When we are going travelling, especially if we are beginner travellers, it can be tempting to research and plan every single second of the day for the entire itinerary. Not only is this exciting but it can also calm our nerves about the trip and also ensure we don’t experience the dreaded FOMO from not getting to the best places.
Now, planning for a trip definitely has a place. There are things like visas, flights, transfers, some accommodation and other logistics that need usually need to be sorted out in advance. Otherwise, you may be in for a bit of an awful experience!
However, when it comes to what you do every single day and even where you stay the whole time, there is so much magic to be discovered when you leave some space for improvisation and spontaneity.
In this post, we’ll be sharing the beauty of winging it and the benefits of not having your entire itinerary planned out.
Have new experiences
Without a rigid itinerary, you give yourself the freedom to explore in a more relaxed way. This gives you the chance to stumble across hidden gems that you never would have found in a guidebook - whether it is a tiny cafe with the best coffee you’ve ever had or a random deserted beach that blew your mind.
If you’re sticking to a rigid schedule based on blog posts or a guidebook, you would miss out on all of these unexpected adventures and very valuable memories. This also gives you the license to share hidden gems and nuggets of wisdom with other fellow travellers who are also being spontaneous.
Open up to surprises
When we leave room to wing it on our travel, we open ourselves up to a treasure trove of surprises. The best experiences we have overseas are usually the ones we weren’t expecting at all. The little moments that surprise us, took our breath away or allowed us to connect with ourselves, others and a place on a level we didn’t know was possible.
When we over-plan, we don’t leave much space for these surprises to sweep us off our feet.
Planning every second of your trip is not only going to be time-consuming but it will be very stressful and downright overwhelming. Also, the more you plan, the more you will think you have to fit in.
Everything will cost too much and you won’t have enough hours in the day to do it all!
This will leave a bad taste in your mouth and you may even need a holiday just from the stress of planning your holiday! It’s okay, you can relax.
Many travel agents, websites and blogs, etc, will encourage you to book things in advance and pay for things upfront because it is more profitable for them and guaranteed income - but it is not always necessary.
Stress less, take the pressure off and trust that it’ll work out better than you expected.
Overplanning reduces your options
Not only will overplanning stress you out and make you feel like there’s too much to do, but it will also limit your options. There is only so much you can book online and also you can’t tell what something is going to be like based on a website on the other side of the world.
When you book and plan things when you are already there, you open yourself up to absolutely everything on offer - whether it is a better tour company or a secret spot only the owner of your Airbnb knows about.
By waiting until you’ve arrived at your destination and winging it a bit, you can save so much money. You have much more bargaining power when booking things in person and you can have a much better idea of how much things actually are supposed to cost.
Booking accommodation, transport and experiences in person mean you usually take the middle man out and so the cost can be less and benefit locals more who don’t have to pay commission.
Avoid tourist traps
Leading on from the point above, winging it can help you avoid getting stuck in a stream of tourist traps.
Booking every detail in advance based on what you see online or what an agent recommends means you will likely be sticking to the well-trodden tourist path. Tourist paths are breeding grounds for tourist traps which are overpriced and generally poorer quality. I.e you get ripped off.
By winging it and sussing a place out once you are there, you can have more authentic experiences and avoid the dreaded tourist traps.
Be present and live in the moment
When you're not constantly rushing to your next activity, you can fully immerse yourself in the present moment. This can lead to a deeper appreciation of your surroundings and a fulfilling trip.
If there is one thing that should be about living in the present moment, it is travel! So don’t miss the opportunity to let go of your worries and stresses and be present in the here and now by overplanning.
If every detail is planned you will spend your entire trip stressing about getting to the next thing and worrying about where you need to be next. That is not living in the present.
Connect with locals & have a more authentic experience
Similar to what we’ve mentioned above, when you give yourself the freedom to wing it, you give yourself a much greater opportunity to seek out and connect with locals. They will usually be able to give you the best advice and point you in the direction of the most memorable and authentic experiences - hey they might even invite you over for dinner and bam next thing you know, you have new friends for life.
If you aren’t sure where to start when connecting with locals, start with your accommodation hosts and see what insights they can offer.
It makes you open to meeting new people
By being open to spontaneous experiences, you can meet new people from all walks of life. Whether it's striking up a conversation with a local (as above) or meeting fellow travellers on the road.
You may meet someone who is on their way to this incredible secret waterfall for an overnight camping trip and they invite you.
If you leave space to wing it, you can say YES and potentially have one of the most amazing experiences of your life - OR you might say no because you already booked a dinner at a ‘famous’ restaurant which turns out to be not as amazing as the waterfall! These chance encounters can lead to new friendships and life-changing experiences.
Spontaneity gives you more flexibility
Winging it allows for more flexibility in your plans, which can be especially helpful if something unexpected happens, such as a flight delay or shocking weather. By not being tied to a strict schedule, you can adapt to these changes more easily.
Also, if you arrive somewhere and you don’t really like it, you can leave earlier! And on the opposite, if you love a place you can decide to stay even longer. This is the beauty of not being locked into a predetermined (and prepaid) itinerary.
It fosters a sense of adventure and freedom
Letting go of control and embracing spontaneity can add an element of excitement and adventure to your travels. It can be incredibly liberating to not have everything planned out and to allow yourself to be open to new experiences.
If you’ve never experimented with letting go of plans and just going with the flow and seeing what arises, you definitely should do it, at least once! The taste of freedom is so sweet.
Remember, over-planning can lead to missed opportunities, unnecessary stress and actually cost you more money. There is so much beauty in leaving space for spontaneity, magic and surprise!
Tips for winging it successfully
The amount of time you are winging it depends on the length of the trip
While leaving room for spontaneity is incredible, the level of wiggle room you leave to wing it does depend on how long your trip is. It’s all relative! For example, if you are just going away for a weekend, you may leave room to improvise one afternoon or one morning for brunch and have the rest planned.
If you are going on a 6 month trip you may decide to plan out the first 2 weeks and wing the rest. Or you may decide to have a rough idea of the places you want to go, book any key flights or accommodation if it is peak season and fill in the blanks as you go!
Do some research, just don’t go overboard
Make sure you know what any visa requirements are, how you need to get around or to your accommodation and at least have your first 1 or 2 nights booked. Check whether any significant events may affect your trip and perhaps have an idea of the types of things you want to do and check whether anything needs to be booked in advance.
The key is to not research too much about a destination. Not only does this mean you will be planning your entire trip to day minute, but you will also build up an expectation of the place you are going. It’s better to have little or no expectations of a place because it will always surprise you!
Be flexible and adapt
Things don't always go according to plan, even if you do plan every detail, so it's important to be flexible. If your flight is delayed or your hotel is overbooked, don't stress out. Just go with the flow and make the best of it. When we step into places of challenge and resistance, these are the times when we grow and open ourselves up to connecting with (ie receiving help from) new people and having the chance to experience something truly memorable (even if it's for the wrong reasons!). It’s all part of the travelling game.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
Leading on from the above point, if you find yourself lost, confused or just don’t know what to do with your day, ask someone! You’ll be surprised how incredibly helpful most people are, especially if they are locals and want to make sure you have an amazing time in their home.
Not only will locals help you get out of a pickle, but they can also tell you the best places to go, that you definitely wouldn’t have found on the blog on Pinterest.
Leave plenty of space for free time
This allows you to follow someone’s advice to go somewhere different or just to see how you are feeling on the day - you might be exhausted or the weather may be terrible. Leaving a decent amount of free time allows you to actually enjoy your holiday. Forcing yourself to tick off every item in the Lonely Planet book may leave you not liking your trip as much as you could have.