Trip Planning – Research It or Wing It?

In Travel Planning by Jaclynn Seah2 Comments

Here’s a question Occasional Travellers, how do you plan for your solo trips? Are you the studious researcher, who pores through guidebooks and travel sites and knows exactly where you want to go and what to do, even before you step on foreign land? Or are you the free spirit, who just gets a plane ticket and worries about everything later, if you even worry at all?

I tried out both approaches on my last 2 trips, and  here’s what I thought:


Vietnam was probably my most researched trip. I had planned to go there in May, but only ended up going there in November so I had lots of time to do my research, and with the help of my hotel I had my itinerary all lined up and knew exactly where I would be at most times of the day. I liked the certainty of knowing my plans for the day, and that I didn’t have to worry about not having enough money or missing stuff because I had that all covered from all my research. But did I feel sometimes that I had to rush through things or skip places so that I could get to the next scheduled place on time, definitely.

Seoul on the other hand was very loosely organized – Other than settling my accommodation online before the trip (ok truly winging it would be arriving without any accommodation!), I only decided what I wanted to do every night before, and even on the day itself, it would depend on the weather and my mood for the day. I walked where I wanted, whenever I wanted, and just being able to sit around and relax without worrying about missing stuff was liberating. But I did have to stay up quite late at nights doing some last minute checking to make sure I didn’t end up going to places that might be closed and ‘wasting’ my day, that was a little stressful.


I’m planning my next trip and still thinking about what type of traveller I want to be. There is a sense of relief in being well prepared especially when you’re solo, but the joy of the spontaneous and unexpected that you and you alone will experience is definitely something to behold.

On that same note, have you consciously tried not to research too much instead? I used to scoff at people who could recite facts and figures at me even before we got there, to me it took the mystery and wonder of experiencing the place for the first time, but on the other hand, sometimes I didn’t fully grasp the significance of what I was looking at until I looked it up later online, and then I wished I’d known it before I went.

What type of traveller are you? When do you research it or wing it?


  1. I like to get an overview picture of where I’m travelling. I started traveling to far off places when my kids were in grade school, and I found that children’s books about countries had the type of info I wanted: how most people lived, national foods and past times, common religions and languages. That helps me put everything in context. If I want more info about something, I can do more research.

    I research a place enough to know certain things that I want to do. And the rest of the trip I play by ear. I want the holiday to be fun, not a race to accomplish a check list.

    1. Author

      Children’s books – that’s an interesting way to research for a country! never tried that, but you do make a good point =)

      It’s a bit of a balance between maximizing your limited time in that space and just wandering around the city… takes some work to get the best of both worlds really!

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