Net Conservation of Grief

Organizing is what you do before you do something,
so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.
–A. A. Milne

When my husband and I were in the early stages of parenting a friend offered his theory of Net Conservation of Grief. He maintained that parents all receive about the same amount of challenge over their parenting career. People whose children present lots of challenges when they are young will not face the same level of difficulty when the children are older, and vice versa; parents whose toddlers are “easy” would get plenty of challenges later on when the children become teens. It is a useful theory for parents of high maintenance children. Parents of mild-mannered children hear this and smile, crossing their fingers that their fortunes will not change over the years.

Time spent planning is time saved during the trip.  Photo by Joanne Zh

Time spent planning is time saved during the trip.
Photo by Joanne Zh

Whether it works for parenting I cannot say, but I do believe the theory applies to travel planning. The more imagination, thought and time you put into planning a trip beforehand the less time and effort you will have to invest on each day of the trip.

Perhaps you have seen hotel rooms available in a city for $100 a night on the last minute websites. Then you arrive in, say, Boston on the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day or Patriot’s Day. You find that there is nothing available in your preferred range.  Who knew? You would have if you had planned ahead. And you would have been able to consider options at your leisure and make decisions based on your knowledge.

One method often suggested for touring Ireland is to rent a car and prepay vouchers for staying at any of hundreds of Bed and Breakfasts throughout the country. The idea is that you can plan as you go, the entire island is at your disposal and you are not imprisoned in a set itinerary. As happy as that sounds, I have never been a big fan of this approach. My wanting to be in a particular place at the end of tomorrow is no guarantee that a B&B will have space for me. (This can be the case especially during high season and the B&B associations have adjusted by encouraging people to reserve space ahead of time.)

Maps and guidebooks are vital to planning any road trip. Photo by Pproman

Maps and guidebooks are vital to planning any road trip.
Photo by Pproman

But even in low season I am cool on the idea, just because of the Net Conservation of Grief. If we have not established our itinerary and made relatively firm plans before we travel, we must spend part of every day deciding what we will do and where we will alight in the evening. That can eat up lots of time during vacation, especially if you are traveling with people you don’t know very well and everyone is being ultra-polite about not imposing their will too strongly on the others. Molly: “What shall we do?” Dolly: “I don’t know. What do you want to do?”

This is not to say that you should micro-manage your itinerary, planning every minute. There is tremendous value in discovering new places and experiences which never could have been planned. But failing to spend time planning the big things can cost you many hours of irreplaceable vacation time later on. Of course your travel agent can help you organize and plan the big decision points of your trip. We can spot difficulties and warn about pinch points we see where planning and early commitment will be crucial. No amount of planning or advice can entirely prevent unhappy developments later – but thoughtful planning can head off the worst surprises easily. Let me know how I can help!

Boundaries divide. Travel unites.

20 March 2014

About Travel Unites

A travel agent since 1994, I want people to get together for greater understanding across boundaries.
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