Last month I wrote a detailed post about the ways in which we finance our trips titled How We Travel. Many of you were interested in the information, so when I saw that this month’s travel link-up was devoted to travel personalities, I thought it’d be fun to contribute.
As you can probably tell from my previous post, I am a planner. This can be both good and bad. It’s good because it means we never lack for anything to do on our trips, and if something should fall through, I usually always have a back-up option available. It’s bad because it tends to reduce our spontaneity, although I will say that as someone with anxiety, spontaneity can be a pretty terrible thing for me. I like to know what I’m doing, when, and with who. If things get out of whack I can become a bit twitchy. Twitchy does not look pretty on me.
Back when I was still working in PR, media tours were a pretty regular thing for my clients. On any given week, it wasn’t unusual to have at least one of my clients doing either an in-person or virtual media/blogger tour. For anyone who has ever done PR, you know first-hand how much planning and coordination pulling of a successful tour takes. Two important items to conducting a successful tour are the master schedule and the briefing book. Depending on who your teammates are, and who the team lead is, these documents can be color-coded nightmares or beautiful manuals. I’m not above saying that I’m kind of a wonder when it comes to putting together beautiful briefing books.
You’re probably wondering why I haves witched gears and started talking about my former career. Well, it’s quite simple. Once I realized back in 2006 that my experience putting together flawless documents for a media tour could be applied to our travels, I never looked back. Now, if we’re going somewhere we’ve never been before I put together a whole book of information that begins with the front cover – the master schedule. This document includes things like our flight and hotel in one color, every planned/booked activity in another, and then where time allows, I fill in the blanks using another color with proposed activities. Putting our days together in such a fashion lets me figure out how many attractions we can possibly fit in during our trips, and then prioritize which ones we might want to do. In this regard, you could also say that I’m a scheduler.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably thinking that I also sound like I’m a nightmare. Let me assure you this method works out fabulously for us. It was how we were able to visit the Loire Valley during the day and still go to the Musee de Orsay at night. We didn’t slot it in during the day because we knew it was open on Thursday night. We knew our day trip to the Loire would get us back to Paris by 6 p.m. By being able to look at our available time and play around with scheduling, we were able to do two pretty major activities on one day and not miss out on something else. By having this sort of insight into scheduling and planning, we were able to fit in a visit to the Rodin Museum which hadn’t been too high on our list of things to do but turned out to be one of my favorite museums of the entire trip.
Some of you slow travelers out there are probably sitting there a bit twitchy yourself reading that, and I can totally understand where you’re coming from. It’s not for everyone, but on European trips where we have limited time, it’s what works for us. But, to make you feel just a bit better, I’ll fill you in on a little something – we also take trips where we have no plans whatsoever, no schedule at all. When we go to places like Tofino, British Columbia, or any of the Hawaiian Islands – places we’ve visited multiple times where we’ve already taken care of the tourist sites – we just sit back, relax, and let the day guide us. A handful of years ago we spent two weeks in Tofino over Christmas. We had zero plans once we arrived. And you know what? It was one of our best trips ever, not to mention probably our favorite Christmas ever. We spent the first week working remotely, and the second completely untethered. We took twice-daily walks on the beach outside our cabin, went into town for some shopping, watched movies, read books, snuggled in by the fire, and cooked to our hearts’ content. It was truly amazing but I think a lot of that had to do with the location. In Tofino you’re forced to stop and take time for yourself. It’s not a place you go to if you want to jump from one activity to the next. The slow, leisure life is a way of life there.
People have asked Alan how my OCD works for him when it comes to travel planning. I’m happy to report that he doesn’t mind it at all. Well, he might mind it when we’re still months away from one trip and I’m sending him information about the one following that, or asking him to make decisions. But when all is said and done, he basically doesn’t have to worry about any of the details – he just shows up and has an excellent vacation so in the end it all works out quite nicely.
When we move to Dublin later this summer I anticipate that we’ll have a lot more last-minute type trips happening and I’m curious to see how I adapt to a more spontaneous method of travel. Without having weeks or months to plan something, I wonder if we’ll end up having a better time, or if we’ll wind up taking more trips where we spend time sitting in the room trying to figure out what we actually want to do for the day. Only time will tell.
In the meantime I’d love to hear how you like to travel. Are you a planner? A fly by the seat of your pantser?