Plan it…or wing it?

I’m super excited about my upcoming December mini-travels in Europe, and as such spend a great deal of time reading about things to do there, places to see, how to get about etc. As I sat on my lunch break last week looking at ways to get to a tiny town in Austria, I got chatting to a colleague who had enjoyed 6 weeks in Eastern Europe over the summer exploring the cities and tourist hotspots.

She was amazed at how organised I’ve been with getting things booked, as she travelled with the mindset of ‘where do I fancy going today?’. And it got me thinking, should I be more like that?

As it turns out, I am quite like that, which is why things are never set in stone until they get booked. I am always changing my mind of where I’d like to go, how long I want to be there, what I’d like to see and where I’ll be going after. But the fact that I book before going is what makes the difference. And the reason? Budget.

My boyfriend and I are taking a lot of train trips in December, and everyone has said to us ‘you should get an inter-railing pass‘. While this would work out cheaper if we were both under 26, or were travelling in just one country, by booking ahead we can actually save money on the trains. It’s also cheaper for us at times to stay in a hotel rather than a private room in a hostel. But we can only get the cheaper price if we book in advance.

Time is also a factor we need to consider. As we’re only going for a total of 16 days, by planning ahead I can make sure we don’t waste any time that could be better spent seeing places.

At the end of it all, the main difference between myself and my colleague is the kind of trip we’re taking. She had just finished uni and had time to make her way wherever she fancied. Hostel dorm rooms and an inter-railing pass were the best bet for her. Hotel rooms for one are expensive, and last minute train tickets can be ridiculous. Myself and my boyfriend, on the other hand, are trying to find the balance between working full time jobs and maximising our annual leave to allow us to travel and see as much as we can. We work hard, and I want our break away to find the balance between budget-friendly and comfortable.

There will be a day (hopefully!) when we have a considerable amount of time off work, and at that time we’ll look at ways we can be flexible and save as much money as possible along the way. And at that time, I’d like to think we can go wherever we fancy that day. But for now, I’m a planner and that’s ok!

Do you like to plan a trip or just turn up and see what happens?

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22 Comments

  1. October 26, 2015 / 2:00 pm

    I’m definitely a planner when it comes to trips (I’m overly organized). I like to have the main cities, transportation and sleeping accommodations planned out before I go, but I also try to keep some spontaneity while I’m actually traveling. By this, I mean I don’t fully plan out everything I’m going to do in each city, sometimes I just show up, grab a map from a tourism office and set off to explore. I also try to leave some spontaneity for day trips from bigger cities, I might decide on that day to visit a different city than I initially intended. I think there are definitely advantages and disadvantages to both methods. If I was going on more long-term travel, I think I would leave more up to chance and go places based on how I’m feeling that particular day.

    • I definitely like to have transport and accommodation sorted, otherwise I worry endlessly that I’ll end up on a park bench for the night! And it’s always nice to be spontaneous and just grab a map and go. I always try to find out things I wouldn’t want to miss before I go, so I don’t kick myself when I get home and realise I didn’t make the most of my time, but other than that I love just wandering and seeing what’s about!

      • October 26, 2015 / 8:24 pm

        I thought I was really going to end up on a park bench in Malmo last year – I didn’t in the end. It was rather scary at the time but seems like a big adventure in retrospect!

  2. October 26, 2015 / 2:57 pm

    It totally depends on the situation im in, where I am going, who I am travelling with or even going solo, if it’s in Europe or another continent. It completely depends for me. I recently went to Paris and I am actually a planner between me and my partner, but I made absolutely no decisions, I simply booked the trains and hotel he had chosen coz it was all in my account and he organised the whole thing. Never felt so relaxed haha

  3. October 26, 2015 / 6:52 pm

    You and I are very similar in that the budget and time off is an important consideration. What we generally do is decide on our destinations and the time we spend there, glancing over that area to see what we might want to do. Then we book our hotels and whatnot. However, when we’re actually on the trip, we wing it. When we went to Paris, we knew there was a lot to do and we decided on 3 days. It wasn’t until we actually got there that we figured out what to do when. It’s a happy medium between planning and going with the flow.

  4. October 26, 2015 / 9:56 pm

    I’m much the same – having worked as a travel agent + having a tighter budget + trying to fit lots in = you HAVE to plan in advance a bit!! But I like the spontaneity of travel too… the best half way point I’ve found is to book the essentials (train/plane tickets, accommodation), plus like 2 things you want to see in a day (say the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame), and make it a bit of a game in getting from one to the other, and seeing what else you can stumble on along the way! Looking forward to seeing your December adventure though 🙂 so exciting!

  5. October 27, 2015 / 2:05 am

    I’m a winger right now…I basically decide on where to go the day before. I do book a room though, because I don’t like wandering around with my fingers crossed that there’s something decent around.
    But I do totally get you! When I was still in uni I did the same thing, plan and book ahead to make sure I wouldn’t miss out. I still love to read my guidebooks way before the actual trip! It’s so much fun! 🙂
    I’m sure you’ll have an awesome time on your trip!

      • October 27, 2015 / 7:28 am

        Once I’m there I usually get a good price for transportation and accommodation…I do book my flight there (when it’s really far away) about 2 months before though, still have to find a way to get the cheapest flight! Though I did get a pretty cheap flight from Bali to Amsterdam last year that I only booked a week before. I guess it depends. I could get cheaper flights, but I prefer to fly with a good airline when I have a long flight, like Emirates or Singapore Airlines, so they are usually a bit more expensive…it’s always a good idea to book through the airlines’ own website, baggage is usually included and in the end the ticket is cheaper. I do use websites like Skyscanner to find which airlines fly when and where 😉
        Wow, didn’t mean for that to be such a long answer!

  6. October 27, 2015 / 10:08 am

    I always have this same debate! And always end up planning advance – I just can’t help myself! It’s a bit catch 22 as you can miss out on stuff if you don’t plan/research, but also miss out if you do because sometimes spontaneous can be helpful! I love planning and take great pleasure in doing it, but I do wonder what it would be like if I just winged it for once!

    I’m the same as you in that I want to get the most out of my time off, within my budget. I always try to leave space in my planning for change as well… For the most part it’s paid off in my opinion but opportunity cost definitely applies heavily in travel organisation!

    Hope you have a good trip!

    • That’s always my dilemma! I’ve had some strokes of luck though when I’ve not planned anything, and also missed out on some really cool stuff – hard trying to get the right balance, but also fun trying!

  7. October 27, 2015 / 5:13 pm

    Plan. Plan. Plan. I’d love to fly by the seat of my pants, but I want to know where I’m going rest my head when I get to a new city. Also, when traveling by train in the UK, you have to book train tickets ahead of time…unless you enjoy paying three times as much to buy the ticket the day of your journey!

    • I think it’s the same with train tickets, and probably all tickets, worldwide! I went to Germany last year, bought a ticket in advance for €29, would have cost me €125 on the day!

  8. October 27, 2015 / 9:34 pm

    I like to say I plan things but realistically… Usually I’m the spontaneous trip kinda wife, but depending on the drive there or how far ahead out I was able to get plane tickets, I’ll do whatever planning I can! Time off of work to travel is something everyone desires. 😉

    • It’s always fun to be spontaneous! Sometimes I like to book things a week ahead so I don’t have to wait to go, other times (rarely…) I book months in advance and it’s nice to have something to look forward to. I do try to be spontaneous sometimes though, keep things interesting!

  9. November 20, 2015 / 8:05 pm

    I’m totally a planner when it comes to traveling. Once we get to our destination I get totally relaxed, but until then I’m a little stress case. Hahaha

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