Can you 'over-plan' a trip?

Old Feb 6th, 2003, 07:51 AM
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Can you 'over-plan' a trip?

This is a general question I've been musing over as we plan our Australia trip for March/April this year. My head is fuzzy from trying to work out the best options, so forgive me if this is daft.

Do you think it is possible to 'over-plan' a trip? i.e. spend so much time researching things to do and places to go that you lose the best value of just getting there, kicking back and looking around and deciding what to do first.

Definition of vacation/holiday: A period of time devoted to pleasure, rest, or relaxation; leisure time away from work....

Obviously planning gives you a far better trip in terms of generally knowing what not to miss and helping you maximise your time and get the best deals... but at what point do you draw the line and say 'Enough - I cannot fit a lifetime worth of learnings about Australia into x weeks'?'

Any opinions? Or is the thought that I'm becoming an organised, list-making, Lonely Planet-carrying geek just getting to me today?

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Old Feb 6th, 2003, 10:01 AM
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I don't think that it is possible to overplan a trip - the more info that you have, the better off you will be. The only issue is what you DO with that info. Some folks create an hour-by-hour itinerary, then make reservations that lock them into that itinerary. When an unforseen but fortuitous event occurs, they are then unable to take advantage of it.

So, yes, research and plan like crazy - but don't lock everything in.
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Old Feb 6th, 2003, 10:27 AM
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Yes, I think you can definitely overplan.

On a recent trip, mostly organised by my very attention-to-detail partner, every single day was planned. When I got sick, there was absolutely no scope for a relaxing day. We had to do this, we had to be here. The ony rest I could get was to sit in the car! Just a nightmare.

Later in the trip, in the part I had planned, we had a few days in the one place. And, guess what?! My partner got sick and went straight to bed! He recovered much faster!

Do allow yourself time to wander - or just rest!
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Old Feb 6th, 2003, 10:47 AM
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I spend a lot of time researching and planning our vacations. Sometimes to the point I get a headache --- then I know it's time to stop for a while. I joke with friends I should become a travel agent so at least I get paid for all this research!

I think planning and research really pays off, but it is important to be flexible once you are on the trip. In fact, I often try to think of options for various days, so if we're tired or the weather is bad, we're not locked into one particular agenda. I also always plan on some down time. Everyone needs time to just hang out, especially the kids.

Anyway, I'm glad to see I'm not alone in all my research! Right now I'm busy working on our August trip to Australia, the first visit for our family.
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Old Feb 6th, 2003, 11:41 AM
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G'day Anna,
the previous writers gave you good advice.
You need to make a distinction between researching your trip and the planning.
The more you know about where you are going the more option you will have along the way if something doesn't go 'to plan'.
You know when and where you are starting and where you have to be when.
In between try to be as flexible as possible so that you can take advantage of anything unforseen that presents itself along your route.
By trying to stick to a ridgid plan you only cause stress for yourself and others with you.

Take it easy, relax and Enjoy.
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Old Feb 6th, 2003, 06:02 PM
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Do not overplan. We just came back from 7 weeks in New Zealand and the only thing we planned was the air plane, the car rental and the first 2 nights in Auckland. We had a ball and would leave in a heartbeat again. WEndy
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Old Feb 7th, 2003, 06:24 AM
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Hi everyone,
Thanks for your interesting replies. I think a few of you have hit the truth spot on, research is the key, but not an overplanned itinerary.

This is our honeymoon, and I am in parallel also planning the wedding. Different kettle of fish there, the day itself has to be not only well-researched but also meticulously planned. Short of giving the bridal party minute-by-minute schedules (I'm just about joking), not much is left to chance. My job will be to tear up the project plan when I get on the plane to Sydney, change gear and kick back a bit (with all my Australia research done of course).

Miranda mentioned something good about 'options' - I was thinking about this - for example we have five days to get from Melbourne to Adelaide via Gt.Coast Road (motorhome). I want to have a list of options for things we can see and do along the way, but nothing specific planned for each day, so that whatever we feel like can happen at less than a day's notice.

Now all I have to do is persuade my dear other half that we don't need to drive 700km in the first day ....

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Old Feb 7th, 2003, 07:53 AM
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Hi Anna -
I'd like to add a different perspective to your question.

I used to wonder the same seemed that all the planning and researching could be too much at times. Then I realized something very special...I was having such a good time learning about all the potential fun I was going to have - it was almost like the trip was begun from the time I began the "quest"!

So I think the key is being able to enjoy the research and truly wanting to learn as much as possible. If that's the can't overdo it!

Best of luck
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Old Feb 7th, 2003, 10:08 AM
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Cajuncru is right. Planning the trip is half the fun.

I am busy planning a 4 week trip to New Zealand, working out the itinerary, places to stay, things to do, which car to hire, checking out the weather, all those type of things.

I can't wait. I am having so much fun already. I have researched on the Net and had brochures sent to me from NZ (they will do this) and the joy of coming home from work to find one in my letter box makes my day. I settle back with a cup of tea reading my brochure and I am nearly there already. lol

The advice of having some flexitime in case things crop up is good, thank you.

Have a wonderful time Anna, I hope Australia is everything you dream of.
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Old Feb 7th, 2003, 10:57 AM
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I really enjoy planning our trips.
But the serious point about it is this.
When we travel; its as a family, ok the kids are teenagers but I feel its important for us as a family, to know where we are going to be on a particular night.
I am currently planning a month in OZ,Tokyo and Singapore going to Sydney Melb and Brisbane Moreton Island from UK for December, it is so important to plan otherwise it would be almost impossible to get suitable accommodation in Sydney over New Year. The area where we are going in each part of the trip is so important to know as much as possible about, so we can make the most of the short time we have there. But the key point in planning this kind of holiday is to do the City walking at the begining of the holiday and take time to chill on a beach resort at the end, otherwise you will come back needing another holiday.
I guess that if I was alone or just with my wife we would be daring and just get a flight and go.But I would still need to investigate or I wouldn't know which direction to go in.
Hope it makes sense.

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Old Feb 7th, 2003, 11:44 AM
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I would say it depends on the amount of time you have, how far/long/costs associated with the destination and overall plan.

IF you just want to can do that closer to home and find nice places.

BUT in my case I figured it would be decades before I get back to Australia between lack of time off from work and bearing kids in a few years and not having that large of a travel budget for some time!

SO I didn't want to miss the major sites. I wanted to know enough and have a general idea of times, locations, tour options, coordinating between cities etc....planned out.

I knew for example we wanted to take a Blue Mtns tour, Canberra tour, ferry across the harbor etc....but didn't have exact days already planned.

I made my scuba reservations, ghost tour in Port Arthur and the Skyrail/Kuranda in advance as well as the bridgeclimb because I specificially wanted an EVENING climb for that....but the rest we left up to how we felt or if we found out about other places/things to do.

We had plenty of time to just do nothing here and there. BUT who wants to go all that way and stay in your hotel or lay out on a beach?

Granted the beaches in the US may not be that pretty BUT I can relax on a US beach and get a similar experience.

JUST my personal opinion....don't yell at me!

I am planning my June trip to Germany and Amsterdam. The attitude of most of the people on that board is to make everything SLOW and relaxing. SIT at an outside cafe and spend 4 hrs drinking coffee. MY husband would fall asleep from BOREDOM.

I want to get out and see and do things....I spend plenty of lazy weekends around my house! I am not paying thousands of dollars to sit and do NOTHING in a foreign land.

NOW if I had 4+ weeks....that is a different story. I would have plenty of time to see/do/go.

I think it is only overplanning if you don't budge or have any flexibility in your scheduled days.

PLUS when you list out the choices you can make an educated decision on which ones are most appealing.
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Old Feb 7th, 2003, 02:11 PM
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Alise, your mention of a Port Arthur ghost tour caught my attention. I will be in Tasmania in 3 weeks (wow!) and would love details of that. Thanks!
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Old Feb 10th, 2003, 07:16 AM
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Hi Cajuncru,
Know what you mean about the fun of planning. It's all the fun of anticipation. Sometimes I overdo it, too many hours logged on, but 99% of time I'm learning something new and valuable to help us on our trip.

My latest purchase was Bill Bryson's 'Down Under' and I'm really enjoying the read, makes me chuckle.

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Old Feb 10th, 2003, 08:41 AM
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Yes, I you can over plan a trip! But I also believe there is a difference between researching a trip and planning a trip.

When you research a trip, you look through guidebooks and such, coming up with a wish list of places you'd like to see. You check to see if you need visas, or immunizations, or what sorts of things you can bring into a country (or take out of it). You ask questions of travel agents, people who have visited the country you are going to, and people who live there. You get opinions on the different transportation options, nice restuarants , off-the-beaten-path areas you may want to see, etc. Maybe you even try to give yourself a rough idea of how many days/weeks you'd like to spend in each area before moving on.

Planning is when you can really get caught up in fussing over every little detail. You want to know exactly where you will be staying, how long you will be staying in that hotel/hostel/B&B, and each little thing you are going to do while you are in an area. Some people prefer this sort of thing. They plan what they -will- do, not what they'd like to do.

The risk with over-planning is that you don't allow yourself enough time to a) get from point A to point B; b) you try to do too much in a short period of time; and c) you can miss out on things to do and places to eat that aren't in guidebooks, on travel websites, or hyped up on The Travel Channel. You get so focused on "doing it all" that you don't give yourself time to slow and take in everything around you (and seeing it through the lens of a camera or video camera doesn't count). And you risk missing out on things that you could really enjoy doing because you've already reserved all of your tours, hotel rooms, and transportation for that area.

Now, in your case, this is your honeymoon, so perhaps the extra planning will help you and your husband relax. You'll have everything booked, have most of your tours reserved, and have recommendations for great, romantic little restaurants to try in each area. This may be what you want. But keep in mind it's your honeymoon. While you may be up for jam-packing every single day full of things to do, there will be days when you just want to stay in your room and enjoy each other.

I keep hearing this term: "Maximize your time." While this is important to some people, I think it's more important to remember: "There is no way you can see it all."

Safe travels!
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Old Feb 10th, 2003, 02:42 PM
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Like many others who have replied, I love the planning/research part of a trip. When I only have a few days, I like to know all my options and which one of these options are the best. If I only have 3 days in NYC, I want to know the BEST little Italian restaurant that has the BEST pizza. I want to know which tour operators to avoid and which ones are a ‘don’t miss’. But once I get to my destination, I go with the flow. If a better pizza place comes along, I let go of my original idea.

My best friend and I have come up with a great system. I do all the research and planning (the part I love). Then I pass the important information to him (thank god for email and faxes). Before we go, we exchange a top 5 list (or 3 list if it is a short trip) of the things we really, really would like to do. If something ends up on both our lists, we do it. If it is just on one list, we try to do it. It helps us know what is really important to the other person and plan our time accordingly. I will give up my #5, if it is going to interfere with doing his #1. It also helps because, we haven’t done only the things one of us wants to do.

I’m planning a trip to Sydney at the end of April (around Easter Holiday), but would like to se another city for a few days (see Post “Go to an additional city”)—so let the planning and research begin!!
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