One of the questions I am frequently asked as I help people plan their complicated trips is, “well, can’t I just buy my tickets as I go so I can just do whatever I feel like doing at the time?” In this day and age where most of the things we want can be done on our own terms, at any time, people seem to have a hard time planning ahead. I myself am the opposite—some people might use the term “control freak,“ but I prefer to think of it more as knowing what I want, and making sure I’m going to get it, down to the minute. However, there can be a happy medium between those two worlds, and the people who take that “middle road” seem to come out the other side more rewarded and fulfilled.
In my experience, the more you are able to commit to beforehand, the better trip you will have. Laying out your priority destinations and what you ** absolutely cannot miss** before you leave, booking that, and then leaving time for exploring as well will allow you to include adventure in your trip, but not leave you feeling rushed or like you missed out on something you really wanted to include. It also won’t leave you in an internet café in Bali for 2 days trying to figure out how to get out of Indonesia before your 30 day visa expires.
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I have found that the people who have the most amazing and relaxing journeys are the people who can commit to a bit more initially.
While I’m talking about flights in some respects, I’m also referring to the things you want to see and do while you are traveling. Take some time to focus on what you want to experience while you are traveling abroad. In your planning, take a look at the most crucial activities you want to do on your trip, and then plan out those key parts of it. The rest of your trip can be arranged around those important factors. Does the art historian in you want to make sure to spend an entire day exploring the Louvre? Is the naturalist in you yearning to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda? Is it your life dream to spend a few months in an ashram? Constructing your trip around key elements, and leaving some flexibility to do things on the fly, will give you the best of both worlds. You can plan out the essentials, but keep your sense of adventure by leaving 6 weeks open in Asia, or by flying into Prague and out from Madrid, knowing that the wind can blow you along until 10:53AM on December 2, when you have to be on your next flight.
In terms of buying tickets as you go, many people DO do that when they travel. However, you should take caution that many countries will require you to have proof of onward travel (meaning, tickets that show you’ll eventually be leaving) to let you through customs. All too often, international flights do sell out, so buying your tickets in advance would ensure that you have a seat on your flights.
Creating at least a “skeleton” itinerary for your trip will allow you to have some major aspects of your travels nailed down. Your AirTreks travel counselor will be able to advise you on what the easiest places in the world are to buy flights/ travel around on your own; as well as where you should probably book your flights in advance to get significant savings from what you could obtain locally. For instance, traveling around Southeast Asia on your own is a piece of cake—you can buy tickets locally and travel by bus or train to have the ultimate flexibility. However, if you’re traveling to Africa, it’s often better to buy your tickets in advance as the infrastructure there makes flights infrequent and expensive. If you are traveling during peak summer season or peak holiday travel time, it’s critical that you book in advance to avoid a) sold out flights and/or b) really expensive airfares.
At AirTreks, we believe that international travel offers a wealth of opportunities for personal growth, cultural exchange, and peace. We also believe that you should be able to take the exact trip you want. In addition to booking your flights, part of our job description is to educate you on how airfares work, and make recommendations that best meet your needs and ensure you have the most fulfilling trip possible. So don’t be like all those loser ex-boyfriends out there—give in to a bit of commitment and see how great it can be to make plans.