I don’t plan more than a day or two in advance when I travel. My plans often change suddenly. I might decide to stay in a place a little longer, or change the location of my next destination. Having more set plans can make the adventure of spontaneity difficult.
Planning is still important though. I want to be open to adventure, but I don’t want to miss out on some great gems either.
Here’s how I make plans while travelling.
1. Scope Out The General Area.
The first thing I do is scope out the general area I plan on going. I start with a Google search of the area and I look for an authority website on my destination. Nearly everywhere I go, there is a local or expat who has set up a website with great information. For example, I am in Koh Chang writing this. I used the website http://explorekohchang.com. This site has tons of great info. It was easy to find out the different ways to get to the island, and where the best places to stay are.
I also use YouTube to get a visual of where I am going. Sometimes it’s easier with video to get a feel for places. Lots of vloggers look for the most unique places to film. You find some of the best hidden gems in travel vlogs.
2. Figure Out How To Get There. Buy The First Ticket.
1-3 days before I leave for my next destination I decide which way to get to a place. Some places are easier to get to than others. For Koh Chang I needed to use a metro, a bus, two taxi’s and a ferry. It was a little complicated, so I simplified it by getting one ticket at a time. If anything happened I didn’t have to worry about missing a bus or ferry. I buy everything one way so I’m not stuck to a schedule.
3. Make A Short List Of Where To Stay
I’ve run in to my fair share of sketchy hotels and hostels. I rarely book in advance as online pictures can be very deceiving. I start with looking through Hostelworld and Agoda to get some ideas of where to stay. I can search by area and budget. They’re filled with pictures and reviews as well.
There’s more places on Google Maps than on the booking sites. A quick search in Google Maps is often the key to finding a boutique little hotel most travelers miss.
Again, I don’t book ahead of time. Instead I make a list of 3-5 places I would like to stay. When I get to my destination I scope out those places. Just about every hotel and hostel will let you see the facilities and rooms before booking. If the price is right and there are no unwanted surprises, I book on the spot for a few nights and extend as needed.
There is always the risk of a place being full but I have yet to run in to this while travelling. In the peak of high season, in the most touristy areas, this can happen, but I tend to avoid these situations anyway.
4. Short List Of Things To Do
I use those authority websites and a Google Maps scan for finding some awesome places to eat and explore. In Google Maps, orange highlighted areas are dense with restaurants and attractions. Green highlighted areas are parks (local or national).
I bookmark locations on my Google Maps with the save feature. I never plan to visit every place I bookmark. I go with the flow of each day. If I find myself looking for something to do, I pull up Google maps to see what I bookmarked around me.
That’s how I make plans. Usually an hour or two of downtime in the morning is all I need to run through this strategy. I’ve been using this for my last 3 months of travel and it has allowed me to find some truly awesome gems along the way.