Tips for Traveling with No Plans (For the Rebel in You)

I stick right between that little line of planning a little & trying to wing it. There are people, I hear, that plan their whole trip out before they go, Gasp! Props to them but I just don’t see the adventure in that. I like to stay right at that fine line. So I make goals. Below are some tips for traveling with no plans.

Having no plan has great benefits

-       Free to travel with new friends wherever they may go

-       Can change course at any time. Which will help if say, a hurricane is coming where you were headed

-       No disappointments when plans don’t work out… because you have none!

-       The feeling of blowin’ in the wind. The adventure awaits and you have no idea what’s coming next. The most gratifying & intimidating thing about travel.

 

Oh, but the downsides are there as well…

-       Running out of money because you are taking too much transportation

-       Wasting time due to backtracking. Maybe you didn’t know that it was snowing in November in Saharan and that no buses would take you out of there. That cost me 3 days and a lot of money.

traveling with no plan, travel, travel tips, travel blog, asia, india

-       Being lost in big cities and spending your day meandering (not in a good way)

-       Missed opportunities: Tigers in Bangkok, Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam. You may not get to go back to these places. Because I looked up when the Dalai Lama would be in his home, I was lucky enough to see and learn from His Holiness. I had to stay two weeks longer, but I just cut another city out.

-       Stress that comes with losing days/money on your trip

 

Here is my advice for balance.

 

Read up on the country you’re going to online. If it seems like there are a lot of activities you want to do, you should read into them more.

Example: Before I went to India I bought a guidebook on Amazon and read it at work. Not the whole thing! Just read these parts: Intro & main attractions. Skip the history and where to eat & sleep. These things you’ll figure out on the road or you can download the PDF and look it up later. It’s more beneficial to learn about the history while you’re in the country. You can apply it and will remember everything better.  I email the PDF to myself, and open it on my iPhone. Once it has been opened once with 3G or wifi, you won’t need Internet to open it thereafter. You can pull it up on your bus or train ride into the next town to see what awaits you.

traveling with no plan, travel, travel tips, travel blog, asia, indiaI keep pdf’s in my e-mail from lonely planet

I knew that, for example, in India I wanted to go to these states and these cities. You won’t make it to all but if you do, know that you want to do these activities.

traveling with no plan, travel, travel tips, travel blog, asia, indiathis is a google doc I would add things to as I read and prepare

I needed to know that the Taj Mahal is in Agra, the Camels are in Rajasthan, I could bathe elephants in Kerala, and Volunteer at Mother Theresa’s in Calcutta. Know what’s important to you and have an idea of what path you want to take. Unless of course time and money are of no problems to you, then you can comfortably wing it!

traveling with no plan, travel, travel tips, travel blog, asia, india

If you are going to a country that doesn’t have anything that stands out, then do no planning at all!

It is fun to do and you should try it at least once. For me that was Thailand. I knew I wanted to lie on a beach and sip on drinks, like in laid-back Ko Lanta. I wanted a tan and I wanted to see Maya Bay where “The Beach” was filmed. That’s pretty much it. I knew at the beaches there would be scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, etc. If any of those were offered I’d be game, but I wasn’t going to make plans around them. I had a fabulous month taking ferries from beach to beach. The only thing I missed was the Tigers because I miscalculated my visa days, had to change my flight, and headed out early. A missed opportunity is always a good reason to go back.

traveling with no plan, travel, travel tips, travel blog, asia, indiaWhere to next?

traveling with no plan, travel, travel tips, travel blog, asia, india

Here? Ok!

Set a budget.

Try to take the route that prevents flying to save money. Make sure you know the seasons of where you travel. The amount of money that I’ve lost over time because of lack of planning is enough to make a grown man cry. You also don’t want to be at a beach during off-season (monsoon) if you’re planning on getting a tan and sipping on mimosas.

*Another great reason to have a smidge of a plan is so you have something to look forward to. If you are in a city that you have no connection with and cannot wait to leave, you can calm yourself by knowing that a train ride away is a somewhere you’re really looking forward to, like late-night gazing at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

traveling with no plan, travel, travel tips, travel blog, asia, india i wasn’t stoked to sleep in this station in Allahabad, but I knew I was meeting Ashley in Varanasi in a day!

Do you travel without a plan? How do you like to keep balance? Fill me in.

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19 Comments
  1. 6 months ago
    Alison

    I also love walking the line of no planning and having a pretty good idea of what to do. I often find that you come across people along the way who have great suggestions that weren’t in any travel books. It’s so nice to have that flexibility to take off to a destination based on a last minute suggestion!
    Alison recently posted…Take that trip to your family’s hometown

    Reply
  2. 6 months ago
    J in Beijing

    When I travelled in South America we had no aim but to get from Venezuela (where we’d been living) down to Argentina- it’s nice having unlimited time and no set plans so you can stick around in places you like for longer. But these days I don’t really have time to go on really long, unplanned trips like that. I’m going to do a bit of both kinds of travelling this summer. For the China part we will probably just have a destination city in mind and see where we get to along the way! Can’t wait! But for Indonesia I’ve had to plan it out a bit more because I want to practise yoga, learn to dive etc etc and I have only a limited time to do it all in!
    J in Beijing recently posted…What Exactly Is An “I Love Beijing!” Day?

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      J in Beijing

      PS- I love this- “I wanted a tan and I wanted to see Maya Bay and that’s pretty much it!” Sometimes those are the best kind of trips for sure! :-)
      J in Beijing recently posted…What Exactly Is An “I Love Beijing!” Day?

      Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      Yeah I think when you have a small amount of time, planning is crucial- especially if you want to get good content for the bloggio. I had to managa my time wisely in Singapore because I only had 4 days. It’s also important if the budget is supppper tight

      Reply
  3. 6 months ago
    Emily

    Before this year, all our trips were limited in time (max 2-3 weeks) so we usually had the start of our trip booked and loose plans (highlights, things to see and places to go) for the rest. This year of travelling will spoil me though…we fly by the seat of our pants and have diverted our tracks based on weather, new travel friends, how we feel…it is such a luxury!
    Emily recently posted…Our Love Affair with the Inca

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      ohhh I love travel with less plans.. you’re right it is a luxury!

      Reply
  4. 6 months ago
    Jessica of Curiosity Travels

    I am definitely a planner, but there more I travel the lazier I get with it. I think balance is the best though as you’ve said. Make sure you know what you don’t want to miss, and take the rest as it comes!
    Jessica of Curiosity Travels recently posted…America, We’re Doing It Wrong: Observations From An Expat

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      I’ve actually been getting pretty lazy about it to. I think if I went outside India I’d try a little harder, but staying in India I don’t really do as much research as I should.

      Reply
  5. 6 months ago
    Fanny

    For really short trips I try to figure out beforehand which activities I definitely don’t want to miss out on. When I have more time, I pretty much do the same thing as you: read up a little bit about it, book nothing at all and have the pdf version of Lonely Planet on my phone. And then just go wherever the road takes me! That’s exactly what I’m going to do in Mexico starting this Saturday, yay!
    Fanny recently posted…How moving 9,000 km away brought me clóser to my family

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      Have fun in Mexico! I’ve spent a little time there and really like it.

      Reply
  6. 6 months ago
    Stef

    Great post. I mainly plan where I am going to head and for how long and figure out what to do when I’m there. I mostly had time pressure so I had to do that kind of planning. When I can decide where to go and do not have to think of going back home, I would be more open to change and decide where to go on the way. But I’d always read some guidebook pages and blog posts to get an idea of what I am able to do, so I don’t miss a thing I would regret afterwards.
    Stef recently posted…The barrios of Santiago de Chile

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      Yeah its a real bummer to realize you’ve missed the “thing to do” in a certain place. With more time open, it’s easy to go with the flow and not plan.

      Reply
  7. 5 months ago
    Rebekah

    thats what I love about the travel blogs in the world. I get so many ideas about things to do and what to expect…I feel like there are times for planning and times to not. If I’m in a big city I like to know what the big things are, like in Istanbul I knew I would see the hagia sophia, the blue mosque and the topaki palace… but then we also did a ton of other stuff I didn’t expect… I think most problems form when people cling too tightly to plans. Sometime shit just doesn’t happen.
    Rebekah recently posted…Western Mountain Temple

    Reply
    • 5 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      Yep, it’s important to know the big stuff but then be flexible on the rest!

      Reply
  8. 5 months ago
    Alicia

    I never travel without planning and after reading your post I am thinking to give it a try. I know travel without no plans is a fun especially when you travel in a group but it is nightmare if you are traveling solo.

    Reply
    • 5 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      It’s worth a try. I travelled solo with no plans in India and for me it worked out fabulously! There are stresses of course, but it was really nice!

      Reply
  9. 2 months ago
    Petter

    I am finishing a 3 week trip without any plan whatsoever. I did cheat compared to what I am reading about from CS as I did it in a car. But is has been the most fun I’ve had in years! And it has given me a serious bug for doing it again, and more unpredictable. Reading blogs from CS is very inspiring and I will try it on my next trip!
    I wonder though; If you where to travel India for 4 weeks. What kind of budget would you “recommend”? (for the country itself, not transport getting there etc)
    What I’m looking for is something new. Not really keen on all the “famous” sites, just want to see what the country is really like.

    Reply
    • 2 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      Hi Peter, please check out my post on India called “FAQ all your popular questions to India answered” you can search the site for it in the search bar! I think it will help you a lot, then e-mail any other questions! Thanks for reading.

      Reply

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