Planning for long trips and avoiding travel burnout
We’re back with more questions for Travel Unravelled! This week, we weigh up the pros and cons of planning trips thoroughly in advance – what you should book ahead of time and when to be spontaneous. We also provide tips on how to keep up your energy on long trips, so you don’t start to get sick of travelling as the months go on.
How much of your trip do you usually book in advance? Do you prefer to have a set itinerary or to plan as you go?
The absolute bare minimum! While I enjoy researching destinations and gathering tips from friends, I really prefer just booking a one-way flight and a couple of nights of accommodation and then going from there. I would find it exhausting trying to follow a strict schedule and I like the freedom of being able to change my plans at the drop of a hat.
Of course, this isn’t always possible. Some popular tourist sights need to be booked months in advance and it’s significantly cheaper to book a return trip rather than a one-way flight with a lot of airlines. When it comes to booking hostels, I love being able to decide each morning whether to extend my stay or move on, but again, this isn’t possible if you’re travelling somewhere in peak season (think Europe in the middle of summer or Thailand in winter). It’s also a lot easier to be flexible when time is on your side. If you’ve only got a couple of weeks off work, planning your trip carefully in advance will help you see as much as possible while you’re there.
All that said, when logistics allow, I love going with the flow and thinking only a few days ahead. It’s so much easier to get a vibe for a place when you’re actually there in person. If I’m really enjoying a certain place, hostel or group of people, I love having the option to stay a little longer. Same goes for the reverse – if I feel like I’ve seen all a place has to offer or don’t think it’s my vibe, then I’m happy to pack my bag and move on. When it comes to deciding where to head next, I simply rely on recommendations from fellow travellers. Where have you come from? Where are you heading? Where has been your favourite place so far? What hostel would you recommend? You’ll quickly realise that backpackers tend to follow the same trail, so it’s pretty easy to plot your journey as you go. It’s also likely that you’ll find someone from your current location heading in the same direction as you, if you want a buddy for the next leg of your travels.
There’s no right or wrong way to travel and there are definitely moments when being organised can save a lot of stress. I’ve certainly found myself stranded without a bed or bus seat on multiple occasions, but I count that as part of the fun. If you feel more comfortable having a plan or not having to make so many decisions while you’re on holiday, then by all means, book things well in advance!
I’ve found that the more I travel, the more comfortable I am with not having a plan – primarily because I also feel more equipped to problem-solve and adapt when things do go wrong. Staying flexible allows me to visit places I’d never even heard of before, buddy up with fellow travellers for a little while and join spontaneous adventures whenever I get the chance. Perks that are worth the occasional night in a hammock or ferry journey on the floor in my eyes!
Do you ever get sick of travelling? How do you keep up your stamina on long trips?
I’ve definitely had exhausting days during my travels, but I can’t say I’ve ever reached my limit entirely. For every delayed flight, bout of food poisoning or sleepless night in a 12-bed dorm, there’s a new adventure that makes it all worthwhile.
While it’s tempting to try and fit as much as possible into each day and say yes to every plan that emerges, you will run yourself into the ground eventually trying to keep up. And honestly, I let it happen. It’s exciting to be in a new place and natural to want to see everything as soon as possible. I channel that energy and excitement to go exploring right until my body tells me I need to slow down. Then I book myself into a private room to enjoy a decent night’s sleep, repack my bag, do my laundry and recharge my social battery before I go again.
After my initial burst of energy, I tend to travel a lot slower – spending longer in each location rather than bouncing around every two to three days, enjoying lazy days by the beach and meeting up with familiar faces when I get the chance. I stop feeling like I need to cram as much as possible into each day and start to settle into life on the road. I get better at sleeping through noise in the hostel, squeezing in a quick power nap on the bus and balancing work, socialising and sightseeing.
Just because you’re away from home, doesn’t mean you have to abandon all aspects of day-to-day life. If you feel like cooking something healthy, binge-watching something on Netflix or working out at the gym – do it! Even a small chunk of time to yourself can be a nice reset for the days ahead. Plus, going out partying every night gets exhausting pretty quickly.
Travelling is full of ups and downs, but I do count myself extremely lucky to have spent so much of my 20s exploring the world around me. It’s not something I ever want to take for granted. I know the day will come when I can no longer stand the thought of sharing a dorm room, when I decide to swap my backpack for a suitcase or when I have too many responsibilities on my plate to up and leave whenever I feel like it. Until that happens, I want to live the backpacker life to the fullest and travel for as long as I can.
We hope this has provided some useful insights and tips to help with your future travel plans. If you have your own Travel Unravelled question, drop us a DM on Instagram @hostelworld. We’d love to hear from you!
Download the Hostelworld app to start meeting people from the moment you book