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The Sensoji temple in Tokyo

The Importance of Leaving Room for Flexibility When you make travel plans

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We are on a gradual descent back into normal reality. We are on the flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles, turning the clock backwards 12 hours and crossing the date line, so we will be arriving the day before we left (I love the time warp that happens traveling back from Asia, and seeing the same sunrise twice is really darned cool!)

The to do list has already started to creep back into my mind, though I feel a renewed sense of purpose and inspiration from our trip. The break has rekindled my fire, so to speak, and other than the profound jetlag that I am anticipating in the next few days, I am ready to hit the ground running.


Sensoji Temple in Tokyo
The Sensoji temple in Tokyo

We are returning a couple of days early, to deal with some immediate and pressing issues that need to get taken care of before we go back to work (the clutch in husband’s car went out the day we left on the trip, and I am making an imminent move into a different office) so we will indeed be off and running right from the start.

Many things on the trip did not turn out as expected, but some turned out much better, so all in all, it was a good trip.

We never made it to many of the places that I had planned for us to spend New Years Eve. We ended up doing the non-rev shuffle; I flew into Portland, OR and the closest we could get husband was Vancouver, so I spent my New Years Eve driving for 10 hours to go up into Canada to pick him up, then back down to Portland.

We did make it into downtown Seattle just before midnight, and spent the magic moment celebrating on the street with throngs of strangers, watching the fireworks display on the space needle.

We never made it to the beach in Thailand that I had planned for us to go to at the beginning of our trip to recuperate from the jetlag. After 17 hours of flying almost non stop to get to Bangkok, navigating to the bus station for another 2 hour bus ride followed by a 45 minute ferry was just to much to content with after so much flying. Instead, we spent the night in Bangkok and took a day trip to Ayuthaya, and ancient city about 1 hour outside of Bangkok.

The other day that we would have spent on Ko Samet island relaxing on the beach got spent instead so that we could spend an extra day in Chiang Dao, which turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the whole trip.

We left Thailand earlier than planned, but that gave us time to spend an unexpected two days in Tokyo seeing the sights and still get home early to take care of the imminent challenges that are waiting for us.

Path in Toyko, Japan

It has been a memorable trip. On all these trips that we have taken, I have been learning the lessons of flexibility, and I honed that skill to a new level on this trip.

Staying flexible and not making too many plans left us room to move on to new locations when we weren’t in a place where we were having fun, and allowed us to linger longer in the places that we really loved (and, as a bonus, a less structured itinerary seems to make for a happier and more relaxed husband, at least in my case!)

Here are some tips for leaving room for flexibility when you make travel plans :

The view of the mountains in Chiang Dao Thailand
The view from the yard at Chaing Dao Nest…absolutely beautiful.
  • Pay attention to cancellation deadlines for hotel reservations, and write them down in your travel itinerary. Many hotels will take cancellation on the day of arrival, particularly if they are busy and think that they can sell the room to someone else.
  • Keep yourself open to new plans as they arise. Look at brochures and stop at tourist information offices. Talk to other travelers that you meet to find out where they are coming from and what they enjoyed about it. Often, when you arrive in a place, there will be more options available to you that you hadn’t seen in your guide book or on the internet (particularly, those off the beaten path gems that aren’t on everyone’s radar yet!)
  • Know what the fees are if you should need to reschedule bus, train or other transportation reservations. If you decide to stay in a place longer or leave earlier, it might be worth it for you to switch your tickets (particularly if the fee isn’t too high).  For instance, we paid an extra $100 to get on an earlier flight from Bangkok to Tokyo. Because of this, we had most of an extra day of sight seeing in Tokyo which would have been spent getting settled and checking into the hotel if we had taken the later flight. $100 for an extra day in Toyko was a good exchange for us and was completely worth it.
  • Make an itinerary with contact information for all hotels that you have booked at or are thinking of staying at, tours and transportation providers as well as cancellation deadlines and applicable change fees for cancellation. Try to get a phone number and e-mail address for each. This will make it easier to rearrange anything that you have booked should you decide to change plans.
  • If you are not sure about a particular change in plans, sleep on it and see how you feel about it in the morning. Often, switching plans involves giving up some part of your itinerary to do something else. Sleeping on it will help you to make sure that you are making a good choice that you will not regret.
  • Leave extra wiggle room at the end of your itinerary. This way, if you end up spending more time in a particular location (or end up making a detour to a different location) you can catch up without having to cancel something else. If you are on an extended trip, an extra day or two in the middle can come in handy as well.

For more writing relating to travel planning, check out these other great posts:

Shanna Schultz

Hello, my name is Shanna, and I am a detail obsessed travel addict on a mission to make planning your own family trips fun and easy! I offer tools, guides and resources to help you through all of the steps of planning meaningful, memorable family vacations. Come over and check out our Facebook community where I share real tools and resources to help you move the needle on your travel goals. Let's start making those travel dreams real, y'all! Life is too short to spend dreaming...let's start DOING!

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Andrea

    I definitely think staying flexible is important – we were somewhat flexible on our recent RTW trip but also locked ourselves into a lot of things early that in hindsight we should have played by ear.

  2. Brittany

    You couldn’t be more right! I think flexibility is in the top 3 most important things when traveling.

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