Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a planner. I like to have things mapped out, buttoned up, and nailed down. This applies to my work, my family, my play, and yes, even my vacations. I’m the person who once had a to-do list Post-it noted on her iPhone, and on the road, I’ve been known to schedule each day nearly to the hour, even if it’s marked as “free time.” Even on vacation, I’m a hard charger… and often feel as if I need a vacation once I return from vacation!
But a recent girls’ trip showed me how a break from the agendas and itineraries can be a refreshing and welcome change. If you’re like me, here are a half-dozen survival tips to help you go with the flow on your next getaway.
1. Choose Your Destination Carefully
Let’s face it: you’re not going to be able to let go of your planning propensity if you head off to an amusement park (we all know planning at Disney is a must…) or a continental, cosmopolitan city packed with must-see museums or other historic sites. Choose your destination so that relaxation and a chill vibe can be maintained. For me, that was a lovely home on the beach. For you, it might be a cabin in the woods or a mountain chalet. Keep things low-key, lovely, and elegant, and you’ll be more inclined to soak in your surroundings instead of running from Point A to Point B each day. I also found it helpful to focus on natural beauty instead of people-made wonders. Do this, and you’re a lot less likely to start sketching out your daily, must-not-miss itinerary.
2. A Rough Outline Is A-OK
I know, I know. I just told you to try to ditch the scheduling. That said, a rough outline is OK. For instance, we knew we wanted to hit a local farmers’ market during our beach visit, so after breakfast one morning, we meandered over to peruse and shop. We knew we wanted to hit the beach and take in the waves at least daily, so we did. We didn’t cook every single night — no need to do any serious meal-planning — opting instead for a dinner out one evening and takeout the next.
We set general targets for the day but didn’t strangle ourselves with that down to the minute timing that can be so troublesome. It was so freeing. We’d get to the beach, of course, but maybe we would enjoy mimosas at the house first. Perhaps we’d have a gabby extended happy hour before dinner, and who knew where that would be, or what it would be? There was a cute little shop in the neighboring town, maybe we should go check it out at some point. Bottom line: nothing was urgent. We had ideas of what we’d like to do… but we did them and saw them at our own speed. It was just as fulfilling and restorative as any other vacation I’ve taken. That’s high praise from a serial planner!
3. Consider Your Crew
This is a biggie. Of course, many of us can and do travel solo, and it’s a rich, wonderful experience where you can truly set your own pace. However, if you’re on the road with a small group of pals, you’ll need to consider personalities to achieve the best “go with the flow” experience. Our crew included a couple of planners (myself included!) who needed extra encouragement from our friends to fight off that urge to schedule. Thankfully, with their gentle, caring chiding, we were able to really hit pause. I’m so thankful for that fact!
Personalities are going to vary: that’s what makes travel with friends so terrific. But keep in mind, if you’ve got some big-time schedulers in your group, you might have to support them in letting things go for a bit. Don’t worry: you’ll get them there!
4. Enjoy A Hobby
So many of us have ridiculously busy lives: perhaps we’re still working, or maybe caring for parents, children, or other family members. It can be tough to carve out me-time, and that includes moments spent on beloved hobbies. So, to keep a vacation more low-key, consider engaging in one of those activities that you wouldn’t necessarily have the time for otherwise.
Case in point: during our recent beach break, a friend brought along her watercolors. She wanted to practice several new techniques, so she set up her supplies each day, gave herself quiet space to work, and painted away. We marveled at her concentration and focus, but she insisted it was relaxing to be able to throw herself into her art.
Be it making the time for an unscheduled jog or hike, jotting notes or observations in your favorite journal, or sketching your vacation surroundings, you’re likely to slow down and center up if you take the time for a favorite hobby while on your trip.
5. Keep It Simple
There are so many ways to complicate a good get-away. You might feel compelled to fill your time away from home or the office with sightseeing, shopping, entertainment, and other activities. While these sorts of outings are terrific, trying to cram too many in at once can actually be a detriment to your vacation, injecting tight timelines and — more often than not — a bit of stress into the mix. You don’t want that if the vacation’s very intent is to go with the flow.
My advice: Keep it simple… although this is admittedly easier said than done if you’re typically an on-the-go type. Pick and choose your must-dos, but unless they are on a specific timeline, don’t rush right out and tackle them all at once. Let things evolve, pop up as they will. That’s when the good stuff will find you. A special conversation, the perfect sunset, or a resonant passage in a book you’ve been putting off – these are all examples of simple, indulgent delights that you might be missing when you’re over-planning or plotting.
6. Nothing Is Essential, Except…
Last but not least, keep in mind the most important part of “surviving” a go-with-the-flow break is a bit of a perspective reset, that nothing is truly essential except doing your best to make sure a good time is had by all.
Again, I recall our recent outing to the beach. Our travel group was texting back and forth for about a week leading up to our departure. “What are you packing?” one friend asked. “Should we plan a menu for each day?” another chimed in. “Should I check a bag?” a third wondered.
See? The planning was already beginning, and we were still days away from actually hitting the beach. Full disclosure: I might have been the primary offender.
We went back and forth until another wise woman on the text stream gently reminded us “Nothing is essential except sweatpants and sunscreen. Just throw some stuff in a bag and get down here. We’ll all enjoy each other’s company, and don’t have to worry about anyone else for a few days!”
No truer words had ever been spoken, or in this case, texted. There was no need to make ourselves crazy by overprocessing the trip. Staying in the present moment, taking each opportunity as it came along, and embracing the chill vibe turned out to be the perfect way to spend a few days with friends.
I know full well this isn’t the way all of my trips, travels, and adventures will go. When my family resumes international travel, I’ll absolutely get out the guides, stalk Google, and pack each day with all of the must-not-miss things. I’ll likely plan each day to squeeze the most out of them.
But this trip taught me a valuable lesson: it’s OK to let all of that go on occasion. I am so glad I gave it a try!