Traveling should always be more fun rather than stressful by Anna Maria Cos Alcantara
Travelingalways involves an itinerary. It can come in the form of a structured day-to-day, hour-by-hour guide, or it can come in the form of a simple list of things to do during your general stay. Either way, every trip needs one to make sure that you’re making the most out of your trip. But the big question is – should you book a packaged, pre-designed itinerary or create your own as you go along the way?
Growing up, I became accustomed to going on group tours that have a fixed itinerary. It was the epitome of efficiency – you always know where you’re going next, what you’re about to see, and you never have to worry about how you’re going to your next destination and how you’re going to get back to your hotel. Even if you don’t review the itinerary the night before, the rules are simple – simply be ready at the hotel lobby by 8am and let the tour guide lead you to your adventure for the day.
Another great thing about going on a packaged tour is that you don’t have to think about the logistics during the planning phase of your trip. Since it is already a fixed itinerary, it was already designed to be logistically-sound based on the cities or countries that you’re traveling to. A lot of thought has already been put into arranging the trip – from the “essentials” of every city up, even considering the order of cities that allows your body to properly acclimatize to the altitude. Basically, it’s as if someone has done all the planning for you – you simply have to enjoy and take in all the beauty.
While that sounds like a great idea, especially for those that are too busy to do all the research that involves planning a trip, there are some downsides to booking a packaged tour as well. One of the most common issues faced in this scenario is that there will be people that will feel like they did not have enough time in a certain city or a certain tourist destination to truly capture the essence of the place. It now becomes a trade-off – where you do get to do a lot or visit a lot of places in one day, but only for a limited amount of time because you will always be on a schedule.
As I got older, I got to experience more laidback trips. My parents started taking me out of the country with no concrete, day-to-day agenda. It honestly caught me off-guard, not knowing what was going to happen the next day, and only knowing the day’s activity after breakfast. But it always turned out great – we learned how to get around by foot, we ended up learning how to take the public transportation, and we also got to discover the local food on our own.
When I was in Spain last July, my friend and I explored the streets of Madrid for the first time on our own, without any agenda. Google Maps became our best friend – it directed us to restaurants, the famous Plazas around Madrid, and even the different shopping areas. It ended up being really fun, feeling like we’re living the lives of the locals as we bought the same drinks as they did, and riding the same trains getting to where we needed to be.
The biggest downside of exploring on your own is not knowing how to manage your expectations. There would be times where we would underestimate the time it would take for us to walk from one place to another, and during those times we’d end up getting too tired walking from walking around that we’d succumb to taking a taxi back to our hotel. There would also be times wherein the Internet can let you down and give you misleading information about certain recommended restaurants, events, or even local traditions and cultures. In short – not having a proper, well-organized agenda might leave you feeling like you aimlessly spent your time in that city. At least you can say that you got to explore a city on your own even at the cost of possible unforeseen expenses!
Now that I’ve experienced traveling with a fixed itinerary and without one, I can now properly conclude that it is best to travel on a packaged tour when it is your first time to visit that city or country. It’s the best way to familiarize yourself with the place with a proper guide and not having to worry about getting lost – and you get to have a tour guide that even explains the history and tradition of the place so you can simply appreciate the place. It’s also a great way to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your money.
After your first trip to that city or country, take note of the different places that you’d want to visit again and explore a little more, and then go back to take your time and visit without a fixed agenda. Once you’ve already been acquainted with the place, that would be the perfect time to properly immerse yourself in the culture and properly get lost – because by then you’d at least be familiar with the landmarks!
Traveling should always be more fun rather than stressful, and if you do it right, then you’ll never have to worry about making the most out of your time.