Travel Tips: The art of having a travel plan and letting it go
Where do you fall on the Traveler Spontaneity Index?
To get oriented, imagine that at one end is Marco Polo: “Let’s head east and see what happens!” My colleague Kristin is a textbook specimen. She leapt into Southeast Asia with not much more than a plane ticket, a credit card and a carry-on full of drip-dry clothes.
Zip to the opposite end of the spectrum, and the avatar is Napoleon — the regimented traveler with a detailed plan for world conquest. My friend Cathy could proudly lay claim to this spot. She’s a zealous researcher, committed to never squandering a moment of precious vacation. Her Morocco will always be The Best Morocco It Can Be.
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Kristin and Cathy are both accomplished, successful travelers, but both can also tell you how their trips haven’t always gone as expected — no matter how many travel tips they found on Google.
More often than ever, the question becomes: How do you plan enough without over-scheduling a vacation? How do you pull off the Goldilocks goal of having just-right amounts of both structure and flexibility? After all, when you travel some surprises are good. Those serendipitous moments give you a pleasant little jolt and pull you right into the moment. More often than not, they are the experiences you remember best.
As travel curators, we find ourselves refereeing a lot of debates on this subject between the fastidious planners and the que sera, sera types they always seem to pair up with. (Maybe that sounds familiar to you?) Our specialty is helping the twain meet.
HAVE A PLAN AND PLAN TO TWEAK IT.
In one industry trend, people are taking shorter vacations more often. Fewer days leave you with less time to play it by ear (and pay the consequences). So we plan meticulously, but we don’t carve itineraries in stone. For instance, we can describe a typical Classic Journey in detail in just three pages or so. That more than covers essential bases like fantastic destinations, accommodations and well-timed opportunities to meet up with friends. And then things change.
A full moon begs you to stay out late and stroll Havana’s waterfront. A Croatian shepherd waves you off the trail to help him round up a few stray lambs. You spot a flock of Andean flamingos landing on a Chilean lake, and it would be a crime not to detour for a look.
On our trips, we cover those bases by empowering local guides to modify the itinerary on the fly. Unlike independent travelers, our guides are on their own turf. They recognize great spontaneous opportunities for what they are so you can enjoy them without any risk of running your Classic Journey off the rails.
KEEP INTERNET RESEARCH IN PERSPECTIVE.
Google “B&B Tuscany” right now and you will get 30.5 million results. As one traveler told me recently, “The more I research, the more stressed I get. After all that work, what if I stop one click shy of the perfect inn?” That’s why we handle the heavy sifting — sorting out the options and thoughtfully curating the trip for you.
You are also relieved of doing extra research while you’re on the road. We make it easy for you to be a heads-up traveler, instead of constantly flicking through road maps or trolling your touchscreen for a well-reviewed nearby restaurant. You get to stay in touch with the world that’s unfolding around you, connect with the people and see the local culture in action. You’ll be surprised how liberating it is.
LET IT GO.
Today, travelers are migrating faster than ever from the far reaches toward the center of the Spontaneity Index. Former trip improvisers say that they’ve gotten lost one too many times in rental cars or been subjected to too many well deserved I-told-you-so’s. More self-appointed Keepers of the Itinerary admit that all of that work spills over into the vacation itself and tamps down their ability to enjoy the ride. The common ground they are discovering makes for a mellower vacation all around.
That’s why a Classic Journeys trip is such a satisfying solution for both camps. Each itinerary is oh-so-thorough, but we delight in opportunities to stray from it. The elegant mix of sane logistics and footloose improvisation is the sweet spot of any great vacation. Letting it flow is the only way to go.
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