Travel Question: Are You a Planner? Or Is Your Partner?

I have a (sweeping and wildly generalized) pet theory that every relationship has one planner and one person who flies by the seat of their pants. With almost every couple we know, one person always takes charge of planning the trip—booking flights, scouting hotels, reading about the destination—while the other person is happy to just show up and see what happens. Do you think that’s true?

Before we met, Alex would take trips that were virtually unplanned; he’d arrive in a new place and wander around exploring. Meanwhile, I’m SUCH a planner. Planning gets me really excited for the trip, so I plan embarrassingly far in advance. (Last year, our Christmas trip was booked by June!) I like debating places to stay and discovering restaurants loved by locals. Usually I’ll create a Cheat Sheet with all the info together in one place. Alex used to tease me about it, but now I think he sees the method to my madness. Tell me I’m not the only one?

Interestingly, researchers from the Netherlands discovered that the largest boost in happiness from a vacation doesn’t come during or after the vacation, but instead from the simple act of planning a vacation. According to the 2010 study, “vacation anticipation” generally boosts happiness for eight weeks, reported the New York Times, whereas after the vacation “there is hardly an effect.” Furthermore, a U.S.-based study in 1997 found that “vacationers were happier in the period leading up to their time off than during the vacation itself.”

I’m curious: Are you a planner? Or your partner? Or neither?
P.S. The weird thing we do on vacations.

(Photos of us back in 2008 in England. The last few were from my cousin’s wedding, when were too tipsy to take a decent photo)

  1. Maria Castro-Castillo says...

    Usually, my husband picks the holiday destination and it has worked fine . He is rather picky about where we go on holidays which has turned to be quite an advantage, really. I know he will have thought about every single detail,that way I can just chill and relax…

  2. it is wonderful to be awesome so inspired .. thank you very much

  3. I totally agree that planning the vacation is half the fun of going on vacation. Plus i always want to make the most of my time therefor planning is a must!

  4. you look so beautiful in theses pics :)

  5. Cherie says...

    I am such the planner in the relationship. I love the excitement of a new adventure together. My sister teases me and calls them my “field trips”. She’s a go with the flow, last-minute type of person. She always calls me wondering why hotels are booked for Memorial day and Labor Day weekends.
    My husband loves the planning, since he’s in IT, and usually is thinking for people and meeting their needs for a living.
    We have an 8 year anniversary coming up Sept. 1st. So excited!!! The fun is all in the detail…

  6. Lovely couple GOD bless both of you and i would like to say, get flights to Islamabad from Heathrow to plan a marvelous adventure tour i am sure you haven’t explore places like places in Pakistan.

  7. These are very good travel tips for travelers and pictures thanks for sharing for updates on actress.

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  8. It’s more like I’m the planner between me and my partner. I always plan and organize everything but my partner always takes care of the rest. He’s the one implementing what I’ve plan.
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  9. Both, and I think it’s quite vital to be able to plan and be spontaneous at the same time while traveling. It’s important to at least put in some research into a travel destination ahead of time, not just to have an idea of what you’re interested in and give your trip some more well-rounded purpose, but also to be aware of what is happening in that place you’re visiting – not just showing up without even a basic awareness of cultural/ political environment you’ll be entering.

    I’ve traveled both unplanned, winging it completely and taking opportunities as they arose; and planned, following a pre-decided route and visiting things I already had a relative amount of awareness about.
    From my experience, I had a better time overall when I had at least a few things planned or decided on before I arrived. If you’re still flexible and open to new things, without regimenting yourself to a day-by-day itinerary, for me at least that makes for the best kind of holiday-travel experience.

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  11. I am just like you… I am a huge planner. I planned our upcoming trip this summer to Turkey back in December. It’s only three days long but tickets are booked, hotels are finalized everything done. Now I’m planning my brother’s honeymoon. :) I love it.

  12. I’m the planner… My fiance and I will be eloping to San Francisco from London, UK in May. We will be staying there for a month afterwards. We’ve never been and so I find myself planning and researching things to do, even though we both decided to just go with the flow.

  13. I’m the planner… My fiance and I will be eloping to San Francisco from London, UK in May. We will be staying there for a month afterwards. We’ve never been and so I find myself planning and researching things to do, even though we both decided to just go with the flow.

  14. I’m a definite planner, but I do like to take spontaneous trips. Just the larger ones need to be super-planned for me to be calm about it. My boyfriend, on the other hand, avoids all that talk. He’d never go anywhere if it weren’t for me!

  15. Haha I’m exactly the same! I planned our trip to NYC months in advance last summer, making cheat sheets for restaurants, shops, secret gardens, museums, etc etc, my boyfriend was really happy to just trust me and follow me to ‘the best burger joint in town’!! I like travel guides and reading blogs advice and asking friends and locals.
    It gets me so excited to plan these. Currently planning our Amsterdam trip for Easter, I started before xmas hehe.
    I like being prepared! But I also like when my boyfriend takes me to an impromptu place, I always leave time for surprise plans!

  16. you are not the only one, I am such a planner. I recently went on a trip to SF with my best girl friend who is NOT A PLANNER at all I think she bought her ticket a week before the trip. I had already looked up bus routes to the places we wanted to see, turned to the bloggers to tell me the fun loc al things to check out, the hidden gems of the city. I do it all the time. I think its better to have a general idea of things to do so that you arent in a new city thinking uhhh what the hell do I do now?

  17. I’m the planner, the hubs rides along to swipe the plastic! ;) So true, I get super excited about 1-4 weeks before the trip. I also get really motivated at work!

  18. So true! I am definitely a planner…

  19. Oh yes.. I am such the planner and my husband comes along for the ride! Our family makes fun of me for booking trips almost a year in advance! I don’t feel like such a fool knowing there are many more like me!

  20. I always plan ahead! It’s the only way to make sure you get to do everything you want. We went to Italy for 2 weeks and I made a spreadsheet! A lot of places are only open certain days and times, so it was important to organise it… and I love spreadsheets… Ha! x

  21. Ooh, I love the anticipation of a trip! My husband and I are both planners when it comes to trips, so I think we kinda alternate. We went on a 5-mouth journey around South America last year, so we did a lot of research together before we left, and then while we were there for different legs of the trip one of us would naturally take charge. TripAdvisor was our best friend on that trip!

  22. I do a lot of research before the trip, but I don’t really book anything or write anything down. I just do it to get an idea of the place. Then, while I’m there, other than doing the ‘must do’ things, I prefer to just wander and see where it leads me. This is definitely a better technique in Europe and Australia than it is in Asia though.

    I have found lately that going to restaurants recommended by Lonely Planet is a really safe bet, though. There are fewer disappointments that way. So that’s somewhat plan-oriented…

  23. I am glad that I’m with someone who does an excel spread sheet on what exactly it is that we’re doing on what day. I like to have a say but I definitely won’t call myself a planner :P

  24. My husband and I both like to travel “op de bonnefooi”, not planning too far in advance. I leave the flight booking to him – he enjoys the challenge of finding cheap fares and he’s GOOD at it. I like to have accommodation at the first port of call – last year that was Saigon – booked in advance, since flights are long and we just want to go from the airport TO somewhere where there’s a bed and a shower. I usually take care of that, searching Internet and reading reviews. And once we actually get wandering, I go online the day before we head somewhere new and book our hotel/guest house then. Things like buses and boats and trains we arrange a few days ahead. Together. So we pretty much share the responsibilities! :-)

  25. Jo, loved reading the blog. I am the designated planner in our relationship. Our summer trips are sometimes booked a year in advance. Packing checklists are done months before we are to leave and of course travel documents and kids activities for airplane/car rides are first things done off my master “to-do” list. My husband on the other hand has one job…show up. Once when we were first married, we were leaving for a long weekend with friends and he packed his things 5 minutes before we were leaving in a platic supermarket bag. I knew from then on, I needed to take the lead in this department.

  26. I am definitely more the planner in general in my relationship. I completely see that to be true, my fiance is much more fly by the seat of his pants. Although he likes to help pick hotels, I tend to see myself much more as a planner for the actual vacation part !!

  27. My husband likes to plan the airfare and sometimes the hotels – mainly to get the best deal – but I am definitely the planner and do exactly what you say you do! I love the planning and researching and completely agree that the anticipation is the best part!

  28. I am the planner I have learned that all doesn’t go as planned and to relax as long as I’m having fun. But I like order as long as the hotel, flight and general plans are ok I’m okay. I freak out if not.

  29. I am the planner I have learned that all doesn’t go as planned and to relax as long as I’m having fun. But I like order as long as the hotel, flight and general plans are ok I’m okay. I freak out if not.

  30. That’s so funny, I am DEFINITELY the planner in our relationship. I’ve made an itinerary planned to the hour for our vacation we’re taking in June lol. (of course, if we will actually follow it to the hour when we get there is another matter). BTW, you look absolutely gorgeous in those last few pictures. such a natural beauty! :)

  31. My husband is the planner and he does it immediately. I always procrastinate booking flights and I am happy to just wander around in new places. I have a good sense of direction and that has served me well so far :-) However I am glad my husband is more organised :)

  32. This is awesome. My husband and I are both planners, though we each have our specific fortes (his is air travel, mine is locations and detailed itineraries, etc). We like to plan our next trip a long time in advance so we have plenty of time to save and schedule. We love to daydream about the details as soon as we start making plans, so much so that we are already overplanning a trip we plan to take TWO YEARS from now! And it’s not even a major trip, like a safari or anything, we’re just going to Disney World again! We totally realized the enjoyment we got from planning, but I had no idea it was a real thing. So glad to know that we’ll be getting two years worth of happiness for our vacation dollars!

    Here’s where I wrote about our first trip to Walt Disney World with a toddler (here:, and here:

    And about planning a trip to Norway for my co-workers and then ending up traveling with them at the last minute – while I was 5 weeks pregnant, leaving a toddler at home! Yikes! (

  33. I’m more of a show up in a city and find the magic kind of girl where my hubby likes to plan the trips. However, I tend to do the organizational planning, like packing (for us both- my husband and packing is the most stressful thing I’ve ever seen) and organizing contacts and stuff while we’re away. He gets his need to plan from his family. His mother planned Christmas 2011 in August 2010… which has actually been an issue for us because advanced planning is not something my family does, so for a while we were doing everything with his family and nothing with mine. And we both actually have more fun with my fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants family who thinks planning three months out is a lot, and as long as we get to see each other a little when we’re together no biggie if someone wants to do something apart from the group. And, because his family plans things down to the minute and they are very stressful about any and all changes to what they see in their head… lots of expectations. It’s funny, I’m pregnant with our first baby and they’re even trying to plan their trip out the meet their grandchild like I’m going to go into labor on my exact due date. I finally had to put my foot down and say they are not allowed to buy their plane tickets until I go into labor… period. Unless they want to come out to visit later (they want to be there as soon as the baby’s breathing air). They still keep saying, “But… but… but” and I say, “But nothing. My baby, my pregnancy, my rules.”

  34. My fiance loves looking for things to do and researching constantly up until the day we leave. But he never commits! I’m always the one who has to book hotels and flights or we’ll never go!

  35. I just think you guys are the cutest couple!! I am new to reading your blog and I love it, its such a joy to read every day. I even sneak at work and read older posts!!

    And your son is the cutest little peanut ever! I love his newborn photos. I work in nutrition and work with a lot of breastfeeding mommy’s and love that you have shared your experience. It is wonderful to have people describe the joy of it and not tell every one that it is painful!!

  36. And planning is half the fun!

  37. I plan waaay in advance, too! :)

  38. I am totally the planner. My boyfriend is the let’s just ride the waves kinda guy.

  39. I used to be the planner, but then i got into a relationship where he was the planner so i backed off. My current boyfriend is NOT a planner, so I’ve reassumed the role. Being along for the ride is a whole lotta fun though, but I do agree you should plan something. That excitement is key!

  40. I’m just like you, down to the “cheat sheet.” In fact, for my first trip to Paris, I had a little notebook, with homemade tabs, to hold all the information I could find: unique shopping, local restaurants, etc. My guy doesn’t do the planning, but he likes to know what’s happening ahead of time. Definitely not a fly by the seat of his pants kind of person.

  41. I’m just like you, down to the “cheat sheet.” In fact, for my first trip to Paris, I had a little notebook, with homemade tabs, to hold all the information I could find: unique shopping, local restaurants, etc. My guy doesn’t do the planning, but he likes to know what’s happening ahead of time. Definitely not a fly by the seat of his pants kind of person.

  42. I am definitely the planner out of the two of us, but my husband is the instigator! He’s the one that gives my that extra little shove I need to spend money on travel, and I never regret it! He usually has a few things that are must-see places, but he’s never too concerned about when or how… that’s my job! :)

  43. Something my husband and I realized on our honeymoon is that I like to plan the trip in terms of where to go, what hotels to stay at and how to get there. He likes to plan our daily activities and always finds great things to visit or do. I guess it’s a left brain/right brain thing. He’s good at living in the moment whereas I’m more of a down-the-road planner. Once we discovered this, it made every other trip so much easier; I get us there and then he plays Tour Guide. Match made in heaven.

  44. Your theory is so true!!! I am the planner! And I enjoy this as a part of the travel. I usually day-dream from the end of a travel to the begining of the next one.

  45. I am the planner, for sure. And I love a full itinerary! When my best friend and I (who have similar travel psyches) backpacked in Europe, our motto was “we can sleep when we’re dead!” My husband is happiest when he can wander, free from the stress of deadlines or due dates. With this in mind, I have slowly been learning how to “plan” “un-planned time” in our vacations. This makes me happy, because it is still part of the plan…but it really really makes him happy. Both of us end up happy, which is the goal of the vacay in the first place, right?

  46. Oh my goodness! I’m a total planner all the way exactly as you described. :) Great post :)

  47. Joanna, your skin is so gorgeous! What is your secret?


  48. Funny. I am reading this while traveling solo, in India. I just booked a train for a trip I am taking in two days to Kerala. I don’t know where I am going to stay, or what I am going to do. I had arrived in India, and with all the preparation to pack up, I had forgotten to read or research anything about what I was going to do. This has both good and bad consequences.

    I so wish I were traveling with a partner who loves to plan. It usually completely overwhelms me.

    You husband is a lucky guy!

  49. It depends on who I’m traveling with! If I’m going with a super planner (like my boyfriend), I’m happy to just pick one thing I definitely want to do and let them plan everything else. When we went to Belize last year, my boyfriend made me go to the travel clinic to get shots and pills and even registered our trip with the State Dept. I’m more of it “it will be fiiiine….” kind of traveler. That said, I do love adding a new travel book to the travel book collection.

  50. TOTALLY. My boyfriend and I are planning (but I’m the one doing all of the planning) a three-month-long road trip this summer. I’ve seriously been planning it for a year now, making itineraries, saving hotels, planning outings, looking for deals… I definitely think that half the fun is in the anticipation! He can’t handle it. It’s overwhelming for him to plan anything longer than a weekend :)

  51. I agree with you, I’m definitely the planner in my relationship. I can spend hours and hours reading reviews for hotels and restaurants and building the perfect flight plan. It definitely boosts my happiness ;)


    Kristina does the Internets

  52. I am a planner….in fact, I just used your post on Austin for a trip I took last week. thanks!

  53. I am definitely more of the planner in my relationship; however, I never get it together THAT much in advance. It drives my boyfriend absolutely nuts, too, because he LOVES to just show up somewhere and wander and find stuff to do that way. I’ve actually started to see the beauty in traveling that way, but I also think he’s come around a little bit to some slightly structured activities :)

  54. TOTALLY true! I am the planner — I have to have control of things. I even take over the planning when we go on a trip with our friends or family (I know – I’m a control freak, but I’m working on that).

    And, I swear that if I plan things in advance, we see many more interesting things, and we have a lot more fun. There have been times on a trip where I didn’t plan something, and then we wasted a bunch of time trying to coordinate our day.

    As far as an Itinerary for the trip, everything doesn’t have to be set in stone; but if we have several ideas of things to do and where to go and some good details (map, transportation, etc. – thank goodness for iPads!), then we don’t waste time trying to figure out what we want to do and where we want to go.

    Loved the vacation themed week btw! I am tired of this winter and dreaming of our trip to Mexico for our friend’s wedding! Only 1 more month!

  55. Oh I’m definitely the planner. Most times, my husband doesn’t really know what we’re doing until we’re on our way. Its has become kind of a tradition to go over “our” plans en route. It gives us something to do on long car trip/plan rides.

  56. I’ve always thought this was true. It certainly is for my husband and I. I’m a planner and I get so excited anticipating the trip, I think that’s the best part. My husband thinks planning vacations is a pain and if I didn’t plan one, we’d probably never travel. But once we’re there, he always thanks me for making him go along with the plan :)

  57. Goodness — that is soooo my husband and me! I am the total planning travel-geek (there may be colour-coding involved), while my husband really is happiest if he doesn’t have to think to much about a trip, make any decisions, or really process how much it’s all costing… and I’m happy if we’re travelling and he’s happy!

  58. I LOVE traveling and I am the planner. My hubby I bring along for the fun. Sometimes I push him to try and then realize we all just enjoy it more when I do it, instead of trying to have him do something he doesn’t enjoy. Plus planning the vacation is part of the fun. So, I’ve learned to except my role and let my honey do his….making me laugh =)


  59. Like you, I’m the planner in our family. And I love it. I live and love every travel stage: before (planning and doing a lot of research), during the trip and post (photo album, blog, etc).

    I even plan for the rest of my family, friends, co-workers. Sometimes I think I should change my job profession…

  60. I am definitely the over-planner in the relationship. While my boyfriend is last-minute-planner. He also used to laugh at me (among some of my other friends) how I always buy plane tickets months and months in advance and how I always check lonely planet for best places to eat and I sometimes have “in case” situations planned ahead. So in general, I tend to think too much a times:)

    My boyfriend is travelling a lot (like a lot lot, like more than I would like him to;)) due to work and tends to get less excited about the act of travelling and he feels basically home in every aspect about planning so I would say he is a great planner too when it comes to trips. We normally discuss things together and kind of sync (until the point that I gross the line;)).
    So I guess we do not match the pattern you mention when it comes to planning vacations. However when it comes to general everyday life, then yes, I am definitelly planner and he is the “we’ll see”:)

    But yes, planning is definitely the fun part:)

  61. Too true!! I’m just like you, I love love love to plan a year in advance, researching hotels etc. Whereas my fiance is the complete opposite! x

  62. Oh God, that is exactly my husband and I! He is the planner. He is an army officer. Because of his job there are times when he is forced to leave the planning to me. I can plan, if necessary, but you will never convince me that it’s necessary to print everything and have contingency plans for back up plans. Example: husband in Iraq and we need tickets for a wedding in Madison, WI. We were living in TN. We get to the airport, check in, despite my failure to print boarding passes in advance. We had a connecting flight at another airport…I had no idea which one. My husband had a heart attack. Really what difference does it make where you change planes? It’s not a bus or a train, it will stop at the right airport and kick us off the plane and we can go find our next flight on the boards.

  63. I am the planner in our family, I always force my husband to find a couple of places he would like to see or things to do, while I plan everything else. My husband says that he doesn´t want to take a way the part I love the most. And I have to admit it, I love to research before a trip, to find the most authentic food, best shopping, cutes cafes and so on.

    I even plan trips for friends and family.

  64. I am you!!! But in our case so is my husband!!!

  65. We are both. We travel a lot too and he plans what to eat and all the extra curricular activities ( such as the tickets to sumo finals in our last trip to Japan) while I plan our itinerary day by day…

  66. This is SO true! Totally me and my husband too, and I’m also the planner. It didn’t bother me before we had a kid, but now that I literally plan and pack for 3 people I find it really frustrating. I told my husband last time we took a trip that it must be really nice to just get to show up and enjoy it (and not stress over how to pack for a different age kid everytime we travel!)