I’m kind of known for my colour coordinated travel spreadsheets. I feel like I’ve just admitted the cardinal sin of the travel world. I know that “proper” travellers are meant to be comfortable flying by the seat of their pants – showing up in cities with just a backpack and an open mind – but that’s just not me. I actually enjoy planning the holiday almost as much as going on it. And I don’t think that makes me any less of an authentic traveller. I’ve used this same spreadsheet template for everything from a weekend in Tasmania, to 8 months in Europe, to 6 weeks in the US, to a week in New Zealand.
I’ll never forget sitting on the ferry to Mykonos – discussing travel plans with my new friends – and being able to pull out my itinerary to compare schedules two months ahead and match up potential rendezvous. It first triggered a look of shock, followed by jest and, finally, envy. Let me tell you 3 of the reasons why planning your next holiday is a good idea:
1. Good things come to those who know where to find it
I love researching off the beaten path things to do. And those things aren’t necessarily sitting there in big font on a brochure in the hostel lobby, ready and waiting for when you arrive (jet lagged and tired). It’s not like I plan out every morning, afternoon and evening – but I like to know my options. This may seem more “tourist” than “traveller” but I think it gets the tourist out of the way so that the traveller can emerge on holiday. Nobody wants to spend the bulk of their holiday hooked into wifi googling things to do – you want to actually be doing them.
2. Time is of the essence
This is legal speak for you don’t have an unlimited amount of time to do the things you need to do. It’s nice in theory to think that you’ll arrive in that amazing Mediterranean city, meet the locals and get tips on where to go – maybe meet an ex-coder for Google on his/her gap year and decide to tag along with them to hike the Cinque Terre for a few days. But it doesn’t always work out like that.
The “go with the flow” attitude can mean that you end up being in default holiday mode – pool/beach by day and bars/party by night. This is still fun, don’t get me wrong – if you saw my itinerary for the Greek islands, that was it – but when it’s your annual leave at stake, time really is of the essence. And sometimes timing can really make or break your holiday. Did you know that the Borough Market in London is closed on Sundays? Or that MoMA is free from 4pm – 8pm every Friday night in NYC? Or that the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays? Maximise your time, money and experiences by planning this stuff out beforehand.
3. Structured Play vs Free Play
Teachers understand the importance of balancing structured and free play to maximise a child’s learning potential. Structured play is pre-planned fun, guided by purpose and objectives. Free play is more open ended, an opportunity to be creative and spontaneous. Well, the perfect holiday must balance both (and really, what holiday isn’t a learning experience). I feel a bit like Monica from Friends when she says “rules help control the fun”. But, in my experience, holidays turn out the best when there is some structure, parameters, deliberately unplanned time, flexibility and space for spontaneity (free play, if you will). Plus, I don’t like having to be organised on holiday – I want to wake up and not have to think and plan out my day if I don’t want to. The super organised, efficient lawyer is left at the airport check in desk when I go travelling and thank God for that!
So, for those of you now slightly intrigued, here is a copy of the spreadsheet template – go nuts! Despite all the above, I have promised myself that – one day, not too far from now – I will have a holiday where I genuinely show up with just my passport and an open mind. I guess to tempt fate and see if she delivers the goods. As always, I’m quietly optimistic – but until then, I’ve got my holiday planning perfected.