Forget the itinerary – plan a spontaneous trip instead

Plan a day dedicated to spontaneous travel on your next vacation.


Plan a day dedicated to spontaneous travel on your next vacation.

Josh Martin is a Kiwi travel writer based in London.

OPINION: Admittedly, I thought it was a great idea.

A detailed two-week itinerary of a road trip through North Iceland, tweaked to within an inch of his life. It contained food recommendations, must-see glaciers and ice caves adjacent to the accommodation, nearby geysers and gas stations, etc., all entered into an Excel spreadsheet to share with a group.

The trip was clearly a success – despite that hyper stage 5 organizer – as the file had been shared and re-shared and ended up in my wife’s inbox. Annual leave limitations delayed our trip to Iceland and at the time I regretted not being able to take advantage of such planning at the military mission level.

We deviated to the south of the island and followed a busy trip that followed the main tourist route (despite the geysers, waterfalls and glaciers, my strongest memory remains a supermarket parking lot full of tourists eating food cheap as they could find, given how expensive the food is there).

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Now, with a plethora of apps offering driving directions, location hacks and must-see activities, modern social media travel means you don’t even need email attachments titled Iceland_Team_Roadtrip_version6. xlsx.

Has it become too easy? Have social media suggestions become a self-fulfilling prophecy of popularity by default and undermine our craving for off-piste? Are they setting us up to feel deflated? It certainly adds to the list of destinations to visit, tables to eat, places to see.

Traveling man and hobby man

Joe Lycett made his debut as host of Travel Man earlier this year.

So it’s no surprise that whether it’s plotting days in a notebook and cross-referencing Greek ferry schedules or adding a backpacking trip to Southeast Asia to get the most Starting from the Thai Railway timetable, I’ve always been biased towards an obsessive over-planner rather than an unbothered nomad.

I’ll scribble notes, fill in schedules, and happily spend a disproportionate amount of time researching a meal that might be an hour, the “perfect” beach that might be two, the hike that might be three. The type to spend hours finding the best bed for me to save a 20 minute walk into town. Genius? Control manipulator?

Well, something of an intervention occurred on a recent trip to Tuscany. Perhaps such a romantic and high-profile destination sparked so many travel Instagrammer fantasies that it was all short-circuited. Shy of a hotel reservation on a vineyard, we hadn’t booked anything.

“What should we do today?” asked my wife. I shrugged. “I have no idea”. It was wonderful. The weather let us down one day, the Vespa rental had a problem, the bus never showed up. All three were boring and out of our control – but a lazy lack of planning meant that those troubles didn’t have a domino effect, where an over-planned, over-hyped day is ‘ruined’.

This meant we had the ability to swerve and bump into things. When your fleeting holidays are timed to the hour, you deprive yourself of this spontaneity. Yes, excellent food and wine have helped enormously in rural Italy and perhaps it is worth taking this approach in a destination where it can be almost guaranteed.

Likewise, I realize that I’ll never be the kind of traveler to just “show up and fly” that Kiwi “she’ll be right” attitude that leads to nights camped at a train station or missing a hike at the Machu Picchu until a lack of reservation in advance. Wasting time scrounging up a wi-fi cafe to book a room on the day of arrival is not how I envision my first few hours in any destination. Is there a middle ground if the goal is to have plans without exaggerating expectations?

Perhaps a day set aside for aimless wandering and raking in activities (or table reservations) that you don’t discover until you arrive. Better yet: put away the list of must-haves. Maybe you’ll put your phone down, but let’s definitely draw the line on a reshared Excel spreadsheet.

Do you prefer to plan detailed itineraries for your vacation or opt for a more spontaneous route? Let us know in the comments.

About Andrew Miller

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