I generally dislike putting people into categories, but when it comes to travel, I think the well worn cliche “there are two types of people…” works quite well. So… when it comes to travel, there are two types of people: those who like to plan every waking moment of a trip, and those who like to stroll and take things as they come, what the French call a Flâneur. So we’ll call them “planners” and “Flâneurs” for the sake of conversation.
If you’ve ever traveled before, you’ve probably found that the experience has an inherent level of stress, no matter what type of person you are. There are always a wide range of variables (especially when you’re traveling in a foreign country), and that’s compounded for both planners and Flâneurs when they’re forced (say, by a partner with differing views) to do things in a way they’re not comfortable with. I say this from experience. I’m more of a flaneur myself, which causes me great stress when I believe aspects of a trip are being “over planned”, and the inverse for my girlfriend. So then what?
A Case for the Rational Flâneur who Plans a Little
I would like to make a case for what my favorite author, Nassim Taleb, calls “the rational Flâneur”. In essence, a person who makes decisions opportunistically as his/her trip progresses to revise his/her schedule or destination based on new information. As an example, a person who decides to stay in a small town for a few extra days, just because they’re enjoying themselves, even if it’s not on the schedule. I think this is the best way to enjoy a trip, but I also think that a certain level of planning is extremely beneficial too.
So on that note, below are a few examples of what I believe are useful vacation planning, and excessive over-planning .
Useful Vacation Planning
- Your main destination, and a few must visit hot-spots on the way. Decide up front what kind of vacation you’re looking for, be it relaxing or adventure, and what type of accommodations you’re considering. It’s worth knowing if you’ll be staying in hotels as you move around, or organizing a timeshare. This is the foundation of your trip.
- In the same vein as must visit locations, decide up front if there are any absolute, must experience activities. You’re simply setting a baseline, and giving yourself a pool of activities to draw from should you run out of ideas. Though your vacation spot may be completely new to you, just like in your own home town or city, you won’t always have ideas at the ready. Preparing a few in advance can be useful.
- Vaccines, health insurance, emergency funds, and emergency contact numbers in the event of your untimely drunken tumble down a flight of stairs. These aren’t the sort of things to just “wing”.
Overplanning for Vacation
- Scheduling every restaurant, bar, club, museum and city, well in advance of the trip, and down to the day and hour. This leaves no wiggle room for new sights or experiences you just found out about while traveling, and because the scheduling is so tight, if anything goes wrong you could end up missing said plans, only to feel devastated, likely even throwing yourself off the Eiffel Tower.
Yes, as you can see, there are more items in the “to plan” category than the “overplanning” category. The reason for this, is that my one and only point in the latter category is so encompassing… it covers just about every aspect of the vacation experience once you’re actually at said vacation spot. So to sum this all up, here is what I believe:
Plan as little as needed to have enjoy your vacation, not as much as possible.
There’s something to be said for spontaneity. Remember that one time you just walked into a random restaurant you had never tried before and absolutely loved the food? You could have a lot more experiences on your trip like that if you just let go sometimes and take things as they come.