The Three ‘ations of Travel: Trip Planning 2.0


Back in 2010, I paused here for precisely ten seconds–long enough to take this photo. And then I rushed off with my too-big bag to check things off my travel list. Stupid, stupid, stupid.


Looking back, I realize The Great Europe Trip of 2010 was doomed from the start.  There was simply no way that trip was going to live up to my expectations.  For it to do so, I would have had to ‘accomplish’ everything I’d planned out (in my 36 page itinerary) and to do that would have involved ripping a hole in space and time.  Ever read those ’36 hours in…’ articles in the New York times?  Yeah–they aren’t possible (the most recent one I read, 36 Hours in Charlottesville, has a 9:00 hike an hour out of town followed by an 11:00 brunch downtown; that simply isn’t possible).  Yet I planned a trip that looked an awful lot like one of those impossible itineraries.

I will not make that same mistake again.  Ever.

While I have returned to work  and thus will not be traveling quite as often as I did for the last year, I still have several trips in the works.  I’m going to Charlottesville for Thanksgiving, to New Orleans for a week over Easter, and I will be in Orlando and Toronto and the Berkshire Mountains in the spring; of course, I am also already looking ahead at Summer 2013, plotting, scheming, and pricing airfare.

Yet as I plan each of these trips, I am careful not to fall into the over-planning trap.  Never again will I rush from attraction to attraction, fill my days with endless activities, and stress myself out if I don’t accomplish enough.  While my travels will always be just that–travels, not vacations–there’s no reason they have to be anxiety-filled.  And so, I’ve created a sort of three-pronged approach to travel planning that takes into account the three (able-to-be-planned-for) aspects of travel that matter most to me:

The Three ‘ations of Travel

Education: museums, tours, classes, workshops, tastings, lectures, theater, or anything else where new information is gained
Recreation: running, walking, hiking, bike riding, camping, swimming, horseback riding, sailing
Relaxation: dining, drinking, music events, lying on the beach, sitting in a cafe, or spending time in a park or garden

Aside from ‘meeting new people’–which you simply can not schedule into a day–and ‘taking photos and notes’–which I will do anyway no matter what–these are the three  reasons why I visit any given place.  Thus, I will organize my days according to these goals–and I will never try to accomplish more than two in any given day.  For example, the first day of my upcoming Charlottesville trip includes hiking somewhere in Shenandoah National Park (recreation) and Thanksgiving dinner at the Ivy Inn (relaxation).  I’m not trying to fit anything else into that day.  One hike, one meal.  That is all I have planned.

In this way, I hope to allow more wiggle room in future trips.  If, for example, I find that I’m having a really good time, say, touring a plantation in the outskirts of New Orleans (education), I won’t need to rush back to check items four, five, and six off of my itinerary.  Because I won’t have items four, five or six on a list.  Hell, I hope not to have a list.

Suitcase Scholar readers–how to you avoid travel planning overload?  Please offer up suggestions in the comments section below.  I really need some help with this!




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