I’ve never particularly liked travelling with large groups or being told where to go by somebody else. I prefer to find out for myself.
-Michael Palin

There’s great joy in planning a vacation, and it’s been a long time since I was able to do such planning–and even longer since I last took the initiative to plan a trip beyond a few basics.

This is different from the traveling I had been doing for the last two years—as I was working while on the road, I didn’t feel like I was on any sort of vacation, except for that week I took off to see the sights in Cambodia. Sure, I was seeing sights while working, but it was only weekend sightseeing and adventures for all that time. There were also the couple visa runs I had to make while staying in Taiwan—last-minute booking for a three-day trip to Singapore isn’t quite the same as making plans in advance.

Quite a view. Feel like I did something wrong on my trip to end up here
Quite a view. Feel like I did something wrong on my trip to end up here

Now that I’m back to the grind and living in a cubicle (not literally, but sometimes it feels that way) I get to enjoy time off from work, albeit infrequently. I’m fortunate enough to work for a Taiwanese company that offers paid time off in addition to national holidays. I also get to exchange my overtime shifts for more paid time off.

tonle sap
View from the boat a nine-year-old told me to take in Cambodia

I’m not particularly good at planning trips–just ask my friend Laura in NJ; she’s planned more of my trips while talking with me online than I have. There was also that time I asked my friend’s son for advice on my method of transportation in Cambodia (a nine-year-old can choose wisely). Most of my plans revolve around restaurants and bars, and sometimes hikes on which I get lost. I seem to find my way to the tourist attractions somehow–I wasted an extra day or two by not planning sightseeing in Seoul when I could’ve combined a few destinations in one trip.

Entirely unplanned stop at Pura Desa Batuan in Bali. Just told the driver to stop the car to have a look.
Entirely unplanned stop at Pura Desa Batuan in Bali. Just told the driver to stop the car to have a look.

I make lists of things to do and places to see, but I have never planned out my itinerary beyond a city and a hotel (call it my rebellion against my parents’ vacation planning). It certainly would explain why I get lost so often.

I'm not sure where this is going, but it must be the right direction
I’m not sure where this is going, but it must be the right direction

And that’s pretty much what I have done for my next trip. I’m traveling back to Indonesia–I’ve only been to Bali back when I was an expat in China. This time, I’m heading for a place I didn’t know about when I lived in China: Yogyakarta. A destination I have been longing to see for the last three years. I planned to stay there a month almost two years ago, but the budget airline website wouldn’t recognize my credit card to book a flight from Saigon, which is how I ended up in Taipei the first time.

Yes, I am a haphazard travel planner. I’ve mentioned it before. Sometimes it works out for the best–it leaves room for more options. Other times it limits possibilities (seriously, how far of a walk was that in Kyoto?).

This map isn't helping...
This map isn’t helping…

Perhaps on this four-day trip  I have through Yogyakarta and Borobudur I’ll plan more than I have in the past. With limited time and plenty to see and eat, I have to make the most of my stay, though I know I won’t be able to see and do everything I want.

Here is my list of things that I have done in the past (and will probably do again) that are generally not good travel-planning habits:
  1. I’ll meet people when I get there and just go along with them (alright, sometimes this works, but not often)
  2. Read the guidebook on the plane and fall asleep instead; save the guidebook for breakfast speed-reading
  3. Book a hotel the day before arrival, and only book it for one night because it’ll be easy enough to find another; then get locked out of the hotel because you were searching for a better one in Hanoi until only 11pm
  4. Just find a hotel in the main tourist area upon arrival…after 10pm
  5. Check out the tour options and prices after arrival
  6. Book a hotel without referencing a map with popular tourist sites for distances (hey, who doesn’t like a three-mile walk through Reykjavik in January?)

What are some of your bad travel-planning habits? Have you broken any of those habits?

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