Why I’m Not Good At Spontaneous Travel

On our last trip to London, we planned the trip with only two months notice. I had requested time off of work for a cruise we were planning, but that ended up not happening. Having vacation time approved and no plans is just something that doesn’t happen to us. After seeing Hamilton in Orlando at the Dr. Phillips Center, we started to think about the next time we could see what has become our newest favorite show (but we’re not superfans, even if we did a podcast with our local newspaper about how much we like the show).

We’ve already seen Hamilton in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. While going to Chicago again would be the easiest trip, I just blurted out, “We’ve never seen Hamilton in London”. That’s all the inspiration Sharon needed and within hours she found us tickets for the London production coinciding with the time I had already requested off from work. Once I confirmed that I could find award space for flights, the trip was all but planned.

Once I booked the flights and hotel and Sharon booked the Hamilton tickets, the planning stopped. We were going to be in London for three full days. What were we going to do?

Besides going to see Hamilton, visiting the London Dungeon attraction and hitting some tiki bars, we had no idea.

We talked about it but we got to the point where the trip was so close that if we didn’t have plans yet, why should we start now? Let’s just wing it. We have phones, internet and transit maps. We’ve been to London a half dozen or more times before so we’re familiar with the city. We’ll just make plans as we go.

Let me tell you, this is NOT our usual modus operandi. What were we thinking???

Going on a trip like this taught me one thing – this is not the way that I like to travel. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the trip; I had a great time. But I always had in the back of my mind, “What will we do next?”

There are advantages of not having plans. I was open to doing things I might not have done otherwise. For example, we saw posters in the London Underground for Company playing on the West End, which just won four Oliver Awards. The show was closing on March 30th but we were able to walk by the theater and snag some tickets for the next day’s show.

We also spent some time walking around The British Museum. It’s a place we visited a long time ago on, our first trip to London in the mid 1990s. All we remembered was we were tremendously jetlagged, the stunning architecture of the atrium and the Rosetta Stone.

British Museum

Our visit was much better this time, as we walked through most of the galleries at a leisurely pace. Since we had no other plans for the day, we could take as little or as much time exploring, and for us, that was just around 4 hours 🙂

Sharon’s opinion of the museum was the much the same as John Oliver’s feeling towards it, as seen at the end of this clip:

One day we visited the London Dungeon and since we were on the south bank of the Thames, an area we never spent time exploring, we decided to just take a walk. We went past the London Eye and eventually ended up at the Tate Modern. We’re not big into art but we did head up to the viewing deck on the top floor to check out the view. The museum, and the view, is free which sure is cheaper than buying a same-day ticket to the top of the Shard for £32

St Pauls Cathedral

On our last day of sightseeing, we got a late start. We sat at the hotel lounge, thinking of other Londony things to do and we realized that we’d never taken a tour of Tower Bridge.

It’s one of the iconic landmarks of London but while we’ve taken countless pictures, we never went to the top. We decided to fix that omission, but that was only after Sharon added another picture to her photobomb collection.

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I got over my fear of heights, but there was no way you were going to get me to lay down on that glass floor. (Note from Sharon: Chicken.)

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Final Thoughts

When I started writing this article, I was sure I was dead set against ever doing a “wing it” vacation again. I’m just too detail oriented to not know what I’m doing next. I’m not spontaneous. Sorry, not sorry.

However looking back at the trip, we sure did manage to do a bunch of things we’ve never thought of doing before. We didn’t have to be somewhere by a specific time, except for the two shows we went to see. We picked restaurants that sounded good and were nearby when we got hungry (although one of them did scam us). I wish I could have just let go and enjoyed it more at the moment.

Sure, there were things I found about after we were there but weren’t able to visit because they were booked up. Oh well. That’s the price you pay when not making plans. I didn’t stress over it because, in the end, it was my fault. There’s always next time.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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