Do you plan your trip out in it’s entirety before departing? Or do you like to go with the flow – letting luck, circumstances and whim guide your way? Or do you try to find a balance?
A few months ago I posted a little quiz I made up to help determine your travel style. I like to consider myself type B – the in between type. But from past experience – almost all of my trips end up being planned before I head out.
As soon as I decide on my next destination, I usually let excitement take over and I end up booking my tickets months in advance. Take my trip to Samoa for example – I booked my tickets from Australia – Samoa – Fiji – Tonga – Australia two months before I departed. Normally this works out fine for me. I research, I read, I plan – I decide how much time I would like to spend in each destination, and I book my flights accordingly.
But sometimes life takes even the most finely tuned plans, and throws them out the window.
After hearing many stories of other travellers scoring great deals by waiting to the last minute, and after having some of my best laid plans not work out, I am starting to wonder if travel planning in advance is really the best strategy. Maybe it is time to start looking for late deals instead of planning my trip to the day.
Exhibit 1 : Pacific Islands
A tropical cyclone hit.
No amount of travel planning could have prepared me for being stranded on a small beach island, taking one of the most horrible ferry rides of my life, and ending up stranded in Nadi with no running water (and even worse, no pizza).
It was awful. I ended up showering under a drain pipe. My curls dreaded (not in the stylish way, but in the unclean way). I was bitten by bed bugs.
I just wanted to go home.
And I did. I booked myself a flight home to Australia as soon as planes were flying from Fiji again. I ended up missing the entire Tongan part of my trip – the country I was most looking forward to.
I was lucky enough that my flight to Tonga was credited back to me by the airline, but the more expensive flight from Tonga to Australia was not refunded.
This would not have happened if I had been playing it by ear – if I had been booking my trip while on the road.
Exhibit 2 : Moving To Australia
When I booked my one way ticket to New Zealand in 2010, I knew I would probably end up moving to Australia after my New Zealand working holiday visa expired. I wasn’t planning to move to Australia until November, but when I saw a flight sale I decided to book as far in advance as August. I had decided I was moving to Melbourne, and nothing would sway my decision.
Nothing but a job offer. When opportunity arose in Brisbane, I took it. Meaning that instead of just flying from Wellington to Brisbane, I ended up in Melbourne first and had to buy yet another flight (and lug all my belongings around).
Although I did have an awesome time in Melbourne, I could have avoided the extra flight and the extra hassle with my luggage and gone direct instead.
Exhibit 3 : Backpacking Australia
Today provides yet another example of when sometimes even the best paid plans can go awry. At the moment, I am on a 3 month long press trip around Australia. Of course, when it comes to press trips, these things must be planned in advance. Sponsors need to be contacted and negotiated with, and tours need to be booked with their respective media reps.
I planned the whole Great Australian Overland Adventure, which began in May, in December and January. So there was no way I could have predicted that the weather was going to work against me.
The first calamity arose in Coral Bay when our whale shark tour was cancelled due to bad weather. Luckily, we were able to cut Geraldton out of the itinerary and stay a few extra days so that we could wait out the weather.
However, today I am not so lucky. I am in Agnes Water/1770 where I was supposed to be taking part in a twilight kayaking tour. Unfortunately rain and high winds have cancelled the tour, and my schedule does not allow me to stay here for a little while longer to try my luck with the sun.
To Plan Or Not To Plan?
I am guilty of being a planner. I like to make to – do lists and look at calenders. I like to read guide books and travel blogs and make itineraries. But in doing so, I am probably missing out on not only the greater flexibility of playing things be ear, but I am also missing out on some of the great last minute sales that often get emailed to me.
Maybe it is about time to be more spontaneous, book last minute, and see where fate takes me.
Have you booked a last minute flight or vacation deal? What is your travel planning style? Do you prefer to plan in advance or book last minute? Tell me in the comments!