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If you want to have a satisfying vacation, someone is going to have to plan it.   Before you can give the task to anyone there are some issues you need to think through.  Read our article, ponder our recommendations, and get on with your vacation planning.


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Travel Advice - Thoughts on the need for vacation planning

Many travelers think that all you have to do to create a great vacation is to say, “I’m taking a vacation”. Sometimes being on vacation does not result in the pleasant experience that the traveler had in mind. The reason for this disappointment often is a result of inadequate travel planning.

Vacations require planning

Vacations are not automatons that run under their own power. Creating a great vacation requires planning. The success of a vacation reflects how well your vacation plans meet your vacation oriented needs. In other words, every potential traveler needs to spend some time thinking about what they or their family would enjoy about a vacation and, then, decide on a location or itinerary that might meet these needs.

If you do not have time to plan a vacation, stop, take a breath, and tell yourself that you have your priorities in the wrong order. This is not to say that you need to make the travel arrangements or select the specific destinations yourself. If you want to spend only a limited time planning your vacation, find a competent travel planner/agent and let them set an itinerary for you. What we are emphasizing, however, is that you need to decide the type of vacation that you will take.  We think the best approach is to follow the advice we provide in our article Five questions that will help you plan travel.  Of course, there are always different perspectives on travel planning and we describe several alternative perspectives in the article that follows.


In order to understand the value of planning and differences in the types of planning required, consider the distinctions in types of vacationers discussed below.

There is a group of travelers known as “hoppers”. The “hopper” is an explorer with  an insatiable curiosity and plans to see every place that there is a good reason to visit (and some that there is no good reason to visit).

  • "Hoppers" are the itinerant travelers who go to some place new every vacation, continually gather new experiences and rarely tread old paths.
  • “Hoppers” grab a guidebook, plan where to roam and get on with it as thoroughly as possible. In addition, “hoppers” revel in finding unique curiosities during their travels.
  • To be honest, “hoppers” need to work very hard when planning a vacation. One guidebook will not do for this group and consulting local sources is a must. Most people who can be classified “hoppers” enjoy planning almost as much as the vacation.
  • Being an “hopper” can be very rewarding but it, also, means that you have to be willing to spend a lot of time of the front end researching where to go, what to do and planning the logistics of these far ranging trips. Exploring is OK for some. For many, however, vacationing is not a race – it is an experience to be savored.

Another category of vacationers is the “plopper” who just wants to rest and relax in a pleasant environment that includes great service and things to do for everyone in their entourage – but within easy distance of their base location.

  • Some “ploppers” are event oriented (racing, gambling, sports) and want to spend a week or two focused on the activity that they cannot spend time on during the rest of the year.
    • This group does not buy a guidebook or do much planning other than making hotel and travel reservations but does pick-up the “local attractions magazine or map” that summarizes things to do at the destination.
  • There is a lot to recommend “plopping” and all of us do it from time to time.
  • We recommend that you break out of the “plopper” mold and mix some of the “explorer” into the routine. After all, there may be something down the road that is even better.

Another group of vacationers is comprised of those of us who “explore” some places and “plop” in others (sometimes during the same vacation). This group (to which we belong) is one that we like to call the “hopper plopper”.

  • By far this class of tourist defines the largest group of vacation travelers and has planning needs between those of the “hopper” and those of the “plopper” In general, this group selects a destination and then researches the “immediate neighborhood” for the best things to do.  (see our article Should you be a hopper or a plopper?).
  • Hopper ploppers generally include two to three destinations to visit during a vacation,  allowing both hopping and plopping.

Vacation Planning must be based on accommodating your travel needs

In order to have a great vacation experience, you need to decide the  category of vacationing that  would be the most rewarding to you and set about planning an experience that meets these needs,

Our belief is that you should start your vacation planning by considering the kind of travel goals that are meaningful to you and, then, take action based on that analysis.

  • For example, if you like to explore, we suggest that you need some further introspection on what kinds of roaming is most interesting to you (e.g. historic, scenic, entertainment, nightlife, cultural, etc.).
  • Based on this examination, you should select a guidebook that focuses on what is important to you and decide how to fill your itinerary to meet the specific vacation based goal of interest to you.
  • If you are a “hop and plopper”, you should have a list of top things that you would like to see for every place that you plan on visiting.
    • Our suggestion is that this list be limited: you will always see new things that uniquely appeal to you while you explore new locations. How many places to schedule is an interesting question that we discuss in the article When Less is More.
    • We believe in a “limiting” exploration strategy for several reasons but most importantly
      • having a long list of things to do takes the fun out of the vacation: it soon becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and you rush to  get through it.
    • Stay loose; be spontaneous. You will regret it if you do not allow yourself time to do something just because you wanted to take a look.
    • Finally, having too many opportunities on a list limits the time since you spend less time at any one location, as you will feel rushed in your need to get to the next attraction and check it off your list.
    • You are going on  vacation - relax and lighten up!

Remember, there are many destinations that just do not have a lot of interesting things to do (we did not say that you could not make up a long list of things to do, just that most of these things might not qualify as “interesting). So adjust your list to suit the location. If there are limited opportunities, see the highlight and take a walk, people watch (always great fun), have a great meal, or just spend some time in the rack taking a snooze - after all, it is a vacation.

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