Daydreaming vs. Planning: The Good, the Bad, and the Traveler

Last week, I decided to write about beaches while I sit in the middle of a New England winter. It’s a nice thought, especially since I’m planning a trip to Florida next month, but it’s also entirely unrealistic. I’m used to that.

I think a lot of people like to imagine their travels just as often as they get to experience them, especially since Pinterest became a thing. I don’t exclude myself. I’m guilty of some of the worst travel dreaming and I’m certainly not going to stop.

Though, as much as social media feeds our travel dreams, it doesn’t cause them. I’ve been dreaming of traveling ever since I was young. I used to tell my mom I was planning to go all kinds of places. I was never content with vacationing the way everyone else did. It’s not enough for me.

When I was a kid, my daydreams of marvelous places and amazing views were all I could manage. Now, I have the option to make them real, which is a lot more complicated. Dreaming up new destinations is only the first, tiny step towards a goal. The minute you involve money, time, and adult responsibilities, you start the planning process.

Dreams don’t have to become plans. For lots of people, they never do. Even worse, plans don’t have to be realized.

Which one do you do more of?

Are you satisfied with your answer?


I Dream of Travel

The Good

From Pinterest boards to vision boards, daydreaming is easy, light, and fun. I imagine it’s like being wealthy and walking into a store. You just pick up things you like and toss them into a nearby cart, not caring how ridiculous the price may be. You just want it.

I’m not wealthy.

However, I do have a long list of places to visit, things to see, and languages to learn, all thanks to daydreaming.

Despite what some may say, daydreaming isn’t a bad thing. It’s the mark of creativity. According to a few research studies, daydreaming even helps us find fresh solutions to our problems and acts as a constant source of inspiration. Not only can you use it to fuel your new travel destinations, but you can fall back on daydreams when you get stuck on where to go next or how to get there.

So, don’t knock it before you indulge it.

The Bad

Too much of a good thing, right? I’m going to venture into the Wizarding World for this one:

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.” – J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Yeah, I know it’s overdone, but it’s true. Daydreaming doesn’t help if it doesn’t lead to anything. It’s easier to dream about all of the cities you want to visit or the landmarks you hope to see than to actually leave your house. It’s usually cheaper, too.

Just be sure that your daydreams aren’t better than your travels. The last thing you want is to hype yourself up for something, look at all the beautiful photo-shopped pictures of your destination, and find the reality wanting.

travel planning

We’re Going on a Trip!

The Good

Hooray for finally getting to do stuff! You get to plan itineraries and learn about some things you probably shouldn’t do, especially if you need to brush up on some language or culture differences.

The planning stage of a trip is the anticipation of adventure. You get to see all of your options and pick one, even though you still have to wait. The best part is that your trip starts to feel real.

Dreaming that doesn’t lead to planning doesn’t always end well. Some people will be happy to tell you to get up and go. They’ll advise you to just pick a spot on the map and book a plane ticket. However, a bit of practicality will go a long way for a few reasons:

  • Cost
    • Lots of places will tell you to book last minute because prices will be cheaper, but that isn’t always the case. Most of the time, tickets will be cheaper if you plan to go during the off-season or look for discounts ahead of time.
  • Safety
    • It’s probably a bad idea to wander about in a city without any idea where to go and no plan in mind. Getting lost is one thing, but pretending you’re immune to all harm just because you don’t know where the shady stuff is won’t help you.
  • Other people’s schedules
    • It would suck to travel for a few hours only to show up to a place that’s closed. It would also suck to arrive in a city and realize the place you actually wanted to see is even further away. So, double check before you head out.

The Bad

Besides the usual hassles of finding cheap plane or train tickets, avoiding tourist traps, and feeling like you’re forgetting something really important only to get there and remember what you forgot, too much planning is a really bad idea.

Planning isn’t an activity in which more is better. There’s something to be said for spontaneity.

You can’t plan to see a certain number of things in a day, then have your entire trip feel like a disaster when it rains or you get lost. You can’t assume the weather conditions will be exactly like that picture you saw when you get to a scenic view.

Leaving room for the unexpected will ultimately be less stressful. After all, your trip shouldn’t feel like a list of chores and boxes to check off.

Instead of negotiating time slots so you can see everything, plan on a few major things. Then, see what else there is to do. After all, you might be surprised to find a few hidden gems no one else talks about. Those are often the most memorable moments.

travel dream

The In-Between

Honestly, I think we need both dreams and real plans to get somewhere. Don’t dream without planning and don’t forget to dream while you plan.

I also feel like there’s a bit of discouragement floating around for those who just hope to go somewhere. We all have travel fears and hesitations. Some of them might seem pretty silly, but that doesn’t make them invalid. As long as you work through them instead of allowing them to keep you permanently stuck, you’ll get there.

Be sure to temper your unrealistic perceptions, but never let anyone tell you that your dreams are bogus. No one else owns your life. The plan you make doesn’t have to be someone else’s.

Always remember that your trip will be nothing like your friend’s trip or my trip. That’s what makes it special to you.

So, get going, but think about it first.

Dreaming or planning something new? Feel free to share some of the places you want to visit this year.

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