This post is part of the Ask Alex, Travel Question Wednesdays weekly series. To see previous questions click here. To submit your own; tweet it to @AlexBerger, ask it in a comment on this post or send it in by e-mail.
A quick introductory note – When I began authoring VirtualWayfarer in July of 2007 I never expected that I’d still be blogging on travel, adventures, study abroad and everything that goes with it nearly five years later. Over the years I’ve had a lot of questions and luckily my friends, network, and more than a few random strangers have gone well out of their way to answer those questions. While I still find myself asking questions on a regular basis I’ve found that I can also pay it forward as a resource for friends, my readers, and strangers alike. In an effort to share what I’ve learned from my various adventures I’ve launched Travel Question Wednesdays. I’ll be answering one reader-submitted question every week. You are all encouraged to submit, and all past questions will be archived and available as a resource for readers of this blog. I’m going to take a very open approach to the topics I’ll cover, so feel free to ask me just about anything , just keep it somewhat travel related.
This week’s travel question is from Matthew P. he asks,
Q. “Is it better to have a planned schedule or just fly by the seat of your pants?”
A. – In my experience the more an individual travels the less scheduled/organized they become. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best way to travel for everyone but in this case, I think it’s a sound source of guidance. While I’ve never been an overly organized traveler, I know I’ve followed this pattern as well. I often travel without guidebooks, set itineraries, or advanced reservations whenever possible and have slowly pushed myself to accept people’s spur of the moment invitations to see a place, take a day trip, or embark on some new and surprising (though unexpected and unplanned) adventure. These last minute trips have often turned me onto some of my best and most memorable travel experiences.
I find that the geographic size of the destination(s) I’m visiting, transportation efficiency and cost of transportation play the biggest role in how much planning goes into my trip. With my Turkey trip, for example, I only had 17 days and intended to cover a large geographic area. After a little research I learned that flying would shave off three 14+ hour bus rides, for the same cost, if I booked ahead. This meant that I had to choose my three primary destination cities several weeks in advance of the trip. A fair trade off, and that’s where my planning ended. With each destination I figured out what to do once in Turkey a day or two in advance, or once I had already reached my destination. These type of transportation considerations are a key factor when choosing the level of organization and scheduling your trip needs. Others include peak season accommodation and tour availability, or low season routes (eg: the Greek islands only run ferries 2-3 times a week in winter).
Ultimately, schedule disaster is bound to strike in the form of a strike, missed flight, weather cancellation, delayed ferry or something of the sort. The more rigid your schedule, the more stressed you will be and the more damage these incidents will do to your trip. Often you’ll find yourself forced to do at least part of your trip by the seat of your pants, no matter how thorough your planning and scheduling has been. So, evaluate your comfort zone and then choose a planning approach which is slightly outside of it and errors a hair more towards the seat of your pants approach than you’d initially like. You’ll thank yourself and enjoy a much richer trip as a result!