I know that the title of this blog post might sound a little bit cryptic but read on, I’ll explain what I’m talking about. After having spent the majority of the last couple of years travelling, one question that I get asked a lot is- ‘how do you plan your backpacking trips?’ Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I don’t- at least not in the hostel booking, schedule planning kind of way anyway.
Here’s why I don’t plan my trips
I find planning boring
I know some people find that planning a trip is part of the fun- I hate it. Whether it’s booking accommodation, coming up with an itinerary or researching what to do in each place, I find it so tedious. In fact, sometimes researching a trip puts me off even going in the first place.
You can’t plan for the unexpected
Travelling is all about embracing the unexpected and you simply can’t plan for that. Who knows what hidden gems you’ll discover along the way, the people you’ll meet or the things that happen that are totally out of your control. Trying to stick to a rigid plan while backpacking is just going to cause you more hassle than it’s worth.
It’s better to follow suggestions from people you meet
One of the best things about travelling is meeting people that are doing similar things to you. This is great because not only do you meet like-minded people but you also get to hear all of their recommendations first hand. This is how you really discover those hidden gems while travelling.
It ruins the adventure
Lastly, planning trips totally ruins the sense of adventure for me. The thrill of backpacking is that it’s a journey into the unknown. A routine is non-existent, each day brings endless possibilities and you really get the chance to live in the moment. That’s what travel is about for me.
Here’s what I do plan
I know that turning up in a new country with virtually nothing planned might seem really overwhelming but trust me, it’s the best way to do it. Having said that, there are a few things that I do organise or at least research before I go. Here’s what.
The first few nights accommodation
I think that it’s practical and sensible to book your accommodation for the first few nights before you arrive. This is because wandering around looking for accommodation when you’ve just got off a long flight isn’t a lot of fun. It’s usually easy to extend your stay in person in hostels so I wouldn’t advise booking more than three days accommodation in case you don’t like the place.
Looking at the weather
Before even booking your flights, I would advise to check out the weather. It’s easy to forget that ‘warm countries’ aren’t always warm and the last thing you want to do is book a trip in the middle of monsoon season or fly to a beach destination in the height of their winter.
Once I pick a region or country to travel in, I’ll usually come up with a rough idea of some places that I want to visit. I like to do a little search before I go about some of the highlights in these places whether that’s beaches, cafes or hikes. Then I jot them down on a list for me to refer to when I’m away.
A Rough budget
I’m a naturally cautious spender so I don’t feel the need to stick to a strict budget or keep a note of all my spendings. Having said that, I do like to come up with a rough estimate of how much I’ll spend before I go. I do this by researching the average cost of accommodation, food, activities etc. I then multiply this by the number of days I expect to be away, in order to make sure I have enough money for my trip.
Flights are the one thing that tend to get more expensive the later you book them so I tend to book the main ones as far advance as I can. By this, I mean booking any long-haul flights as well as any for countries that require proof of onward travel. (Some countries will not let you enter if you do not have a flight or a bus booked out of the country). Generally speaking, internal flights are ok to leave until the last minute to book.
Obviously travelling without a plan doesn’t work for everyone. I understand that if you have restraints like a lack of time, a strict budget or even if you’re travelling in a group then it can be tricky to travel fully spontaneously. Even so, I urge you when you can, leave whatever you can to fate- You never know what surprises are in store for you.
Are you a travel planner or a travel winger? Let me know.