High-speed think-on-your-feet logistical-planning vacation?
March 16, 2015 6:57 AM   Subscribe

A friend and I take a trip once a year together. Usually it's been something like a national park, but last year we said "screw it, let's go to Disney World" - and had so much fun; not so much because "Disney" but because of the challenges of high-speed navigating a complex ecosystem of timing and logistics and transportation and reservations. What can we do next year that would scratch the same kind of itch? Anywhere in the world is fine.

I think a crucial component for us that made this work for us was that things worked -- because Disney is so good at this, there was this amazing degree of flow; we ran ourselves ragged to get to things on time, but, crucially, when we got there, things happened - nothing was cancelled or late or broken down; Disney held up their end of the bargain.
posted by dmd to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Any interest in film festivals? You might find it fun to go to a really big film festival. TIFF in particular is really fun for the logistics planner in me - starting weeks in advance when schedules come out, you get to do all sorts of planning of which movies to see, which can get very complicated if you want to balance among a variety of programs, countries, all the different theaters, etc. There's lots of logistics involved - how much time do you have to get between movies? Walk it or take the subway or a trolley? Can you possibly squeeze in a fifth movie on the same day if you choose well and/or skip the Q&A for the fourth one? Where on earth do you eat? Are you going to make a bid for last minute "rush" tickets to some hot sold-out screening, and if so, what's your backup plan if that fails? Can you do a midnight movie if you have to be up for a 9 a.m. screening the next day? TIFF is a very well-run festival so you can be sure that when you get there, your movie is going to be happening, there will often be an interesting Q&A, the lines and crowds will be well-organized, you'll have a good experience.

There's both advance planning (hotels will book up ages in advance, restaurants may be hard to get into) and on-the-fly adjustments to be made the day of once you realize a movie you snubbed is getting great reviews and you really want to see it more than the one you planned to see.

I make a lot of color-coded spreadsheets with subway stations and travel times and whatnot. It's super-fun for my deep nerdiness.

I can't vouch for other festivals necessarily. Sundance really didn't scratch the same itch, for example - much smaller range of movies, most stuff either really close together or super-spread-out so the only logistical question is "how long does the one possible bus route take?". Good movies but not the same logistics-nerd glee.
posted by Stacey at 7:08 AM on March 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

There are very few other places that nail transportation like Disney does. Perhaps a rail pass through central Europe? (Belgium/Netherlands/Germany/Austria/Switzerland)?
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:16 AM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Stacey's got a great idea with TIFF. One of my neighbours is a major film nerd; soon as each year's schedule comes out it's annotated and post-it-ed and whatnot until he can min/max his experience. (Plus Toronto is lots of fun, and you could squeeze in a meetup.) (And we call them streetcars not trolleys :P)

Burning Man, maybe? It could satisfy the need for intense planning, although as I understand it you can't quite count on smooth sailing.

Eurail pass + specific timing to, I dunno, hit some festival in a different city every couple of days? Or Europe with a theme--see every Rembrandt in every gallery across Europe, take in a concert in every NATO capital, something like that. Would mean lots of advance planning.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:30 AM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

There's London or New York or really any big city with enough history if you pick a historical figure and have to track their lives in X days - I always thought it would be amazing to do a Shakespeare, Pepys or Jane Austen trip in England - so many places to go and do you do them chronologically, by location, or by importance, and how do you decide - a place the actual person went, places they wrote about, significant places or events in their lives? If you limited it to a major city, you could go deep - the blues in New Orleans, suffragettes in New York etc. That has the bonus of requiring research ahead of the time and if you pick something you both enjoy that's slightly obscure, it'd be almost a travel scavenger hunt.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:37 AM on March 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

South by Southwest.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:10 AM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Honestly, I don't think the vast majority of the real world works like this. It doesn't matter how well you plan, the other side usually doesn't hold up their bargain. Things like film or music festivals may require a lot of planning but often films fill up or shows are cancelled and your planning is for nothing.

Given that, maybe Japan? You could excessively plan it out in advance, and then just follow your plans blindly, because you really couldn't read the signs or talk to anyone. And it would probably work out.
posted by smackfu at 8:29 AM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Film festivals are a great idea - not just TIFF, either. Palm Springs, Austin, Dallas does a huge Asian film festival, Berlin. There's comedy festivals too - Just For Laughs, Melbourne (which is a month long, so you have some wiggle room for logistics), Fringe festivals in many places plus the granddaddy in Edinburgh.

I still don't think you'll get quite the precision flow at any of those things that you'll get from Disney, though. They invented some of the science used to make that experience so seamless, and you won't find any of it in use at, say, Edinburgh Fringe or South by Southwest. There can be a pleasure in giving in to the chaos of those environments too - letting the day take you where it will rather than where you're trying to be, and maybe accidentally having some transcendental moments as a result.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:33 AM on March 16, 2015

If you go somewhere with a rapid transit system it can add to the fun (and speed) to get a guide that tell you where to stand on the train to be closest to your desired exit. Nowadays there are mobile phone apps that do this.
posted by grouse at 8:35 AM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Burning Man, maybe? It could satisfy the need for intense planning, although as I understand it you can't quite count on smooth sailing.

Burning Man may be the opposite of what the OP's looking for. You absolutely can't plan on anything happening when someone says it will. You could walk for miles in the ridiculous heat and sun to find a camp that's having an event listed in the guide, only to find that the camp doesn't exist at all, or it moved, or the event's not happening, or you were distracted 5 minutes after you left your camp by something else way cooler.

It does satisfy the intense logistical planning part for months leading up to it, but then you have to be prepared for all of your best-laid plans to immediately fall apart when you arrive. Embracing that feeling is part of the experience.
posted by cabingirl at 9:31 AM on March 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

You might enjoy a cruise that stops almost every day. It hits on the excitement of "you need to be back by 4pm or the boat leaves without you," so pretty much the whole day you are exploring but always gauging how much time you have left and how far away you can get from the boat and still get back. Obviously this works better on cruises that stop in larger cities.

Even on the boat, if you made it a game to do all the activities you can, you'll be pretty tightly scheduled with running to trivia, then ballroom dancing, then the auction, etc.

Cruises are kind of on that Disney model where they will give you The Perfect Experience.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:55 AM on March 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

The Bumbershoot music+arts festival has an interesting mix of music plus comedy, arts, etc. that might be appropriate for planning and min-maxing. Certainly any major city with lots of attractions can host a more chaotic version of this, trying to see everything you want.

Perhaps you'd be interested in the Monopoly Pub Crawl in London, which requires substantial planning to be able to hit all 22 pubs in one day.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:52 AM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I just got back from a fun couple days in Las Vegas, and I think you could plan something like this for there! At least on the Strip that Disney-esque "things just work" feel is there, and there are a lot of shows, museums, activities etc. that you could pack into a tight schedule.
posted by anotherthink at 11:37 AM on March 16, 2015

Tokyo is the one of the world's most efficient, stimulating, rewarding places for both planners and the spontaneous, and most of the rest of touristy Japan is too.
posted by mdonley at 6:35 PM on March 16, 2015

I get a similar vibe when I visit Renaissance festivals or the State Fair. There is a calendar of events/concerts/displays across multiple venues within the park, and it's a challenge to figure out which ones you want to see and whether you have time to cross the whole park to see the Mud Show and still get back in time to see the Jousting.
posted by CathyG at 5:20 AM on March 20, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! We've decided to do CES 2016 in Vegas!
posted by dmd at 12:39 PM on March 24, 2015

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