Welcome to the third post in my series “Top Travel Mistakes.” I previously collected information on the biggest mistakes people make when traveling and composed a list of the top 10 (plus a few bonus tips!) This series explores and expands on that list and provides more detail about how to avoid making these common errors when you travel. Be sure to follow Create My Adventure and to subscribe to my Weekly Newsletter for more adventure suggestions and tips like these!
# 3 Over Planning
Ah, vacations! We love them! Just hearing the word gives us a feeling of blissful peace… And if you’re doing it right, it should. Vacations are supposed to be little breaks from the pangs life, and it’s not really a break if you’re super busy through all of it. Now, I know I previously said that there are certain things you should always plan ahead, but there is such a thing as over-planning. Today I want to talk about planning in a way that allows you ample time and energy to just enjoy your adventures and vacations.
There is no greater feeling of freedom than being able to do what you want, how, when, and where you want! This is one reason minimal planning has always appealed to me. It exemplifies the laid-back, natural style of travel that embraces living in the moment. And your adventures can be as large or as small as you want them to be! ‘Adventure’ implies something exciting! A unique experience! Stepping out of your box and trying something new! I love that! And I love how it is going to be something different for every single person!
I want to start off by saying that some of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had are ones that happened spontaneously! No, I don’t want to just say it, I want to scream it from the mountain tops! Because that’s how passionate I am about leaving yourself lots and lots of wiggle room when you travel. Yes, you should plan for the important things, such as where you’re staying. And yes, you should plan your finances and budgeting… and if there is something you absolutely want to do, you should reserve it several weeks in advance… but beyond the ‘essentials,’ I would like to suggest the one-size-fits-all ‘go with the flow’ model.
In my previous post Not Planning Ahead, I talked about seven things that you absolutely need to plan for before you start out on your next adventure… (and you can find them right HERE!) I also mentioned four things that you absolutely should not over-plan. Here’s the extended version:
1. Don’t plan every minute of every day.
It’s more fun to leave some things up to chance. There will be lots of things that you want to see and do, but I always recommend that you only make one reservation per day– two at the very most! (And even that may be too much.) If you are doing zip-lining at 11am, leave the rest of the day open. If you have a dinner reservation at 6pm, don’t plan a museum tour at 3. What happens when we start planning every moment is that we stress about time and rush through the things we should be enjoying. Not to mention, sometimes shows, tours, or activities often run over the estimated time. Then you also have to account for things like traffic, restroom breaks, changes of clothes, hair, make-up, showers, etc… The other thing that happens is that we end up missing out on things that spontaneously pop up, and sometimes, those are the most memorable experiences.
When my sister and I were in Aruba we wanted to get out and experience some night life while we were there. We attended Carnival the first night. Second night was casinos, shows, and clubs. And we were tying to plan our third night when we ran into our Air B&B host. We asked him for his island suggestions and had such a good time talking with him and his girlfriend that we decided to just stay in for the night. We sat on their open-air patio, casual drinking and just chatting into the wee hours of the night… and we learned so much! While every night there was special, this was my favorite. Not only was it a needed break from all the prepping we had been doing, but also allowed us to connect to the real culture of the island, and the people who make it so special. And as an added bonus, they gave us lots of great secrets and tips that made the rest of our stay infinitely better!
2. Don’t plan a different outfit for every day.
This one should be common sense, but even with all the traveling that I do, I have a hard time taking my own advice when it comes to packing. The goal should really be to pack as little as possible, and not to think about it too hard.
Can two pairs of pants (shorts, bottoms) and a couple tops actually be enough to get you through your entire trip? YES!
Do you need a different a swimsuit for every day, and shoes that match every outfit? NO!
Minimalize! I find that the 3 Rs that we see in taking care of the planet can also be really effective when you think about packing:
Reduce the amount of clothing you pack.
Recycle pieces of outfits to form different outfits. (Mix-and-match!)
Reuse clothes that you already have in your closet. You do not need to go out and purchase a whole new wardrobe specifically for a single trip.
3. Leave one day completely open.
The epitome of not planning! This is not to say you should sit around and not do anything at all, but rather go wherever the breeze takes you… or just relax and take it all in.
We often try to cram in as much sight-seeing and exploring as possible with the thought that ‘I may not ever get to come back.’ But think about how tiring that could potentially be. We need to be aware of our mind and our body, and give both time to rest, reset, and heal when we travel, otherwise, we will not be able to enjoy the trip to its fullest potential. I always recommend planning one day of having nothing planned, and just doing whatever comes naturally.
When should you rest? If you’re traveling a long distance, you can count on jet lag, or, needing to adjust to a new time zone and sleep schedule. In this case I would suggest having a free day upon arrival, or possibly the day after. This will give you that time you need to reset and adapt, allowing you to be your best self moving forward.
If, on the other hand, you’re super excited about your adventure and prefer to jump right in, plan for something towards the middle of your trip so that you don’t wear yourself out.
Or, if you just want to power through and worry about sleeping later, maybe save your last day as a day to just kick back, recall your adventures, and enjoy the scenery before having to return home. It all really depends on the type of traveler you are.
4. Don’t plan for disaster.
Of course, things can go wrong, and they sometimes do… but you will drive yourself crazy if you start thinking about all the different issues that might occur. The best piece of advice I can give you, especially if you’re doing adventure traveling, or long-distance traveling, is to get really good travel insurance! I’m talking about something that will cover pretty much any event, and will cover you door-to-door! (I have a whole post dedicated to this topic right HERE) The key here is that you won’t have to worry about planning for disasters if you have the right coverage. Talk to a Travel Specialist (That would be me!) if you’re not sure what’s right for you. While we aren’t able to consult you about specifics of any insurance plans, we are able to connect to the right people and get all the information you need.
If you are a hard-core planner who likes to make lists, and to have a very clear idea of what’s going on day-to-day, that’s ok. I like planning, too. However, I would like to encourage you to get the most out of your travels by not creating extra work for yourself. Better yet, work with a Travel Specialist, and let them do all the work! (My contact info will be below!) Our job is literally to make traveling easier for you, and we’re really good at it!
I think our minds are sometimes trained to be specific, detail oriented, and to stick to a very strict plan… and while that may make you the perfect employee, it does very little for you when you when you’re supposed to be enjoying life! Here’s a piece of free, professional advice: Live in the moment. Just go with the flow. Enjoy what’s happening right now. See, smell, taste, feel and hear what’s going on around you and internalize it! Don’t worry about what’s going to happen next because things never go perfectly to plan… so plan less, and enjoy more!
I am going to leave you with one of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite travelers:
“I’m a big believer in winging it. I’m a big believer that you’re never going to find a perfect city travel experience or the perfect meal without a constant willingness to experience a bad one. Letting the happy accident happen is what a lot of vacation itineraries miss, I think, and I’m always trying to push people to allow those things to happen rather than stick to some rigid itinerary.”
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I would love to meet you, and get to know all about your dream vacation! So, if you’re ready to schedule your first travel consultation with me, please see my info below! Not quite ready to start planning yet, take a look at my Planning Process to see how we work and get inspired!
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