Today’s travel is all about planning, planning, planning. Dinner reservations, hotel reservations, tour reservations. What would happen if we cut loose and just drove off down the road? What would happen if we let our adventurous side take over and turned down each street on a whim? It is possible to travel this way, and what’s more, it’s fun. Here’s the how and why of traveling without reservations.
A Real-Life Experience
I can actually attest to the merits of traveling without reservations. A few summers ago, my husband and I flew to Michigan for a friend’s wedding. We really didn’t plan; all we knew is that we’d be there for the weekend. We ended up sleeping in the attic of a friend of a friend the first night, just before the wedding. The second day, after the festivities, we hit Lake Michigan and grabbed pizza with an acquaintance on our way to Indiana, where we stayed the second night with a friend’s parents. We were treated to a tour of a charming little Swiss town in rural Indiana after a jog around the area, and then topped off the trip with an impromptu lunch at a Mexican restaurant and a spontaneous stop at the state science museum. Add in a little shopping and some antique architecture, and you’ll have an idea of what our day was like. In a word: fantastic. It couldn’t have been better if we had planned it!
What Does Traveling Without Reservations Look Like?
Traveling without reservations is simple. Actually, it’s about as simple as it gets. All you do it pick a location and then go. You may not be so fortunate as to know people in the area, but it’s usually not hard to find hotels or bed & breakfasts with room. When you’re traveling without reservations, you just get to go on your own pace and on your own whims. If something looks interesting, you just do it. If you want to visit the little unadvertised art gallery that you passed in a cab, you get to do it. You don’t have to skip it because you already bought museum tickets! That’s the beauty of uncommitted travel: you’re free to experience a place as you go. You discover without any strings attached.
There are plenty of pros of traveling without reservations. For one thing, you don’t have the stress of planning a trip. Forget about researching reviews, activities, and options until you’ve spent more time planning than you will experiencing. Even though many people find the planning part a lot of fun, the reality is that a lot of the time, you just don’t have the space in your schedule to create a minute-by-minute itinerary.
Another wonderful thing about traveling without reservations is that you won’t be influenced by commercializing enterprises. Websites have ads, magazines have sponsors, and even bloggers have to monetize their sites most of the time. The big companies get all the attention in the travel industry, and the little gems are harder and harder to find. However, if you travel spontaneously, you’ll get to find the best places by talked to people who don’t have an interest in gaining anything at all. Locals are usually more than happy to show you all the special things about their town—things that don’t make it into the brochures and Google ads. You’ll get to browse the mom-and-pop shops, eat at Gramma’s café, and walk secret winding paths. Locals’ recommendations are always the best ones.
Finally, the best reason to travel without reservations is that you can do whatever the heck you want. Feel like hanging out at the hotel pool all day? No problem. Want to wander the streets and go to every single ice cream shop in town? Then go right ahead. Long hike at midnight? Why not. Anything you want to do is up to you, and there’s not set schedule to follow.
The biggest con to traveling without reservations is the budget. It’s really hard to plan out an exact budget when you’re winging it. Spontaneity can be expensive if you’re not careful! If you’re not good at controlling your spending and you don’t have money to spare, traveling on a whim may be a bit dangerous for you.
While travel without reservation can be the most fun trip you’ve ever had, there’s no guarantee that it won’t be awful. A trip through the Midwest could include fascinating stops at historic small towns or a horribly boring drive through four hundred miles of cornfields. That’s the adventure—you never know. But it’s also a risk.
If you don’t love surprises, traveling without reservations may not be that fun. It could end up being stressful for the traveler more prone to anxiety or the person who likes to know what to expect. There are no assurances that you’ll find a hotel with open rooms, for example. If you’re OK not knowing where you’ll be the next day, then this kind of traveling is fun. If you want to know what’s ahead, then it might not be so great for you.
- Pick a place where you’re sure to find something interesting to do. Don’t go to Oklahoma if you can go to Miami, for example.
- Go in low season. There will be more room for last-minute travelers and lower costs.
- Meet as many locals as possible. They’ll be able to help you get around.
- Go the local route when you can. Take the bus, for example. You’ll save money and learn more about the towns.
- If it’s your first time, book the first night or two. Then you’ll get a good start and feel more comfortable.
- Remember, reservation-free travel is not your religion! It’s just for fun. So if you want to book a hotel for a particular night or you need to get advance tickets for a specific activity, then by all means, just do it. Make it a great experience!
- Pack light. You don’t know what you’ll be doing, so make sure you can be flexible and fit into small spaces. Don’t get weighed down.
Traveling without reservations can be a life changing experience. Skip the obsessive planning – choose freedom and spontaneity. Follow these simple tips for the best holiday with no reservations.