I’ve found when traveling that having everything scheduled and worked out in the finest detail simply makes for a poor travel experience. If you have everything planned out then there is no opportunity of the unexpected to happen, which is where most of the excitement from travel come from. Or, if it does happen, you can’t seize it because you are already committed. No plan is often the best plan when it comes travel.
I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t have some idea of what you want to do. There are obviously places you want to visit and things you want to do, and you should definitely have a plan to see them. However, instead of booking all of the flights and tours in advance, book them a few days before. In most places, the price difference is miniscule. This gives you far more freedom to stay longer at a place if you like it, or leave sooner if you don’t.
One thing I usually do when traveling is book a place to stay for the first night or two. I like to have that taken care of so when I arrive I can go and relax. Travel can be a bit draining at times and it’s nice to know you have a place. I don’t book for the entire time though. If the places turns out to be a dumb, have bad staff, is loud, or who knows what, you don’t want to be stuck there because you paid in advance. The chances of these places being fully booked are slim in most situations and you can always find another place. I only break this rule for special occasions when I know a place is going to be fully booked (like Mardi Gras or something similar).
When it comes to transportation I almost always do that just a day or two before I travel with the exception of some flights. You might find flights are bit cheaper if you book them a couple weeks in advance (more than that and there usually are no savings). However, in many places—especially SE Asia—there is rarely a need to book flights more than a few days in advance. Trains and buses don’t usually need to be booked in advance at all, or maybe just a day or two before you leave. I rarely have problems. The few times I have it has been because of some holiday (flights from Borneo to the Philippines around Christmas, for example) or because the destination was really popular and lots of people are coming in and out often (Agra in India where the Taj Mahal is located).
Otherwise, just book your transportation when you are ready. The flexibility this gives you is wonderful. I can’t count how many times I have decided to stay at a place longer because I liked it, or leave because I wasn’t enjoying myself as much. Sometimes I meet some great people and want to change my plans so I can travel with them. I’ve even discovered there other things to see that I didn’t know about before and so my plans changed. By avoiding booking in advance I had the flexibility to do what I wanted and not be locked into an itinerary.
Overall, the best plan is no plan at all. Having a general idea of what you want to see and where you want to go is great, but avoiding locking yourself into a strict itinerary. Not only does this ride you of your freedom, but it removed any chance to seize random opportunities that spring up when you travel—and they spring up often. You want to give yourself the ability to explore and having no plan is the best plan for that!
Have you traveled with no plan before? Share your experience in the comments section below.