Your vacation is not a to-do list

Travellers are really lucky these days. There's an abundance of information out there for just about every corner of the earth, big and small. Going to Paris? I can guarantee that you could spend all day (at least) looking at top 10 lists, blog posts, books and apps detailing "local secret finds" or "must-sees" sites, bakeries, restaurants, shops, etc. 

View from Château de Beynac in Beynac-et-Cazenac, France

I don't know about you, but I love to plan and sometimes it's just plain overwhelming even for me. By the time the trip comes, I've seen so many pretty pinterest-worthy pictures and have read so much advice, that I'm raring to go. I have lists of sites and restaurants lovingly organized, printed out, and starred for importance. I have grand plans of how the days could be spent. It's always going to be the best vacation ever.

Then, when I arrive, 90% of all of that goes out the window because vacations are not to-do lists. 

I've always said that half of the fun with travel is the planning process. It's the dreaming stage. Everything and anything is possible. You get to read enticing articles, look at endless pictures of beautiful vistas, and live vicariously through trip reports.  By all means, savor that time. Dream big. Get inspired. Nail down all of the big, important stuff on your itinerary like transportation and lodging.

But when you arrive, be flexible. Your trip will never be exactly the same as the ones that inspired you in the planning phase. That's what adventure is all about. Plan what you must and then be open to the rest.

When we went to London last year, I had no idea that one of my favorite moments would be having a picnic in a park near Parliament eating cheap, pre-made sandwiches from a tiny Tesco across from Big Ben. Tesco was definitely not on my restaurant list! 

A perfect picnic spot in London

Sometimes the best travel moments, the ones that leave you with indelible memories, are entirely unplanned. They don't have to live up to any preplanned expectation. They happen naturally. 

I'm not saying that you shouldn't plan for anything. My advice is to book the stuff that's important to you first. If doing the Scavi Tour of the ruins underneath the Vatican is incredibly important to you, for example, book that early! 

Then, go ahead and make that big, long, fantastical to-do list. Take it with you. Use it for inspiration and as a rough guide when you want to, but don't feel beholden to it. You won't win a prize for seeing the most sites.

A drive through the Tuscan countryside

Ultimately, your vacation is your vacation. It's a collection of moments that are yours to make. It's about finally having the opportunity to be present and enjoy a place you've been wanting to explore. So go ahead, cancel your plans to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower if you're not feeling it when you get there and the line looks like it's a billion people long. Your vacation is not a to-do list.