On any given day, I would consider myself to be a spontaneous person. I like going places and meeting people on a whim. But when it’s time to plan and take a long-anticipated trip, my philosophy is that planning a detailed itinerary, including times of activities and restaurants, is best.
Many people will shake their head and say, “Nay good madame; that mindset takes away the fun and spontaneity of discovery while traveling.” I disagree with the naysayers for five major reasons.
1. Planning a trip and anticipating it for weeks or months is half the fun.
Researching activities and foods to try builds up excitement. This is especially true if your day-to-day life is rather drab. Infusing your daily life with the anticipation of taking an incredible vacation in the near future makes the long work days or skipping a nice dinner out (to save up some funds) a little more bearable.
2. You can make the most of your vacation time.
Instead of wasting an hour of precious vacation time trying to decide where to eat or waiting in line for a museum, you can actually relax and enjoy the free time that you have. We made the mistake of not planning our restaurants before arriving in Italy and spent way too much time on Yelp, only to discover that the restaurants we wanted to try had already been booked up. Which leads me to my next point…
3. Many attractions and restaurants require tickets or reservations prior to attendance.
If you decide to fly by the seat of your pants and arrive at the Vatican Museum on a Tuesday at 10 a.m. with no reserved entrance time, be prepared to wait for hours to get in. This is time that you can otherwise spend eating gelato or strolling along the river. In worst case scenarios, you will not be able to experience the exact thing that you traveled hours to enjoy.
4. It is cheaper to plan than to be spontaneous.
Last minute hotel reservations are much pricier than reservations made a few months beforehand. Many hotels in popular destinations even become completely booked months in advance. Nothing ruins a vacation quicker than being stranded in a foreign country, where you may not speak the language, with your luggage in tow.
Plus, when you have time on your side to prepare, you can be more discerning with where you spend your money and take advantage of the opportunity to find more affordable options. For example, in Italy, we could have spent $100 per person on a group day trip to Cinque Terre. With this option, we would have been at the mercy of the guide rather than having the freedom to decide how long to stay at each location and where to go next. A bit of research enabled us to figure out how to take the train from Florence, how to hop between the villages, and how we wanted td our time once there. So when we got to Corniglia and discovered that there is not much to do, we headed to our next stop.
5. Accomplish everything your heart desires.
If you are spending hundreds or thousands of dollars traveling to a specific country with very limited time, do you want to return and later discover a place that you would have loved to see? Many people, including myself, only have the resources to visit a new country or continent once in a lifetime (maybe twice, if we’re lucky). I don’t know about you, but I personally do not want to live my life with regrets, knowing I could have had a certain bucket list experience if only I had spent some time researching and planning. Especially in more touristy areas where there is so much to do and see and not nearly enough time, it is crucial to fit in as much as possible.
Even with thorough planning by the day (and even by the minute!), sometimes life presents us with a spontaneous experience we cannot turn down. When that happens, we will be able to make an informed decision of what we want to do to ensure that we enjoy our life and vacation to their fullest.