I completely understand the desire to plan; I plan every working day down to the minute with a strict routine. I do this to increase my productivity, as without it I’d almost certainly spend 90% of my time on either Facebook or Reddit.
But travel is a different beast.
We’ve all sat down and made that pretty travel itinerary that outlines our trip day by day, or hour by hour. And, because we’re creatures of expectation thanks to our swollen frontal lobes, we like to have things set out for us.
We’ve developed a fear of the unknown that in the present world doesn’t do us much good.
Playing it safe as a result of fear can flat-out ruin a travel experience before you’ve even left for the airport, so be sure to make a note of…
…The 5 Worst Travel Itinerary Mistakes
- 1. Planning your travel itinerary too rigidly
Travel planning is a part of travel culture which makes it hard to challenge, but challenge it we must. A whole lot of people love the idea of going with the flow, but when it comes down to it line-by-line plans seem to win out.
Downloading an itinerary template and filling out the spaces makes us feel good, because it lets us believe we’re in control. The reality of the situation is that we are not.
If we’re unwilling to change our plans at short notice, there’s a good chance we’re going to miss out on spontaneous experiences. These unexpected experiences are crucial to our development. They loosen the grip of our expectations and help us appreciate the present moment for what it is; the only moment we have.
- Squeezing too much in
Don’t try to do too much.
How can we enjoy the simplicity of a life on the road if we don’t take the time to breathe things in?
It’s okay, I get it – some of us only have a limited time to see the places we travel to. But surely being in a place allows for a deeper, richer experience.
Learning how to really exist in an unfamiliar place takes time. We need to invest that time, slowly, to develop an appreciation of what the here and now really gifts us.
- Building expectations
Another danger of over-planning a travel itinerary is building expectations.
An expectation is a form of attachment – an attachment to or belief in a future that hasn’t yet happened. If that belief turns out to be nonsense, we can find ourselves deflated.
“We assumed that everything would be fine, but then there was a bus crash and it took 6 hours to get to Bangkok instead of 3. We missed our connecting flight to Indonesia and our weekend plans were ruined.”
The stress that comes from well-established plans going wrong, or things being different to the way we imagined, is far worse than the challenge of sorting things out when we arrive at the destination.
Don’t just take my word for it – try it yourself.
- Forgetting to add breathing space
If we absolutely have to make a travel itinerary, which I still do from time to time, we can’t forget to include time for reflection.
I don’t mean 30 minutes breathing room in case your taxi is late picking you up, I mean creating a true mental space to appreciate what you’re experiencing.
If our schedules are filled with back to back adventure, we don’t have time to let our minds settle. If we don’t let our minds settle to absorb the experiences, we’re not giving ourselves the chance to grow.
Sometimes I’ll take a whole day out of travelling to meditate and go out for short walks. The space allows me to root myself deep in the experience and enjoy myself all the more for it.
- Letting your itinerary rule you
Letting travel plans rule us is the most potent poison on this list because it’s such an easy trap to fall into. It’s better to think of a travel itinerary as a list of ideas rather than a binding contract.
I once saw a couple’s travel itinerary become more important than the trip itself, and that led to all sorts of problems.
Control may be an illusion, but choice is not. It’s up to us to decide whether to follow plans we’ve outlined or throw them away.
Travelling the world and engaging with the people in it has the power to change us fundamentally. If we open our minds to what these experiences have to teach, we become stronger, happier and more compassionate people ready to do real good in the world.
What does your travel itinerary look like? Do you have a story about a time when a strict schedule did more harm than good? Share your experiences in the comments below.