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Scheduling and planning

Old 07-29-12, 10:31 AM
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Scheduling and planning

How important is a schedule or an itinerary when you're on a tour? Are you heavily structured, to the point of knowing exactly which town or which campground you will reach on a given day, or do you ride more or less, depending on how you feel?

I've met some cyclists who will plan exact distances for each day of the tour, sometimes making advance reservations at specific hotels or campgrounds. Others seem to have nothing more than a general idea of where they wish to go. My own planning falls somewhere between these two extremes. I have had some trips where my schedule has changed several times because of unexpected delays or because of new information I have received.
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Old 07-29-12, 12:31 PM
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When solo, it's catch as catch can. When with my type A buddy, it's rigidly planned. I can deal with either, but prefer winging it.

If flying home, advanced reservations will usually save you significant $$$s and assure you a seat. That complicates scheduling and demands an on time arrival at the airport. Sometimes I resort to the bus or train to perserve flexability.

Will be flying out of Boston in late September on SW and expect a $100 penalty for a last minute seat. If there is one.
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Old 07-29-12, 01:34 PM
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I've done it both ways. The uncertainty of a loosely-planned tour pays off in a higher sense of adventure, at least in my experience. But it's not always practical. I'm planning one now that requires I be at the end on a certain date (family reunion), so am planning daily routes a little more than I would really prefer. I generally don't like rigid scheduling because it makes the tour feel more like a job to me. I love having the freedom to stay an extra day here or there, or deviate from my route if I feel like it.
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Old 07-29-12, 02:29 PM
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I'll book somewhere to stay a day or two out if I'm going to be somewhere with limited places to stay. Otherwise, I don't like being pinned down.

On my cross country tour, a bunch of years ago, I didn't book a flight or anything home, which left me open to accept a ride from this nice guy I met... who is now my husband.
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Old 07-29-12, 02:30 PM
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I reserve planes or trains for first and last day and I have "check points" in-between where I should be at a certain date and I try not to fall behind too much. It's pretty loose between those points but I do research quite a bit for attractions, side-trips and interesting camping spots and allow extra time for those, or in case I'm being held up by bike problem, bad weather, etc. One thing I hate is being rushed. I will have a rigid checkpoint on my next trip though. I wanted to hike a particular 5-day trail for a long time and while they have room for "first-come" basis, I don't want to get there and be turned away just because I didn't have a reservation.
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Old 07-29-12, 02:38 PM
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Depends on the trip, but unless I have explicit constraints (e.g. first night hotel if arriving late via plane), I try to keep my options open. That is easier to do on a longer trip than a quick weekend trip or mini-tour.

What I have done is go to a site like motelguide.com and create my list of towns I know are likely to have motels. This way in the morning, I'll likely know the candidate places I could stay if I want to stay indoors. I haven't done same with campgrounds since mostly been fortunate to always find some place to camp.
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Old 07-29-12, 02:49 PM
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Before I leave, I'll make detailed plans of where to travel and where to stop every night along the way. The route is set up to allow for at least one or two extra days each week, in case something goes wrong. When I'm on the road, I'll sometimes discover a better choice of route or decide on something I want to do which I had not considered earlier. The plans then change.

On one trip late in spring, My planned route changed several times in the first day and a half after receiving information from the locals. Then my time line changed after a hard day of riding slowed me down. I'm glad the trip did not go according to my original plans.

On another trip, I had planned to follow one route and then catch the train to come back. But I soon discovered that route was not practical since the train service had been cancelled. My new route proved to be at least as good as my original plans.

And on my most recent one-week trip, earlier this month, the plan shifted slightly because I wanted to revisit an area I had not seen in a decade. Some of the most special moments on that trip were because of the route change.
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Old 07-29-12, 04:40 PM
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Most days I don't know where I will stay until I am there. I usually do start the day with an idea of what stopping points are possible. Also I am usually pretty open to changing my route on the spur of the moment.

Book a whole tour's reservations before the start? I doubt I would ever do that.
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Old 07-29-12, 07:02 PM
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Aside from fairly fixed start and end dates, and a general destination - the itinerary is to have fun! Everything else is flexible.
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Old 07-29-12, 07:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Burton
Aside from fairly fixed start and end dates, and a general destination - the itinerary is to have fun! Everything else is flexible.
This is pretty much my philosophy. I don't like rigid plans if I can help it.

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Old 07-29-12, 07:26 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
Most days I don't know where I will stay until I am there. I usually do start the day with an idea of what stopping points are possible. Also I am usually pretty open to changing my route on the spur of the moment.

Book a whole tour's reservations before the start? I doubt I would ever do that.
+1
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Old 07-30-12, 01:28 AM
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For me, the level of planning depends on

1) where I am planning to sleep. If I am couchsurfing, I need to contact potential hosts and conform to their requirements and schedule.. In those cases, my schedule has as much flexibility as my hosts allow. If I am camping, I like to have an idea of where the campsites are and how close the services are to them. I usually make a list of couchsurfing hosts within 50-60 miles of one another and then try to patch together a route between them.

2) where I am planning on riding. I've taken some dangerous and dodgy roads in my time and I want to make sure that the routes I'm taking have shoulders, where possible, and/or are lightly traveled. Some times, ferries need to be arranged. On a trip up the Atlantic Coast, I contacted a marina owner who agreed to drive me across a narrow bridge.

3) where I might rest. I like to schedule rest days about every 4 or 5 days. I search for interesting places to spend a non-cycling day and what I might do there.

4) what places of interest I might pass. I like to visit museums or historic places if I can. I try to find sites that would interest me along the way. The most common cause of a detour for me is to see some place of interest a local alerts me to.

I like doing research about my upcoming trips and usually create an extensive set of plans, including a likely itinerary. This not only immerses me in the ride details, but builds my excitement for the tour.

Itis worth noting that my long rides as usually a month or so in length. The level of planning I do falls off toward the end of my tours as the uncertainty of where I'll be when is too high to make any concrete plans.

I created a tour planning page that allows some one to store bits of information about a tour on-line so that it is easily retrieved and available for others to use. Here is a the tour page I created for a month trip around the UK. It gives a pretty good idea of that kind and amount of planning I do.

Last edited by raybo; 07-30-12 at 01:32 AM.
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Old 07-30-12, 01:39 AM
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My planning really depends on the nature of the tour. If time is limited (e.g., only got a week) then I tend to be more structured. At the moment I am in an interrupted tour where I had/ahve three months so much more flexibility. Whilst I worked out a guide for my partner, my actually "daily target" was if I am feeling okay, find somewhere to camp around 4:00 PM unless I am close to a town/campground etc that I want to get to, i.e., take it each day as it comes. Also allows me to have rest days if I so wish.

I must admit I am now of the view even for the short tours that I will try and make them as flexible as I can, e.g., allow for one or two days in the "schedule" change of plans, rest day, shorter days, sighseeing etc.

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Old 07-30-12, 06:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Newspaperguy
How important is a schedule or an itinerary when you're on a tour? Are you heavily structured, to the point of knowing exactly which town or which campground you will reach on a given day, or do you ride more or less, depending on how you feel?

Yes.

I always make an itinerary very carefully. I always change it en route to compensate for weather, road conditions, my condition and general whims.

Marc
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Old 07-30-12, 07:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Burton
Aside from fairly fixed start and end dates, and a general destination - the itinerary is to have fun! Everything else is flexible.
Yes it has to be fun, but being on the road is just naturally fun for me. Also I too like a general destination.

The comment on start and end dates does raise one issue. For me a flexible end date, a flexible end location, or both are a big plus. I hate to have a firm deadline where I have to be a particular place. To me it is kind of like the money budget for a trip. I like to have more than I need so I do not have to sweat it. My upcoming trip I am stuck with that inflexible end point and time due to a plane ticket at each end so I am kind of stuck in that boat. I am not excited about that aspect of the trip.
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Old 07-30-12, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Aushiker
If time is limited (e.g., only got a week) then I tend to be more structured.
Good point. I never really considered that since I have not done short tours much. I think my shortest was 11 days and that was about as short as I have thus far been inclined to go. It is something to keep in mind if I do decide to do shorter tours.
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Old 07-30-12, 08:01 AM
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Originally Posted by valygrl
I'll book somewhere to stay a day or two out if I'm going to be somewhere with limited places to stay. Otherwise, I don't like being pinned down.

On my cross country tour, a bunch of years ago, I didn't book a flight or anything home, which left me open to accept a ride from this nice guy I met... who is now my husband.
That is awesome!!!!
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Old 07-30-12, 08:32 AM
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My tours are always short, and generally have an inflexible end date, so I have things planned out or at least tentatively planned out pretty tightly. My last trip had campsites and alternate campsites planned out for the first few days. The 2nd half of the trip involved visiting a lot of family members, and while I didn't have solid plans, everyone I was visiting lives within 30 miles of each other and within 60 miles of my final destination. So half the trip was planned out, and half was done on the fly, but with very little risk of finding myself without a good stopping point.

Last year I took a few days to ride to the coast for a vacation with my extended family. The route was planned out as was each night's destination, but I also planned an earlier, "bail-out" stopping point in case I didn't feel like pushing on to my planned stop. I used one bail out stop when a missing road added several miles on to one day's ride. The next day, another missing road left me even further behind schedule, and even my bail-out spot seemed too far to go, so I found a closer campsite. That left me with 100 miles to cover on my final day, and rather than showing up late in the evening or splitting the ride into two parts, I biked part of the way and had someone pick me up. I only did 40 miles of my remaining 100.

So, even though I planned out everything to the Nth degree, over the course of a 4 day, 3 night trip, I managed to get almost 60 miles off schedule. I'm doing that trip again with a different route, and, again, I'm planning it out to the Nth degree, but I'm giving myself more leeway this time by taking a more direct route. I'm a planner, and the fact that planning doesn't always work for me doesn't deter me from trying. The only way I can see doing it differently is if I had a more flexible end date or place, or the tour was long enough that it was easier to look at as an average of X miles per day, and worry about the details only a day or two in advance. So far, with short trips and definite end dates and places, it makes more sense to have some details ironed out ahead of time. Even though you still end up making it up on the fly some times. Although if you are willing to and confident in your ability to stealth camp, you can wing it a lot better.
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Old 07-30-12, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by valygrl
On my cross country tour, a bunch of years ago, I didn't book a flight or anything home, which left me open to accept a ride from this nice guy I met... who is now my husband.
Score!

This guy was riding across Canada alone and at some point met some other riders along the way. They told him he should speed up a little because there was a good-looking chick riding up ahead somewhere, also alone. A day or two later he came upon her while she was fixing a flat. They struck up a conversation and ended up riding together. They got along well so decided they would stick together while they both felt like it.

I met them four years later on the Pacific Coast. They were riding from Vancouver to the tip of South America. It was their Long Haul Honeymoon.

The end.

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Old 07-30-12, 12:21 PM
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Most of the time, it's day by day (which makes getting a package mailed ahead to me interesting). If you're going to try to catch a motel room in the western national parks, or small towns on summer weekends, planning ahead is the way to go.

Met a couple on a tandem on the Northern Tier a few years ago who were doing the whole trip to pre-planned motels. They were riding light and fast, but I was intimidated by the thought of two months' of reservations.
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Old 07-30-12, 12:33 PM
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If I can take the time, more planning is better for me. I plan it all out fairly carefully, but I also plan on every option I can think of or find. I almost never stick to the original plan, which is great not to have to do. This next tour we will be taking a Kindle for the first time instead of a book or books. Lighter. And I can load it with PDFs for many of the interesting motels, campgrounds, and restaurants we will might pass on one of our ways.
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