No-Plan Vacations: Why On-the-Fly is Easier Than Ever

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It didn’t matter that my parents are both planners (Dad would go nuts if I still hadn’t booked my Christmas flight home from college by the March before), living for the moment is at my core. Eighteen years of nurture did not overcome nature in this respect.

To make things even better (not worse), I married someone who is the same way.
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Sometimes things get frantic (like when we realize the concert we assumed would start at 8:00 actually starts at 5), but mostly it’s just fun. It works for both of us. (And yes, we grabbed the keys and made it to the concert before the doors opened. We’re flexible like that).

For example, I knew I had to get myself to the beach this summer and introduce it to our kids. San Diego is only a seven hour drive away. When the kids got out of school in May I let Izzy know it was my biggest wish for our summer break, and he agreed we should make sure we fit it in somewhere. Where, exactly? Well, that didn’t matter. We’d find a weekend.

So after we packed the first summer month with work video and audio recordings, after we filled July with a visit to my family in Missouri and my daughter’s dance company rehearsals, we ran into our first commitment-free weekend last week.

Let’s go!

And this is how Izzy and I do things. We pulled up Google Maps and jumped on the route it gave us to the entire city of San Diego, since we didn’t have a hotel yet. No time for hotel booking!

We drove until we landed at a beach. We jumped out, put leashes on the dogs, and we all ran to the water. The kids were so ecstatic (goal achieved) that we let them go in with their clothes and all. The rush of waves weirded the dogs out, but the rest of us loved it.

We played until we were freezing and starving. And then, at about seven pm, we called a couple hotel chains and they told us what they had available around the city. We found one that wasn’t too far out of our price range and booked it. It took ten minutes of being quiet in the car while Izzy made two calls.

Tech & Spontaneity

Smart phones, Yelp, Google Maps, Google, and Evernote all make it easy for us spontaneous-types to be ourselves.

  • Suddenly hungry and need a vegan restaurant in San Diego? Yelp “vegan,” pick a promising option, and clip the other options to your Evernote for the next meals.
  • Need to know how to get to that hotel you just called from the who-knows-what beach you landed on? Google Maps knows how to get there, even if you don’t. And when you find the boogie-board rental place on the way to said beach, drop a pin at your current map location to find your way back. No need to write down addresses or directions, or anything at all.
  • Have a couple hours to play before it’s time to drive home? Google “fun free things to do in San Diego” and find people just dying to share the possibilities with you. I did this during our drive from Phoenix, just in case we needed a non-beach activity, and clipped the two most interesting ideas to my Evernote. They were waiting for us when we found that extra two hours.

Here’s what we did before driving back home to Arizona . . .
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Izzy and I pack life in. We’re always doing stuff we love and that doesn’t leave much time for planning. We plan a menu of a few meals every week, and I plan upcoming episode topics for work. And that’s about as much planning as we can stand. We know what our interests are and we just make them happen. I’ve found that very little planning is actually necessary.

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We may not get great hotel deals this way, but instead of calling ahead or getting online to do price comparisons, we’re working and making money, or doing something else that is awesome and fun.

So who cares about missing the deals? Not me.

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9 thoughts on “No-Plan Vacations: Why On-the-Fly is Easier Than Ever”

  1. Great post! I love that you guys don’t plan everything and live on the fly. I try to be organized but usually fail to get it all together. We have much more fun when my husband wakes me on Saturday morning and says”what do you want to do today?” and we just go for it!

  2. That looks so fun. However, I can’t help but laugh at you wearing a sweater and playing in the water….

  3. This reminds me of vacations when I was a kid. We’d have the final destination planned (say, Yellowstone Park), we’d start driving, and about 3:30pm while Dad was driving the RV, Mom would be scanning the campground books for a high rated one near the exit Dad felt was a good “stopping point” for the night. That’s kicking it old school, 1980s style.

    But me…I have to plan. EVERYTHING. I was teased for my spreadsheets of baby-prep. I was teased for my project plan for my wedding. I’m getting teased because I have my Christmas shopping spreadsheet in progress. (I’m 5% done with my shopping, which means I’ve bought 1 gift.) I love planning.

    So that is why the gassy 1 month old baby girl crying in the other room with her dad is NOT making me happy. Gassy craying baby was NOT in my plans for this evening. But I’m having to roll with it. That’s what Daddy is for. 🙂

  4. Noell, I am right there with you! My husband, Rusty, and I hate to plan anything! The only time we plan is when we know that we have to do something at a certain time in order to do it. Living here in Germany requires a bit more planning, like our week in Spain had to be booked a couple of months in advance, but a weekend in Paris only a week in advance. We have, however, learned that we enjoy our vacations and weekend getaways much more when we don’t plan them. Our lack of planning allows us to enjoy things spontaneously, oh look, a water park! Wanna go? Sure! Ya know, that kind of thing. I used to over plan but I learned the hard way that planning can be a recipe for disaster. But I guess that is a story for another time. I love your pics, and the video is fabulous.

  5. Your vacation sounds like so much fun! I have always felt that our best vacations are the ones that are not planned. One year, we packed and jumped in the car and my husband asked me, “Which direction?” I said east. (We lived near Kansas City, Kansas). We ended up driving around Kentucky and Tennessee enjoying the sites. Went to Lookout Mountain, could not see anything due to the fog, so we visited many caves in the area. My boys thought that was the coolest!

    Glad to know there are more people living by the moment!

  6. WOW, what an amazing weekend your family have had. My DH and I have always said that one day, we will do a Stubby and T-shirt holiday. Here in Australia the term “Stubbgy and T-shirt” means a couple of shorts and tops – nothing fancy. We are jumping into the car in a couple of weeks and heading north as far as Cooktown. We will stop where ever we want and then look for accommadation.
    I have already started putting together the album so all I will have to do is add the photos. I plan to take along some journaling tags so I can document special moments along the way. I am a Paperclipping member so when it is completed, I will leave a link there.

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