To plan, or not to plan?

Toronto Sky Line

Micah and I literally hit the ground running on our recent weekend trip to Niagara Falls and Toronto.  This trip was initially intended to be a weekend trip to see Niagara Falls, but since we were able to get tickets with our award miles by flying into Toronto, we decided it would be fun to spend a little time in Toronto as well.  After researching the city, I found so many areas I wanted to check out, so our trip turned into more of a weekend in Toronto with a side trip to Niagara Falls.

Toronto is a large city with so much to do; we really need to visit again to see everything we missed.  I made a big mistake on this trip–while we still had a great time and did get to see so much in what amounted to be only 45 hours in Canada, we could have seen so much more if I would have planned a little better.  We also wouldn’t have had to run to catch two separate boats, one in Toronto and one in Niagara Falls, because it took us longer to walk than I had planned.  I didn’t realize until we were heading to the airport how efficient the public transportation is.  We could have just hopped on a street car and made it almost anywhere we wanted in a fraction of the time.  Instead, I decided that we walk, which we do both love to do, but by walking, we couldn’t cover near enough ground to visit all the neighborhoods we wanted, and by the end of the trip our feet were suffering greatly–we could barely move and Micah made fun of me for having club feet.  In my opinion, the best decision for us would have been to take the street car, roam around an area for a bit, and then hop on a street car again to get to a different neighborhood for wandering.  We still would have had time to roam, but we would have maximized our time in the process.  I researched a lot for this trip right when we booked it, but in the end, I dropped the ball and was struggling to get everything together at the last-minute.

I have a huge problem with going overboard on planning and researching; Micah hates this part of the process, so it works out that he leaves it up to me.  I get so excited when we plan a trip that I just can’t help myself–I want to learn everything about the place I am traveling to and I hate to come home and realize I missed something I would have really enjoyed.  To me, part of the fun is researching, as well as the time and excitement leading up to the vacation.  But the problem is, when you plan too much, you don’t have time for spontaneity or the chance of happening upon a special and unique experience.  When you plan too much, you don’t leave enough time open for kinks in your schedule or last-minute opportunities that  may spring up.  But, then on the other side of the spectrum, when you don’t plan, oftentimes there is a lot of time wasted when deciding where to go and what to do after you arrive.  If you have ample vacation time, not having a plan is great, but personally, when I have two weeks of vacation throughout the year, I want to make the most of every moment possible.

Where do you find a balance to this equation?  It’s a hard question to answer and is unique for each individual, but I think I have finally realized where I stand.  My sweet spot, so to say, is to research to my heart’s content in the time leading up to the trip and to have an idea of what we would like to do, but still leave ample time to wander and try not to put too many activities in stone ahead of time.  This way I can find out everything that is important and interesting to us, and it gives us a way to prioritize which items to knock of the list if we are running short on time.  I also like to figure out where the sites are located so we can hit up everything we want to see in one area before deciding to move on–it helps streamline our time and is much more efficient.

Typically, one of my favorite aspects of travel is just wandering around various streets of a new locale.  On our upcoming trip to Paris (just over 2 weeks to go!) my “to do” list is made up of sites we want to see, restaurants we would like to try, and areas we would like to roam around.  It also helps to know when certain places are open and what days they are closed, so this type of information is included in my list as well. For example: we bought the 2 day Paris museum pass; since many museums are closed on Monday, obviously we are not using our museum pass that day.  I don’t want to go out of my way to show up at the Louvre, only to find that it is closed and we just wasted a bunch of time getting there.  So, now we know that either Thursday-Friday or Friday-Saturday will be museum days–I have a list of my top museums and churches I want to visit, but depending on our mood, we can mix and match any museums we feel like on those particular days.  I like having a tentative plan with a lot of wiggle room included.

Even though I have always planned our vacations with the above mentality, I am glad I finally realized the balance that works the best for us.  For future vacations, it helps that I am more aware of our travel style and can plan accordingly.

Are you a planner when you travel or are you more of a go with the flow type of person?  Have you found your travel balance yet?