The Joy of Planning


I know. Anybody who has ever known me will look at that title and laugh. I hate to plan anything. Because of my ADD, I have–resentfully–learned to make lists and rely on calendars. But how much fun can planning be?

When it leads to a trip to India or Ireland or Chile is at the end of it, a lot of fun.

I love planning trips, especially now that the internet has made research cheaper. It has, conversely, made it harder, of course. Do you know how many B&Bs, inns and hotels there are in Florence alone? Do you know how many review sites there are? I could stay on line for the rest of my life, just comparing rental houses in County Kerry Ireland (in fact, I almost did).

As disorganized as I am in almost all areas of my life, I'm very organized in planning travel. I am, amazing as it is to behold, methodical. The first question is whether I've been to the spot before. If I have, of course it's an easier course. If not, then travelogues are involved, be it the Inside books, or Frommers or Rough Guide. I tend to look for the out-of-the way places, the towns big buses don't visit. It's why I initially visited the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. All the buses trundled around the Ring of Kerry, making it overrun and the roads dangerous. Dingle, at the time, was blessedly unchanged. Nothing stays the same, though. The buses finally found Dingle. I still go anyway. I fell too madly in love long before the buses changed the scene.

But I digress. Let's see. What's next? Dates, places, and then, my favorite, accommodations. There is no better way to spend an evening (or develop tendonitis) than to skim internet sites that specialize in travel accommodations. Some guides specialize in certain countries, like Alastair Sawday or Georgina Campbell. I'll mention them in reference to the pertinent trip. Then I check everything with a review site like Trip Advisor. I have found that if you get used to it, Trip Advisor is a wonderful tool. You just have to know what your expectations are as opposed to those of some of the reviewers. For instance, if you're visiting a family castle in Ireland that obviously isn't geared to rich tourists, it would probably be too much to expect spas and wi-fi. I interpret the review accordingly. I also tailor my expectations depending on who travels with us. Rick and I are more adventurous travelers than many, and would put up with more surprises than most people we know. For evaluating my possible choices, I've found that sites like Hotels.com and Travelocity also provide reviews that are pretty reliable.

Personally I look for something unique. Either a view or a special place, like a historic house, or something evocative: a villa in Italy or a horse farm in Ireland. I love staying in the country better than town, but I see the benefit of staying within walking distance of a pub. And if at all possible, I stay as far away from tourist hotels as I can. I go to France to see the French. I can see Americans in Akron.

And if I'm going to Colorado, I'd rather meet the people who live in Colorado, not St. Louis.

Of course the regimen is reliant on whether I've been to the place, or whether others are coming with me. I decide if I need help, as I did planning the trip to India, or not, as happens with trips to Ireland. I decide what help I'll need. I gather information about where I want to go and what I want to do. I have ten days in Italy. Do I have time for everything I want to see? If I have to sacrifice something, is it Florence or Venice? Since we're taking several of my siblings, do any of them have an opinion?

If necessary, we have a meeting to set down expectations and restrictions. When I took my brothers and their wives to Ireland, my one brother wanted to stay in a castle. My sister-in-law wanted to see wildlife. I could accommodate them both. I'm afraid, though, if one of them had said they wanted to attend a medieval banquet at Bunratty Castle, I would have maybe dropped them off. Fortunately, they know that.

Next week, we'll talk about the next phase…close encounters of the third kind.