Trip planning: you either love it or loathe it. Every holiday lives and dies by how well or poorly you have prepared and each person has their own individual system and flair they like to inject. To some it’s even the most exciting aspect of the trip. For others it’s like having wisdom teeth removed, without anaesthetic from a back-alley dentist. But, no matter what you think of it, it’s one of those jobs that has to be done before every single trip.
In my thirty-three years in this world, I’ve concluded that there are roughly three types of trip planners: ‘structured planners’ who plan every minute, ‘plan-less planners’ who make it up as they go and ‘let someone else planners’ who leave the planning up to anyone else. There are obviously varying degrees to each section but as a general rule, the majority of travel planning traits belong to one of these three major groups. Conversely, if you feel like you are a bit of everything, relax, you’re not being left out or unfairly picked on. I should expressly point out that although different, none is right or wrong.
With that in mind I’ve tried to explain each section for you.
Structured planners are the ones who write lists. They study every guidebook and make sure every second of the trip is filled with activities, fun or otherwise. Even periods of spare time are pencilled in with deliberate precision like on a school camp. Nothing is made up and everything is accounted for. All accommodation is booked in advance but only after reading every review on TripAdvisor or HostelWorld first and completing a list of pros and cons. When asked, “What do you want to do?” their eyes open so wide with excitement that you think their eyeballs will fall out, mainly because they are thrilled for the opportunity to explain exactly what they have already planned. Conversely, when someone says, “Let’s play it by ear,” a little vein pops up on their forehead and they twitch a little bit- a mixture of disgust, confusion and anger that there is no concrete plan to follow and don’t handle surprises or unexpected changes of plan well.
The plan-less planners have one goal- to make sure there is no plan at all. They crave spur of the moment decisions and prefer traveller word of mouth and local recommendations over guidebook reviews. Some research is undertaken but very little. They will own a Lonely Planet guidebook but rarely open it- it usually still has the receipt in the front cover. They will often claim they are laid back people, which is interpreted as “being lazy” by structured planners and their parents. They like to mess with structured planners by coming up with left field suggestions like, “Let’s just ask those guys what they did,” and, “I heard there is a cave worth visiting. It’s down a dirt road and we will have to take some local bus three hours to get there. There’s not much accommodation and it will take all day but I hear that it’s pretty amazing.” Referred to as either fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants type people or free spirits depending on who you ask.
Let someone else plan
Lastly are the ones who let someone else do it. Non-planners are usually friends with structured planners, though it’s unclear how. If travelling with plan-less people, parents and friends worry about the outcome and desperately check they have travel insurance, regularly trying to remain in touch to check on their ongoing safety. I am expressly talking about those who go with someone else, usually a friend, and let them organise the whole damn show, replying with, “I’ll do whatever,” and, “I’m not stressed, you decide.” They generally say “yes” to everything even if they are uncomfortable with the suggestion. Famous for saying “I thought you were organising it,” and not listening when someone is explaining what is happening. They really like to say, “I’m just following you”. If taking this approach and travelling with a partner, please ensure your relationship is strong and you have good self defense techniques. These people should not be confused with people who book tour packages; paying someone else to do it for you is the safest and most recommended way of letting someone else plan for you.
I can feel people starting to prepare to defend their honour against the keyboard warrior travel blogger. But be calm and take a deep breath; this is all tongue in cheek. Most people will and should identify traits in all three categories. If you are getting too emotional reading this, it might be time for another beer and a relaxing lay on the beach. Everyone will have stories relating to both the good and bad- and I can categorically state that if I was to survey each person I’ve travelled with, I guarantee I would comfortably display traits in all three. Some will tell you I’m more one than the other. I have let others plan for me (sorry Sam) and have planned everything on other trips. It’s no big deal.
Remember, you’re going on holiday. That’s more exciting than going to work. Who cares how you plan it- just remember, it’s not going to plan itself though.
Wayward Tip: It doesn’t matter how you plan, so long as the person you are travelling with can handle it. Many a friendship or relationship have come to a brutal end whilst travelling.