Travel Planning – Do You Follow Your Guide or Follow Your Gut?
10th February 2018
Are you a compulsive travel planner? Do you polish your meticulous, well-thought itinerary six months before the trip, make & pay for all the bookings in advance, and mark out every single pebble on your route long before you set your foot on the land?
Or maybe you take it easy? You cover thousands of miles, arrive in the middle of nowhere with a humongous backpack, high hopes, and a tiny budget, asking for on-the-spot accommodation. Then you continue your journey on the spur of the moment.
Do you follow your guide or go with your gut when traveling?
There are two types of travelers (or maybe it applies to all activities, by extension?). The first type are planning sectarians. Every day scheduled from A-Z. Lonely Planet guide? They could write one! Top 10 attractions? Easy – they have them covered. Not a single minute in the daily trip schedule remains unattended.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are those last-minute laid-backs, the spontaneous, ready-for-all voyageurs who always roam off the beaten track and never follow the itinerary. They don’t have one.
Unfortunately, I am not that type. Luckily, I am being it. Occasionally.
Plan your travel smart and embrace spontaneity later
Before I arrive in a place, I absolutely need to have everything sorted out, hotels booked, major transfers pre-arranged, background check performed. To a free-spirited roamer, I may seem to be verging on the obsessive when it comes to my trip preparations.
The truth is that I loathe the hassle of ad-hoc travel arrangements. I’d despise having to lose my time on walking around a remote village somewhere in India asking for accommodation. I’d very much prefer spending these precious hours lying on a magnificent beach, admiring museum collections, or enjoying the most delicious local food in a shabby corner bar.
Also, I’d rather not deal with the frustration of not being able to reach a fabulous place I’d read about when it turns that it’s out of bounds because I was too lazy to check the transport options and visiting times ahead.
Traveler’s split personality: obsessive-compulsive planner vs. carefree roamer
When I’m preparing for a trip, I’m preparing for a trip. But there’s a more adventurous side to my traveler’s self, too. That of an impromptu wanderer. With this type of a split traveler’s personality, my truly preferred approach to trips is:
- Plan on your own. No package holidays. No copying of other people’s itineraries, although inspiration is much desired.
- Thoroughly plan for the main attractions. I prepare a list of the sights that I’d like to see, and check opening times and directions. This stage is crucial for me, as quite often museums will be closed on Mondays or other days, depending on the country, churches and temples may be inaccessible during services, etc.
- Educate. I read books about the place where I’m going, check out travel blogs, learn about the local customs, and explore some trivia.
- Pre-book all accommodation. This helps me save time once we reach our destination. I almost always use Booking.com, and since I’m a regular customer, I take advantage of their discounts.
- Check the transport options. I double-check how best to get to a place of interest, what the costs are, or if pre-booking is requires. Sometimes this is a life-saver!
- Take care of navigation. Install offline maps on your device or… buy a paper map in a bookstore. Somehow, I find my way around better when I’ve a paper map on hand.
- (And here comes my spontaneous self.) Free roam! While I’m already on vacation, I spend about 70% of my time just… roaming without any plan or purpose. I head to some district, hang around, sit in the local pubs and cafes, see how people live, No plans and ticking off to-do lists. Just an ordinary life.
Below: Some pics I took while free roaming in Baltimore Inner Harbor
For those of you who are just starting your travels, and would like to know more about meticulous planning, here’s a great blog post on the topic.
Ready to head off?
So it turns out that I am a strong supporter of free roaming. However, forewarned is forearmed, so to enjoy leisurely strolls abroad, I need to get a plan first.
And what about you?
P.S. Check out my next post 5 Fabulous Places I Discovered Thanks to Spontaneous Trips to see 5 incredible places I came across by chance, with no itinerary.