When I start trip-planning, I notice how my brain will occasionally jump from idea to idea. I find this helpful because I’ll sometimes discover options that I might have otherwise missed. However, I also find that this can be a huge time sink as I’ll end up spending way too much time on booking a simple hotel and rental car.
Just like in story-telling, there are different ways to plan your travels. There’s a linear approach where you find a hotel, airfare and maybe a car rental and book your trip. You can save time by booking a package containing all three. Simply enter your information once and you’re all done. There’s also a more non-linear, or stream of consciousness, approach. You’ll still get your travel plans made, but you’ll take some detours along the way while planning. Maybe when you’re looking at hotels, you’ll have an idea that a Bed and Breakfast or Airbnb might be a better choice for the stay so you’ll look into those for a while. This could also mean that while looking at flights to a destination, you start wondering what options there would be if you drove? There’s that place where you could stop on the way that you’ve always wanted to visit or friends that you’d be able to meet up with. While thinking about this, you remember the points in a program where you can get a fourth night free, or have a free night, or have a gift card, or even a special promotion that’s going on. After going over all of these options, you eventually decide on the details of your trip and book it (leaving open the chance you still change things around a few times before the trip).
Is one of these types of planning better than another?
The linear approach is much more straightforward and is perfect for those who don’t like to spend a lot of time making plans and will be happy with any vacation. However, if you’re reading a travel blog, I’d say it’s a fair assumption that you have some interest in improving your travel experiences. Just booking a trip by picking a flight from Expedia, adding on the cheapest car they show you and staying at the Hampton Inn because they have free breakfast is fine, but you might do better by just spending a few minutes more.
The non-linear approach is a bit more confusing and time-consuming. Once you open up your mind and jump down the rabbit hole, you may spend hours down there, checking different airlines, hotels, rental cars, public transportation, Uber availability, location of the sites you want to see, etc. I know this from experience, as I tend to let my mind wander when travel planning and see where it takes me. Eventually, this can happen:
Guilty as charged.
I think there’s a happy medium in there. Having a straightforward approach to your travel planning will get you where you want to go. Of course, you may end up paying more money or staying at a mediocre place or missing out on an event just because you didn’t take a few minutes to check other options. Letting yourself explore options can lead you to some interesting places. However, I don’t think Sharon’s going to be thrilled about us staying in a yurt on our next trip to Tennessee (Note from Sharon: True story!).
Come on, don’t those look awesome? Still not worth me spending time on researching that option if we’re never going to do it.
My advice. If you’re a linear planner, open yourself up to some options. Look at things you normally wouldn’t. If you’re non-linear, set some limits for yourself. Don’t go studying the train schedules from Newark Airport to Penn Station and figuring how fast you’ll need to walk to get to the station so you won’t need to wait for the next train or would be it just faster to get an Uber to New York but then you’ll be paying for all the tolls. Not that I’ve ever done that. What would make you think I would have done that?
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary