Want More Fun and Less Stress on Vacation? Don’t Overplan!


I know it can be tough to do: You’re going on holiday to a new and exciting place. You’re bursting with energy and excitement…you’ve got many, MANY spots you’re interested in visiting and you spend countless hours researching….everything. You want to be sure to get it all in, in the relatively short amount of time you have. Want less stress on vacation? Planning in itself can be stressful. But hold on…take deep breaths…relax.

Chances are you will not be able to fit in EVERYTHING you want to see; even more so if you are traveling as a group or with family.

Case In Point

I have made this mistake more than once. Most notably, the first time we went to Washington D.C. We had only 5 days to see the sights. But I figured, no problem, we’ll just carefully plan exactly what we’re going to do and when we’re going to do it. So we made a list of every attraction we wanted to visit. We planned a set amount of time to see it, and with some maneuvering and shuffling, we got everything in.

Cut to landing in our nation’s capital (from a 6am flight, no less).

After checking into our hotel and having a quick meal, we set off. It was late afternoon and since we were staying near the west end of the National Mall, we headed out to visit the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam and Korean War Memorial. We went to bed that night tired, but satisfied that we were so far achieving our goals.

However, the next day…

We set out bright and early to start covering the rest of the National Mall. In our heads, we were aware of the vast expanse of the Mall and all of its many offerings, but our bodies quickly brought reality to light…by mid-afternoon, with just a quick hot dog for lunch, we were exhausted. We had only covered the National Air & Space Museum and Freer Gallery of Art. All we wanted was to go back to the hotel for a quick rest, then dinner. And we still had the Smithsonian Castle to tackle that day.

Well, that didn’t happen. Museums close at 5pm, and after dinner, we were still sore from walking around all day to even explore the neighborhood around our hotel. We ended up watching TV for the rest of the evening as our leg muscles recovered.


Why am I telling you all of this?  Because so often when we plan our travel, our “eyes are bigger than our stomach”. We simply could not take in everything we wanted to in the short 5 days we had. Sadly, the Capitol building and the Library of Congress had to wait for another trip, not to mention spending any real time in scenic Georgetown. And squeezing in a quick visit to the Pentagon? Forget it. We just didn’t have the time. It was very disappointing.

Learn to Slow Down

So, the sage advice I have to offer is this…either pare down your must-see attractions (a lot), or plan to spend up to twice as much time as you think you’ll need. Make a SHORT LIST of things you absolutely must do and see, but leave plenty of time open for unplanned opportunities that will most certainly come your way. There are so many uncertainties when you reach your destination; things ALWAYS come up. You may get there and want to check out something you passed by on your way to a must-see. Or you may get in a conversation with a local and they suggest something of interest to you that you never thought of. Or God forbid, you get sick.

The moral of the story is: Leave time open for the spontaneous; it will make for a more enriching and enjoyable travel experience. And take time to RELAX. Isn’t that the very definition of vacation?

“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.” — Lawrence Block

I’m always looking for new tips and tricks to alleviate the stress of planning. What do YOU do to prepare for your holiday trips?

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  • Amie

    September 6, 2016 at 11:17 pm

    Awsome site! I am loving it!! Will come back again.

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About Me

Hi, I’m Susan, a travel writer based in Portland, Oregon. THANKS for stopping by my Pacific Northwest travel site! This blog focuses on Pacific Northwest travel, but also is a place showcase all of my travels, and is a great place to start when planning your next vacation to my area of the world. Please e-mail me or leave a comment, I’m here to help!

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