In Chapter 7 of Patrick McIvor’s series “Have Shears Will Travel, Patrick discusses the importance of planning ahead. Even if you’re a “fly by the seat of your pants” type of traveler and love the life of spontaneity, his sage advice will make traveling less stressful and more successful.
There are basically two extremes to planning a trip: one has every minute of the trip accounted for with a strict itinerary and the other has no plans and just wants to “wing it” and go with the flow. In my life, I have done both and as with most things in life, neither is always right and more importantly, neither is never right for everyone. So when groups are involved, even if that is just two people, the more you plan, even if the plan is no plan, the better. I have often traveled alone in addition to traveling with others, including partners, professional friends and large groups of people traveling together doing tours/shows and both offer opportunities and drawbacks. So from one extreme to the other, let’s look at having more fun traveling and how to plan ahead.
Unless you are using one of the last minute travel services that offer free flights to destinations, not of your choosing, that many times is only revealed to you upon your arrival at the airport, traveling in the US is best/most affordable when planned in advance. Last minute travel bookings in the US to a destination of your choice is a costly affair and one that comes at a premium price. So planning ahead can save up to 50% or more over booking a last minute ticket. If you are traveling with a group, or even just more than one, make sure that you are all on the same flight. Even on discount airlines, planning ahead can save money by pre-paying for luggage and making other selections before arriving at the airport. With strict budgets and tight profit margins, budget airlines reward their passengers for planning ahead.
Today, lodging can be a double edge sword when traveling. Book ahead and you can get the place, possibly even the room you want and even be able to find specials on your accommodations. But if you wait, you may be able to get some unbelievable last minute bargains on unbooked rooms through apps and hotel sites. When you plan ahead, you might need you to stay for all the nights you planned on in advance and if you leave early, you might forfeit the money for the nights you canceled or pay a penalty for leaving early. But if you book last minute, you can come and go as you please because you just need a room for tonight and tomorrow and you will decide again if you are sticking around or moving on to a new city. This does take practice to master, but it can be done.
From museums to historic sites, to dinner reservations, specialty tours or even shows, sporting events or specialty events, you might have needed reservations months in advance or you might just be able to walk up on the day. The point is when you are traveling sometimes you just don’t know what you’re going to be doing, but with a little research, you can find what you need to pre-book and what you can just wing. On a recent trip to Amsterdam, my family had to pre-book tickets for Anne Frank’s house and even booking four months in advance got us the last three tickets for that entire weekend, and we were actually looking for four! For groups like us, it would have been a real disappointment to travel all the way to Amsterdam and not have taken our teenage girls to Anne Frank’s house because we didn’t know tickets needed to be purchased in advance. The same may be true for someone visiting New York or London that wanted to see a play or the New York Yankees play. Or for someone visiting a great city and not be able to eat at a specific restaurant because reservations need to be made weeks or months in advance. I am all for going with the flow, but I have also learned that planning ahead can mean that some life changing and some experiences that will be remembered for the rest of my life were planned for ahead of time.
Many of us never think that anything bad is going to happen to us. I’m definitely one of them, In fact, I even tell people I am the luckiest person I know, but that hasn’t kept me from emergency landings, three hotel fires, being held up at gunpoint (for real, not like Ryan Lochte), landing in countries our planes were not supposed to and being sequestered at a hotel by immigration. Even being in the emergency room after completely biting through my tongue at the Mandalay Bay wave pool! Each time everything ultimately worked out because I had planned ahead just in case something happened. When planning your trip, make sure you have what you need just in case things go not as expected, then if you find yourself up a creek, you will have planned ahead and packed your paddle.
So, no matter if your goal for your travels are to put a backpack on your back and just head west or north or south or east and just go with the flow or if you are heading out on a group tour where everything including bathroom stops are planned, a little planning on your end can make things even better. From knowing about last minute deals and specials to knowing about the things you need to book months in advance, a little planning ahead can make your next trip an even better experience than what you dreamed of.
I hope you liked this month’s blog and I’ll be back next month with our next chapter, Live Local.
Photo Courtesy: Patrick McIvor via Instagram @patrickmcivor
Need to catch up? Check out Patrick’s previous chapters:
Chapter 1: Remember, You Are Going Someplace
Chapter 2: Packing Better
Chapter 3: Playing Games
Chapter 4: Reality Wins
Chapter 5: Collaborative Travel
Chapter 6: Importance of Ratings