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Planning vs. Traveling

As we approach our departure date (less than month out!!) I find myself in a peculiar quandary. I've been planning so long, that it seems like THAT is what I'm doing, just planning. Now it's time to begin the pre-trip checklist and actually GO, and I'm almost paralyzed. I want to go, I've been planning to go, my ducks are in a row, but taking the first step seems almost surreal. Anyone else have trouble making that transition from planning to traveling?

Posted by
2147 posts

Nope—much as I enjoy the planning phase I am always ready for the actual trip; and even if I’m a bit frazzled leading up to it, by the time I’m on the ground everything falls into place.

Posted by
9524 posts

I always like to have a trip in planning stages even if I am close to departure on one I have planned already, as you have. Maybe if you make a few notes, read some articles, and bookmark some sites about a future trip it will help you relax and release a bit.

Posted by
34 posts

I think I love the planning stage almost as much as the trip itself! We have taken one tour (Best of Italy) and I am currently planning another. I get what you are saying about the build up to the trip. The first step to the actual traveling can bring on a case of the nerves, but it will likely pass and excitement will take over. Enjoy and live in the moment on your trip!

Posted by
1854 posts

I know just what you're saying. As long as I'm still "planning" I can still keep improving the plan. Once traveling, I have to rely on having done a good enough job planning that I can relax and reap the benefits! And it almost seems like the more trips I take, the higher I set my expectations to plan a great trip for myself.

Posted by
627 posts

In the planning stages its all dream trip time. We fantasize about how great it's going to be. When it gets close or actually starts we worry that some problem or delay will crop up ruining the fantasy. We dread the long flights and the jetlag. We worry the hotel won't have our reservation. Etc etc.

Our most recent trip did have unforeseen problems come up that altered the plan and we did make mistakes but it was all good in the end. Just another adventure.

Posted by
3683 posts

Last year I was planning and looking forward to a trip....rtrip....really looking forward to it. It was a shorter R&R trip I really needed.....and then a steal of a cruise came up for a month after trip 1 dates. I booked it, but the excitement about plannjng for that one took away some of the joy of trip1. It really brought home that some of us really like to plan. But it means we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make the reality as wonderful as the dream planning. Or we worry it will fail our expectations.
So sitt back and put everythjng away for a while. Live in the now and today. You really don't have to take a month to get ready for a trip. In 2 weeks come back to it. Reconfirm your bookings, do your trial packs and enjoy the building excitement for the trip.
Let's face it. All you really need for travel is money, some hotel bookings and some clothes. Remind yourself, however, that you have survived this far as a competent adult, and your time spent planning are going to pay off will reap satisfaction when on the road.
Just step away frommit all for a few weeks.

Posted by
4981 posts

I suppose it depends on your style of planning. I enjoy planning, but mainly research, reading about the places, maybe add some history and current events, gathering hotel options, exploring food options. In general, I develop a background and a bunch of data.

From there, I create a skeleton itinerary and decide what I need to absolutely firm up, which may be some hotels, some transport tickets, maybe a museum or two, rarely a restaurant, but rarely most of my needs. So when I show up, I have options and still have a big interest in travelling.

My philosophy is that if you "over-plan" (yes, my opinion) meaning you have an hour by hour itinerary, then I understand being nervous. Things are packed so tight, like a row of dominoes, that if one thing goes down, items start falling out of place or if something wonderfully unexpected comes up (find out it is a festival day in an out of the way place) there is no room in the schedule. It may even be that things are a bit dull, just trudging from one appointment to another.

Now that may be a bit harsh, I know many on here plan extensively, to each their own, if it fits your style, go for it. I am just in the camp that I like a bit of the unknown, some element of discovery, and like being in a city for a time with nothing actually planned for a day or two, it keeps the excitement level up.

Posted by
862 posts

I don't have that problem. I love, love, love my planning time but when it is time to actually go I'm ready. Mainly because I'm so excited to see the places I have been reading about and planning for! Then you get to have that, 'am I really here?' moment!!

Posted by
826 posts

I had to giggle. Now I know I am not alone. I love to plan, but most of my friends know that shortly before the trip and until I walk through the airport doors, I start a litany of asking why I am doing this, saying I don't want to go, etc. I don't know where it comes from. Then, the actual travel is a little surreal. I mean extended time on an aircraft over the ocean with random cranky others and weird bathrooms? But there is light at the end of the tunnel!

I frequently go through Heathrow. I know now that when I clear immigration and step outside the terminal, I will get a rush of adrenaline. I'm here! Let the fun begin.

Another thing I find myself doing is fantasizing, pseudo planning, and then letting inertia take over. I did it this spring. Sometimes it is tied to my work schedule or even things like my summer vegetable garden. I have allowed things to get in the way. But time is fleeting, and I think, for me, the first step in beating that inertia is to actually actively plan - make a financial commitment; schedule vaca days; make it real. I have my trip to Christmas markets booked - now I need to wade through all the tantalizing possibilities on the particulars of getting there.

Good Luck and don't worry too much about the checklist.

Posted by
219 posts

I found myself agreeing with almost everything written here! Absolutely adore planning trips, anticipating, reading and imagining all the possibilities. And Yes, the day I walk on the plane, huge gasp - what have I forgotten?? The interminable flight... but then you’re finally there. Then alll the fun can begin. Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
43 posts

I am so happy I am not alone. My daughter accused me of being addicted to planning. I look at planning my vacations like planning a wedding. Much of the fun is all the research and preparation before the "event". My next trip is 3 months away as of tomorrow. Paris, Bayeux, Berlin and (thanks to a connection cancel by Norwegian Air) Barcelona. My goal after several trips to Europe: to have some of the trip planned out and some time for spontaneity. The biggest part I need to work on is to stay in the moment on the trip and to soak up every minute. The trip is 14 days- not counting travel days, my longest trip, but the planning has been for months and months.
So what is a planner to do? I am already planning a trip back to Italy for October 2020 - Lol

Posted by
803 posts

For me, my favorite stage is planning. My second favorite part of a trip is revisiting my journal and remembering the trip by looking at my photos. The third favorite is the trip itself.
I like to start planning for a trip about a year ahead. I start by learning about the area, perhaps reading some fiction and non-fiction books from the area. I watch movies that take place at the location. I read about the sites. I research flights and hotels. I have been going on RS tours so I research the itinerary and learn about the group activities and research what to do on free time. As time gets nearer I reserve a food tour or other event (hamami visit) for my pre or post tour days. I have a trip journal and every day gets 2 pages. I affix the tour itinerary to the top of the day for tour days. I write the name, address, phone number of the hotel for each day. Then I come up with a loose plan for each day. This doesn't pin me down, it just alleviates my anxiety. At the end of that day in life I write down what I actually do. It is fun to go back and compare my original plan with reality.
Sometimes as it gets close to the trip, I start loosely planning the next one. This prevents me from getting paralyzed as you mentioned.
I get a bit anxious in the few days before the trip, but the more trips I take the more confident I am that I planned well and if I forgot something or a hiccup occurs, it won't matter because I can adjust.
I understand wanting to travel on a whim, but I wouldn't feel connected to the place that way.
I certainly over plan, but I don't feel the need to stick to my plan completely once I am on the ground,
Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
6554 posts

Although I've been traveling Europe on my own since 1970, I still have a little anxiety before I leave. But our recent trip went off without a hitch. Things have a way of working out.
It really helps to have the internet to get so much travel info from. It's also great to study Google Maps in detail as I know exactly what metro stops, hotels, restaurants and even streets there are all around my hotel.
Although we're just now of real retirement age, we've still got some individual travel ahead of us before switching to guided tours.

Posted by
629 posts

I'm envious of those that say they love planning, because I don't.

Sure I like to learn about places to visit, I watch videos before I go so I have an idea of what to look for (the Teaching Company has courses on Greece & Turkey, England, Italy, etc), i read thru the guidebooks. But the time you can spend is unbounded, hard to do when you work full time. Looking up train times, museum times, looking for walking tours, restaurants, choosing hotels, making daily plans B & C in case the weather is bad or the train is late, it goes on and on.

Posted by
6202 posts

I book the basics of fights, hotels, rental cars, advance tickets to major sites, maybe a dinner reservation for first night. Nothing else is planned. I know when certain museums are closed and then choose what we want to do each day. Perhaps just go for a walk. I can’t imagine having every day planned.
We travel internationally a couple of times a year and the hardest part is narrowing down where we want to go next.

Posted by
20973 posts

I think it is a function of what you call planning. We are very similar to Paul and a couple of others - above. Actually we do very little planning if, by planning, you mean an hour to hour schedule or even half day to half day. Schedules like that are frequently posted here. That simply does not work for us. I would hate to be tied tightly to a schedule that has no slacked. I have often posted that we always plan for every fourth or fifth day to be completely blank. We are there to enjoy the ambiance not to tick off a "To-do list" of required sites.

With a librarian wife, we do a lot of research so we know the area we going to very well. Always have a rough idea of what we want to do and see. AND -- if there are critical tickets -- those we will buy in advance but not many. Other than a night or two after arrival and the night before departure we will not always have hotel reservations. Granted if attending Octoberfest, we would but only those times when an advance reservation is critical. Most of the time we just drift along and after 30 years or so it works for us. For others there is a need to lock down everything - twice, just in case. We are on vacation. There is no rush. And as my wife has historically stated many times, "If we don't see it this time, we will see it the next time."

Our decision to go to Europe for the time was made on a Tuesday around noon, obtain a passport on Thursday morning, bought a big batch of Travels Checks on Friday, and boarded a plane to London on Saturday. Obviously no planning and it worked out just fine. Being in our 20s maybe we were just to naive to know what needed to be done.

Posted by
4249 posts

I do very little planning other than flights and hotel. Everything else is pretty fluid. Much of what we decide to do on a day is typically planned the previous night or in the morning. I'm on holiday, I don't want to be tied to a strict itinerary, some days we'll wake up and not want to do anything, other times my wife will want to settle down with a book, the boys will want to play in the pool and I'll go off and explore on my own. I like to enjoy my holiday not to rush around feeling like I have to tick off everything on a checklist.

Posted by
1854 posts

I like to have "planned" sufficiently when crafting my initial itinerary to have enough days in a locale to see 1, or perhaps 2 things each day on my "must see" list, with plenty of time to relax and wander.

One of the delights of my travel is attending live performances in great venues. Often those have to be booked months in advance to get a good seat at a reasonable price. I'll research to see if there's something on the programme in a city that attracts me enough to arrange my itinerary for that performance and prebook the ticket.

And then, to the points above, some of the best performances have been those that I've stumbled on while wandering the town.

Posted by
174 posts

I find that I often plan too much and too early. So while there is tons of initial excitement, it often wanes because I've literally researched every detail.

Of course, this is fine in terms of logistics and money-saving, but my goal is to wean off youtubing and google-imaging every town, hotel, and restaurant and let all that be a total surprise. I'll plan the flights, taxis, Metro, stuff like that, and I'll definitely have a list of things I want to do, but I'll leave it up to my imagination.

Posted by
885 posts

I am absolutely in love with planning. It is my stress-reliever here. So it is almost like actual travel. I do get a bit nervous just before departure, just because of anticipation for the real thing - but am 100% ready to go! I like having chosen places I want to see, but I also don’t mind changing plans if I need to. Then when I am there, I can be totally in the moment.

Of course, I have not been gone longer than 2 weeks. I think a longer trip changes your outlook and I am anxious to test that theory next summer!

As far as losing the edge of excitement with too much planning, I solve that with keeping a beginning plan for my next trip. My 12-day trip across Canada in Sept. is almost set and I can think about my trip to Thailand coming up after that. I also find that sometimes I need to take a break and come back to planning later to re-assess what I want to do and see.

But I am always sure I am ready to go!

Posted by
3683 posts

I finally twigged this is posted on the RS Tours forum. I hope it is just a misplacement, because I would hate to have anyone take a tour and feel they were unable to take steps to the reality of it. A tour takes a lot of the control and anxiety out of both the planning and the execution. A step away is most likely require either way.
Time to go out to smell the roses, pollyhrae

Posted by
1854 posts

As much as I enjoy the planning, it will be a lovely luxury for me to take an RS tour and leave most of the planning to someone else. Just watching for the right tour!

Though knowing myself, I'll tack on a few days up front and a few days after to take advantage of the trip. So I won't miss out entirely on the planning!

Posted by
97 posts

Thanks, all, for your wonderful, thoughtful responses! I now see that I sounded a bit fearful in my original post - and I am THRILLED rather than afraid to be going on a RS tour to Southern Italy at the beginning of September. We took our first tour, Heart of Italy, a little over a year ago and I can't wait to go back to Italy. After years of being the family tour director/guide/manager/accountant, I loved having someone else do the planning. Each day was like a new adventure, where I could be confident we were going to see amazing things and eat wonderful food.

Like several of you mentioned, my personal planning is more research based, learning the stuff I wish I'd learned in school re: history, art, culture. I DO like learning onsite (Paolo, the Italian guide at the Uffizi Gallery, was a fascinating instructor in Italian art history!) I also think the idea of planning as fantasy figures in, so taking the actual trip is sort of like entering a dream I've had for a long time. I DO relax when actually traveling, I love the smell of the roses along the way, and I know it will be grand!

Thanks for your thoughts, and keep on traveling'! (

Posted by
52 posts

I love going and planning. I like the planning part almost as much as the trip and it gives one something to look forward to and see why the effort of saving for it is worth it in the end.

Kind of expensive way to get gelato again but so excited the tours are out for most places now and am looking forward to planning our next tour stuff. Booked Southern Italy today and took a guess on what hotel and booked one for a few days before... and I even went so far as to book a Sistine chapel tour for the crack of dawn to day our tour starts. Lol ....

I don’t much worry about the trip as research so as to be able to see cool stuff during the “down” time on the tours. Where a cool gelato or cafe shop might be or a small museum we don’t go to.

Let the fun begin!!!

Posted by
122 posts

HI I am a retired teacher who enjoys solo travel on a budget and pre- planning is key! I always have 1st/last night lodging in place. Then I use a blank calendar sheet to pencil in possible destinations for a 2-4 night stay. After reading LP or RS or MOON guide books and researching on line forums, I have a 4x6 card for EACH potential destination. I write brief notes: budget rooms+cheap eats/tourist sites. Since each card is a separate city/town I can re shuffle as I build my agenda. I used this system for 6 weeks in Ecuador when I started solo travel for my 70th birthday. Next, 8 weeks in Croatia+ Slovenia etc/ and in 2018 I island hopped in Greece for almost 10 weeks. I am using the system in Aug. 2019 for a month in Malaysia and Thailand .BTW I always have a new future trip plan waiting to be developed. It makes me feel confident that even tho I am 76 years old my travel days are not limited. My motto: if not NOW then WHEN? I will never be richer/ younger or healthier than I am right now. So if YOU are a golden oldie reading this my suggestion is go for it! People world wide are wonderful and some times in awe if you are going without a tour or a travel mate.

Posted by
4454 posts

cjleisch: Good for you. I like the "If not now, when?" My DH and I had our epiphany about 10 or 11 years ago when we were discussing possible future travel. Then one of us said "What are we waiting for?" and we started planning a trip to Italy the next day.

You're definitely right about we'll never be richer, younger, or healthier. We're also in our 70s, and we plan to do this as long as we are able.

Thank you for your comment. Well done.