I’m still recovering from my trip to Italy (tonight that means watching episodes of Grey’s Anatomy when I should be blogging – I know, I’m a decade late on this, but it’s fun). I can’t quite believe that just over three days ago I was in Italy. While I was on the trip, it seemed inevitable: Of course I was in Italy. Now that I’m back, normal life (plus a little extra tiredness) is inevitable and Italy seems a bit like a dream.

What’s not a dream is the amount of planning we put into the trip. I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to travel; I need to have the details mapped out, or at least sketched out, before I get on the road. I don’t want to worry about finding a place to stay or a train to take when I’m traveling. I don’t want to have to stand in long lines for museum tickets, either. But it’s important to build some flexibility in, too.

Planned flexibility. About as absurd as it sounds, but helpful if you can make it work.

Before leaving for Italy, my mom and I booked five hotels and bought two of the six train tickets we’d ultimately use. We booked a tour of the Vatican Museum and timed tickets to the Uffizi and Academia galleries. And besides our plane tickets and plans to meet up with some friends of mine, that was it for planning.

Well, sort of. That was it for formal planning. I had vague (though written down!) ideas of what we should do each day, and we did several of the things I suggested, some even on the days I’d suggested. But not having a tour guide to follow or a group itinerary meant we could take more time or less for something based on how tired we were.

It’s not a perfect system, especially when you’re traveling with someone, since your tolerance for activity is likely somewhat different from theirs, but building travel around a framework gives you fixed points of interest to hold up the trip and then some wiggle room to add in extra sights (or just some extra sleep!). I’m never going to be a truly spontaneous traveler, but having time to say, “Hey, let’s take the train to Lucca for the afternoon!” is important.

What about you guys, what kind of travel style do you prefer?