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Why Traveling without a Plan Isn’t Always a Good Thing

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll have learned a few things about me:

1. I’m terrified of alligators (but I mean, who isn’t?) and flying

2. If I see inanimate object, I have a compulsive need to take picture with it

AND…

3. I love traveling without a plan

And while I could write several blog posts about my reoccurring alligator dreams, I’ll spare you that and instead focus on that third item on the list: my love for unorganized, spontaneous, last-minute travel adventures.

Reannon on the bus in Paris, France
Here’s me on the bus in Paris

I love the flexibility of not having a set schedule when I travel. I like the idea that if I arrive somewhere and want to leave earlier than planned or stay an extra day, I can. I like keeping my options open.

But mostly, I hate the alternative. Because NOT traveling without a plan would mean that I’d have to travel WITH one, and that’s way too much like work. Researching train schedules, creating packing checklists, plotting routes on maps…blech, no thanks. I’d rather take the procrastinator approach to travel and just figure it out once I get there.

Nomadic Matt thinks that this is a side-effect of the vagabond lifestyle and that nomadic personality types, by nature, enjoy living in a world of infinite possibilities. Or as Matt says:

“I think real long-term vagabonding makes you commitment phobic, at least it has for me. When you are a perpetual nomad, you can do what you want. You have a million travel ideas circulating through your head. But the second you commit to any one, all the other travel balloons burst.”

I concur, Matt. I really do…

But.

Sometimes traveling with a plan doesn’t work. Like when you’re in Europe and on a strict budget and a tight schedule. That’s when being organized and planning things out in advance is not only helpful, it’s necessary.

I had to learn that the hard way when I was in London a few weeks ago and tried to book a last-minute Eurostar train ticket to Paris. My friends had all (wisely) booked theirs a few months earlier, when the tickets were still 30-something pounds (roughly 60 dollars US). Not knowing that train ticket prices in Europe aren’t set (they fluctuate as widely as airfare prices), I figured that I could wait until a couple of days beforehand to reserve my spot and the price would be the same (or close to it).

Yeah, not so much.

When I went to go book the ticket online, the price was over 300 pounds (close to 700 dollars US), which was WAAAAAAY too much to spend for two days in France. And although I wanted to call it quits right then and there, at that point I’d already promised my French friend I’d visit her and she’d taken time off of work in order to see me…So I was stuck. I had to go.

Which was why, while all my friends took a couple-hour train ride to Paris, I took an 11-hour overnight bus and ferry ride instead. While the bus/ferry combo was a lot cheaper (only 40 dollars or so), it nearly ruined the only full day I had in Paris. I spent the entire next day, staggering up and down subway steps and groggily stumbling out of the bus to take photos of the Louvre, tired and grumpy and too dazed and exhausted to really fully enjoy anything.

ANYWAY, now I know. Traveling without a plan is fine and well if you’re going for say, a week-long vacation on a small island in the Caribbean. But if you’re trying to visit seven cities in nine days and you’re hoping not to go broke in the process, well, booking ahead is really your only option.

How do you like to travel? Do you enjoy planning for a trip or do you find it to be a chore?

 

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