Planning Itineraries

How we travel as a couple

Waterfalls and brush of the Snake River Canyon

Twin Falls, ID to Salt Lake City—and making a flight in a timely manner—was a challenge. September 2019

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June 9th, 2020 at 3:15pm

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God yes, we plan

As a couple, my wife and I plan our trips.

Seasoned pros can skip this page.

We don't have absurdly detailed itineraries. (Note: we usually take city trips.) We do this as a vague outline no matter where we go:

  • Relaxed breakfast, almost never early
  • One visit in the mid- to late morning
  • Lunch
  • One visit in the afternoon
  • Rest (hotel, a park, a cafe, etc)
  • Dinner

In travel—unless it's camping or a beach vacation—we might restate the above as, "Amateurs 'play it by ear,' professionals talk logistics."

If a visit will be short, yes, we do a second thing if it's close by. The key is we don't rush around, we don't cram, we don't stress. And we make sure the plans make as much logistical sense as possible.

Be a professional

The statement has been attributed to two different generals—which means neither said it—but you've probably heard it before: Amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics.

It's true. In travel—unless it's camping or a beach vacation—we might restate the above as, Amateurs 'play it by ear,' professionals talk logistics.

Think of the connections

When planning your itinerary, don't forget how you're getting there, what's nearby, and what the obstacles are or might reasonably be.

Astonishing gold mosaic in an apse, apostles gathered around Jesus

She planned Rome, but I wanted to see basilicas (basilicae?). We saw a lot. Oct 2014

In other words:

  • Clump your visits together as much as possible. Unless it's a small town, don't go to one museum on the north side, then to the east side for lunch, get the point. I've heard about this mistake more often than you might think. I made it when I was younger.
  • Think of the specifics of getting from A to B to C. Look at a map and figure out how you're getting from one place to another. Ask yourself: if you're walking, is that too much? Will public transportation make the connection easier or more difficult? How do things change if it's too hot or it's raining? What if you're carrying shopping bags? If you're driving, will you be able to park easily? Etc etc. The connections matter.

Don't plan together

It's fun to plan everything together—until it's not.

We avoid the inevitable burnout and mutual annoyance by distributing the planning: I take Paris, she takes Rome. I ask if she has specific wants/needs, and I accommodate those, then I plan literally everything else (attractions, restaurants, hotels, etc). And vice versa.

It has been—for us at least—a spectacularly successful way to plan trips. It lightens the load for each of us, it incorporates surprise, but it also allows each of us to feel heard.

Case in point: a few years ago, we spent five days in Rome. I had planned other parts of the trip, including Paris. I told Gina I wanted to see basilicas. Lots of basilicas—like the ones from my medieval art history classes in college—and I wanted to see the Sistine Chapel. As long as we checked those boxes, we could do anything and everything she wanted, because she planned it. (The Rome leg was incredible!)

A huge, huge, huge statue of a goddess warrior in gold holding a shield

She planned Nashville. I thought I'd hate the Parthenon, but I loved it. Oct 2015

Gorgeous woman on deck of the Eiffel Tower

I planned Paris, but she wanted to go up the Eiffel Tower. So we went. Oct 2014

For Paris, Gina wanted to see arcades, she wanted to go up the Eiffel Tower, and she had her eye on a particular restaurant (which we liked but didn't love). Other than that, yeah, I had it covered. (The Paris leg was incredible!)

One more thing: Unless a hotel bowls us over in the city we're planning, we often select three and let the "non-planner" choose the one they like best. That is, when I planned Memphis, there was no discussion: we stayed at The Peabody. When I planned Paris, she chose from the three I suggested.

Once more

  1. We follow a simple outline no matter where go
  2. We try our best to visit things in the same area and we pay close attention to the connective tissue of the itinerary
  3. We distribute responsibility for planning

We take awesome vacations every time.

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