Planning an itinerary – Go, go, go or take it slow?

We decided to take it slow this day in Zanzibar at the end of our African adventure

Last week we wrote about how it took us an entire day to plan our upcoming Belize itinerary. Well, no sooner had I finished that post than we started re-hashing that itinerary! It’s a bit of a constant with us, so I shouldn’t have been surprised, but it was a little frustrating.

Couldn’t it be set for at least a day?

Travel planning has a way of getting messy, and that may be why some people don’t enjoy doing it. An art teacher once told me that art usually looks ugly before it can become pretty. I think that’s true for travel planning, too. It takes some messiness to get it finely tuned, but if you take the time to work through it, you’re much more likely to have an enjoyable vacation.

Jeff go-go-going to beat the tides on an Olympic National Park backpack trip

We love travel planning. It’s the closest thing to traveling besides travel! Reading guidebooks, surfing websites, and exploring options for destinations, sights, lodging, and transportation (and seeking the best values along the way) is a great way to build anticipation for an upcoming trip. Our problem is that there’s always a lot to see and do, and we don’t want to miss out on anything … so it’s go-go-go! Yet at the same time, we want to have some down time just to chill. It’s a vacation, after all. Canoeing down the river to Lamanai to do some birding would be really cool. But so would hanging out in hammocks on the grounds of the Crooked Tree Lodge relaxing and looking at whatever birds happen to head our way. How to find the right balance?

Riding camels at Sunset at Uluru

To be honest, we usually teeter (or topple) towards the go-go-go mentality. We’ve often said, “we can rest when we get home!” But that mentality matches our personalities. (We don’t sit around much at home, either.) We even chose our Belize beach lodging — a rustic spot within the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve — so that we could snorkel right from the dock. Down time with some potential for a little go-go-go.

Of course, maybe you’re a sit-by-the-pool-and-read-or-rest vacationer who savors la dolce far niente — the sweetness of doing nothing. We totally get it, often envy it, and, sometimes, even do it!  Either way, it’s best to consider your personal style when travel planning.

So, how should you create an itinerary? First, know what you’re most comfortable doing (or not doing) on vacation, and then make a plan that fits you.

Do you like to hang out in your hammock and watch the world go by? Plan lots of unscheduled time. This leaves your itinerary open to the possibility that a cave tubing trip might strike your fancy one day and, if it does, you’ll be able to squeeze it in — but you’ll still be happy if you don’t stray too far from the pool.

Prefer to mix some activities with your long lazy afternoons? Choose a few things you’d really like to do, but spread them out during your itinerary — so that your vacation doesn’t start to feel too busy.

Want to rest after you get home? Go for it. See what your destination’s got to offer and choose the most appealing one or two (or more) things to do each day.   But be sure to build in a little down time, too — a vacation from your vacation — so that you can enjoy that pool, campground, or view.

Keep in mind that travel activities often take a little longer than planned, so prioritize the things you want to do most. Planning too many activities, or not planning enough time for them in the first place, can put a damper on your trip.  (We’ll never repeat the seven-capital-cities-in-seven-days leg of our first Europe trip!)

Kayaking in Glacier Bay, National Park

Your vacation should be fun for you, and that means going at your speed, whether that’s 0 or 10. If you have a great way to find itinerary balance, please let us know in the comments! Whatever its pace, enjoy your next travel adventure, whether it’s for a week or a weekend!

Day hiking in North Cascades National Park


4 thoughts on “Planning an itinerary – Go, go, go or take it slow?

  1. We spent the month of July in Spain and wanted to see as much as possible but still retain our sanity and have some down time. We spent almost a week in Barcelona because that was a really huge place we wanted to visit and a week in Madrid from where we took day trips to nearby historic towns (we alternated days of touring Madrid and day trips). At almost all of our other places of interest we spent two nights so that a) we could have a full day to enjoy the town and b) we would not have to repack every single day and c) we would not have to drive every day which can be nerve wracking! We made most our specific plans of what to see during our trip. It was too overwhelming to plan that we would see this museum for x amount of time before lunch and then take a walking tour around x neighborhood… for a whole month. So we had some ideas of what we wanted to see before we left home but made specific plans day by day. Generally our days were “go, go, go” (on one day while touring a religious art museum in Madrid with a good friend, she commented that even Jesus took time out to eat…) and our evenings were spent reading, sorting photos and blogging. I actually read 6 eBooks on the trip (of course some were read on the way to and from Spain)

  2. We are do’ers, but someday I’m going to go somewhere and just sit on the beach! I guess when I’m “old”… or older 🙂 I’m planning our family’s three week long trip back east this summer – we’ll be doing an American History/LDS Church History tour that will take us from DC to Kansas City. I must admit I am overwhelmed planning our time in the big cities and all the transitions between places. There is just so much to see and do and the logistics are complicated. I am concentrating on planning one day at time, saving NYC for last because it scares me! 🙂 I am also concerned we are going to be really sick of doing and seeing by the end of the trip.

    • We like to plan short vacations within our vacations to give ourselves a little break from the sightseeing. There’s tons to do in DC, for example, but you’ll never see it all in a few days, so take a late afternoon and evening and swim in the pool (or whatever) to give yourselves a little mini-break. In NYC, plan to spend an afternoon strolling in Central Park, a truly magnificent space. Again, you’ll never have time to DO NYC in a few days, so hit the high(est)lights, and relax a little. Otherwise, you’ll wear yourselves out and won’t be able to enjoy anything, like you said. Even we go, go, go people can only do so much, and with kids I’m sure the balance is even tighter. Sounds like a fantastic trip!!

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