Why “Amazing Race” Travel Itineraries Are Not My Thing

This week’s guest post comes from the blogger Pam from Organized! by Pam, where she shares why she prefers taking it easy when she travels. She writes:

I just booked my eight-day trip to Japan this December and naturally, I spend a hundred hours a day (okay, maybe about two to three) scouring the internet for eight-day itineraries that match my interests. For some reason, I never learn.

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Every time I look for itineraries (in the hopes of simplifying the planning-a-trip-to-a-different-country process), I can’t find anything I like.


Most of the itineraries that people share around the web seem like a nerve-wracking episode of Amazing Race.

These itineraries will have you waking up at five in the morning and running around several tourist attractions until midnight. Then repeat for the next seven days.

I get it. Visiting a different country, especially a country like Japan which has a lot of attractions, requires a lot of resources – time and money, more specifically. To be more cost-efficient and basically just efficient in general, it’s normal to want to make the most out of our trip.

I think the difference lies in how we define “making the most out of a trip.”

For most, it means visiting all the attractions in given country / area and experience all that can be experienced in that country – amusement and theme parks, historical venues, unique and one-of-a-kind activities, beaches, restaurants – the whole shebang. Economically, you’re really making the most of the airfare and the lodging costs with this style of traveling. If you can manage to visit 100 different attractions in a trip that cost you, say, $100 in airfare, that means that for every dollar that you spend on overhead costs (such as the airfare and lodging costs), you were able to check off a tourist attraction from your long Must See Tourist Attractions list.

If you were only able to visit 50 attractions (for example, you wake up late in the day as opposed to someone who gets up even before the first light comes around), then each attraction costs you about $2 in overhead expenses.

Seriously, if we’re talking mathematics here, making the most out of a trip is all about making the most out of your overhead expenses and the Amazing Race-style of traveling is your best bet.

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Shifting things into my perspective (a.k.a. a less obnoxious way of saying “let’s talk about what I think”), making the most out of a trip is all about immersing yourself into the new place, the new culture and the new experiences. It’s all about taking the time to allow the new environment to create sparks of something inside of you.

I read somewhere that the difference between a traveler and a tourist is precisely this:

  • A tourist is all about “touring” the new place and seeing what it has to offer, as an outsider looking in.
  • A traveler will go into a place and attempt to understand it from the perspective of the locals.

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So, when I travel, I usually prefer to dedicate an entire trip to just one or two key areas. Or maybe just one key area with a few side trips here and there. For example, my eight-day trip to Japan will be focused solely on discovering Tokyo and going to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka (originally, I wanted to stick within the borders of Tokyo but seriously, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is calling out my name).

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Most people will think that it’s a complete waste of money seeing as a regularly-priced roundtrip plane ticket to Japan from the Philippines can easily set you back $500. And I understand where they’re coming from, but I can never trade-off:

  • Sleeping in on a really nice apartment and waking up feeling refreshed and inspired. You cannot force me to wake up at five in the morning when I’m supposed to be on a vacation unless I really, really want to do something that requires me to wake up that early. This is justifies why I’m not averse to spending a decent amount of money for a good hotel / apartment since I do prefer waking up gloriously – cooking breakfast for myself, watching the TV and drinking a good cup of coffee, you get the gist.
  • Taking leisurely walks and just following where my feet are headed. When I went to Japan last year for a four-day short-term exchange, I took quite a bit of walks in the morning. I would go to the nearby park, check out the supermarket and walk towards places that normally don’t show up in a map of tourist attractions. I can easily spend 30 – 45 minutes a day just walking around, more if I chance upon a good cafe to sit down and just be in the moment.

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  • Discovering new, hole-in-the-wall places. Small, homegrown cafes and shops don’t always make it into tourist guides. You can only discover these hole-in-the-wall places when you allot time for discoveries. You can’t do that with a packed 5AM to 12MN daily itineraries. Reading travel blogs can help you in this regard but nothing beats uncovering these places on your own.

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And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, folks. I guess the main point I’m driving here is that when you give yourself the permission to be in the moment, you open up yourself to unique experiences and possibilities. Don’t you want to have your own adventures rather than just following the manuscript of others?


 organized by pam TexanInTokyo-GuestPost (4)Author Bio: Hey there! I’m Pam Llaguno, from the sunny and humid little islands of the Philippines. I’m a 22-year old go-getter living two lives: one as an equity analytics analyst (yep, that’s right) in a financial intermediary company and two, as a graphic design freelancer + blogger. I love my home country and all its quirks but Japan has a special place in my heart and continues to be a source of mad inspiration for me. On my blog, Organized! by Pam, I document my days through photos and scrapbooks. I also share my design work and create tools to help people live effective, efficient and intentional lives :)

Be a part of my soul-tribe, Commune, and get your (free!!) copy of my insanely valuable e-book,’E-mail Sanity: Seven Tips on Inbox Freedom‘ right freakin’ now ;)

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

28 Comments on Why “Amazing Race” Travel Itineraries Are Not My Thing

  1. Same here! I love how my boyfriend is just okay with lounging, walking around and just taking it all in :) Makes our trips 100 times more enjoyable!

    Thanks for reading, Fal!
    Pam x

  2. Thankfully my boyfriend and I share the same type of trip preference- one thing to do in the morning, one thing to do in the afternoon, eat tasty food whenever possible. “Thing to do” can be changed to “area that can be walked around and explored.” Could NOT deal with someone who wanted to go-go-go all the time.

  3. I’m definitely a traveler and not an amazing race style tourist! I love to take my time, to really enjoy the place I’m at, and to find some really interesting things off the beaten path. Everyone is entitled to their own travel style, but it really suits me to take it easy. I think that exploring one place is a great idea! I hope your trip will be amazing ^^

  4. I must admit I did not even read all of Pam’s post because I HATE the kinds of trips she described. I find myself getting tired and then annoyed at rushing around from one place to the next before I have even taken in, let alone enjoyed, the first place. If it means I see ‘less’ of a country traveling less hurriedly, so be it. I’d rather savor what I do see than not appreciate any of it.

  5. My wife and I have that whole “cram everthing into 2 weeks” holidays all the time when we fly back to New Zealand from Australia to visit our friends and family and by the time we get home we nearly need another week just to relax! We are panning on visiting Tokyo in 2017 when out daughters will be a bit older (5 and 3 now) and will just plan to go with the flow and not have anything set in stone apart from Disney so we can absorb everthing.
    Im sure it wont be our only visit as there is more places i would love to go (the Mazda museam being high on my list) but that can wait untill our next trip so we’re not rushing trying to cram everything in. Thank you for sharing =)

  6. Eric Janson // 10 September, 2015 at 5:27 am //

    Great article, Pam, and for the many who do not have the luxury – which is the correct word – of taking a long time or several trips, you have raised the awareness of another way of looking at being in a new place and getting the most out of the experience. Well done!
    I’m VERY lucky that my job gets me to Japan eight + times per year and with six weeks of holiday per year, I can easilly extend these trips to explore all over Japan at my own pace. My three sons and I have all made separate long (from 1000km to 1800km) bicycling trips on all four main islands. On each trip we have made interesting and fulfilling discoveries which would not have been possible on the “72 hours in Tokyo” kind of itinerary. Sometimes we would stumble across something, check the internet on our phones to find out what it was about, and end up having a great time doing something totally different than what was in “today’s plan.” If you’re not focused on getting A through Z done in a few days, your eyes see things differently and you are more open to notice the gems that everyone else is passing by without seeing.
    When I brought my whole family to Japan for Christmas last December, we did some tourist days and some traveler days to satisfy everyone’s wishes, and that worked out fairly well.
    Lastly, I can only wish that those who do not (yet) have the good fortune which I have had can find themselves in the same position down the road! Japan is a wonderful treasure box.

    • WOW that is one one amazing job, Eric! :) You’re a Japan Traveler Veteran then ;)

      One thing that I love about having even just a “free day” in your itinerary is that you have a day where you won’t get disappointed that you weren’t able to do everything in your itinerary. There’s no pressure, y’know?

      Thanks for reading!
      Pam x

  7. P J Ebbrell // 10 September, 2015 at 5:14 am //

    Great post, Pam.

    I am lucky to live near but not in London. So I have the best of both worlds of seeing all the attractions but avoid those times when packed with tourists, who are rushing from one place to another.

    For my own experience, we went to Bruges and had things to see, but then just wandered around.

  8. Thank you for reading it! I’m glad that you liked it :) I don’t like that pressure as well! Totally on the same page with you.

    Pam x

  9. I hear ya Pam! Such hectic sight-seeing isn’t for me either…though I’ve never experienced it, it sounds awful! I’m a “more time in fewer places” kind of person I guess.

  10. Pam has a point that people should take it easy during their trips but I believe that there are situations when you are forced to be a tourist and not a traveler. Usually, money is the main reason someone can end up being a tourist. Since she was talking about Japan, I thought I should share my story too.

    I visited Japan last year for 8 days. The flight to Japan took almost 20 hours and the plane tickets cost half the cost of the entire trip. I’ve planned myself the whole trip to the tiniest detail as I realized that would be most probably the only time I will be able to visit Japan. Of course it would have been best to take the time “to allow the new environment to create sparks of something inside of you”, but sometimes you don’t have that luxury. Because for me (and I’m sure for many more), visiting Japan was a luxury I would probably won’t afford again.

    I lost the first day being tired after the long flight and also the last day when I left. So actually I had only 6 days of visiting Japan. I’ve spent 2 days in Tokyo, 1 day at Mt Fuji, 1 day commuting to Kyoto and 2 days in Kyoto. Each day of the 4 ones when I actually visited Tokyo and Kyoto, I would wake up at 8:00, leave the hotel at 9:00, visit 4 tourist objectives (museums, temples, parks, etc.) and return back to the hotel around 16:00-17:00. I would rest and in the evening (19:00-20:00) I would have a walk in the neighborhood.
    For some it might have been tiring, but for me it wasn’t because I was living my dream.

    In conclusion, I would say: be a traveler if you afford to, but be a tourist if you have the opportunity rather of not being none. :)

    • I 100% get what your saying. Before I fully converted to this style of traveling, money was the biggest factor. Being a “traveler” can definitely be more expensive than planning like a tourist. It’s really just depends on how you want to look at the whole traveling thing.

      I *know* that I’m not going to fully enjoy a trip where every day is packed to the brim — and this might be rooted in my introverted + needs lot of slow and alone time personality — so I work as hard as I can to be able to save up for multiple “relaxed” trips :)

      I also know lots of friends who actually don’t mind the whole Amazing Race itinerary and kudos to all of you guys! I seriously wouldn’t be able to do it hahahaha!

      Thanks for reading, Sorana :)

      Pam x

  11. My favorite European trips were the ones where we just walked through the cities ourselves, sometimes with a nerdy guidebook in hand. Oh, and where we found the best local foods and pigged out.

    An “Amazing Race vacation sounds like a recipe for needing another vacation!!

    • Nerdy guidebooks for the win! :) I like bringing a couple of standard guidebooks with me just so I can quickly look up something – history of a place, good restaurants, etc. – but for the most part, I just… explore.

      Hahahaha yeah but I do know some people who really like the whole Amazing Race thing! To each his own I guess :)

      Pam x

  12. This is cool article to read thank you Grace for sharing it. I am one when I get to Japan I want immerse myself in the culture, I hate being pressured to run around I like to stroll and end up where I end up. Arigatou Gozaimasu!

  13. Thanks Pam for your insight. It’s sane and well-written. I, also, like to wander wherever I travel. I find the best places!

  14. Milli from Germany ;) // 9 September, 2015 at 10:31 pm //

    How to make the best of a week in Japan: Sit in an Onsen. For a week. Done! :)

    • I like how you think ;)

      I’m still not 100% gutsy enough to go to an onsen but maybe I’ll go for it when go back in December!

      Pam x

      • Enjoyed the article, Pam! I’ve not so much money or time to do a lot of traveling, but when I have it’s never been under a packaged tour and never with a rigid itinerary. I’ve experienced the pleasure of going off any casual itinerary and exploring a place with no end objective.

        If you can make it to an onsen in December, try to make it one in the mountains when it’s snowing or there is snow on the ground. The onsen itself is a unique experience but even more exquisite in the snow.

        • Oh money, I wish we could all just y’know explore without having to worry about it, eh? I agree that it doesn’t have to be all no-itinerary days. (I especially hate package tours because you can’t linger in a place you like or leave immediately in a place you don’t like, ugh.)

          We’re actually going up Mt. Fuji for some skiing, maybe I can check out if there are onsens nearby! Great suggestion!

          Thanks for reading,
          Pam x

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