A lady on holiday wondering around with her planner

Book Club

Travel: Are You A Planner Or A Pantser?


To mark the publication of GIRLS ON TOUR, the complete collection of her hit e-series starring four hilarious globetrotters, Nicola Doherty weighs up the pros and cons of travelling spontaneously.

‘When it comes to travel there are two extremes. There’s the planner, who wants to treat their trip like a work project, tick off every available sight, and plan each day’s itinerary in full – right down to toilet stops. And there’s the pantser, who doesn’t crack open the guidebook until they’re on the plane, and refuses to book a hotel – even when landing in Tokyo at 3 am – because it’s not ‘spontaneous’ enough.

planner or panster Nicola Doherty and a dog mascot

Author Nicola Doherty’s impromtu photo with a dog mascot

So what happens when a planner and a pantser go on holiday together? Sometimes it can work beautifully; the planner plans everything and the pantser goes along for the ride. Sometimes clashes arise. This happens in my novella RACHEL DOES ROME. Rachel is a classic planner. At one point she starts hyperventilating about how much there is to see in Rome and how little time they have to fit it all in. Her friends, Maggie and Lily are more keen on sitting around outside cafes, eating pizza and enjoying la dolce vita. When Rachel admits that she needs help relaxing, she finds herself having a lot more fun (maybe too much fun, but that’s another story).

I probably fall somewhere in between. But whether you’re a planner or a pantser, it’s worth remembering that nothing will ever work out exactly as you expected, and that the things that go wrong make the best stories. Like the time a friend and I trekked out to the outskirts of Zagreb to find a hostel advertised by the Lonely Planet as ‘simply delightful’. It turned out to an overcrowded suburban house with a garden full of tents. Or like my first trip with my now-husband where we arrived in the romantic little town of Tulum in Mexico, just before a hurricane struck, the electricity in our little cabin cut out, and I got food poisoning, all at the same time. Oh: or the time I arrived in Montreal to visit a friend, only to discover that she’d moved out of her flat the day before… and hadn’t found a new one yet.

planner or panster Nicola holding a piglet on holiday

Nicola’s spontaneous encounter with a piglet on holiday

Along with these you-had-to-laugh memories, I have equally great ones of unexpected discoveries. Like sitting in a rooftop bar, Georgia, in Athens, home of the B52s and REM, listening to a band set up while a flock of swallows did acrobatics overhead. Or stumbling on market day in the picture-perfect village of Gordes in Provence, where I petted a pig called Nicolas. Or the time we set our GPS to ‘avoid motorways’ when leaving Los Angeles and found ourselves rerouted up into the Hollywood Hills, having a very atmospheric moonlit tour of Mulholland Drive. We didn’t plan any of this because we couldn’t. So that’s why I’ll always more on the side of pantsing… as long as I’ve got some idea where I’m sleeping that night.’

planner or panster Nicola Doherty enjoying a Perrier Menthe

Nicola herself enjoying a Perrier Menthe

Whether your planner or pantser, GIRLS ON TOUR is a hilarious holiday must read that will keep you entertained wherever you find yourself. So if you are interested in giving this book a whirl it is out in paperback and ebook now. And, don’t worry, once you’ve finished this fantastic book, and want to read more, Nicola Doherty (@nicoladoherty_) has five other entertaining novels just waiting to be discovered.


Vicky is a Team Bookends, Headline Publishing at James Villa Holidays.

My job means I’m surrounded by one of my favourite things: books! At Bookends we love...

See all articles by Vicky

See all articles by Vicky

Related articles