Do you Research & Plan Pre-Trip? Or, Follow your Nose?

Do you research and make plans pre-trip?

So you know where you’re going and what you’ll find at your travel destination? Or…

Do you follow your nose and take pot luck?

Seeing what evolves when you get there?

My husband is the latter! 

pin in map
On a recent trip to Europe, apart from knowing he’d be in the Czech Republic to visit family for a few days, his only other guidance was he ‘felt’ he’d like to see more of Eastern Europe – The pin in the map fell on Budapest in Hungary

So Budapest, Hungary is where he went.

Once there he allowed the delights of this historic city to unfold before him, all in their own time.

He discovered the hot spa baths where he had a luxuriating soak in the thermal pools. On an early morning expedition he fell upon some flea markets. Rounded a corner to unexpectedly find an impressive twelfth century church adorned with stunning artworks and carvings. And, one night chanced upon a local band playing in the street.


When I travelled across SE Asia at a point in my life when time was no object, I happily followed my nose giving each place the opportunity to organically reveal itself during my stay. With no expectations, there could be no disappointments. Every place was a delight.

In more recent years, maybe because of the ease of access to information on the internet (?) I’ve tended to do more pre-research to ‘make the most‘ of my time while I’m away in a place.

But does pre-trip planning always make the most of your travelling time? 

In a recent post ‘Have you been disappointed by a travel destination?‘ my so called research led me off on a red herring of a trip (with travel companions in tow) swayed by (what turned out to be) marketing hype that had convinced me the grass was greener not only over the hill and far away, but also, on a hot day!

The lure to research a place prior to a visit for me is strong… even if it can occasionally lead me down the garden path 😉

To back up the case for researching a place, a travelling friend tells the tale of how on a ‘follow your nose tour’ of Italy she chose to turn back north not knowing that just around the next headland lay the Almalfi coast – Its now on her have to go back to list!

Its partly that thought of missing a highlight of a region by a matter of kilometres that makes me feel being fore-warned is to be fore-armed, but to be honest, once I know I’m going somewhere and the attraction of the place starts to build I find it hard to ignore it. With the spell cast I can’t wait to get to know my intended travel destination better, before the formal, in the flesh meeting occurs.

Generally, I’d say my pre-research has enhanced my trips –
Reading, assessing and then sleeping on things gives options the opportunity to swim about, mingle with past experiences and mature overnight, which I’m sure leads to better decision-making?

Last year we went on an overnight stay to Lamington National Park in SE Queensland. The area is renowned for its stunning rainforest and walks of varying lengths and difficulty. The choice was quite daunting – Should we go up to where the Antarctic Beeches flourished, or go down into the valley where waterfalls and a fast flowing creek cut its way through the creepers and palms?
By reading all of the descriptions, ahead of time, I was able to assess the lengths (matched against our fitness) and seeing where on a map each circuit traversed we were able to pre-select which would best suit us and the time we had –
Leaving the decision making till we got there wouldn’t have added anything further to the mix and as it developed, we were able to stop off for the first walk to Morans Falls, which was situated on the entrance road in, without any back tracking.

Pre-trip planning can make optimum use of time but can the anticipation lead to false expectations?

travel anticipation

Certainly in the case of my father, where he’d spend 11 months of the year poring over travel agent brochures dreaming of white sandy beaches, blue skies and verdant horizons the anticipation of the long awaited holiday could end up being more of a thrill than the real thing. The pressure for such a holiday to fulfil the dream of a total getaway far from work amounts to virtually an unachievable expectation.

With disappointment from having too high or different expectations comes the case for not trying to find out too much about a place before visiting so it can be simply enjoyed for what it is, not for how you think it should be!



There’s certainly something to be said for sticking a pin in the map and going with no preconceptions for your travel destination to live up to – its bound to be great!

What do you do?

Do you like to do some pre-trip research?

Or just turn up and go with the flow?

Journey Jottings... highlights your holiday adventures


5 thoughts on “Do you Research & Plan Pre-Trip? Or, Follow your Nose?

  1. I am by inclination a pre-planner, but I mainly try to scope out the bigger picture and try to ensure that we are not trying to do too much. I usually read a bit to work out roughly how long we should stay in each place.

    Once we are there I prefer to be a bit more relaxed and opportunistic. We rarely pre-book tours or particular events and try to minimse pre-booking of accommdation so we can take our time.

    I have recently put together an itinerary for our planned trip to the USA and Canada which we may not go on until 2015 ish. With a family of five we have a lot of money to save. The main purpose was to better estimate how much our trip will cost and how much time I will need to plan to take off work. We now have a good estimate, but I will probably not do too much more until we are ready to book. It is saving time!!
    Pretraveller recently posted..How to Confidently Change or Cancel Your TripMy Profile

    • Pre-planning and organization becomes more second nature the more other people rely on you!
      To a degree its self preservation when you’re nominated the leader 😉

      And when you’re having to coordinate a family of 5 and juggle work commitments… time… money… some pre-planning is inevitable!

      Exciting to hear about your plans to go to the States –
      I look forward to reading about that as the time gets closer 🙂

  2. There’s been some great comments to this post on Facebook:

    Larissa Milne:
    On our RTW we find ourselves reading about the place on the plane ride there.

    Linda Fairbairn:
    I like a little overview/mental map of the layout pre arrival where possible – Helps keep my bearings while I’m there 🙂

    Henry Lee:
    Over the course of my present RTW, I’ve found myself reading and preparing, but open to something unplanned upon arrival.

    Windwalker Duo:
    Almost pure spontaneity

    Andrew Couch:
    It ends up being a little bit of both. Usually the beginning and end and just wing the middle.
    Though it depends on the length of trip and how many moves we have to make in it.

    Keryn Means:
    If you are my husband than you are reading about what you want to do that morning.

    Madeline Southey:
    Spontaneity all the way! Although it is nice to have a map…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a blog post you'd like to share? Simply tick the box :)