I’ve been planning our trip itineraries for 5 years now. I developed my own process of using Google Drive, which has worked quite well and ensured that our trips were packed full of great sites and activities. Sometimes we followed our plan closely, but usually we would modify it; either way, it was always a great starting point. I never had any trouble figuring out what we’d like to see and in what order we’d see it.
Until now. It appears I had gotten too cocky about my trip planning, and I have met my match. The great country of Norway has turned out to be a fickle adversary against my goal to easily plan a trip; I think it’s because there are simply TOO MANY great options. We will have 5.5 days in Norway, booked on a whim after coming across a great airfare deal. We are therefore locked into our dates (apparently May is still winter in Norway) as well as beginning and ending in Oslo (which is on the other side of the country to all the most famous tourist areas). But literally everything else is up in the air.
I think previous trips were easier to plan, because we always started with a rough outline. For our cruises, we always have a day-by-day itinerary made for us by the cruise line, and we just have to decide what to do at each stop. We are further limited by using public transport or private tour only, and by the number of hours we are in port. This has usually left me with nicely narrowed down options and simple decision-making. When researching the port, a small number of sites or activities usually stand out to me, and I don’t feel too conflicted about skipping the things that don’t interest us or that we can’t get to in the hours allotted. We have only done a few trips that were not cruises, and for those we simply stayed a week in a city, and perhaps took a day trip or two, but nothing further away. A week in one place is fairly easy to plan; you can get a lot of the essentials done in a week’s time without feeling like you missed anything big.
But to try to cram an overview of a whole country into one week, with no assistance from a team with personal experience of the locations, is exceptionally confusing. I started out well, finding beautiful spots using Pinterest, and saving them to my online map. But that’s where it started to go downhill. The map wasn’t coming together nicely, and interesting places were spread out in somewhat lonely patches. Online, some people were saying to ride the most beautiful train route in the world to get from Oslo to Bergen. Others said a rental car is a must so you can stop along the way and avoid the crowds. But then you need to be careful because many of the most beautiful roads will still be closed for winter. Who to believe?? “Sognefjord is the longest.” “Nærøyfjord is the narrowest.” “Geirangerfjord is the prettiest.” “They all are sort of the same, so just pick one!” Is an historic stave church more interesting than a huge waterfall? Does Flåm have a car rental? Will it be open on the day we need it, that also happens to be a Norwegian holiday? Will hotels be more expensive because of the holiday? Is the ferry up the Sognefjord to Bergen prettier than the Flåm railway route? Should we try to cram in more places? Or soak up everything there is in just a few? My brain has become saturated with information, but I hardly feel any closer to choosing anything! This is by far the most overwhelmed I have felt during the trip planning phase.
I have gone through so many versions of our itinerary, and it’s been extremely difficult to get a good feel for what is going to be right for us. I am feeling major FOMO (a weakness of mine). At this point, I am starting to tell myself that I just need to start narrowing down. Rather than “opting out” of the possibilities I have amassed so far, I’m starting over to “opt in.” I’m determining which things are “musts,” and filling in from there. With all the advice of where to go, it appears we can’t really go wrong, at least.
So at the present moment (subject to change), my wish list includes: Oslo museums (Viking and culture), a fjord ferry ride, a stave church, the Flåm train ride, Vøringsfossen waterfall, visiting a lookout point (the path to which won’t kill us on the way there), and seeing a bit of Bergen. I have a loose itinerary with all this in it that isn’t bad, as long as the logistics work out. My car rental questions are really evading answers, so I may need to rework some things if that doesn’t work out.
I’m hoping it will all be okay in the end. I mean, being on vacation is still better than not being on vacation, right? We are lucky to be able to travel at all! I got too overconfident, thinking that I could just easily plan any trip within any parameters, but I still have a lot to learn. I need to put away the need for control and just design an itinerary that will be full and beautiful, even if that means we miss some things. I need to just let go of the urge to experience it all and accept that I’m not perfect, and this trip might not be either. But it will still be awesome. Hopefully we can someday come back to visit a different portion of Norway, and I will get the chance to try again.
UPDATE: Here is the itinerary we eventually settled on for our week in Norway.