How Traveling Without an Itinerary Enhances Your Experience

Person holding a compass at Glacier National Park, BC, Canada – Pros and Cons of Traveling without an Itinerary

Traveling without an itinerary is the way to go even if you’re the kind of person that enjoys planning.

There are so many travelers arranging their itineraries for a trip from start to finish and leaving no time in between. This post will give you all the best reasons why you should leave your travel itinerary to be more flexible.

We know that planning your itinerary gives you a bit of security but that doesn’t always mean that you’re making the most of your trip.

Whether you’re traveling for the first time, a seasoned traveler, or somewhere in between, you should consider keeping your travel itinerary light and breezy every now and then.

Pros of Traveling Without an Itinerary

1. More for random adventures

If you’re an experienced traveler then you may know all too well that one of the best parts about traveling is the mini adventures that you end up finding yourself on.

If you’re planning an itinerary, then there won’t be a lot of time to let yourself get lost and find random cool things to do. 

When you’re traveling and staying in hostels you’ll often meet new people. If you get on well enough they may invite you on their adventures which you wouldn’t have otherwise thought to do or may push you out of your comfort zone.

Imagine you’re traveling in a destination and you end up meeting some people and they’re doing a road trip to other areas of that country. You might be asked to join them for a short while and if you have a strict itinerary, you may miss out on opportunities like this.

Destinations such as Faro are worth visiting purely because they are a great base to explore other areas around it such as the Algarve and the Alentejo region. Sometimes you will only want to spend a few days in spots like these there before moving on.

If you have a hefty itinerary, you may find that you’re not leaving yourself room to head out on other spontaneous adventures that could present themselves.

We think that you should always leave yourself open to new experiences. If you’re planning to stay in hostels whilst you’re traveling, you’ll never know who you might meet or what opportunities could come up.

2. Less Tired

Lazy or tired? Make sure you get some proper rest to enjoy your travels!

Lazy or tired? Make sure you get some proper rest to enjoy your travels!

Often when you’re planning an itinerary for a destination there is a lot you want to see and do. Due to this, you will most likely end up jam-packing your itinerary, full of things to do, leaving you little time to relax and just take in the destination.

It is so easy to try to cram in as much as possible especially when you’re visiting large cities where there are lots of different tourist attractions like NYC.

We’ve all been there and then you end up coming back from your trip more exhausted than when you left.

You need to make sure that you give yourself a healthy balance of exploration and relaxation too.

If you want to plan an itinerary, make sure you leave gaps of free time so you can relax and not overtire yourself.

You may find that you’re not as tired as you expected to be so you end up spending that time sightseeing. However, if you leave yourself this free time, you can do it at your own pace and leave yourself open to any other exciting opportunities that may crop up.

3. Plans can Change

Similar to the first two reasons to travel without an itinerary, you never know what you can find when you’re traveling. 

You may find that you actually needed the trip to relax and just wander around instead of planning a jam-packed sightseeing trip that’s going to leave you exhausted. There is nothing wrong with that.

If you’re backpacking and going from destination to destination, you will often meet travelers who will make recommendations to you. 

When you’re traveling with such a strict itinerary such as flights, buses and trains all booked in advance, you may end up missing out on a hidden gem. 

Equally, you may end up visiting a place that you’re not enjoying and you want to leave sooner. It will be more difficult to do this if you’re tied by other travel plans.

There have been occasions where travelers have gone to a destination and it has not been at all what they expected. If you have your next destination booked then you may be stuck in a place you don’t like until your next destination.

Alternatively, you may dislike a place that much that you decide to leave early anyway and then you’ve lost out on the money that you spent on the other travel plans.

Of course, when you visit some locations such as Mexico, you may be required to show proof of travel out of the country so this cannot be avoided. However, if it is not required, try to leave your onward travel plans as light as possible so that you have more flexibility.

4. Can Cause Less Stress

If you plan to visit an attraction and this overruns, you’ll be late for the next part of your itinerary. This can cause unnecessary stress when you’re meant to be enjoying yourself. 

The last thing you want is to pay to visit a beautiful place and then you feel stressed. You’ll end up feeling like you’re still in the office and strained with deadlines. Don’t do it to yourself, let yourself be free!

No one wants to be stressing about a missed flight whilst they’re supposed to be out enjoying themselves. One of the positives of traveling without an itinerary is that nearly everything is planned there and then based on what you know you can do and feel in the moment.

5. No Time Restraints

Whilst you’re traveling, if you have an itinerary to adhere to, you will also have lots of different timings that you need to meet.

Without an itinerary, you will be free to spend as long as you like at certain attractions without having to worry about getting to the next item on your list.

This leaves you open to mini adventures as we mentioned previously. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get yourselves booked onto certain tours that you want to do but just try not to cram so much into one day to explore every corner of a destination.

Cons for Traveling Without an Itinerary

1. Anxious Travelers can Find it Stressful

If you’re the type of traveler who gets anxious if you haven’t planned your onward travel or what you will be doing whilst you’re there then traveling without an itinerary can be stressful for you.

Some people feel anxious by the completely valid uncertainty so traveling without an itinerary is not for everyone.

All we would say is still try to leave yourself some room to explore spontaneously or have some free time so that you’re not feeling overwhelmed by all these exciting travel plans.

If you’re also new to traveling, the idea of not having an itinerary may seem a bit daunting so ensure that you’re doing what you feel comfortable with.

For new travelers, we would recommend booking the first part of your trip and see how you get on. If you enjoy traveling with everything planned then feel free to get the rest of your trip organized.

However, keep your mind open that you may enjoy having a looser itinerary or just waking up and seeing what each day brings to you.

2. May Miss Out on Opportunities

Whilst you’re traveling, there may be a certain activity or location within that country that you really want to visit. If you leave things too last minute then you may miss out on the opportunity to do this.

If you’re traveling during peak seasons to a certain country then you may find that tours & activities get booked quickly.

Leaving your itinerary free and open may mean that you miss out on these if you decide that it is something you want to do too late.

3. Can get Expensive

Similarly to the last con of traveling without an itinerary, if you decide that there is something you want to do last minute then the cost of that tour, activity, or onward flight may increase.

In fairness, this is a risk that we all take with travel especially when flights are concerned. You may book a flight to a destination at one price and then a week later the prices have decreased. Even the other way round where you may wait to book something until you get paid and by then the price has gone up!

Not everything you book at the last minute will be more expensive but this is something you have to weigh up when deciding your travel style for that particular trip.

4. Feel Like You’re Less in Control

For some people, you may find that by not having an itinerary you’re not in control of your travel experience. This can cause anxiety and worry especially if you’re planning a multi-city trip too.

If you’re arranging a multi-city trip then to feel more in control, you may find that arranging flights or transport to each location may help.’

Just bear in mind to keep your itinerary light if you want to feel more in control of your trip. You may find that you want to change your plans or as we mentioned in the pros of traveling without an itinerary you may want to stay on in a destination or leave a destination early.

For these scenarios, if you want to try and keep a loose itinerary but have some control over your plans then it is worth looking at changeable booking or refundable flights. This way you will have the best of both worlds and be able to change your plans if you would like to.

5. You May Have Limited Options

Especially for newer travelers, you may find that if you’re traveling without an itinerary you find yourself in a situation where you have no options because you’ve not made any plans.

Worst-case scenarios of this can include not having anywhere to stay because you’ve not booked your accommodation. This is a rare occurrence because there are usually a lot of different choices for accommodation in each destination but it can happen.

Whilst we think that you should travel without an itinerary, once you’ve decided that you’re going to a certain destination, you should always get where you’re staying booked in advance.

The other part of this is that if you leave it too last minute to book your accommodation then you may find that you have to stay somewhere more expensive than your budget allows.

Should I Travel Without an Itinerary or Not?

Remote workers can take their job on the road, redefining where and how they travel

We hope that this has helped if you’re planning your next trip. Many people prefer working with an itinerary. This is why we wanted to share with you the pros and cons of traveling without one. 

Every person is different and some may find that traveling with an itinerary gives them a bit more security and eases them into the trip.

In an ideal world, you should want to travel with somewhat of an itinerary but leave it loose and flexible.

We would suggest that you arrange for accommodation to be booked in advance and also flights to your destination and then plan the rest as you go.

It is also worth researching the destination that you’re visiting. Some locations will not let you enter unless you have your accommodation booked for the entirety of the time you’re in that country so you may need to show this when you enter the country.

In these scenarios, you would need to plan more of an itinerary around where you’ve booked to stay. That is unless you’ve booked places that are refundable and can be canceled.

Some people find that traveling without an itinerary is a lot less stressful because you essentially wake up and decide there and then what the day is going to bring or just go with the flow. However, the other side of that is that booking last-minute plans can mean that it is a little more expensive.

The best thing to do is research the country you’re traveling to and make a decision on how much planning you will need to do and take it from there.

Both traveling with an itinerary and without one are incredible ways to travel because you’re still getting to make the most of the amazing country you’re visiting.

If you’re not sure whether traveling without an itinerary is suited for you then the only thing you can do is give it a try and see how you get on.

No matter how you decide to travel, don’t forget to make the most of your travel experience and embrace as many opportunities as possible!

Amy Curtis and Liam Forret run Plain2Plane

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