Over-planning Kills the Magic



Yesterday, I started a blog post and it triggered this little post. I have a small problem and I’m going to fess up. Do people still say ‘fess up’? When it comes to travel,  I’m a notorious over-planner. It started when my children were young. I didn’t want to get off in some faraway location without every snack, medicine, or piece of clothing my babies might need. Also, I didn’t want to go anywhere without a reservation, so I meticulously planned every stop for every trip we made. Ask anyone who has ever traveled with me, I over think my trips.

It’s not entirely my fault that I over-plan. Travel was a lot easier when I was young, because fewer people traveled. You could hit the road and not worry about a place to eat or sleep. Today, if you’re heading anywhere touristy and it’s not off-season, you better make a reservation.

Not everything is bad about being an over-planner. I’m not sure where the line is drawn between your ordinary, everyday planner and your over-planner, but I’ve made a list of the pitfalls and the advantages I’ve found in my little world.

Pitfalls of the over-planned vacation:

  • ,You have little time to discover things on your own. We were In Zion National Park and  I really wanted to hike The Narrows. We had a reservation in Bryce National Park for that evening. We couldn’t spare the time for the hike. My heart ached as I watched hikers head down the path to adventure, and I had to run the other way, because of my over-planned agenda.
The Narrows
The Narrows, Zion National Park, flickr.com
  • Everything collapses if one thing goes wrong. Car trouble or a sick traveler and you’re trying to figure out how to get to that next reservation. On the bright side, in cases of sickness, an over-planner always has a medicine kit (see advantages of the over-planned vacation below).
  • If you have to cancel a trip, it takes many phone calls and emails. Canceling a trip is a lot of work with no reward.
  • You have too much luggage because you are prepared for everything. We were on a tight budget when the children were small. I packed raincoats, snacks, hiking boots, snorkeling gear, and toys for downtime on our trips. (like I allowed for downtime) I took everything we might need instead of budgeting to buy a new one if we did need something along the trip. Now, my mantra is, ‘you can buy it if you need it‘. Rarely, do I travel to a remote location without a grocery store or a pharmacy. Rarely, do I need to buy the stuff I didn’t pack.
shutterstock image

Advantages of the over-planned vacation:

  • You know about the ‘must sees‘ and ‘cool and unusual things to do‘. I visit many websites searching locations before we head out on a trip. I want to have the best cuisine offered on my travels. I want to know the hidden gems of the towns I visit. A few years back, we were going to Chicago and I discovered that Neil deGrasse Tyson was in town at the same time we were in Chicago. I got tickets to the show. Initially, I’m not sure anyone was excited about this, other than me. Afterwards, I think everyone was glad we went to see him. Who knew an astrophysicist could be so entertaining?
  • You know what to expect in regards to the weather. I couldn’t tell you what the weather in my hometown will be tomorrow, but when I travel, I’ve done the research. Weather can be unpredictable even to the traveler-in-the-know, so I throw in an extra umbrella, just in case.
  • You have everything you need ahead of time. I’m like the boy scout – prepared.  I have a medicine kit, safety pins, and always a blanket for a chilly plane or car ride. I have become a better packer, the more I travel. I love to brag after a trip and let everyone know I wore everything I packed. It’s my travel badge of honor. Any traveler will tell you, packing is an art.

I think there has to be a balance when you plan a trip. I want to be more spontaneous, but I go into panic mode when I’m not in control. Hopefully, I’ll overcome this malady. Eventually, my husband and I want to travel around America, without an agenda. If we want to take the road-less-traveled to glimpse the Twine Ball Museum in Minnesota or the World’s Largest Fork in Missouri, who’s to stop us. Hopefully, not this over-planning globe-trotter.


Traveling should be fun and, when traveling with family, it should be about the time together. I’m lucky and I have easy-going family members. They accept my over-planning ways with few complaints. I think we have fun when we travel.

Next week, I’m going to tell you about a trip we took when I honestly didn’t plan anything for us to do.

Now that I’m writing more, I have less time to over-plan my life. I’m pretty sure, that’s a good thing.




  1. So many good comments here. Going to New Mexico this Fall. I have no idea what we’re going to do, but I know where we are sleeping every night. Taos here we come! Miss seeing you

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m quite a planner too and have very few regrets about it. We’ve managed some absolutely fabulous dream vacations. They’re busy, but we get to fit in all the important stuff. But yes, I agree that scheduling in some cushion or downtime in case things go wrong, so that not everything falls down like a house of (carefully laid) cards.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh Karen, this post tugged at my heart strings. It’s natural to plan and cover every eventuality when you are travelling with your children. It’s what parents do. You will undoubtedly find yourself relaxing a bit more now, because you can. There is so much written and spoken about nowadays on how we have to change elements of our nature. Do we? Really? I feel you are perfectly imperfect, just as you are. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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