One key to enjoying a vacation is to know what sort of traveler you are. Sounds simple, right? It's not always. I recently chatted with a woman who plunked down her hard-earned money on a Jamaican cruise, only to realize she didn't like cruises. It seemed like wasted time and money, she said.
Figuring out what clients want from travel is Berkeley, Calif.-based David Ourisman's job as a travel consultant.
"The differences we have in personalities we also have in travel," Ourisman explained.
Here are three important differences in travel type that could help guide you before your next trip.
Planner or freewheeler?
Some people need the comfort of activities, meals and accommodations mapped in advance. Freewheelers might prefer reserving a hotel room and nothing more. Some freewheelers don't even want that much mapped out.
"This is a crucial divide," Ourisman said. "Freewheelers are going to rebel at a detailed itinerary, and planners are going to feel very uncomfortable if everything is up in the air. I'm more of a freewheeler. Leaving the hotel, wandering and getting lost is when you discover some of the coolest stuff."
He added that when on a trip with "someone who is completely different from you, travel is the art of compromise."
Museums or parks?
As for me, after a stop at the wonderfully eclectic Pompidou modern-art museum in Paris, I was done with museums. Rather than crowd in with a bunch of strangers to revel in the past, I was far more interested in lying in a park with a chocolate croissant and chatting with strangers. I understand the urge to build trips around history, but I usually opt for fresh air and the modern-day version of wherever I am — neither of which you get in a museum.
"There are different ways of absorbing foreign culture," Ourisman said. "One reason you'd stay in France is to experience something other than American culture. Museums are a way of getting touch with the history of a place but not the only one."
Food or hotel?
Most of us must think with some financial precision while traveling, splurging only on the things that excite us most. For me that's food. I am thrilled to find a quaint, clean and affordable hotel so I can spend freely in a city's most interesting restaurants. Others prioritize living in luxury's lap — oftentimes honeymooners.
"People splurge on a honeymoon," Ourisman said. "Maybe they'll go to Hawaii and spend five days at the Four Seasons Maui, and they'll come to me because they want free breakfasts that they can't get on their own. Virtually all my clients use my services because I can save them a considerable amount of money on things like that."
Of course, none of these must be either/or, and ideally, you're able to have a bit of both. Knowing which way you lean, however, can help maximize the joy of a vacation.