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How Much Planning Is Too Much?

Connor with Pack

In April of 2013, I emailed the link to a London vacation rental to my husband, Duncan, while he was out having lunch. We’d previously discussed, rather vaguely, a trip to London for the summer of 2015. Duncan mentioned the rental to my son, who said “Aren’t we going there in, like, two years?” Then, “Is that normal?”

It isn’t the first time my son has questioned my sanity (and it won’t be the last) and planning two years ahead for a vacation is probably a bit much. I’ll also admit that the intensity with which I scour travel websites is suspiciously proportional to the volume of dirty dishes in my kitchen sink. Be that as it may, there are some perfectly rational – even productive – reasons to plan vacations well in advance.

1. Working out the numbers.
Travel as a family is expensive, and we’re not made of money. Flights and accommodations are a huge part of the cost of a vacation, so researching well ahead of time can help determine whether that dream vacation is a financial possibility. Knowing whether it’s necessary to put extra money aside or adjust spending habits can mean the difference between a vacation and a staycation.

2. Permission to dream.
Delving into a book or website about a dream vacation extends the excitement of the trip. Without time constraints, you’re free to radically change your plans, or even decide to scrap the trip and go somewhere else. Regardless, nothing much is at stake when your trip is a year away. The most creative travel ideas spring to mind when the pressure is off.

3. Securing accommodations and flights.
Families with school aged kids are often restricted to traveling when everyone else is traveling, namely school breaks. This is especially true as kids get older, when catching up on a missed week of school becomes a bigger challenge. With this kind of limited flexibility, waiting for last minute deals on flights is risky. You’re much better off planning and booking well ahead.

Bored Kids
Plan ahead and spend less time doing this……

4. Allowing for spontaneity.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but proper planning increases spontaneity on the road. Don’t plan ahead on your trip to Paris and you may spend a good part of your day scrutinizing train schedules, decoding subway maps, and lining up for tickets. Particularly if you’ll only be there a few days, deciding ahead which major sites you’ll visit and which day trips you’ll take can mean more time spent soaking up the atmosphere, hunting for the best eats, and chatting with locals.

So there you have it. Four sane reasons to plan wayyyy ahead. So, to answer my son’s question – is it normal? My husband’s response was this: “No, it’s actually kind of weird. But it’s a good weird.”

… and more time doing this.

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