I am a self-diagnosed “super planner.” I love making lists and scheduling things. If you want to have dinner on April 5, 2015, I will dutifully mark it in my paper pocket calendar and will see you then. Because I must. touch. paper. I can’t hang with that digital, smartphoney stuff.
When I’m about to travel, I savor researching the local sightseeing or dining options and putting all the details together.
Yes, my friends find my zest for itineraries kind of
ridicul … charming. Yes, I wanted to be a travel agent in high school. And, no, that dream is not yet dead. (Remember the time I found my people?)
So I was intrigued to read this article:
I get the idea. That sometimes the fun is in the planning, before the headaches of delayed, long and cramped travel, annoying vacation partners or destination disappointments.
I’ve experienced all of those on one trip or another, but I’ve been decently lucky. My travels have been smooth, fun and memorable, even with minor hiccups and setbacks. I can roll with the punches. (But I’ve not yet been bitten by a shark.)
As the article mentions, I do use travel as an excuse to learn something. Ever since South Africa, I try to understand a bit of what’s going on in the countries I visit — historically, socially, sometimes politically. It makes for a richer experience, and I feel like you get a better sense of the place and people beyond what they want the tourists to see. When I can, I read books, articles, blogs, travel guides, Wikipedia pages. I don’t “study” or overprepare, but I like to know what I’m looking at while I’m standing in front of it.
My favorite travel guides: DK Eyewitness Travel Guides
To ensure your hotel isn’t a lemon: Trip Advisor
My go-to site for travel ideas: Conde Nast Traveler
Get travel ideas, or just travel vicariously via TV: Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown
While I really enjoy the planning and the anticipation, I think I have just as much fun in the moment on the trip itself.
How about y’all — does this theory ring true? Are you happier in the anticipation, deciding where you’re going and what you’re doing, rather than when you get there?
Leave me a comment and let me know.
UPDATE: I forgot a couple of really important pre-travel tips! First, call your bank to let them know where and when you’ll be traveling, so you won’t get stuck in a foreign country without access to your credit cards. But, also ask about their partner banks in that country. I’ve been lucky that mine had sister banks in both London and Australia, so I could use the ATMs there with no penalty. That was much handier than trying to carry traveler’s checks and much less expensive than the bureaus de change for currency exchanges.
Also, if you think you need cell service, ask your cell provider about a data plan. They usually have a usage cap but can be only an extra $25 plus per call/text fees, and you’ll have full use of your phone abroad. However, if you only want to text and or go online, it’s not necessary. iPhone to iPhone texts are free while you’re on Wifi, and you can use most apps (like Facebook, Instagram, CNN, etc.) too. I bought a data plan when I was in London, and quickly went over my data allotment — that gets expensive fast. But I winged it in Israel and was able to text family and keep up on social media with no issue. There are also a few free texting and video conference apps/services that could come in handy, though I’ve not used them yet. Yay for technology!
Coming tomorrow: Trip Bits for when you’re on the plane! Read the whole Trip Bits series.