Some travelers shun plans and wing every part of their trips – and you can continue to do so, while focusing your limited plans, to have more time for your impulsiveness. If you’re a traveler without a plan, these 4 minimal-planning-required preparations will save you money, time, and often a headache or two.
1. Getting From The Airport To Where You’re Staying
It can be fun to try a new or challenging mode of transportation when visiting a new city. A simple Google search or phone call to your hotel or hostel though can give you an idea of how much it will cost, what your options are, how long it might take, and what you can expect. It’s also a good idea to have an address or some basic walking directions with you in case you don’t get dropped off quite where you expected.
- Photo: John R. Rogers Photography
2. Basic Currency Conversion
Again, this is where some simple Google hacking can come in handy. Find out how much your local currency is worth at your destination and what the symbol for that currency is. The US dollar sign ($) and variations on the British Pound symbol (₤) are common and can be confusing if you’re unaware. Along with the symbol, find out some common costs for things you might typically buy (bread, soda, bottle of water, etc.) to get a better idea of how much those bills are really worth.
3. Learn A Few Words
You don’t need to know an entire language or every bit of the local jargon to visit a new region or country, but not knowing (or using) any thing can make you feel quite the outsider. It might also help you out when bargaining or perhaps trying to make new friends so get started with these 4 word combinations you shouldn’t neglect to translate and make use of one of the many free online language resources.
4. Buy A Universal Adapter
Incredibly cheap, universal adapters convert most any electronic connection to another. You don’t want to be bumbling around for electrical socket connectors, and won’t have to with a universal adapter (best get two for a backup). Purchasing plug adapters from airports are expensive and locally difficult, since they’re often designed to work outside of that particular country.
Create The Structure At Home, Improvise On The Road
By setting up a even the most vague road map of your next trip before you leave, you’ll see and do more even with a minimal planning style. Rather than transforming yourself into a good planner, make your laziness more efficient.
- Get all your travel plans figured out in 8 minutes.
- Create a simple travel budget.
These minimal preparations will hone your travel stress, especially if planning stresses you out. No matter what your travel style though you can harmonize your planning and spontaneity to get just the right amount of preparation that makes you comfortable while still saving you money and time.
[photos by: Visualist Images (airplanes at gate), bradpio (various currencies), tea.. (girl with mouth open), Wayan Voa (international plug converter)]
traveling ‘without a plan’ has been great because we’ve been able to take advantage of some really good deals. your tips are excellent – we do every single one and it definitely makes for smoother days and less stress.
Thanks Mina, I too travel with little planning but find it’s cumbersome to try and wing everything.
Great tips. No plan is much of the travel fun for me, but those four tips I use in spades when I arrive in a new place.
No plan with a plan is a good plan…or something like that!
I always love that even without a plan, you always manage to work it out – serendipity goes a long way. But a bit of simple planning does help make life easier….
It definitely makes you less likely to get scammed or caught in a tough spot. Thanks for dropping by 🙂
Great Tips Anil! I just realized yesterday I need an adapter – so I think I might buy that one. Have you used it? Will you get a bit of money if I buy it through your site? I would love it if you could – I gotta buy it somewhere right?
Hi Bethany, yes I use that one as a backup but this one (a bit more expensive) is my primary:
Great post Anil. For the basic currency conversion, I would add as well to have small denomination bills too: paying a taxi in Delhi with a €100 note is not a great idea.
Very good point Renato, not having change is a good way or getting short changed. Yeesh, my analogies are terrible in these comments!
Nice job and I’m going to link to this for my blog that will hopefully help a lot of hostel guests in Quito.
Thanks Jon. I was just in Quito btw, wonderful city that quickly became one of my favorites.
I agree wholeheartedly – a little planning even if you want to be unplanned takes out some of the stressful and unrewarding parts of travelling.
I agree, you don’t want to plan so little that you end up with more work, defeating the original purpose of not planning!
Excellent advice and I’d add the Oanda currency converter to the currency section. I downloaded it for my crackberry (they’ve got iPhone versions too) and it’s an instant conversion, updated to realtime rates whenever you have cell service or wifi. Free and easy way to avoid getting duped on the currency exchange! http://www.oanda.com/mobile/.
Thanks Jodi, I’ll check out that app. I’ve used Currency on my iPod touch but will download the Oanda app to play around with it.
I think #3 is important for any traveler. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed by your lack of language skills because even if you try it will take you further than not attempting. If anything, it shows that you are being respectful.
I remember a time in the Madrid train station when a customer was getting very angry with the ticket broker and kept talking louder in English at him without getting much response. When it was my turn with the same ticket broker, I attempted to speak in Spanish and he replied to me “you speak Spanish very well” – in English!
It’s amazing how a few simple phrases like “Hello, how are you?”, “Thank you”, and “No Worries” can help to break the ice and put a smile on someone’s face. Those phrases alone make me fluent in Laos!
It really does help – I think some sort of understanding is reached when you show you’re looking for the middle ground. A bit of English (or your mother tongue) and as much of the local language as you know really opens up a place to you.
To add to #1, I would advise to book at least your first night’s accommodation in a city in advance. That way you don’t have to search around when you’re tired and disoriented for a hostel or hotel. And, you can ask the hostel how much it costs or what the easiest route is from the airport/bus station to the place so that you don’t get ripped off along the way.
Excellent advice Audrey – one piece of planning that saves a lot of effort and potential for getting ripped off!
Sometimes it’s fun traveling without a plan. But, I agree, that a few basic preparations make spontaneity a lot more pleasant. You’ve listed the must-haves. I especially agree with #1. Floundering around leaving the airport can get a trip off to a bad start.
It’s the worst feeling – that airport limbo :/
I know this seems a bit extreme but I would add getting robbed. It can be an very traumatizing experience if you aren’t prepared for it mentally or logistically (having copies of receipts etc).
Yes, good point. Something I fortunately haven’t experienced (and hope not to) but it is a good idea – a security plan I hope to post about soon. Would love to get your thoughts when I cook that one up, if you’re interested I can send you an email closer to then..
Hope your recent robbery didn’t dampen your travels too much?
Don’t forget chargers for your electronics.This one is also essential.
But of course!
Yeah – throw away the planners and just enjoy! I agree that you still need to plan a few things…and what you’ve listed are all very reasonable. I must admit though – I’m normally looking up currency conversion and how to say hello a few minutes before I get on the plane as evidenced by the fact that I leave for Amsterdam on Sunday and don’t anything about currency or language – or even where I”m going for that matter!
haha, that’s ok too! …and the conversion is much more in your favor than it has been in a while 😉
You hit it precisely – once I have my ticket the only other thing I simply have to figure out is airport transport and my first night’s lodging! 🙂 After that I ask other travelers for tips and use my time on the airplane to thumb through my guidebook!
You’re my kind of planner!
I can’t imagine traveling without universal adapter. Between me and Ryan, we even brought 3 – a good thing since one of them was broken when we were out of nowhere.
Good point at #1. Sometimes we somehow forgot to write down the name of the accommodation correctly, as well as the address, the map, and alternative way to get there. This happened in Faro, Portugal. All the data was in Ryan’s email, so we were walking all over the small downtown, tried to get internet connection so we could check his email. The good thing was, it was a small place.
With vital tech it’s a good idea to have a backup!
Btw, do you both use Gmail?
I remember when I went to Malta from Europe I automically assumed that they accepted Euros. I arrived in the capital at 2am from the Ferry and no taxi would take the Euros. Was in quite a predicament always best to carry the home currency before you get to your location!
I’ve done something like that too once – really can put you in a tight spot – how did you end up working your way around it?
OHHH man… for some reason this kid started to play with me and he stuck to me the whole ride. On the ferry it was freezing so I took off my shirt and gave it to him so he could stay warm (I was in a wife beater). And when I got there the kid was crying because he had to say goodbye. The mom offered to take me to the hotel room. it was great… everything just seemed to work out.
Isn’t it wonderful the stories that come out of the occasional bad or lack of planning? Thanks for sharing the story and glad to hear it was a (mostly) smooth ride 🙂
I learn that traveling “without a plan” is a lot of fun and a lot of stress too and one thing that I belive you have to be prepared for is to spend that extra cash for the unforseen expenses, save some cash!
Sound advice – running low on money is definitely stressful anytime, but especially when traveling!
Nice article, I tend to completely wing it… it means you get into some interesting situations. Although I know that not everyone can travel like this… some people just need to be in control of their travel plans.
There definitely is a broad spectrum of travel planners out there. Some people plan everything down to almost hour by hour per day – I do some skeleton planning and take it from there.
I think it’s import to do a bit of research before you visit a country, so you learn about the local culture and dress so that what you choose to wear doesn’t offend anyone or cause you any problems. Also, find out when the festivals are as if there’s a festival going on in the city and you just turn up you’re unlikely to find a room or it will be very expensive.
Good points, especially brushing up on the local dress, customs, and taboos.
Flexibility is the key, of course. But, I like to at least have an idea of which places I might like to visit (subject to change) in a country so that I can map out a general route, which helps minimize travel times, backtracking, etc.
I’ve found that taking a bit of time to map out what I want to do and the route helps me cut down on “lost time” and also work efficiently as well.
Thanks Andi 🙂