Travel planning is not for sissies.
And at this point, I am not sure I’m up to the task anyway.
It is not just the unfathomable hours spent clicking countless computer sites, pouring over piles of guidebooks, and making copious notes that typical travel planning entails, but sometimes all that work is for naught.
There once was a guy named “Ike” who got this.
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower, who was the Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe during World War II, planned and led military forces into North Africa, and then France and Germany, and happened to have been the 34th President of the United States, knew something about planning.
It was Ike who expressed the conundrum of planning when he said something to the effect of,
“Planning is essential; plans are worthless.”
And, kind of like the WW II secret code encryption machine, the enigma is whether all that travel planning is really worth the effort.
Maybe that device’s mathematical basis can provide us the secret key to successful travel planning.
Ah…then again, maybe not.
But, not knowing something has never stopped me before from talking about it at length;
so how much planning is appropriate?
Marsha, over at Wanderlust for One, posits in her post Praise of Travel Planning, that for some travelers, less is more when it comes to voraciously compiling pre-trip information, and planning the trip down to the most finite component.
Is spending a lot less time and energy—and sometimes mental anguish—the best plan for trip planning?
The answer is…it depends.
It depends if you are a member of the Church of Feel Good Serendipity, or an officer in the National Anal Retentive Society.
Marsha—can I call you Marsha?—certainly leans towards the more is better. Much more.
“All the experimentation has done is to teach me–the hard way, you might say–that unplanned travel is not for me.”
“A natural scaredy-cat, I need lists and schedules [and have a] compulsive need to have itineraries and check-off lists and follow schedules.”
Hey, I’m not being judgmental here (O.K., maybe I am), but if Marsha is a self-professed scaredy-cat, hell, I’m the king of the jungle.
I won’t go as far as to say, I know the location of each toilet within a quick trot on the trip, but let’s just say, I have an app for that on speed dial on my smart phone.
Now Tracy, in her website The Suitcase Scholar, is one that wants “wiggle room” when planning for her next trip. Apparently, she set up a schedule on a previous trip which was unattainable, and she went as far as saying that the trip had been “doomed from the start,” as indicated by the 36-page itinerary she had prepared.
(I must say, I am not sure what is wrong with a 36-page trip plan. I might need that much space just to map out local pubs along the route.)
Agreeing with Tracy is a bespectacled balding bearded guy named James, who wrote on that topic at About.com.
“Most new travelers do what I did- they plan out everyday. Their entire route is planned, sometimes even down to a specific day. This holds true especially among young or gap year travelers. They try to race and see it all. 2 days here, 2 days there. This is a bad way to travel. When you travel, less is more.”
Yen Lee, over at HuffPro, takes a somewhat sexist approach to the question of travel planning, claiming he is beat by women. (I, on the other hand, get beat by just one woman, and I usually have it coming.)
“Men are more likely to wait until the last minute to book holiday travel. Perhaps in an effort to best William Shatner’s negotiating skills or outwit that wily roaming gnome, they also tend to waste their time and effort on hunting down the best airfare.”
Lee, Yen, makes the case that we don’t remember a trip by the success of the planning that went into it.
As a consummate planner, I might take exception to that concept.
That his metric of success includes meeting some guy along a mountain path who shares his home-brew beer, well to this point, Lee and I have a similar yen.
But, based on his research, and the accompanying blog comments, apparently there is something to the sex aspect. Apparently, us guys have just been in the wrong position. When it comes to travel planning.
Boyfriends and husbands – you have been forewarned.
Thinking about sex (yes, that is in fact what most men do 23½ hours a day), as we look for resources for travel planning, SexySocialMedia.com mentions five social networking sites, such as Foursquare and Gogobot, that are said to “make trip planning fun.”
As I prefer independent travel to quiet spots, off the tourist beaten paths, I would like to find the unsocial networking sites. And, I am not sure the wife-person wants me spending too much time on websites offering fun sexy social networking.
There is no doubt that the web has a huge audience when it comes to travel planning, and where there is money to be made, there are people who are paying close attention to our web-based planning activities.
Brandon, at his blog Buuteeq, posted a Google interactive infographic tool that provides a visual picture of the five steps of trip planning. While the colorful graphic is interesting to click on, “Oh look, colorful spinning object!” this “tool” seems to provide more business related statistics—albeit interesting—than helpful travel planning information, especially given the promising title of “How to Plan a Trip.”
Another website, which is dealing with how web content shapes our travel choices, also provided a colorful infographic that seems to me to be more orientated towards web marketeers, rather than trip planning surfing.
While there are a few of us who still prefer paper maps and written guidebooks to peruse, the vast sea of Googleable resources available make waves that we all are affected by. Especially, when the waves are occasionally rogue, thus less than reliable for those of us wishing to surf our way smoothly across the interwebs towards our next trip.
But, can you depend on what you read?
In his book, “smile when you’re lying, confessions of a rogue travel writer,” Chuck Thompson broaches the subject of how travel writers are sometimes less than totally truthful.
Numerous exposés have been written about less than honest travel evaluations, laying out the half-truths and outright lies you might find within online travel information and reviews.
Trip Advisor gets gazillion of views, by folks wishing to check out vacation providers, hotels, restaurants, and more, but they have been accused of bias and censoring on some occasions.
Then there were the stories of people who do their travel planning on Apple computers being shown higher prices, ostensibly since Apple product owners are of higher affluence.
I got to writing on this subject as I spent way too many hours—days? (I lost track)—as we prepared to book our first European river cruise for next year. I bounced around from website to website, trying to make sure we had every last detail and every last eventuality planned for. (Recall that I am a charter member of the National Anal Retentive Society.)
I was more than a little alarmed when I read that cruise ship message boards were being accused of selectively deleting unflattering reviews.
So, I guess it like I have said on more than one occasion, read everything with a jaundiced eye (unless you have been vaccinated against that malady), throw out the best and worst reviews and average the rest.
For those of us who spend way too much time travel planning, depending on less than accurate information is clearly counterproductive.
Obviously, what—or whom—to listen to is the challenge. An article from BootsnAll on getting bad advice, many times from best intentioned friends and family—often those who never travel themselves—suggests how to make your own good choices.
And, for those of you who pay little attention to all this noise and prefer to simply grab a few items of clothing, your smart phone, and a box of anti-diarrheal medication, and then hop on the plane, well, I admire your serendipitousness.
I’ll be the one next to you on the airplane, buried under piles of printouts and tomes of travel tips, and bugging you for any information you might have on our destination.
My suggestion to you is to pretend you are asleep.