Now that we have young children, we don’t do nearly as much vacation planning as we used to (as in, we don’t take as many vacations; not that we fly by the seat of our pants). But when we do vacation planning, the approach is different. I guess you could call it maturity or maybe it’s just an evolution.

  1. Tag-a-longers: When you’re young and not independent yet (i.e., teenagers), you just follow along whever your parents or guide takes you.
  2. Beginning Travelers: Then you have some money and can decide where to go. You hit the guidebooks and visit the “Top 10” sites of where ever you’re going.
  3. Lonely Planet phase: After you realize that tourist attractions are a bit of a farce (ok some are grand). You just want to wander and absorb the atmosphere. Try and avoid the tourist trap restaurants and seek out the authentic culture of the locale.
  4. Pack in as much in as possible: Turns out that places aren’t that different, or at least you can’t spend enough time in a place to discover its intricacies. So let’s just try and see as many different cities as we can. Shotgun approach will find something interesting! Hopefully.

And now, we’re in the next phase where we’ve seen most of the major travel destinations (Paris, Tokyo, etc), the remaining are too difficult/dangerous with kids, we’re not ready to do yet (i.e., Disney), or just not that interested in (Caribbean). The current philosophy is experience-based – what’s something cool or great that we can do and plan a vacation around that. It might even be something from your bucket list.

The experience forms the general structure, but it’s probably a couple of hours/full day type thing. It’s not an entire vacation, so to fill the rest we try and balance between must-see tourist attractions and finding things to do that are unique or distinctive about the region. The latter is the hard part because it’s not a matter of reading Lonely Planet; it has to be something that captures our imagination as well. That actually takes longer as it requires more research and planning to pull that off.

But I guess if you don’t travel as much anymore, it’s worth it!