Resist the Temptation and Leave These Details of Your Trip Open-Ended
It Pays to be Spontaneous
With all the excitement of planning your next trip, it can be tempting to book everything in advance. Transport, accommodation, activities — if you love planning, you will probably find yourself scouring the internet, spending hours on booking websites and poring over travel guides, trying to put together your dream holiday and book everything before you even dust off your suitcase and start packing.
Believe it or not, however, resisting this temptation and leaving some details unreserved can make your journey cheaper, more efficient and just a little bit more exciting. Here are a few examples of when not to book in advance.
Locally Run Accommodation
Hold up, you’re thinking, how can you possibly turn up to a place without having any idea where you’re going to sleep? Obviously accommodation is better booked in advance most of the time, but there are times and places when you can forgo the booking process altogether and be better off for it.
If you are heading to a destination that is well-known on the traveler’s circuit, but is not known for reliable internet (think sleepy beach towns and getaways in developing countries), it is often a better bet to just turn up. There tend to be more options than what you can see online, and for better prices.
Many family-run guesthouses in Latin America will advertise by simply placing a sign out in front of their property, or by waiting at bus stops to catch visitors as they step off the bus. They might look like bothersome touts, but talking to these bus stop marketers is an easy and fast way of finding a place to stay.
If you don’t find a place straightway, just go for a walk. In smaller towns it doesn’t take long to spot hotels and other accommodations, and you can simply ask around until you find a room and a price you like.
In this way, in certain locations you can travel almost exclusively by simply turning up and finding something on your arrival. Not only will you be supporting local families instead of international hotel chains, but you have the added benefit of not being locked into a non-refundable booking should something go horribly wrong at the place you booked in advance.
You can almost always assume that prices you see online are going to be higher than the price you will be quoted if you just show up somewhere. For budget travelers, booking in advance can prove to be costly, with many great bargain opportunities lost.
If you’re comfortable with doing so, hostels are a great way to have a place to sleep for cheaper. Put all the myths about hostels you’ve heard aside: you don’t have to sacrifice comfort and can even get a private room in some!
In terms of hotels, in low season, if beds are empty and hotel owners just want to put bodies in them, they will be a lot more open to negotiation. If you walk up at the last minute and ask for a good deal, you might just get one.
It may take a little longer, as you might have to pop your head into a few different places before you find a price you are happy with, but unless it is high season and you risk missing out on a bed altogether, leaving your hotel-hunting until the last minute can be an economical and adventurous way to travel.
Staying with a local family in remote areas can be an enriching way to gain insights into local communities. In a lot of indigenous groups or developing communities however, internet is scarce and booking websites unheard of.
Instead of trying to book these homestays in advance, the best plan of action is to make your way to the nearest town or general region, and then you will come across hotels or tour operators who can facilitate your trip.
If you are dreaming of spending a few days with the Kuna people in the palm-fringed paradise of the San Blas Islands in Panama, for example, the families take reservations only one day in advance, and can only be contacted by phone.