In the well over 80 comments we have had so far the question of whether to do your own travel planning and arranging or use professional help is one of the most frequent themes.
This does not come as a surprise. If the shared belief of the participants in this blog is that Vacation Time is Precious, then it figures that wisdom about how to plan and arrange vacations will be a recurring theme.
For a start, if you have not done so already, I suggest you read Max Waugh’s very perceptive account of the pros and cons of the different ways that he plans his trips. Since Max has covered this so well I am going to write about some general concepts that I have found to be helpful no matter whether you are planning and arranging on your own or using professional help.
Despite the fact that I have spent a good deal of time pondering how to plan and arrange vacation both for our guests and for Yolanda and me, I still find that my thinking on this topic continues to evolve. One thing that does seem clear is that there are no pat one size fits all answers.
The short answer to questions on how you should plan your vacation is that it depends on who you are. That said, I have found that it helps to break down thinking about vacation planning into four concepts: Time, Trust Tolerance and Goals.
Time: How much time do you have to plan and how much time will you be traveling for. If you’re vacation is 3 months losing a 2 or 3 days because of imperfect planning is a lot less critical than if your vacation is 3 days.
Trust: If you are planning a vacation on your own determining what information you can trust is vital. Using professional help to plan and arrange your holiday makes no sense if you cannot trust the planner.
Tolerance: Tolerance for things going wrong and tolerance for worrying about things going wrong. This brings us back to trust. If you have a high tolerance for things going wrong, it is not that important to be able to trust that the hotel reservation you made directly with a small independent hotel will actually be honored.
If you do not have a high tolerance for worrying about things going wrong, using a trustworthy professional to plan and arrange your trip makes sense, but it is not enough. You have to trust that the planner is trustworthy. Another way to look at it is that one of the most important benefits you should receive when using professionals for your vacation is peace of mind.
Goals: The old saying goes, “If you do not know where you are going you probably will not get there.” What if your idea of the perfect vacation is to show up somewhere with no plans and let what happens happen? Then spontaneity is your goal and the old saying still apples. Since vacations are largely about time, and time, especially vacation time is largely about memories, perhaps the most helpful perspective on vacation goals I have found goes like this: “Looking back 6 months from the end of your holiday, what would have had to happen for you to say that this vacation had been the time of your life?”*
For sure many people have wonderful holidays without consciously thinking in terms of these concepts. On the other hand many disappointing vacations could have been avoided and perfectly acceptable vacations improved if these ideas had been taken into account.
Since tolerance seems to be the least understood concept, in my next post I am going tell you about one of Yolanda’s and my biking vacations to illustrate why how much tolerance you have for uncertainty should be an important factor in deciding how to plan your leisure travel.
In the meantime, Please let me know if this way of thinking makes sense to you and share accounts of your vacations. Did time, trust, tolerance and goals come into play?
For a moving and eloquent look at vacation goals, if you have not done so already, I suggest you read Patty’s account of, among other things, her trip to China with her mother.
* I first heard this idea expressed in a somewhat different manner in a brilliant presentation by Don Sullivan at Virtuoso Travel Mart in 2003.