- Just like everything else, vacation planning is personality driven
- Some travelers like to have a solid itinerary; others prefer to wait and see
- From prepaying to "floating on a cloud," different tactics relieve stress for different people
Some travelers relish planning trips right down to the last timed museum entry. For others, that kind of scheduling sounds like vacation prison. We asked CNN's Facebook community to share travel planning strategies that keep them calm and collected away from home.
It's clear that there is no one-size-fits-all formula for travel serenity.
Here are some of the Facebook responses, which may have been edited for clarity:
Kris Marasca makes a list of sights that sound interesting, but nothing is "etched in stone."
"There's always some hidden treasure to be discovered when you get there and if you stay too rigid, you'll miss it. It also cuts down on the stress of 'must see, must do.' Vacations are meant to be fun and relaxing. If you come back as stressed as you left because you tried to do too much, you did it all wrong."
Ernie Sergejenko takes a loose approach to planning. "I don't plan my vacations as if they were projects. I prefer spontaneity over a rigid time line and objectives when it comes to vacations. If I intend to see everything, I just take additional days to do it or return again a few months later."
Deanna Cheberenchick is a detail-oriented planner. "For our family vacations I research everything online; lots and lots of planning! Being organized saves so much time and money and definitely relieves my stress."
She keeps lists of everything she's packed and calculates costs and mileage in advance. Two years ago on a three-stop trip between Maine and Pennsylvania, she packed the bags in groups.
"Group one was for Maine, group two was (Martha's Vineyard), and three was a one night stay along the way. In Connecticut we only had to take our cooler, kids' games and our group three luggage. It held clothing needed for one night rather than unloading every suitcase for one night; or worse yet rummaging through the luggage in the parking area looking for something."
For Harold Coombs III, picking a destination that suits his mood, preplanning and prepaying as much as possible and anticipating the preferences and needs of his entire group help his vacations unfold smoothly.
Carl Hawkins IV seconds prepaying. "The one strategy that works best...pay for everything in advance," he wrote.
Kris Stafira loves planning vacations and is determined to accomplish a lot. "Yes, I want to see everything but on the smallest budget possible. So, I definitely check TripAdvisor.com and do lots of searches for coupons, discounts, free activities, etc. at our destination. I usually do plan every minute of every day, but then our family sets our priorities and we make SURE we do those things -- the rest happens or not, depending on the day. I tell my kids they can relax at home -- vacation is for SEEING and DOING and LEARNING!"
Mate Paškonović Pavković tries to live like the locals. "If I go to Europe, I sit in a cafe drinking Fanta, or espresso. That's a vacation."
Tyler King recently planned a trip to Las Vegas. "Our strategy has been to plan out four must-do activities for one week, then just wing it from there. I enjoy having the freedom to run off in a random direction as the mood strikes."
David DeVault gives himself some time to recover from his trip. "I like to have a buffer day before and after vacation. I don't do e-mail on vacation and some of my vacations are in areas with no cell service.
Jane Bradley says "wing it!" and described a trip involving two single moms, four kids, an airline seat sale to Nova Scotia, camping gear, a rented van deal and no advance booking as "the trip of a lifetime."
"Kids still talk about it over Disney!"
For a more structured approach, Vern Vartdal shared his methodology: "Know the lay of the land, which requires much study. Create a plan from your study. Prioritize the plan. Categorize by good weather, bad weather. Alternate physical and relaxing activities. When done you will have a prioritized list and a way to enjoy good and bad weather days. If your party gets stressed you will be able to discuss alternatives that could bring back smiles."
Immersion is Tracie Popma's idea of traveling. "The most stressful thing for me is having to adhere to everyone else's beliefs of what a vacation should be. Rather than jump on every tour bus and have your picture taken in front of every attraction, just be. Live in the destination and experience it as a visitor rather than a tourist."
Organized tours take the stress out of travel for Shandra Potts. "This will maximize your time in your destination and minimize all the tricky and often stressful moments worrying about where to stay, eat, shop and what not to miss."
Kitty Harrison is an avid planner. For international trips, she signs up for airfare alerts, researches her destination online, picks the most appealing attractions for her group, maps out the cities, finds affordable transportation between locations and then looks at hotel reviews on TripAdvisor.
Then she types up an itinerary with flight and hotel information, and "next to each location I simply write in what the highlights are for that area. We pick and choose what to do once we're there, unless it's something like a site or museum that requires an advance reservation, in which case I do that online before we leave home and schedule it in the itinerary."
"The planning is exciting and fun and then the trip itself is not stressful. When in a foreign country we like to see and do as much as possible. Sometimes it takes a week to recover after we get home but it's so worth it. On the other hand, if it's a beach vacation then we just plop our butts on the beach and relax for a week," Harrison wrote.
Leonar Cruz takes a very tranquil approach:
"Vacations are to turn off the telephone; turn off all negative thoughts; relax, preferably on the beach; enjoy the best of foods regardless of cost; spend responsibly but do not pinch pennies; see all you can see but rest accordingly and enough to maintain a good mood. All worries should be left behind at home. The vacation should be enjoyed as a spa into which one has left the real world for a visit to the unknown to explore, see and enjoy what the unknown has to offer. The feeling should be like floating on a cloud."
What's your philosophy? Share your strategies below.