What a trip – planned or not

After two years of being mostly a homebody, I’m excited that we are planning a vacation this summer with my sister and her family. When I say “we,” I mean my sister is planning. We’ll mostly just pack a suitcase and show up, which is totally okay by me.

My sister is a serious planner. Always has been. I’m more of a pantser, both in travel and in writing. 

Anything can happen when you hit the road without a plan. ( Image: Pixabay)

On the writing side, I spend time developing the main characters. I try to outline, then give up. I start writing and see what happens. I do know who gets killed and how. I seldom know at the outset whodunit. I like to figure that out as I go along. Pantsing it in writing inevitably leads to some sweet moments of serendipity. As well as some frustrating moments of wrong turns and rewrites.

Pantsing it on the road is much the same. Delightful surprises. And not-so delightful moments, too.

Hubs and I are both generally pantsers when it comes to travel. Fortunately, we are compatible in this regard, or we probably wouldn’t still be married. On one road trip we had a truly serendipitous moment of good fortune on the hotel front. We seldom book ahead unless we have to for some reason. We checked Priceline online from my cellphone at about 9:30 p.m. for nearby hotel deals. We were hoping to check in about 10 p.m. We found a good price on a hotel with good reviews and booked it. When we arrived we were gobsmacked at the upgrade we’d been given. Apparently, there weren’t many rooms left and it was after ten so I guess they weren’t expecting a lot of check-ins at that point. We opened our hotel room and discovered we had a two-story suite! I don’t recall what we paid, but I’m pretty sure it was less than a hundred bucks. We took lots of photos to impress our friends.

On the less fortuitous side of pantsing it, we once drove down to Hattiesburg, Mississippi for a friend’s wedding. We didn’t figure we’d need to book ahead for a room in Hattiesburg. We were wrong. Southern Miss had a big football game that weekend, and every room in the area was booked. Except for one. We ended up spending one night in a down-market hotel that had what looked like a big bloodstain on the wall beside the bed. As the Chicks know, I always pack my own sheets when staying in hotels. Doesn’t matter if it’s the Ritz or Motel Six, it’s just a personal thing. We were so grateful to have our own sheets on this particular occasion. The wedding was lovely. (By the way, blowing off the wedding was not an option since hubs was a groomsman.) The next night we were able to find a quite nice room at a different hotel.

As for our vacation this summer. We already know where we’ll be staying, since my sister has already booked a nice place, right on the lake in downstate Michigan. I’ve perused all the photos. There’s a firepit and I’m already looking forward to making S’mores.

How about you? Do you carefully plan your trips and vacations. Do you like to hit the road and see what happens (something that’s a lot easier to do these days with GPS). If you’re a writer, what’s your writing style? Please share in the comments.

47 thoughts on “What a trip – planned or not

  1. As I commented in Jen’s post, I am a PLANNER. And since I am a solo traveler 98% of the time, I tend to do a lot of online research before travelling. Where to stay, what to do and most importantly to me, what to EAT! So I usually compile a list of must-dos, optional activities. That being said, my vacation schedule is usually NOT rigid. I leave enough open spots in my schedule so that I can do/go places on a whim while I am there. Of course, if I am going to a mystery convention such as LCC or Bouchercon, there are panels & get-togethers that do occur at specific times. Those times are clearly marked in my Google calendar.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Grace, it sounds like you have a system that works for you! And you have a lot in common with my sister. She has already scoped out some restaurants and local activities, which is nice to know!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I need to have the hotel booked and that’s the extent of my planning for vacations. This is quite at odds with The Hubby who likes to have detailed plans for every day. We manage.

    When it comes to writing, I am what friend Annette Dashofy said is a “flashlighter.” I can plan for a couple scenes, write them, plan another couple scenes, write them, and eventually I reach The End. I almost always know the victim and how he/she died, but I gave up trying to plan “whodunit” after the fifth novel where I turned out to be wrong. LOL

    Liked by 3 people

    1. On our annual Christmas drive to Memphis, we often end up staying at hotels where we’ve stayed previously.
      And flash lighting — love that term!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I think my vacation planning and book planning are similar. There’s a fair amount of planning/outlining up front while leaving plenty of space for unplanned fun. So far, so good!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. As a child, we spent the night on the beach, in the car, in Milwaukee once, because my dad was not a planner. There were other near disasters, too, so I also book ahead.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Kaye, that sounds like a memorable, but less-than-fun camping trip. Booking ahead provides a certain peace of mind that can be a good thing — especially with kids in the car!


  5. Vickie, I expect photos from your trip!

    I am a hardcore planner in travel and writing. I leave nothing to chance.‘I’m actually a little more fluid when I write from my 30 page outline – new characters have appeared in drafts, new plot beats – but I’ve come to call my outline my first draft.

    Back to travel. Not only do I plan months in advance, I make a daily itinerary – which is subject to change and often does, of course. For cons now, I even make a list of outfits I’m going to wear on each day. And I stick pretty close to it!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. You are super organized, El! As someone who has trouble wrangling napkins sand backs of envelopes with notes on them, I’m in aww of you!


  6. I never much thought about it before, but both going on vacation and writing a book are their own kind of journeys. So you’d think we’d all be the same in both regards. But no: I’ve always had different levels of planning for each type of journey–though they’ve changed over the years.

    I used to just wing it on vacation, stopping for the evening wherever I wanted and finding a place to stay when I got there. But now I need to know I have a reservation, or I tend to worry. Perhaps it’s simply part of the aging process–I want everything to be as easy as possible.

    And as for writing, I used to plot out virtually every aspect of my books, but of late have become far more of a pantser, plotting to a certain point but then allowing my brain to take me places I might not have imagined when I set out on the journey. Maybe this is also part of aging? Fascinating to wonder about…

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I refute (deny) it has anything to do with aging, Leslie. I mean just because I’ve had a hip replacement doesn’t mean I’ll start planning more…Lol


  7. When I explain how I outline, it’s exactly how I travel. If I’m driving from LA to NY, I know when I’m leaving and when I want to get there. I know I’ll want to stop for lunch around such-and-such time which will put me near such-and-such town. If the area is famous for some sort of cuisine, I’ll research the best place to go. But it might be closed due to a kitchen fire or something (plot twist!), so I’ll go somewhere else. I know how far I can drive in a day so I want to know I’ll have a bed (chapter ending).

    That said, when I drove from OR back to CO after taking my daughter to college, we had an itinerary on the way out, but I rambled home, stopping spur of the moment at the OR Shakespeare Festival for a few days by myself. We had stayed on a Friday night in the tiny town of Kemmerer, WY on the way out (home of the JC Penney museum!), so I decided to stay there on the way home. But on the way home, I was there mid-week and every room was taken up by wildcatters who worked the oil fields during the week and went home on the weekend. Uh oh. (tension!) So a kind hotel worker called around until she found me the only available room, probably making two of the wildcatters double up. She very apologetically told me the price of the room ($29!!) and I was so grateful I almost burst into tears. That was the day Becky Learned An Important Lesson. There was no cell service there and the men tied up every phone line so I couldn’t even check in with hubs to tell him where I was. AND I was in the middle of a lawsuit and they were trying to find me to give a deposition. (Serious complication for the protagonist!)

    Who remembers trips where nothing goes wrong??

    Liked by 4 people

      1. It’s about time you recognized my superstardom, Becky! JK! Honestly, your book is invaluable to me! Oh, Lord- I have to stop this nice thing going on… I think I may faint. XO


    1. Wow, lesson learned indeed, Becky. I’m curious though about all the wildcatters tying up ALL the phone lines…who were they calling?


      1. They were calling home, Grace. They work all day, then come back to their rooms and talk to spouses, kids, and such. There is quite literally nothing else to do at night in Kemmerer, WY!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. These days, due to limited mobility, I need to plan where I stay. I have to grab handicapped accessible rooms if I can. Just spent a week at a friend’s cabin. While we chatted about what we’d like to do during the week, we had options except for the last full day there. We wanted to hit a winery holding an outdoor concert. The rest was pantsing day by day. When I actually am writing, I am definitely a pantser. Like you, Vickie, outlines drive me batty! (Yes, more than usual.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tracy when I write an outline, I kind of follow it for a couple of chapters, then lots of things start wandering OUTside the LINES! I’m just not good at it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It depends on the trip. Sometimes, I’m fine with playing it by the seat of my pants. Other times, I want to know exactly what is going to be happening when. I’m more of a planner, so I generally prefer to have at least the big pieces planned early on.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mark, you’re an accountant, so it makes sense you like your columns to line up. And, honestly, I do wish I was a bit more organized.


  10. I’m a planner on trips for sure. I like to know where I’m staying and (of course) the eateries around it. Sometimes I have list of things to do/activities, so there’s some flexibility.

    For writing, I like to do the flashlight method (see comment above). I find that I’m leaning into more detailed outlining and plotting now, though, since my publisher requires it!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jen, when you’re traveling with the kids I certainly understand booking ahead, so you have a defined stopping time, and know if the hotel has a pool!
      And publishers can be bossy!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Your less fortuitous hotel surprise made me guffaw. If only you’d had luminol! (On second thought…)

    I also travel a lot like I write: I have it generally planned out, but leave room for a change of direction, whether it’s an unexpected plot twist or a quick side trip to see the second-largest ball of twine on the face of the earth.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Gosh, thanks for this, Vickie. I’d never realized that my planning approaches for writing and travel were chillingly similar. For car trips, I rarely know what time I’ll actually get on the road. Possible pitfalls: extra time packing (I pack day-of: less wrinkling!); work crises; pet wrangling (has anyone seen the kitty? Is she mad because she saw the suitcases?); I forgot to water the plants b/c I was waiting til the last minute for maxium H2O levels…that sort of thing. Add traffic, New England weather, hey-did-anyone-fill-up-the-tank?; packing extra snacks, etc., and who knows when we’ll reach a particular exit. Plus, one never knows what yummy food opps might magically appear along the way, preferably with a pub, so…there’s that. One time in our 20s a friend and I took a trip to the Hamptons on a ferry and discovered all the available hotels were $400 or more a night. We couldn’t afford that, so we went out for a nice dinner and drinks in town and waited until a hotel with “No Vacancy” suddenly had one for less than $200. So far, so good, travel-wise, lol– but current-manuscript-wise, the road goes on forever.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. See, my packing life is vastly different from my travel or writing parts of life. I OVER pack! Not in small ways, either. I had three bags for a week at a friend’s cabin. Granted, gifts for two were in one suitcase along with other stuff, but I didn’t need 1/2 of what I brought. My short stories, etc. may not be outlined, but my packing list leaves nothing to be forgotten.


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