My name is Naomi and I suffer from self-proclaimed Obsessive Compulsive Travel Planning Disorder. There: I said it. That’s actually the first step of dealing with Travel Planning OCD. But I get to the 9 steps of how to deal with Travel Planning OCD later and how to become a better travel planner.
What is Obsessive Compulsive Travel Planning Disorder?
Travel Planning OCD has many forms and appearances, but what sticks out the most is the compulsive need to plan every little aspect of the travel beforehand. This can result into endless map making, check lists, detailed itineraries and prepacking and repacking weeks before the trip takes place.
Travel Planning OCD comes from a need to know what is coming, to eliminate any negative surprises and often goes hand in hand with Fear of Mission Out.
Who suffers from Travel Planning OCD and what are the symptoms?
Well, there is… ME! And maybe you?! Are you browsing the internet, looking for travel bloggers who share their travel itineraries, road trip itineraries and endless list of best things to do in xyz? Then you too, my friend, might suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Travel Planning Disorder and you didn’t even know it!
Symptoms of Travel Planning OCD are (but not limited to):
Endless travel planning and preparing. Making checklist and to-do lists. Planning a trip more than 3 months in advance. Endless spreadsheet making with links, lists, top things, places, words, costs, distances and so on (shall I make a list of this?!).
Now all the above sounds pretty good planning behavior to me (but don’t listen to me because I have Travel Planning OCD), but it becomes a problem when you recognize the following:
- Sticking to your plan/itinerary although the situation has changed
- Not wanting to deviate from your set plan when new opportunities arise
- Not travelling healthy because you need to stick to your pre-set budget
- Declining invitations because they don’t fit your schedule
- Mood swings and panic attacks when things don’t turn out as planned or go according to your plans.
And many more depending on the situation. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
My personal situation and my obsessive compulsive travel planning
I need to plan my travels. At least that is what I tell myself. I have a limited budget and cannot afford any surprises. I also like to plan, I like to immerse myself in the history and culture of a new place and learn before I go. Because I have limited energy levels due to my Crohn’s Disease, I need to make a very effective itinerary when I visit a city. I need to know how long certain activities will take and how much energy they will cost me and any emergency toilet or rest options.
Read more: Road Trip with Crohn’s disease
And most of all: I hate surprises. When I was younger, my parents took our family to the south of France and they asked around if they could rent a house. On more than 1 vacation, this resulted in endless driving back and forth to find a place for our vacation when we already had been in the car for 12 hours straight. Maybe these early experiences with haphazard travel and no plans, triggered a need to make bookings and reservations at a young age.
Due to my Travel Planning OCD, I managed to snag some sweet early bird’s discounts for flights and hotels. I also feel I can better understand a new country and people, when I learn about the history and customs of the place.
However, I had to decline on several invitations to join people for trips, tours, lunch and coffee because I made plans already. It has also happened that I get seriously annoyed and bitter, when plans don’t turn out as great as I had envisioned or when plans need to be changed. And trust me, when I get annoyed, I am not a fun person to be around (I’m sorry- I blame the Travel Planning OCD).
9 Steps to deal with Obsessive Compulsive Travel Planning Disorder
Do you want to enjoy your travels? Accept spontaneous invitations and feel you’re letting go? Here are 9 steps to help you deal with your travel planning OCD.
#1 Admit that you have a problem
Maybe you didn’t see it as a problem, but Travel Planning OCD is a problem. It can affect you and your family or travel buddies. When you admit you have a problem with travel planning, it can help you control it and travel more happily and in the end even spontaneously!
#2 Talk about your Travel Planning OCD with others
Joke about it, ridicule yourself (like writing a blog post about it) but be open about it. Share your check-lists and itineraries with other people, so they can comment on it and you can accept input from others on your travel planning.
#3 Accept input from others
Do they think your schedule is too full? Are there any activities that they don’t like to do? It might trigger even more obsessive compulsive travel planning, but when you know about any objections of your travel partners before the trip, you can anticipate your own negative feelings about having to change your plans during the trip.
#4 The next steps are a process to slowly letting go of your Travel Planning OCD
Plan ‘spontaneous’ activities in your schedule. Leave dinner plans open for one night and see how you feel and what comes up. This allows you to still keep control of your plans but will open up the possibility for ad-hoc activities and meetings.
#5 Let someone else help you plan or let them plan a part of your travels
Dealing with Travel Planning OCD is all about letting go and not control every little step of the way. Let someone help you plan your trip or give them one day to plan as they wish. Or let your mom pack your bag for you (eeekkss I know!). This way, you’ll slowly learn that not everything needs to be controlled by you and when you don’t plan something, it doesn’t have any consequences, just a free spot in your agenda (to plan other things).
#6 Make your travel plans as usual but leave half of it open
Only plan for the mornings and leave the afternoon and evening blank. Or book your accommodation but not make any other reservations.
At the moment, I am at this stage of dealing with my Obsessive Compulsive Travel Planning Disorder. I book my accommodation as early as possible and I check for things to do and see. I don’t make a list of this anymore but plan for half day activities and leave the rest of the day open.
#7 Read up on the destination, but don’t make any plans
Don’t arrange any tours or activities and don’t make any bookings. This is a big step. Basically, you’ll let go of all plans and YOLO around the new destination. That still seems a bit too scary and my FOMO prevents this, but it is the ultimate step to let go of your Travel Planning OCD.
#8 Go on a secret travel trip where the destination is revealed at the airport
Do you know about those companies that offer you a secret trip? You fill out your preferences online, time frame and budget and they arrange everything for you. You will not know where you’ll go until you reach the airport and the company reveals little tips and hints to help you pack and prepare. A friend of mine did this a couple of times and although the destinations sounded like fun, the mere idea of a secret travel destination makes me turn into a spotted leopard from anxiety!
#9 Go on a vacation without any plans, no itineraries, no maps, no lists.
This might be the ultimate proof that you kicked your Obsessive Compulsive Travel Planning Disorder and are a free person! Hell, you don’t even have to decide you’re going on a vacation, just gooooo! Don’t pack anything, buy everything at your destination. I’m not sure if I ever be that person as I love travel planning too much, but it sounds like a great way to travel!
Do you recognize yourself in the above mentioned behavior? You might suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Travel Planning Disorder just like me! Follow my 9 steps to deal with Travel Planning OCD and you might enjoy carefree travels and more spontaneous adventures! But… When all things fail, you can always start a travel blog. It is the perfect excuse for obsessive travel planners and list makers. #allfortheblog !