posts

Can I call myself a 'scheduled wanderer'? I must start out with a plan...as a teacher I believe that no plan = chaos...however, a plan without flexibility = disappointment, frustration, and missing 'teachable moments'. I certainly don't want to miss those 'teachable moments' in my travels, so there are times when the plan falls by the wayside...and that's just fine with me. It's more important that I have an experience, not just sightsee.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

One of the joys of travel to Europe is discovery, and sometimes, things I have enjoyed most I stumbled upon by just walking or driving around. So, count me as a wanderer. For my last trip in May, the set-in-stone itinerary before I left consisted of this: Day 1- arrive. Day 16- depart.

And don't get me started on the term "must-see"...

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4878 posts

I am somewhat like Cindy. I feel more comfortable knowing where I will be staying, so I do make reservations ahead of time. Only on a couple of occasions have I made reservations for activities, but sometimes that is necessary so I don't spend forever in a line. I like to have ideas of what I want to see, but I don't have a schedule of what time I am going to see them. I do love to wander around the towns and am always open to doing things I become aware of during the trip, such as a festival or something else of that sort.
Some people think this will be their one and only trip and they want to see EVERYTHING, at what price? I would rather go home wanting more than to go home exhausted, frustrated, and feeling like I never really had the chance to enjoy my trip. Or even worse, hating the experience. I went to Europe for the 1st time 4 years ago and thought that I may never get a chance to return. Fast forward - in 6 weeks we leave on trip #4. As Rick says...expect to return!

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7684 posts

I'm a combination planner-wanderer. Particularly when I am traveling alone, I plan one "major" thing for each half of the day (for example, Newgrange). If I have time, I can also fit in a smaller sight but they are never planned in advance. It leaves me flexible for staying longer or leaving sooner, and gives me time to discover other things I might not have known about in advance.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11284 posts

"Failing to plan is planning to fail."

I've seen this proverb, and ones like it, attributed to several writers, including Winston Churchill. I tend to do a lot of research in advance of every trip, and so when I go someplace it's because there are things there that I want to see. I never just go someplace because it's a name on a map, and I want to see if there might be something interesting there.

I've occasionally had to resort to a contingency plan when my primary plan wasn't going to work, but never has anything so interesting that I had to change my plans "popped up" unexpectedly.

Posted by Liz
Seattle, WA
1311 posts

I'm a planner. I get my kicks out of planning a trip and a daily itinerary. I like knowing where I'll be staying and doing the research to find a good hotel at a good price.

However, I also like exploring and venturing into back alleys and up random paths, so I simply build this wandering time into my itinerary and usually I can get in everything I want to see, as well as time for just wandering about.

Posted by Andrea
Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
435 posts

I seem to plan trips that are either all about wandering or all about itinerary. Whenever we rent a car it tends to be about wandering and stopping wherever we want on the way, although we always have our accomodations booked. For example we had a great time meandering down from Scotland to London in our car, and again when we had a villa rental in Spain. But if we are using trains or a short term trip then it becomes more about itineraries. We planned a six day blitz of Paris last February and that was all about itinerary.

We have an upcoming trip to Italy and Austria that was mainly plotted by my husband. I think it will be too busy but I'm sure I'll love it nonetheless. We'll have a debriefing when we get home and apply the lessons learned to the next one!

Posted by Andrea
Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
435 posts

OK Ruth here is my wandering story.

We were driving from Edinburgh towards York and saw a sign on the road for the Alnwick Garden. I couldn't really remember what I had read about it but I said, "hey I've heard of it, lets go!". It happened to be Canadian Thanksgiving and I had been lamenting not getting my turkey dinner and what do you know? Their cafeteria was serving a pretty decent turkey dinner.

And the garden was beautiful too.

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3586 posts

I was the typical traveler my first several trips, too - 'hey, we have an afternoon free on Tuesday; is there a museum or church we can squeeze in there? Don't want to waste any time'. [This goes for packing, too - just because your suitcase is not full doesn't mean you should start sticking 'useful' things in there :-) We know who we are!] It took several trips to FINALLY relax and just sit in a park in Paris for a few hours, then wander over to the next park for a pastis and more relaxing. No thinking 'but there's this church I saw on The History Channel last year...', or 'we might be missing a concert at Sainte Chapelle'. We had seen most of the biggies so we could just let go and enjoy being there. Finally. I have great respect for the first-time traveler who can stay in a villa in Tuscany in the middle of 'nowhere', and just 'be'. I'm getting there...

In reference to Ed's comment, one of my most fun moments on this earth came in that first Grand Tour many years ago. My husband and I were sitting on a train (Global Pass, but of course), and we were crossing Germany on our way to Prague. I realized if we stayed on the train instead of transfering in Munich we could go to Salzburg instead (was later in our itinerary). WOW! Yeah, let's do that! I hate to get into all of the RS cliches ("footloose and fancy free", "world is your oyster", "I'm King of the World" - wait, that's someone else...) but it certainly felt like that! Those were the days when we didn't have to worry about cancelling hotel &/or train reservations. These days, we travel with my in-laws = everything nailed down: how many steps to the hotel room? metro = too many steps; what's close to a good bus route? can't go there - town too small = no taxis. We don't want the bother of looking for rooms for the 4 of us, and they get a little discombobulated if there isn't A Plan. Wandering isn't in The Plan; therefore, to them we ARE lost! LOL

We're looking forward to wandering soon...

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3586 posts

[not that Andrea needs a bully to stand up for her, and not poking at James (I read The Memo, too) but..]

I applaud Tracy for coming back to the Helpline, saying 'I goofed; please help me salvage my trip'. I thought that was darned brave of her. AND if you've kept up with her blog, the clouds have DEFINITELY blown over. Whew!

Her blog should be required reading for all first-timers (and second-timers, and ...)!

Have a great time wandering, Tracy, and everyone else!

Posted by John
Canton
129 posts

Great post Ruth! We're wanderers. We rarely plan on what we are going to do day by day. Spent a week in Paris with the family. The only advanced planning was the day before we did whatever. When in Germany, we always travel by car and head off in a general direction, usually Bavaria. Now that is freestyle cruising!

Posted by Tom
Chicago
2876 posts

Ruth, you have just hit on the biggest problem with guided tours. Your type of travel would never work with "everyone back on the bus in 45 minutes."

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

Ruth, in all honesty I avoid europe like the plague in summer unless there is something I really want to see and can't work it in at another time....or we're traveling with friends and that's when they have to go.

But, I have to fess up. I've made one, just one mind you, really big wandering goof. We were headed to europe for late fall/early winter and packed accordingly with warm duds. At the airport, the airport mind you, we saw a clear path to Singapore and from there to Australia. Away we went.

Do you know how stinking hot it is in Darwin in November? And yes, ma'am, I do have a masters in geography. And yes, ma'am, I do know what the equator is.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4878 posts

Mary - thanks for "defending" me regarding Tracy. I have edited my earlier post in order to meet the new guidelines. I also applaud her for being brave enough and open minded enough to realize there might be a better way, and for changing her mindset mid-trip. I was not trying to insult Tracy in any way and I hope she is having a fabulous time in my favorite city. I haven't read her blog for the last few days, but I hope to have time tonight.

Posted by Ruth
Midwest, USA
79 posts

"We had seen most of the biggies so we could just let go and enjoy being there." ~ This is London for me.

HAHA! That's great Ed! I'll bet you enjoyed a wee bit of shopping in Darwin, yes? :)

I saw that post by the admin and wondered what it was about. Obviously I missed Tracy's troubles. Sounds like she tried to pack too much into the schedule and got stressed at just the thought of trying to do it all. Glad to hear she's worked it out. :)

Yes, it's hard to be spontaneous when travelling with others who need a schedule.

Oh do NOT get me started on tours. I refuse to do them, period, full stop. I have relatives who have done tours some more relaxed than others but you're always at the mercy of he dreaded SLOW people. The people who are NEVER ready to go on time and hold up the whole group.

I'm trying to think of a great wandering story. I usually end up meeting travelers from other parts of Europe - especially ones who think I'm local and ask me for directions. Hahaha!

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4769 posts

I know people who will pack a bag with essentials, head to the Frankfurt airport where they have a long gallery with all the companies offering last minute trips. They find one they like, with the right price, and set off. It could be 2 weeks in Spain, Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Greece or where ever. Most are packages with hotel and flight included, and they are fantastic deals. It is always something I wanted to do myself, just for the heck of it. Surprise vacation!

Wandering is fun, exploring a city. Have a small list of places that sound interesting, but then go wander.

Posted by Tami
Boulder, CO, USA
780 posts

I pay for airfare and hotel room before I take my trip. Then I go on my trip and do whatever I feel like doing. I never plan a thing and I have had alot of fun. I map out a few things I must see, but other than that, I am just spontaneous.

Posted by Kelly
St Petersburg Florida
948 posts

I am a planner to a fault. Much like Liz, I find it fun to develop my itinerary. I put so much research into my trip that when I arrive, I feel like I have been there before. When I am at my destination, I tour based on a strict pre-planned 8-5 schedule. It's like traveling is my job. But, I leave my evenings to wander. I never really use guidebooks for dinner. And I tend to get lost, and wander with out a plan. That's how I like it. There aren't too many places that I have visited twice, but for those places that I have, I do follow a more relaxed policy.

Posted by Frank II
USA
4377 posts

Recently, I was asked what my dream job would be. I responded: Urban Explorer.

Just drop me in any city or town, make me aware of the "major" sites, and then leave me to wander around. That's how I really discover a place.

A note: I used the word "urban" for a reason. I have no desire to explore the far reaches of the Amazon nor climb Mt. Everest. I prefer cities and towns with a national park thrown in here and there. At night, others can enjoy the tents and the bugs, I'll take a hotel.

BTW...I'm copyrighting "urban explorer" on this board. Anyone using it without giving me credit is stealing. (I've seen some of my other "original" terms and phrases "stolen" and used by the thief as their own. You know who you are.) :)

Posted by Doug
Portlandia
3290 posts

Frank II -

BTW...I'm copyrighting "urban explorer" on this board. Anyone using it without giving me credit is stealing.

What a great idea! Kent would make a pile from the use of "dreaded ZTLs"!

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3586 posts

Urban explorer(c) {(c) by Frank II} - I see a pith helmet in your future...

I suppose 'live like a local' is taken?!?

How about 'cheap, clean, and safe'?!? (wait, I think that's something else entirely...)

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11284 posts

Why would someone spend $1000 and fly all night to get to somewhere in Europe, just to say, "Eh, what do we do now?"

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4878 posts

That's a great way to travel if you have a month in one place Steve, but most people don't do that. And I don't believe for a minute that you didn't know a single thing about Paris and you didn't learn what it had to offer until after you arrived. Was that your first time there, or a return visit?

If you have limited time in a place with no game plan, a lot of time can be wasted just winging it the whole time. I am not one to schedule things - 8:00 this, 10:15 that, etc., - but without a clue what a place has to offer, too much precious time is wasted trying to figure it out.

Posted by Maureen
Atlanta
1357 posts

I used to be much more of a planner. Now I like to think that I'm more of a researcher. Since having kids, we tend to rent apartments and stay in one place for a week before moving on. I like to know a bit of what's in the area, but we make our plans day by day depending on what we feel like, what the weather's like, what the kids want to do. And it's a bit harder to find information on places to take the kids -- tons of books on all the museums and churches and stuff, not so much on petting farms. We check out the tourist info office where we are to find out about those kinds of things, along with good hiking in the area.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

I don't think any of us "wanderers" arrive without doing any research at all. But we don't assign each attraction to a specific time bracket. Here are some of the reasons:
1) Weather: Nothing worse than forcing yourself to hike through the Alps in the rain and mud because you only budgeted one day for it.
2) Energy level/ interest level: A museum that may have sounded interesting on paper three months ago could have less appeal by the time you finally reach it. Or, you may have stayed out later than you planned the night before and need to rest that morning. I personally did not enjoy my first trip to Munich, not because Munich isn't a great city, but because it came on the back of seeing St. Petersburg, Vilnius, Warsaw, Krakow and Prague.
3) Discovery: I have always stumbled upon something that either wasn't in or didn't seem interesting in the guidebook that subsequently, I wanted to explore.

Posted by Liz
Seattle, WA
1311 posts

"Besides, even if someone did spend $1,000 to fly all night to some city and said "what do we do now?" Would that be so very horrible? Maybe some people like to travel like that"

Well 'horrible' might be a strong term, and yes I'm sure traveling like that floats some people's boats but I had a trip kind of like that to England/Scotland and I think we all really wished someone had come up with a better plan. We had a rental car and started off driving from place to place just trying to find a B&B at the last minute. Well this was pre-cell phone days and the phone booths would eat up all our change before we got the reservations confirmed. After one stressful evening of wandering to every hotel in town and finding nothing available but an overly expensive inn with thatched roofs (I swear there were spiders and things moving around in there) and that served blood pudding for breakfast, we thereafter made the TI our first stop in whichever town we ended up in for the night--which worked out OK but ended up costing a lot more than if we had organized it earlier.

I remember spending a lot of time driving around through the countryside but not really seeing anything, and standing around trying to figure out what to do next. It was still a good trip, but not as good as it could have been.

Most people are on a limited schedule/budget and therefore want to maximize time and money. To do so generally requires advance planning.

Posted by Ruth
Midwest, USA
79 posts

OH Lee, we're not saying you shouldn't plan ANYTHING. After all even Columbus had a plan, but he didn't say "On Day 92: 9am to Noon - Tour Forbidden City, Noon to 12:45pm Have lunch at Chinese restaurant, 1pm to 3pm - Walk the length of the Great Wall, 4pm to 5pm - Tea with the Emperor.

Besides, even if someone did spend $1,000 to fly all night to some city and said "what do we do now?" Would that be so very horrible? Maybe some people like to travel like that. Maybe they don't feel it's necessary to see what most people believe they should see. They could just go to an information booth, where it is likely someone speaks English and ask for suggestions and directions. They might find their time well-spent in the adventure of getting to the places they didn't plan to go. Someone else might think the time was wasted because they didn't fulfill a checklist of things "must-see" things.

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3586 posts

I'm more like Maureen.

Our first few trips weren't planned down to the minute, but if we only had 4 days in Paris we needed to plan around the days the museums were closed, etc. A fairly rigid itinerary. These days, it's so much more relaxing (hey - what a concept!) to research what's available, note what's closed when, then choose what we feel like doing once we're actually on the ground. It helps that we've already seen 'the biggies' so there's no pressure there, and what's left over are the hardly-known, quiet museums, churches, parks, etc., that aren't absolutely packed with tour-bused crowds, and if they aren't free they are usually very inexpensive. Bonus!

Also, the weather can absolutely wreck one's plans. If you have the romantic notion that your trip MUST be about strolling along the riverbank and painting en plein air or biking through the lavender fields and instead it's pouring rain with 30 MPH gusts, your dream trip is pretty wrecked. Learning to LET GO OF THE DREAM and improvise is much easier after a few trips under your belt. Several people here have written about how the weather did OR didn't ruin their trip - attitude is hugely important! Ya know, spending the day hanging out in a pub on a rainy day is still a vacation to me - I can't do that at home. (OK, sure, my local 'British' pub has some soccer jerseys on the wall, but that doesn't mean it's IN Britain!)

I'm definitely in the camp that feels like I traveled a loooong way, so there'd better be SOME plan! LOL I'm just glad I'm out of the 'must-do-THIS-today, because-we-have-to-do-THAT-tomorrow' mentality.

Lastly, many of us who have wandered WERE lost! Yet, those can be some of our absolutely best travel memories. I think those times teach us that it's OK to 'plan' to be lost...

Go wander...

Posted by Marilyn
Mentor on the Lake, OH, USA
251 posts

Actually some of us who wander are lost :)! My husband and I got turned around quite a few times in Paris- even with an excellent street map. Next time we'll take a compass.

Posted by Ambrosia
Dreaming of my next trip to Europe
273 posts

I too am like Cindy. I have a plan when I leave home but am always prepared to make a change. I think I became this way because when you travel to Europe you have to be prepared there may be a strike of some kind and if you can't "roll with the punches" you will have a miserable time.

Posted by Tracy
Macungie, PA, USA
422 posts

hi--Tracy from PA here--posting because i saw my name come up in this thread and was VERY confused. but i think i get it now--some of you thought you were insulting me by saying i overplanned. nope--you didn't insult me--you were absolutely correct. i absolutely overplanned. i have a BINDER for goodness sake! for the love of god, what kind of a vacation is THAT? (no offense intended for anyone who has a binder that works for them--different strokes and all...) and it stressed me out for at least the first half of the trip. and i'm typing this now--and have time to type this now--because i've learned to let some things go and rest when i need it (which is now--glass of wine to my right will attest to this!) we've been in Paris for over a week, and we've not 'gotten to' the eiffel tower (imagine! that was item number one on my original plan!) and we've crossed versailles off entirely--but had a brilliant day today on an opera garnier tour and puttering around galleries layfayette (the view from the top IS spectacular, thank you whoever on here told me to do that!) travel is always a learning experience, and in this case, i found that i'm better at wandering than i am at following a plan. sadly, i'm really good at MAKING plans...don't you just love irony? but i've already said to my husband--my plans for our next trip will be 'we land on this date, we fly out on this date'. anyone following my (rather painful, at times) blog knows that i was VERY sad about the entire trip at the beginning--now i know that i needed to do this to learn about myself. and i can only imagine how much better we will be at traveling next time...and the time after, and the time after. and i'm blessed with a husband who is brave enough to attempt a second (and third, and fourth...) try!

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3586 posts

Wine smooths the sharp corners...it's like...

         Liquid Duct Tape!

(Legalese: The term "Liquid Duct Tape" cannot be used without acknowledgment. Please credit "Mary, Texan in CA" each and every time. This way, "Mary, Texan in CA" will not be forced to sue each and every one of you. Have a Good Day.)

Posted by Jacquie
St. Pete, FL
75 posts

How interesting ... DH and I were just talking this morning about trips and trip planning. We tend to be the "Plan to Wander" type of travelers. I absolutely love doing the pre-trip research. We make a list (not a rigid "we have to be at this place at this time" list) and generally figure out how to get there.

We usually have limited vacation time and NEED to do a bit of planning. However, we have our 5th trip coming up in November, and we have NEVER followed our "soft itinerary" ... not one time. We know how we'll get there, have a decent idea on what we'll do once we get there, and know how we'll get home.

Example: our first trip to Paris, we arrived in the middle of a transit strike. We just walked (or took the occasional taxi) to some of the sites we wanted to see, and when transit started running again, we did less walking. Found a lot of neat places and had a great time.

The upshot is do whatever you want to do in terms of planning or not planning. What works for you may not work for someone else. The important thing is to get out there, interact with the place and the people and make whatever kind of memories that mean the most to YOU.

That's why vanilla is not the only flavor of ice cream ...

Posted by Denny
Columbus, OH, USA
733 posts

Our first trip to Europe was in 1972. We packed one small bag each, bought a roundtrip ticket, had our Europe on $5 a day, and went for 3 months. Outcome: literally, the trip of a lifetime. We have made many trips since, each one increasingly scheduled and laden with electronics and baggage, and each one wonderful. But enough! Mid life crisis(?) if 60 can be called mid-life, and we yearn for the simpler days of our youth. The next trip will be as our first, with only the air scheduled. We do tons of research and have a pretty good idea of what we want to see and do, but maybe we'll get to Austria, and maybe we won't. Perhaps we'll waste a bit of time, or spend a few more dollars, but that's the trade-off I am ready to assume. Having zero sense of direction, I have wandered my entire life, and like Marilyn know that indeed I am lost! Luckily, partner has an excellent cerebral compass so we manage. We hope to travel to Eastern Europe this fall for about 3 weeks. We did 3 months without internet, cell phones or clean sox; I'm willing to bet we can do it again. Happy travels to all!

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3586 posts

Denny - Fantastic! Congrats on your first AND next trip!

Our first trip was the best of all of our trips, because everything was such a new experience. [we were travel virgins ;-) ] We had a rough plan for each day, no reservations, and a Global railpass. I'd love to take that trip again, without the goof-ups, of course!

I mourn for the Global Pass - it's just not what it was...Hop-on/hop-off has been replaced with 'go stand in line and buy that 2 euros reservation or 15 euros passholder fee'.

Sigh.

Posted by John
Sacramento, California, United States
249 posts

Seems to me that people who do too much 'wandering' tend to be worried about missing out on something if they have a set in stone plan instead they feel they must adhere to.

We plan - we set up an itinerary and make reservations for accomodations and travel, if necessary.

But planning to be in one place to see something is hardly the same as not being open to enjoying whatever comes up while there. Having seen most of the big sights in the major cities of Europe, we tend to go more now to enjoy the lifestyle and bring along a list of things that might be worth checking out while there. A guide of choices so to speak. of which we usually see most of the interesting ones.

Our favorite moments when travelling, it seems, is getting into a strange part of town or out in the boonies somewhere, looking at each other and saying simultaneously "We're lost".

BTW, we always include "vacation days within the vacation" - days where we stay just to stay somewhere scenic with no plans for doing anything in particular. Bergamo, for instance, or Lake Como. Siena is good for "nothing"

My patented phrase is "The Art of Doing Nothing", while in Europe. We have mastered it and it never really ends up being nothing at all.

Posted by kpf
chicago, il, usa
171 posts

I make alot of plans just for something to do while i'm waiting to go on my trip, but rarely really stick to them. I do make reservations for accommodations well in advance because i love to sort through all the tourist information i send for and pick out a place to stay. I have vague plans, but I'd rather go with the flow, so to speak. I give myself alot of extra time to relax and am rarely stuck for something to do. Too much rushing around from one "must-see" to another is not my style at all, and just makes me hot and cranky. I hate crowds, and I hate being ripped off, so as an experienced traveler I've learned to avoid tourist traps. I wander, most definately!

Posted by Ruth
Midwest, USA
79 posts

I've only been to Europe a few times. Somehow I've always combined the sightseeing with the "walking, or driving, and enjoy the moment,have time to stop and savor being at a place, have time for talking with people they meet there, and not look at their watch every 20 minutes." Maybe because I view seeing the "must-see" sights as being just as worthy of my time, no matter how short, as enjoying the non-sightseeing moments, being spontaneous (wandering) talking to locals, etc.

That is why I started this thread. I read so many posts asking about "what to see" that I wondered if most people here travelled with a checklist of sights they must see, and just go from one to the other all day, or if they had a flexible list of things they'd LIKE to see but if, when wandering from one sight to another, they found something more interesting in the moment and went off to do or see that instead.

If I miss some "must-see" sight, that's ok. I'll see it next time - if it's that important to me. I just feel that I'd drive myself nuts running to see sights just because they are there.

I guess for me it's not really about what I do or see, but just being there that matters to me.

Posted by Angela
albuquerque
19 posts

Always plan on a nice place to sleep for at least the first two or three nights preferably with a check in time close to flight arrival time. After you have explored a bit you can probably find something cheaper (sometimes just down the street). Nothing is worse than being jet-lagged with no place to R&R. You may end up making some really bad choices when you are tired and sleep deprived like taking taxis when there is a direct bus route.
Alway plan to pack lightly just in case your check in time is three or four hours after you flight. Invest in good, light luggage with sturdy handles and wheels and good shoes.Find out what is safe to carry on your flight. Never over pack! Plan what you will wear and try on before you leave! Jeans are ok but remember how long they take to dry. Dress in layers if possible.
Think about toilet locations especially if you are eating rich foods and drinking beer. Plan on paying to use toilets in case there is no McD,StBks or you don't have time to look for one. Remember the initials W.C. Pay attention to where you are wandering so that you can find your way back when you have wandered into an unsafe place. Remember that time passes quickly when you are wandering thru winding streets and looking at buildings and shops, experiencing new sites, smells and sounds. One can cover a lot of ground in a few short hours. Remember landmarks, buildings, stores, fountains.....Learn to say "how do I find",please and thank you in the local language. Always carry the address and telephone number of your hotel. You can probably guess that I plan these things because I have had some challenging experiences. You may also guess that I am a budget traveller. I am all for the freedom of minimal itinerary. Wander but be safe.