Monday, 9 May 2011

Booking Ahead vs. Wingin' It

I am not really an experienced traveler.
When I was 15, I went to Guatemala with a large group, and basically all the planning was done for me.
When I was 20, I went to Ireland for nearly a year, one month of which was spent actually backpacking. In that instance, I researched bus routes, and toted along "Let's Go: Ireland!" for ideas on where to stay/eat and what to do. I made a few arrangements to stay with friends along the way, but other than that, I booked nothing ahead. In the end it didn't matter because it was early in the season (June), and while Ireland IS a tourist destination, it doesn't get quite as busy as other places in Europe.

The Big Backpacking Adventure of 2011 is 3 weeks away, and I've been getting nervous. If you don't already know where I'm going, I won't spoil the surprise for you. I will say that it is going to be different from Ireland in that I'm anticipating the tourist hordes will be much more intense.

The advice I received was to book at least the first hostel I'm staying in, so that I wouldn't get off the plane and have to find a place when I was all jet-lagged. Makes sense to me, so I did.
Then, as I looked into things, it seemed like a lot of places were already(!) filling up. In fact, in one city I am unfortunately visiting on the weekend, there seemed to be zero availability at all! I'm guessing this has to do with a festival or concert or something that must be going on during the same dates, but it was a very scary and frustration-filled day when I decided I needed to book that place in advance! (When I thought I had finally found the Hostel O' Dreams, it actually filled up before my eyes....)

After that experience, I kind of snapped. Suddenly it was of paramount importance to book everything I possibly could, before I landed on foreign ground.
Hostelbookers.com has no idea who I am,
but I have used their site a lot over the past weeks, and I find them very useful.

However, my travel bud has gently reminded me that we do want some flexibility (we weren't going to book anything ahead, originally...), so I'm trying to restrain myself from booking anything more, at the moment.

Have you ever been traveling? What time of year did you go? How important was it to you to book ahead, and how did that work out in the end?

Travel advice and stories are highly encouraged here at RBF....

4 comments:

mum said...

Well..when I went to Calgary I booked ahead in Spring and I think it was important to book ahead (I got the Convention rate that way). So, yeah, it worked out great. ;)

By the way, I love your Postcard Passport Page! What a great idea!

kristieinbc said...

I think you have the right idea. If it is going to be an adventure there has to be a degree of uncertainty thrown in. By booking some places but leaving others open you have a good mix. The worst case scenario is that a couple of times you don't find a place to stay and have to sleep in a train station. Something to check out before you go are the national holidays and festivals. This would be important for more than hostel reservations. Depending on the country you are visiting anything from museums to trains could be closed or have reduced hours.

Danica said...

I'm sorry. I'm useless to you for advice on this one. Have fun though!

Sonya said...

I'm a worry wart when it comes to things like that so I prefer to have everything arranged ahead of time. BUT, I have heard that the best way to travel is to only book your first night's accommodation and then play it by ear after that.