I don’t like to plan my travel itinerary beforehand, and most of the time, I don’t do half of what I plan. This can be very crazy for a lot of travelers. Everybody loves to know what they are going to do when they go on vacation. Planning a travel itinerary is very important to some. There are for sure lots of benefits when you plan it beforehand. For instance, planning your travel itinerary can help you estimate the cost of your travel. However, to me, there are way more benefits when I don’t plan it before than when I do.
When I go on vacation, what’s on my mind is that everything has to feel natural and everything has to come from my heart. I have to feel like doing everything. If I have to be strict with any schedule and have to follow every single little plan, it makes me feel like I’m at work. And feeling like being at work is something I definitely do not want to feel when I travel. The whole point of traveling is to get away from work, and crazy schedules.
Now you may be wondering: is everything you do planned last minute? Or do you just go and don’t plan anything at all? Of course, there are some things I think it’s important to plan way before I travel. I make sure certain important things are researched and booked before I go.
What I like to plan ahead:
Depending on where I’m traveling to I believe I have to plan beforehand because I need to book certain tickets. For example, when I traveled to Orlando, Florida I wanted to go to a lot of the theme parks there. I stayed 7 days there and, as I wanted to go to those parks, I needed to book the tickets before so that I could pay a better price. I believe it would have been a mistake if I had not booked these theme park tickets before. I was able to get a better discount by purchasing the tickets online. If I know the place I’m traveling to has lots of museums and paid attractions, I will take a look at what I would feel like doing and I would book the tickets beforehand.
-Where I’m going to stay
This can be a very expensive part of your travel if you don’t plan ahead. Most of the time I travel, I like to stay at hostels or at any other cheap Airbnb. I’m a young single traveler, so there’s no need in staying in a hotel room for me. Sharing a bedroom at a hostel sounds just fine. So I always look up well-rated hostels in the places I’m going to travel to way before I go. I compare prices and pick the one that is super active. I like hostels that offer parties, walking tours, and other interactive activities.
-Means of transportation
This is another thing I like to plan ahead. If I’m going backpacking, for instance, I like to know what’s the cheapest, easiest, and fastest way to go from one place to another. I always book my flight, bus, or train tickets way before I would like to travel. We know how pricey a flight ticket can get if you don’t book months prior to your travels. So I always make sure it is booked at least 6 months before I travel.
So what do I not like to plan beforehand?
Simple: the itinerary.
What I will do on day one of my trips. On day two, day three, and so on.
So this is what I mean when it comes to not having a planned itinerary, and why I love this travel style:
What and why:
1- I watch YouTube videos
I watch a couple of YouTube videos by travel vloggers so that I can get a sense of what the place is famous for. I love to see how they explore and if I’d like to do the same things. I take notes of the name of some sights that stand out in those videos, and I write them down on my wish list. (That doesn’t mean I will for sure visit them).
When I get to the place:
2- I will talk to the local people/hostel staff asking for suggestions
I love interacting with the locals whether I speak the language or not. I love to try and take risks.
One thing I love to do is that I will love to talk to the hostel staff I stay about things I should do on that day. I always start by asking: “Hi, it’s my first time here and I don’t really know what to do. What do you think I should do first? Is there any place I should see first? What about a place off the beaten path?
The most important question I love to ask is:
Is there anything going on today? Like a festival or an event?
I love to ask this one because we never know. Sometimes you will be surprised.
I will never forget the second time I traveled to London. I talked to this lady at a coffee shop who told me that on that day there was going to be the Notting Hill Carnival. Now as a Brazilian, how do you think I felt that day? Super mega happy! Carnival? In London?
I remember I had not planned to attend the parade, but because I asked the locals for suggestions on what I should do, I was able to have the time of my life.
3- I look up places and things to do on the internet at the time I want to go out
When I’m not in the mood to talk to people I will look up for places to see near me. But not only that. Every time I reach a destination, like a tourist sight, I will do this thing: I will look up “cool places or fun things to do around this neighborhood”. I always find cool restaurants and small shops with fun stuff.
4- I love revisiting places
Another reason why I don’t plan everything and why I don’t visit half of what I plan is because I really love to revisit places. Before moving to the US to live in the NYC area, I had traveled 7 times to NYC. The first time I came I didn’t do 20% of what NYC has to offer. It’s impossible for a traveler to visit everything in the one time they go. And even if they do, what’s the point? I know people who rush from one place to another, take their photos, and then leave. I personally dislike this traveling style. I like to make the best out of each destination I reach when I travel. I enjoy exploring the areas around. I really love to be present and to live the moment.
I always think to myself: I’m young and those places are always going to be there waiting for me to come back! I can always go back to visit. And that’s why I keep going back to places. I’ve been 3 times to London, 4 times to Washington DC. I’ve been 2 times to Florida, and so many other countries for more than one time. And let me tell you something: every time I go it feels like the first time because I’m always exploring new places.
5- I love to join the people I meet on my travels
Last but not least, this is my favorite thing to do. I love meeting people when I travel. I love joining other solo travelers and doing fun stuff with them. I know that this has to be done in the safest way and that unfortunately, some people have privileges over others, but I try to do that as much as possible.
I’ve joined a friend from New Zealand at a hostel in Barcelona to explore some parts of the city. I remember we were eating lunch together at the cafeteria inside the hostel, and we were talking about places we had visited and stuff. It was our last day there. She showed me the pictures on her phone of the places she was going to visit that day, and I asked her if we could do it together. She said she was about to invite me to join her. It was so funny. Then, we both did it together and it was so much fun.
My favorite one was when I made a friend at the airport as soon as I landed in Italy. She is Brazilian, but she had moved to Italy a long time ago. She told me she has a house near the beach in Italy. When she told me all about it, I joked and said: “Maybe I should go and visit you there”. But since it was far, I didn’t think it was going to be possible. She helped me so much to plan what to do on my first day in Rome. On my last day there, she gave me a call early in the morning asking if everything was okay. I told her all about the amazing places I had visited, and that I wasn’t going to do anything on that day because I just wanted to stay at the hostel and chill. Then she said “why don’t you come over and we go to the beach together?” I was so happy I got invited to do something, and I was able to join someone. She gave me instructions on how to get to the main train station in Rome so that I could catch the next train to her town. I rushed to the station, bought the tickets, and hopped on the train towards her house. I was so excited and nervous at the same time because I was afraid I was going to miss the station I was supposed to get off. It took me almost 2 hours to get to her house. When I arrived there, she was already waiting for me at the train station. She drove me to her house, introduced me to her son and to her husband. I hadn’t brought a swimsuit because going to the beach in Italy was definitely not in my plans, so she gave me one as a present. Her son was 17 at that time and he had to work. Her husband also had to work, so only the two of us ended up going to the beach, but in the evening we would all meet up for dinner. They were so excited to show me the countryside part of Italy. No tourists, just the locals. They were excited to take me to a restaurant they loved eating so I could try some real local Italian food.
At the beach, we swam, ate, drank, talked, and had a really good time together. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
When I went back home, I reminded myself why I don’t plan 100% of my itinerary, and if I do, why I don’t stick to it so strictly. I love when things flow naturally and when I do things without having to rush or because there’s that idea that I have to.
So these have been the reasons why I don’t really plan my travel itinerary beforehand.
What about you? Do you always plan yours beforehand? If so, how do you do it?
Have you ever changed a plan last minute and you ended up having the best day of your life?
I’d love to hear from you!
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