Holiday Planning and Planning Anxiety

So there are 26 days and counting until I take off for my next adventure – Europe (!!) and I am so excited to be able to share this journey ahead with you all! However, holiday planning is a little up in the air. For my first leg, my lovely girlfriend has pretty much done it all (slacked off a bit there, sorry Yvonne!). For the second leg, and the majority of the trip, my partner Alex and I have only booked accommodation at the start and the beginning – but not much in between. This leads me to the current dilemma: how do you effectively plan a holiday and enjoy the lead up to a holiday without getting stressed out of your mind?

Now there are lots of great articles out there about how to literally plan your trips and ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to plan - it comes down to personal preference. But what I am most concerned about is the level of anxiety (and holiday stress) that can skyrocket in the lead up to, and, as a result of planning of an upcoming holiday.

Which begs the question: how much should I plan?

Everyone has different travelling styles. Some like to leave things open ended, others like to make sure they have covered all bases and ensure they have contingency plans for x, y and z.

Overplanning can actually be a thing. In fact, literature talks about the opposite (leaving things open ended) as a helpful way to immerse yourself in holiday experiences and enjoy the journey (Lumsdon & McGrath, 2011). ‘Natural time’ (Woehlerm, 2004) is a healthy contrast to conscientious over-planning and focuses on a less regimented approach to holidaymaking, where travellers can better relax and enjoy enriched holiday experiences. Natural time means that you can structure your own time and adventures at your own pace while en route – a la backpacking – and subsequently be more mindful of your environment and experiences (Elsrud, 1998). This is in contrast to the planning and research of conscientious travellers (I think this is a complimentary and appropriate term for very organised people), which also has its merits. I must admit, overplanning is something I have previously aspired to do in the lead-up to a holiday, but it can also become an added source of stress:

  • Planning too much restricts the dynamic and fluid process of holidaymaking – and living in the moment. It takes away from being completely immersed in experiences if we are working to a rigid schedule.
  • Having the expectation that ‘we must plan and know everything’ prior to a trip places unnecessary stress on the pre-trip excitement and anticipation of actually going away!
  • Spontaneity and enjoying the journey of your travels enhances your experiences – helping you take in sounds, sights, tastes, the company – which is more likely to lead to greater holiday satisfaction and wellbeing outcomes.

So, for this coming trip, I am adopting a different approach: a 50/50 of part planning and part spontaneity. ‘Planning’ is great because you have clear ideas of what to look forward to (e.g. places you’ll stay at, the glorious food you’ll eat) but in the midst of juggling work, study and other adult/life things, sometimes it’s not feasible to do ALL the planning. Also, it means unrealistic expectations may be set – about what a successful holiday should be and that we must be fully prepared to enjoy the act of going on holiday.

The pre-holiday period (the lead up to going on your trip) is just as important as the act of going. ‘Going away’ is supposed to give us a break from the stress and anxiety of every day activities – not contribute to our stress levels prior to going on the actual holiday.

In the lead up to a holiday, there are other practices we can adopt (and better spend our time on!!) to help us relax and prepare for the act of taking a break from work and all other daily stressors. It is important to acknowledge that we can’t plan life to a tee, and we shouldn’t have those expectations for our holidays either – it is unrealistic and ultimately defeats the purpose of taking a relaxing holiday.

Stay tuned for my next post! - The HP


You might find the following links helpful:

Great planning tips: - Nomadic Matt lives a great life and as a result, has some great travel knowledge to share. Check it out to assist your holiday planning!

Also, how awesome is this: or see 



The HP consulted the following resources for this post:

Elsrud, T. (1998). Time creation in travelling. Time and Society, 7, 309–334.

Lumsdon, L. M. & McGrath, P. (2011). Developing a conceptual framework for slow travel: a grounded theory approach. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 19:3, 265-279, DOI: 10.1080/09669582.2010.519438

Woehler, K.H. (2004). The rediscovery of slowness, or leisure time as one’s own and as self aggrandizement in the tourism and leisure industry. In K. Weiemair & C. Mathies (Eds.), The tourism and leisure industry shaping the future (pp. 83–92). New York, NY: Haworth.