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Planned versus spontaneous travel
I didn't want this to be us on our UK honeymoon.

Planned versus spontaneous travel: which one is for you?

When we were planning our wedding, I was driving my husband-to-be crazy. Not because I was bridezilla, complaining about dresses, decorations or other minor details.

It was because I was a planner.

It was a battle between planned versus spontaneous travel. I was pro planned travel and my significant other in love with carefree, no plans-type vacations.

Knowing that we would probably have only one big opportunity for a trip to Scotland and England for a very long time, I planned our honeymoon to a T.

Every single detail of our travel itinerary was double-checked prior to setting out on your trip. There was no room for mistakes. No room for going with the flow. No room for seeing what adventures we could experience on the fly. No room even to get sick (which I did, but luckily towards the end of the trip).

The Big Difference

I learned a key lesson – there’s a difference between planned versus spontaneous travel. I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to travel. I need to know what is going on, what we are doing, and where we are going. Being like this means you are somewhat stressed when you head out on your trip, but you also know that you will get as much as possible out of your time there.

My planning affected my husband too. Between all of the wedding details and getting ready for the honeymoon trip, he left our BritRail passes that I had bought in advance at his place. We got to Toronto Pearson Airport and he realized he had left them on his dresser. Ooops! We had to be spontaneous and purchase tickets all over again.

Although we don’t regret the trip, I know we would have had a more relaxing honeymoon if we did an all-inclusive beach resort somewhere in the Caribbean.

Travelling Outside Your Comfort Zone

You see what I did there with that sub-heading? Hah!

My journeys into spontaneous travel have been few but memorable. For a solo trip that I did to the UK in 2008, I spent two months reading up on the history, key attractions and places I could potentially visit. All that research was the basis of the four page itinerary I created. What was pretty amazing was that I managed to stick to almost all of plan during my trip.

I strayed from my plan by getting up early on a Sunday morning while staying in London. I went walking through Battersea Park, across the Thames at Albert Bridge, up through the streets of Chelsea to Brompton Rd and the London Oratory (Brompton Oratory). There I was. Exhausted and plopping down in a pew, attending early morning mass that was sung in Latin. Quite the exhilarating experience!

Two years later, I did a complete reversal.  When travelling to the Dominican Republic, I spent eleven days on the beach in Cabarete. I had made no plans for day trips, no special activities and yet, I had a fantastic time, with many fond memories.

Tanned legs, planned versus spontaneous travel

All I did during my trip to Cabarete, DR was read, relax and get a good tan on my legs (something that rarely happens).

Partner With a Spontaneous Traveler

When Frank and I started dating, he would whisk me away on day trips without knowing where we would be going. It’s Frank’s favourite way to travel: the “mystery tour” day trip. We always end up in some place that’s new to me, with something new to explore. The best thing about it is, that I may have never gone there on my own if it hadn’t been for him.

Planned versus spontaneous travel

My husband Frank took me on a mystery tour to… Port Burwell’s beach at Burwell Provincial Park.

It’s like having a map open in front of you, closing your eyes and just pointing to a spot without seeing it. Wherever your finger lands, that’s where you go.

There are other things about planned versus spontaneous travel to consider.

Planned Travel

  • Planned trips can be rich in experiences that you’ve always wanted to do, and places visited.
  • With planned trips you don’t miss out on opportunities that require booking ahead.
  • You can get easier access with “front of the line” pre-bookings, giving you extra time for other activities
  • You find deals that can cut your spending, or allow you to dine at expensive restaurants as a treat.
  • You can research about the place you are going, particularly about the history and culture – when you get there, you have a better understanding of what you are experiencing.
  • You can take your time planning the perfect trip. It’s a great rainy day activity.

Spontaneous Travel

  • There is no familiarity in what you are seeing/experiencing – you are truly discovering something for a first time.
  • You give yourself more time to explore, rather than looking at the time to make sure you get to your next destination.
  • You can potentially meet interesting people along the way who will help you with personal recommendations as to what to do and see – they may be off the beaten path.
  • There’s no stress or worries as to whether you remembered to bring your numerous tickets or passes with you – you go with the flow.

So which one are you?  What are your thoughts on planned versus spontaneous travel? Are you a planner or an adventurous spirit? Share thoughts on your best trips – either planned or unplanned.

Brompton Oratory - or London Oratory - in London. Latin Mass on Sunday morning is an amazing experience.


  1. I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum – I tend to turn up in a place with little idea where I’m staying that night.

    I tend to book the first night’s accommodation for when I get to a country but then I tend to wing it from there on in and I’ve never really had any trouble – even in Japan where few people speak English and my Japanese was limited to the staples of ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘thank you’, and ‘I am a vegetarian’.

    But then I travel with a backpack and can wander around for months quite merrily with little plan.


  2. So when will you be wandering back to Toronto?

    I’m starting to let go of the planning. However, I must admit, my trip to the UK two years ago was extremely well-planned and I did get to pack in quite a bit in the 2 weeks I was there.

    I think that because I was a solo traveler for that trip, I managed to see more than if I was with somebody else tagging along.

  3. I’m lucky in that I rarely am time limited – my last trip was almost six months long. If I was going somewhere for two weeks then I’d probably have to plan a bit more.

    I don’t have any plans to head back to Toronto in the near future but I like Canada (if Australia and New Zealand didn’t exist I’d consider moving there) and so I expect I’ll pass through again one day. Being a vegetarian, it’d be worth it just for the Fresh restaurant.

  4. Did you have big fun on your trip?

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