Planning vs. Spontaneity: Which is better?

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Ohhh the age old question when it comes to planning a trip: how much of your itinerary should be planned and how much should be left open?

There are pros and cons to planning every aspect of your trip or leaving a little too much open to spontaneity. Planning provides you with a schedule so you don’t waste time looking for places to stay/eat/etc. Spontaneity leaves the door open for unexpected adventures. So which do you choose?

I think the best way to go about planning a trip (especially abroad) is to plan out the essentials but leave room for surprises. Know where you are staying. Research the area, read reviews, ask friends who have been there. Organize all flight/train details in advance. Know which days you are traveling and which days you are exploring. Gather a list of good areas you will want to check out or any major activities that can be planned in advance.

But it’s also good to leave some room open! You never know what you will learn when you actually arrive. Talk to locals and keep an open mind. You can only learn so much about a place when reading online from thousands of miles away. It’s good to have a general plan for what you want to do when you arrive at your destination, but don’t stick to your itinerary minute by minute. Allow for changes.

My friends and I are planning a major trip to Europe next month, and we found using Google docs to be very helpful in our planning and research efforts. We planned out our flights/accommodations in each country and then just added ideas for restaurants, bars, and activities we want to check out while in those countries. We add ideas and links to the document, but we don’t plan exactly when we will be doing each activity. That way we have guidelines, not rules.

Below is an example of a Google doc I created for Iceland:

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Ultimately, planning your trip is going to be a personal thing. It’s all about your level of comfort. I tend to be impulsive and don’t like sticking to a strict schedule. I prefer guidelines over concrete plans. However, some people are going to want to know exactly what each day looks like, and that’s okay too. The important thing is personalizing your trip to be what you want it to be. My overall advice, however, would be to plan for some spontaneity. Allow some flexibility to get the most out of your trip and truly experience the wonders of where you are visiting.

What do you find works best for you when planning a trip? Happy travels!

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Erin founded the Wonderlost Travel blog in February of 2015 after her experience of studying abroad in Europe. Erin has had the opportunity to travel throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and parts of South America and Asia. She enjoys writing about and photographing her travel experiences in order to inspire others to get out and follow their travel dreams. She has collaborated with tourism departments, restaurants, and other travel bloggers to share reviews and travel advice with readers in over 100 countries. Erin has a passion for traveling the world to experience other cultures and explore nature!

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