Trip planning: When to ditch the plan and seize the moment

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For some, planning a trip in micro detail is one of life’s joys while others prefer to be carried by the winds of chance.

Who’s right?

A friend of mine plays a traveller’s version of Russian roulette. She flies to Singapore’s Changi Airport or Hong Kong’s International Airport and goes flight shopping.

She has no idea where she will end up. She just cruises around the airport looking for cheap fares on flights that are departing that day.

When she finds a fare that is ridiculously cheap, she buys a ticket. Accommodation? Work it out when you get there.

If you are going to play travel roulette, you have to realise that from time to time, one bullet will occasionally align itself with the hammer – Kaboom!

Another friend paying travel roulette saw a cheap train journey through China. The woman at the ticket office, separated from her by a counter and an unsurmountable language barrier, tried desperately to convince her to buy a slightly more expensive ticket.

My friend knew better and insisted on buying the cheaper one. The more expensive ticket turned out to be for a comfortable express train and the cheap ticket for a slow train that stopped constantly and was heated by a coal burning stove outside her cabin.

She almost died of carbon monoxide poisoning and was ill for a week.

But when the spin of the wheel favours you, you can win big time as when I was in Vancouver, Canada on my way to London.

The one person I knew in the city invited me to a party and there I met a woman whose husband had built a boat and sailed it to Mexico, where his crew of amateur sailors promptly abandoned ship. He desperately needed crew. What to do?

London or Mexico?

Two days later I was walking along a beach in Baja California squinting into the sun as I scanned the harbor for the Canadian yacht.

I found her, met the skipper who by then had found a couple of extra deck hands and that afternoon we weighed anchor for the South Pacific.

I’d never been on a yacht before but I sailed for the next three months and had the experience of a lifetime.

Then there was a chance encounter with an American who told me about a cargo ship that was tied up at the dock at Papeete in Tahiti.

I walked on board, negotiated a small fee in Pacific French Francs and spent several weeks steaming around the islands sleeping in a hammock on deck among a cargo of copra sacks and eating with the crew.

Disproving the theory that good things come in threes, there was also the trip to Thailand where the winds of chance blew my partner and I to Koh Phangan and into a hotel room with a view of the rubbish dump which came with all the flies you could swat, a hot water system which exploded, inedible food and a cement mattress.

Like I said, every now and then – Kaboom!

Do you plan your trips or do you go with the flow? Let us know in the comments!


  • Phil

    A nice mix of both works well for me. For the rougher trips and when you just need to escape it’s just good to get up and go. When it’s something a bit bigger or more specific it’s good to plan it to make sure it’s all sorted and you don’t miss out on things when you get there……spontaneous travel really does get the heart pumping though!