Somehow, I suspect that my approach to travel planning mirrors how I approach life in general. I get myself stuck in an endless opportunity cost loop, because I want to have my cake and eat it too. I seek balance while unwilling to endure the necessary trade-offs. And while you’ll find that vacationers tend to fall into one of two camps, I want to be a part of both.

Option 1: See All the Things!

“We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.”

It’s an anonymous quote that gets thrown around often on social media. And for good reason, really. The world is this vast and varied place. If you’re visiting somewhere new, why wouldn’t you take every opportunity to experience everything your destination has to offer? Isn’t that why you’re there in the first place?

I remember there was so much to see and do in Paris. We only had a few days in the City of Lights and we packed them full with museums, churches and croissants. The travel planning for our entire Europe trip was remarkably scheduled, almost down to the minute.

Maybe this has something to do with my general sense of anxiety. I must know the finer details before I depart, as having that knowledge helps to put me at ease. How do we get there? What are their hours? Do we need to buy tickets ahead of time? Where else can we go that’s nearby? When should we leave to get to our next stop?

Option 2: Just Relax!

“Take a load off and recharge your batteries.”

While some people might say that the point of a vacation is to experience a new land and culture, other people might say it’s an opportunity to relax. If you restrict yourself to a tightly managed itinerary, you don’t leave yourself with very much room to breathe. It’s almost like you’re still at work, albeit a different kind of work.

For instance, we stayed at an all-inclusive resort in Cancun a few years ago. It wasn’t until our last day that I finally had an opportunity to relax by the pool and do nothing. That’s because we were too busy exploring Mayan ruins the rest of the time.

And maybe that’s why we decided to take it easy in Los Cabos. We spent much more of that vacation doing a lot less, taking on a much more leisurely pace. I always feel compelled to do something, so this was a more challenging (but ultimately welcome) adjustment for me.

How Do You Travel?

Neither approach to travel planning is inherently better than the other. They’re just different and they result in totally different experiences. The considerations are much the same when traveling with children too. If you plan ahead of time, you’ll avoid disappointment. If you go with the flow, you leave more room for flexibility in your vacation.

What about you? When you travel for pleasure, are you drawn more to a “see and do and eat all the things” kind of trip? Or do you prefer a “relax and do nothing” kind of vacation? Beach or city? Quiet respite or soak it all in?