Travel plans were made to be broken


Sometimes a great pre-trip idea just doesn’t feel so great after you’re on the road. Maybe the weather is bad, the culture isn’t what you thought it would be or you found yourself happily stuck somewhere else.

My first big trip to Europe, I had a month planned before I left and thought I’d plan the rest while I was travelling. I wanted to know where I was going to be for the next month, how I was going to get there and what I was going to do.

I knew some flexibility was necessary, but I felt I had to have a rough plan in my mind (ok, a bit more than a rough plan). After a month of planned travel in Ireland, that whole philosophy was thrown out the window.

Don’t be bound to a checklist

Before my trip, I thought I needed to go to every museum and important site in my guidebook. I had one year (which turned into 20 months), so I had plenty of time. I thought to do each city justice, I needed to do everything in the guidebook. I found that I did enjoy museums and the tourist sites, but only in moderation.

There are some major sites you must see – the Louvre, Vatican Museum and the Reichstag to name a few – but after a while, I didn’t feel I needed (or wanted) to go to every little museum, castle and historical site in my guidebook.

Take time off

One important thing I didn’t take into account at the beginning of my trip was giving myself days off. If I’m on the road for more than a week, I deserve a weekend. Travel is hard and you do need a break (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise). You might be forced to take a day off if museums, shops and sites are closed, but intentional breaks give you a chance to relax, de-stress and take in what you’re experiencing.

I love those breaks when I travel. I might head to the park and read, go on a walk with a new friend, watch a movie or just sleep in. Breaks while travelling are great.

Find a theme

Everyone’s got a different interest be it photography, music or history. My travel goal now is culinary. I love trying new foods and dishes on the road.

Travelling with a culinary focus definitely opens you up to local people, so you still get to experience the culture. Travelling plate to plate and city to city certainly makes for memorable experiences.

A road trip I took with my grandma had this culinary mindset. We drove from Seattle to Portland, San Francisco and Sacramento. Of course, visiting my friends was a highlight and a multi-generational road trip is unforgettable, but the food I was able to try really made my trip memorable and unique.

You can see more about my road trip with Grandma here and a round-up of the delicious food I ate here.

My idea of travel has morphed into going to a place, getting to know the culture, making new friends, eating delicious food and only moving on when I feel I’m ready to leave, not when everything in my guidebook is ticked off my list.

This type of travel is much more relaxed and feel-flowing but it’s impossible to plan. I try to have an idea of where I’ll go next, but I still maintain flexibility so I can stay longer if I want to or leave early if that’s what I felt I need to do.

Before leaving home, it’s good to have an idea of what sort of things you think you want to do. Unless you have a deep desire to do enough things to fill your entire schedule, it’s a good idea to leave some flexibility.

Remember you’ve always got the option to completely change your plans and start your planning from scratch (or just throw it out the window and follow the wind) if your trip isn’t going the way you want. You might find something else that you love or realise that you loathe what you planned – it happens to all of us.

Check out more posts about travel planning here and if you’re hungry, don’t miss my food-related posts.

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11 thoughts on “Travel plans were made to be broken

  1. I’m struggling with this myself right now. My GF & I have an 8 month RTW trip coming up and we really want it to be opened ended and flexible, but we’re pre-planning a lot and it feels we won’t have much spontaneity and will be rushed. I wish there was a pill that could cure this.

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    • I know what you mean…. try just planning it a bit at a time… as you go… you can see how you feel once you start.

      I did a lot of museums at the beginning of my trip because I felt I ‘had’ to and I wasn’t traveling good enough if I didn’t see all the big important things…. then I realized I should see what I wanted and do what I wanted…. if that meant sitting in a park eating cheese and grapes all afternoon, I would. 🙂

      So, maybe plan a bit, then plan a bit more as you’re traveling and see what kind of stuff you like doing. 🙂

      Good luck! 🙂

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  2. Agreed. Travelling with a huge itinerary of sightseeing lists which you can barely get through at best is not very enjoyable and worst is you miss out on all kinds of cool stuff which requires flexibility to take advantage of. Nice post.

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    • Thanks, Sam!

      Certainly do what you want. This is your trip and you shouldn’t be dictated by what other people think you should do. If you don’t like wine and don’t want to drink any, but want to visit Bordeaux to bike, then do that. 🙂 Don’t feel like you have to drink wine just because everyone else thinks you should. 🙂

      Ok…. maybe that’s a funny example…. but it applies just like museums! 🙂

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  3. I definitely try to travel with little pressure on myself. Sometimes I am in the mood for a total lack of plans…and other times I really want to do research and dig into a place. So I totally understand either way of traveling. Each is valid in it’s own way and there has to be some kind of happy medium, right?

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  4. Yes, lack of planning can be great… but sometimes (like for me, right now). You know you have to be somewhere by a certain date (canoe trip down the danube), you know you have to stay somewhere until a certain date (waiting on the embassy to give me a passport), and it looks like it could get really expensive for the in-between dates 😮

    But in general, I agree. Throw about the guidebooks telling you about a dozen art galleries you´ve never heard of, and just book yourself into a hostel, and chillout. Meet some travellers, drink some wine, go have some dinner and strike up some conversations with the locals. You never know where things could lead.

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  5. Thanks for the advice. Having not traveled yet (aside from some overly scheduled short term stuff) I’m still unsure of what my typical traveling days will consist of. One thing we’ve heard lots is to take breaks. Specifically, we’ve been advised to take breaks from each other, as we’ll be traveling as a couple.

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    • Definitely take breaks from each other!!! 🙂 Find things that you want to do together and separate and do them! 🙂 Don’t drag the other around if they don’t want to go! Trust me, you will probably get sick of each other! 😛 Traveling can make or break friendships and relationships. You can be best of friends but not travel well together. Take breaks from each other! Even sitting apart on the train or bus can be nice once in a while! 🙂

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