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Five Ways to Relinquish Control when you’re a Controlling Travel Planner

It’s been well documented on this blog that I have a type A personality meaning I’m highly organised, an over-planner, meticulous with sticking to deadlines, always punctual but often highly stressed. Mr Silver is the relaxed, laid back and patient type B counterpart to my overly controlling personality. Generally this means we complement each other well, especially while travelling – in other words, I do the planning, he does what I say…
For a birthday / Christmas present at the end of 2017 Mr S was keen to plan and organise a weekend away in Budapest for us as a treat to me. Now don’t get me wrong, it was a lovely gesture but I’m not going to lie fear slightly rose in my throat. What if he doesn’t plan thoroughly enough? What if I miss out on the stuff I want to do? What if he doesn’t book restaurants and we don’t get in anywhere? Will his plan allow me to gather enough material for my blog? It probably seems silly to some of you but when you’re a tightly wound type A and holiday planning is your thing, it can be so anxiety inducing to hand over control to someone else.

There would be no spread sheet…

No Pinterest board…

No stalking blogs / Lonely Planet / TripAdvisor

Nothing….


Mr S kept our itinerary a well guarded secret right up until we were at the airport and as we sat in the business class lounge, sipping a glass of champagne each there came the big reveal. Not only had he prepared a spread sheet in the same format as I would but there was a whole folder with pictures and descriptions of all the restaurants, activities and Christmas markets. He planned and booked restaurants and he’d also booked after-parties, tours and a boat trip. I was nearly in tears (spreadsheets do strange things to me). It’s safe to say the boy did good.

And of course we had a wonderful trip, we fell in love with the Fours Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest, enjoyed some of the best restaurants in town, sampled the ruin bars and adored the Christmas Markets, I seriously need never have worried about putting a trip in my husband’s hands. With that in mind I thought I’d give a few tips to my fellow type As in case you’re ever put in a position where you have to relinquish control.

1. Take a Look at Yourself

Take a look inside yourself and really think why are you being so controlling – especially about something that is totally first world problems. Are your control issues down to fear? Fear of missing out and worry that the trip won’t turn out exactly how you would plan it. Why does it actually matter if it doesn’t?

Is there a lack of trust? Why do you always have to be the one in charge and managing every situation? What’s the worst that can happen if for once it’s not you? Think of how being so controlled can cause stress, drain energy and mean you actually lose the easy joy of a holiday. Reflect on this and breathe it all out.
Control is really being high attached to one specific conclusion but why does it matter if we don’t get there. Maybe a different outcome is better but you’d never know unless you give someone else control.

Suggested ways of ‘practicing’ giving up control could be stepping out of your comfort zone, changing your day to day routine, do something creative intuitively (writing, painting, drawing) take a walk and for once allow your self to get lost.

2. Put your Faith in Someone that you trust 

Of course I trust Mr S implicitly in all the aspects of marriage where you should trust your husband. But could I trust him to remember to book restaurants, do research and find the right places to visit… I’m not going to lie, I did keep asking him ‘but have you actually booked places?’ ‘you know the good places get booked up.’ And he just kept responding with a knowing smile.

Putting your faith in someone doesn’t mean a total surrender of your sense of self, allowing someone else to control you. No, rather it means allowing someone else to lead and guide you, releasing that big ball of stress and fear that eats you up inside. That constant voice in your ear that says but what if I don’t achieve my desired outcome.
The same can be said for using a travel agent or a concierge. Rather than controlling all aspects of  the trip you can put your faith in someone that has knowledge and experience about a place and ultimately lead you to the best outcome. Perhaps a few people can help to organise your trip, thus delegating responsibility and once more easing that knot of pressure.

3. Allow Yourself to Take Your Time 

When you don’t set yourself an end goal you’re allowing yourself to take more time to enjoy your itinerary. Lunches can be more long and leisurely, if you see a pretty coffee shop that wasn’t on your hit list, you can take moment to enjoy it – you’re not rushing off anywhere so why not? Allow for things to be more fluid and spontaneous.
Plan to do only one or two things a day and do them really well and thoroughly rather than rushing from place to place and not really enjoying anything. If you’re like me and make a spreadsheet for your itinerary, actually plan to have some ‘unplanned time’ sounds silly but fellow control freaks will understand.
Give yourself a break, if you don’t do that ‘must-do’ thing you haven’t failed at that city. You can always come back and do it next time. For example Budapest is known for its Geothermal baths but we ran out of time to try one. We could have squeezed it in but it would have been much less relaxing and enjoyable instead I decided to not beat myself up as it meant we had time to revisit the Christmas markets instead. Every decision has an opportunity cost but there’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer.

4. Make sure you know enough about what you’re doing before not to have a total freak out…

Mr S and I usually talk about our upcoming plans for the year and Budapest was very much on the agenda for 2017. If you read my wanderlust wishlist for 2017 you’ll know that a stay Gresham Palace was a dream of mine. I felt as long as I knew that we would be staying there I’d be able to relinquish control of other aspects of the trip – it’s all about baby steps people…

What is the most important aspect of the trip? Is there a particular site / activity you’ve always wanted to visit? A bucket list restaurant? Do you need your fix of extreme sports? Basically whats your one non-negotiable and as long as that’s in place you can relax and feel more at ease that the trip will in someway achieve the desired outcome. 
If the destination is a surprise than you’ll need some information. What sort of clothes to pack, is a passport necessary…knowing any of these things will be of some comfort to a control freak.

5. And Relax…

For once I wasn’t worried about every restaurant we went into…would the food be good enough? Would the atmosphere be buzzy? Because for once it didn’t matter. It wouldn’t be my fault if Mr S did like it. It wouldn’t be my fault if the food was disappointing. Someone else had chosen it so it was ok.
I didn’t have to have huge FOMO because I wasn’t in control of the exact outcome of the trip. For once that little ball of stress could ease up and I really could fully enjoy myself in a city I’d always wanted to visit.

Whilst on the trip resist the urge to offer ‘constructive criticism’ about the organisers choices. Just because they aren’t your choices it doesn’t mean they’re not as good. Also avoid trying to micro-manage the situation and steer it round to do what you want to do. The point of surrendering control is to allow yourself to me led by someone else.
Be more spontaneous. If you haven’t got a strict itinerary of restaurants nailed down than you have scope to just search for beautiful places nearby just by wandering or using apps like Instagram. You never know what hidden gems you might uncover. Ask a local for a recommendation – often rather than wing it, Mr S and I have asked a waiter or chef at a restaurant where he likes taking his family as it’ll probably be off the tourist trail.

Now would I let Mr S plan a trip again? Well I actually think he rather enjoyed it but most of all I think he loved seeing how happy it made me. Maybe I’m not quite ready to totally relinquish control but I’m certainly willing to share some of  the pressure of planning…

Who plans your trips? Are you a type A? Do you find it hard to relinquish control? If so do you have any strategies for doing so?

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  • YAY for spreadsheets…! So glad that you had a wonderful stay in Budapest and that Mr S planned your perfect trip! We didn’t plan a thing for Bruges apart from our hotel and travel, and I have to say it was so relaxing. Ok, one lunch wasn’t great but that hardly spoilt the trip – and we were able to really enjoy wandering round the city and finding little gems of restaurants! xx

    • It must have been lovely just to relax and not plan. Obviously it is more like for things to go wrong but at least you’re not building up with worry for weeks before hand whether a place will be go enough.

  • Binny Shah-Patel

    I am definitely a type A lol! Loved this

  • Great post Angie, I’m definitely like you, it’s a very Virgo trait stressing about every little detail in all aspects of life,
    highly organised, tidy, list making – I can go on and on about this (are you sure you don’t have Virgo as an ascendant in your star sign?) Hubby is a Sagittarean, he’s very much like Mr S, laid back, chilled, spontaneous, question is, would he organise a trip and get it right? that I’m not sure off – yet!!!

    • I would be so interested to hear if you ever let your husband plan a trip. Would there be spreadsheets involved?

      • He certainly wouldn’t use spreadsheets Angie!! I think if he ever did, he would just write it all down
        on a piece of crumpled up paper!! :):)

  • This was such an interesting post to read! I’m so glad Mr S did such a good job – sounds you had an amazing time!

    I wouldn’t say I need to always be in control, but I do LOVE planning too, so I’m not sure how I would deal with not being able look through places and restaurants beforehand..! Maybe next time I travel I should try giving the reigns over to my boyfriend a bit and see what happens! x

    • Well I did do my own research so I did know the best places and I just crossed my fingers and hoped that he booked them. I’d be interested to hear if you do ever let him!

  • Melissa Beare

    Lol. I’m getting better at the control thing but my husband doesn’t have any interest in planning our trips in detail – he likes to have a say in where we go and some activities but he doesn’t want to pick hotels or restaurants. I used to be much more controlling with detailed itineraries, lots of restaurant bookings, etc…but I’ve learned to chill out and play it by ear more and it is much less stressful and more fun. I’ve also started relying on a Virtuoso travel agent at times and letting her make the choice for us (fortunately, she has great taste), which has worked well so far!

    • Yup! What Mr S has always been concerned with is will he have enough relaxation time…I honestly think in some places it’s easier to play it by ear than others.

  • Mehreen A

    I love your comment about control being highly attached to one conclusion – which I completely recognise in myself. It used to rule my life before, where I would *need* to reach that conclusion or do something specific, but I feel like I’ve naturally loosened up… a little! I’m glad Mr S planned such a good trip though – you’ll have to let him do more trips!

    • Thank you lovely!! I’ll definitely let him help if he’s willing!!

  • theCuriousPixie

    Omg! This is so me. I so need to take on board your tips. Really glad you had fabulous trip. It did look amazing on your stories.

  • Love this post -I am a super controlling travel planner usually (spreadsheets and iCal on top use!) but we just had a citybreak to Belfast over new year. Until a week beforehand I had booked NOTHING as December was so busy for me at work and I hadn’t had time. Then I did book the Titanic museum (to avoid the queues) and then made the discovery that my OH had booked dinner on New Year’s Eve (it turned out to be dinner and drinks in a jazz bar – it was fantastic!!) I booked nothing else for the 3 days we were there and actually, it was great -we took our time seeing things, could spend as long as we wanted over breakfast/coffee etc. I will definitely be having more relaxed trips in future!!
    (But you definitely do need to go back to Budapest for the thermal baths -our visit to Szechenyi baths was one of the top highlights of our trip. We actually want to go back and visit another one!!)

  • I used to depend entirely on Justin and his planning skills, but ever since I started the blog, it’s always me in control and it’s so hard to do it any other way. These are some great tips to keep in mind, especially for family trips when its not just the two of us traveling and we have to consider others’ interests. Mr. S did a wonderful job – you should let him plan more trips! 🙂