Planning a trip for one traveler presents its challenges. Planning for a group of people with mixed preferences and energy levels compounds those challenges in multiple ways. Some families and friends almost never travel together because they cannot agree on what a “good” vacation would be. Especially if you travel with people who have preferences different from your own, it is important to avoid the pitfalls of planning the wrong trip.
But how do you know what will work for whom? I am indebted to a great book that outlines the answers to this question in a very accessible way. It is Vacation Places Rated by Stanley C. Plog, Ph.D., published in 1995 by Fielding Worldwide Inc. Before we rate places we have to know what kind of travelers might go there, and Plog addresses that question in a preliminary chapter.
Plog assesses travelers by rating A) how much you seek out new things, and B)how active you like to be. A composite rating can predict what sorts of trips you would enjoy. As he says in introducing his Travel Personality Quiz, “The more I can help you know about you as an individual, the greater the likelihood that you will select and plan a more satisfying trip.” (p. 30)
One rating scale measures whether you are a Venturer or a Dependable. (In between these extremes are the Centrics who can go either way to some degree.) This scale reveals how much you like to try new things and experience the unknown. On one end of the scale, Venturers prefer traveling without a tour guide because they delight in the unexpected sights and discoveries they make traveling new roads. Even getting lost is a good adventure for them. Unique cultures, strange languages, and the chance of something unplanned happening all provide additional treasures for their days.
On the other end of the scale, Dependables follow the Holiday Inn® motto: “The best surprise is no surprise. ®”
They prefer predictability, routine, consistency, and tend to be more social than Venturers. Group tours attract them because the pre-arranged itinerary selection affirms that they will see the generally agreed upon important sites with a minimum of fuss. People at either end of the scale might like history but where a Dependable would tour the Tower of London or Versailles, a Venturer would seek out an old monastery or the village where a little known author grew up.
As you might guess Centrics fall between the two extremes and make up the bulk of travelers. They could go a little this way or that, try some new things (new cuisine, perhaps) mixed with predictable pleasures (like a comfortable bed). Centrics have discovered that cruises can be a perfect balance between the extreme positions, offering the same comfortable bed and dining rooms each night (quite Dependable) but a wide variety of places and individual experiences each day to satisfy their Venturer inclinations.
The other scale Plog uses to assess travelers is the Active-Mellow scale. How much activity does a person seek out when traveling? Does she get up early so as to enjoy every minute of vacation to its fullest? Or does he feel that the whole point of vacation is doing nothing – at least nothing strenuous or by appointment. In general, Actives have more energy than most people and like to be in motion (or at least engaged in something) most of the time. Mellows are more laid back, untroubled, and easygoing. They might be more reflective, and think about their new experiences more deeply if they are Venturers. But the most extreme Mellows are in danger of becoming couch potatoes.
Vacation Places Rated includes a brief quiz which attempts to assess each person’s tendencies on each of these scales. Even without taking the quiz I hope you have gained some insight into your own preferences. With more reflection you might be able to assess the tendencies of your possible companions. Do you match? Or are you a mixed group? How can you use that information?
The bulk of Plog’s book evaluates destinations based on how easily they will fit the needs of different types of travelers. Combining the scores for the Venturer-Dependable scale and the Active-Mellow scale, he lists which states and which countries might be the most satisfying to various traveler types. Picking a region which scores high with everyone would be important if you have a very mixed group. (Sorting out how much time to allow for each is the next problem, but one thing at a time please!)
And the winners are…? The top three states offering a banquet to attract all types are Hawaii, Alaska, and Colorado. The top three international destinations with plenty for everyone are Ireland, English countryside and Scotland, and British Columbia. (If one of these destinations strikes you as lacking in a particular aspect, it might be because you have not kept up with all that it has to offer.) I would love to expand on how much each can offer anyone but it took Dr. Plog an entire book to do that, so I will desist.
(This book is seventeen years old already. The winners cited above are still solid leaders. Some destinations would be included anew in the total list by today’s evaluation. Many places have become more Dependable-friendly than they were in 1995 – without losing the Venturer edge.)
My intention here has been to point out the variety of needs and preferences travelers have; the more we take those into account, the better our chances of planning the best trip for each and all. None of us would wear our grandmother’s dress or grandson’s shorts, or decorate the house the way that weird cousin did. Why would we take another person’s vacation – unless we know it is right for us? And where can we take all the family without having Uncle John, Aunt Jane and their kids wish they had never left home?
There are such places. Call me and we can sort it out!
Boundaries divide. Travel unites.
6 September 2012