Tricks to Travelling with No Plan

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I don’t like plans and reservations. They mean I am committed to an committed to being at a certain place at a certain time. My travel style is free flowing and a desire to follow the whim of the moment. Travelling without hostels and activities pre-arranged is scary and has some risk. I generally plan as I go. I will book hostels and tours the night before. It’s a good day when have stuff booked two days in advance. Sometimes places are full and things can go wrong but I have never been completely in over my head. I have never been left to sleep without a roof over my head. Here are my tips and tricks to prevent complete disaster while travelling with no plan.

Decided on your group size.

Tricks to Travelling with No Plan

The smaller the group the better. It is much easier to find a bed in a hostel for one person than four. Sometimes you get a nice hostel owner who will let you crash in the common room when the hostel is full.

Choose your travel dates carefully

One of the keys of travelling without a plan is to travel during the off seasons / low season. The low season means less tourists. Less tourist means smaller crowds and the more room you have to work on housing options and activities.

Know the holidays

Check for local holidays. These can affect the availability of housing and activities. On my last trip to London, I hadn’t realized that it was a bank holiday and every hostel room in the city was book. I need a place to crash for the night and nowhere to stay. I put out a help message to all the people I knew in London seeing who was in town and had a couch I could crash on for the night.

Check for special events.

Tricks to Travelling with No Plan

Goes back to holidays. Unless you are there for the special event, I would avoid visiting at that tie. During my trip to Colombia, I wasn’t aware of that it was I was visiting the Deserto Tataco during the annual desert marathon. The small desert which usually has a couple dozen visitors sees over 1000 people come for this event. This makes housing options very limited for the solo tourist who arrived expecting to be able to find a room for the night. Thankfully one of the hacienda owners had a hammock and let me rent it for the night.

Be prepared for weather

Tricks to Travelling with No Plan

One should always do this, but it is more important during low seasons. Low season are low for a reason and it’s usually that the weather isn’t as good during that time. While visiting Iceland, the weather had a huge effect on my plans. It was February and the middle of winter. I was doing a road trip around the Ring Road. I would check the reports for storms and wind conditions. I would plan my trips accordingly.

Make an outline

Tricks to Travelling with No Plan

This is my entire plan for trip to Colombia.

Travelling without a plan doesn’t mean being a blind idiot with no idea what they want to do. I usually have a rough outline of the number of days I have and fill in what activities I want to do. It is a rough draft and helps give me a sense of timing to make sure I can do everything I want to do.

Know your options

Make sure you research before you arrive. Don’t just show up blind (it does sound like an interesting challenge). I generally have a list of hostels for each location I plan on visiting. I know that odds are one of these will have space for a single traveler.

Book your first night

Tricks to Travelling with No Plan

It is stressful enough to arrive in a new location find a hostel or hotel when you arrive doesn’t help.  No matter what, I have the first nights hostel before I arrived.  It is nice to get off the plan and immediately know where you are going for a nap before you explore the city.

Be flexible

Tricks to Travelling with No Plan

The more willing you are to work with someone the better odds you have of things working out. Being flexible allows you to change plans as you find things booked, gain new information or the weather changes. While in northern Iceland, I wanted to do a volcano flyover tour. Despite being winter it was fully booked for a couple of days. I had to rearrange my plan to fit the flight it. Too bad, the snow storm canceled the flight.

Don’t Panic

Above all else. Don’t panic. If you panic, it will get worse. Whatever has gone wrong isn’t nearly as bad as you think it is. Take a deep breath and relax a little. Find the root of the problem and work through it until you find a solution. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your contacts. You never know who is where or where they have contacts.

Check out my trips with my no travel plans

Do you like to travelling with no plan?

18 Replies to “Tricks to Travelling with No Plan”

  1. Pingback: Without a Plan ~ Winter Road Trip in Iceland

  2. mar

    Agree, don’t panic! In the end everything has a solution. It is important to be prepared though if you have no plans at all. Sometimes, being prepared just means having some cash with you in case you need it. It’s liberating to travel with the flow and see where a trip takes you, and it provides more opportunities for serendipity!

    Reply
  3. Vicky and Buddy

    I like being flexible, but I am definitely a planner. I prefer to have my accommodations booked in advance because I spend more time exploring and doing stuff than looking around wondering where I’m going to sleep. The daily activities I don’t usually book in advance; I just have a few things written down that I’d like to see before I go.
    Vicky and Buddy’s current road . . . Stonehenge: Is It Worth Seeing?My Profile

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  4. Bobbi Gould

    This sounds like something written by me! haha You plan exactly like I do. I always book the FIRST night, and then I fly by the seat of my pants. Doing so, I was able to see so many cool things I wouldn’t have seen! I would never have seen Venice if it wasn’t for a flexible schedule. 🙂
    Bobbi Gould’s current road . . . 5 Ways Travel Heals DepressionMy Profile

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    • Jennifer Post author

      I know. I have done the overplanned and packed full and its just too stressful. You need a vacation from the vacation after that. Give me my free-flowing trip any day.

      Reply
  5. anna

    In Europe..I would book a day in a advance, specially since I don’t like walking around at night not knowing where to go. Asia however, is a different ball game as most places don’t really advertise online! Great tip on checking special events. I’ve made this mistake before!

    Reply
    • Jennifer Post author

      Even know, I still forget to check for special events and even when I do, sometimes it doesn’t show up. I love booking a day in advance. You can almost always get recommendations from other travelers.

      Reply
  6. Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru

    I like how you combine a certain level of planning with enough blank space to allow for serendipity. We’ve become better at this as well. We do generally arrive with a place to sleep and we like a higher level of comfort now that we’re older, but it’s important to realize that overscheduling might deprive you of the most wonderful and surprising experience that never would have been yours. Limited planning for the win!
    Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru’s current road . . . 4 Favorite Baix Empordà Coastal VillagesMy Profile

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