Why I Over Plan My World Travel

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My first trip to Europe in 1998 was an organized educational excursion for class credit. The experience was vastly different from my second trek, a year later, when I grabbed a backpack and a Let’s Go Europe book and took off into the world with my college boyfriend without a plan.

Well, we had a loose plan. I was living in Colorado and we were going to go to take a trip home to Philly, but we found $350 tickets to London and decided to purchase those instead. We also wound up with a $75 round trip ticket to Amsterdam and a rail pass that was good for the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. We explored them all. But not easily.


As a free spirit and an aspiring world traveler, I wanted to let the experience take over—so I didn’t book accommodations in advance. I figured, if we liked one place, we could stay longer, if we didn’t like another, we could quickly move on.

This was about a year before many hostels were set up for online booking, so it was more complicated to find accommodations at that time. We got to London and immediately booked our first and last nights (at a dumpy £100 a night hotel). The we showed up in Amsterdam with a map and a list of hostels in our guidebook. It was March, the shoulder season, and we didn’t expect hostels to be full—but they were.

We walked from hostel to hostel, and the front-desk staff at each one told us they were booked. We called budget hotels (on a pay phone), but they were full, too. We aimlessly wandered the streets, with our backpacks getting heavier and heavier and our legs getting weaker and weaker. Finally we decided to use the rail pass and get the late night train to Luxembourg. We could sleep for a few hours on the way.

But when we showed up at the train station, we discovered that that last train to Luxembourg had already departed for the night. I had read the train schedule backwards 🙄 So, feeling like we had no other choice, we took the shuttle back to the airport, and using our backpacks as pillows, we got some cautious sleep in the waiting area.

The next morning we hopped on the first train to Luxembourg, and though we couldn’t find any hostel beds there either, we found a cheap hotel with a spacious and clean room, and we luxuriated in the comfort for a night.

We had a wonderful time exploring Luxembourg 🇱🇺 and Belgium 🇧🇪 and when we made our way back to Amsterdam, we finally found a room for $25. We had a private room and a shared bath and strict rules about when and how long to shower and when to show up for breakfast. But we were so happy to have a place to stay.

That experience shaped my travel style. From that point on, I’ve always scheduled my accommodations and ground transportation in advance. And on my most recent trip to Amsterdam, 20 years later, I was glad! This time, hoards of travelers made the city almost unbearable—even in the shoulder season—so I can’t imaging showing up without a plan.

But I still think it’s important to leave a lot of free time in the schedule for wandering, getting lost, and letting the moment take you where you need to go.

How do you like to travel? Are you a planner or a wanderer?

~ LiAnn


9 Tips for Traveling the World with Only a Personal Item

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Sometimes a handbag comes along too

We see travel tips all the time for packing light and think: Pft! If you can’t fit it all under the seat in front of you, then you haven’t packed light enough. We pack so light that we frequently get stopped at customs and asked if we forgot our bags. Nope! We just don’t like to be weighed down. It doesn’t matter how long or in what season we are traveling. The only time we bring an extra bag is when we need our snorkeling gear 😁 And even that is a small, easy to manage carryon.

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Travel Tip #3: Look at the bulkhead seating on SW

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If you are a solo traveler on #Southwest don’t forget to check the bulkhead! SW was amazing at accommodating is when LiAnn broke her ankle. Often times there’s a special-needs traveler (like she was when we realized this) and a companion sitting in the bulkhead seats, which leaves an aisle or a window seat open, but everyone looks ahead and fails to notice. Sometimes there are two seats open. So our tip today is: Notice! #igottotheairport5minutesafterboardingstartedandstillgotthefirstrow

A Magnificent Drive to Vik

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Our drive to Vik was the highlight of our trip. It is an easy ride along the ring road and unless you want to hike or find hot springs, you don’t have to map and plan much to see the sights along the way – they are right by the road.

There are beautiful waterfalls, strange lava formations, glaciers atop large mountains and looming volcanoes. There are fields full of vibrant shades of green, yellow, red and brown. There are black sand beaches, Icelandic horses and lots of grazing little lambs.

It’s about a five hour round trip drive from Reykjavik to Vik. Our only regret is that we didn’t make a hotel reservation in time to drive an extra 2 ½ hours east to the glacier bay at Jokulsarlon. By the time we decided to do this, the few hotels and guesthouse in the area were already fully booked. We decided it was just a bit too much to do in one day, so we had lunch in Vik and made the scenic journey back to Reykjavik.

I would say, if you only have time to chose one: golden circle or drive to Vik – definitely drive to Vik!

Click here for a great article on traveling light!

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People wonder how I can travel for two weeks (in the winter) with just a day pack.

1. The first thing I do is find the bag I want to carry and then fit what I can into it – if it doesn’t fit, it stays home.

2. I find a color scheme and stick to it – mixing and matching pieces.

3. I pack a travel size bottle of laundry detergent to wash things in the sink if needed – although in some parts of the world, like SE Asia, laundry service is so inexpensive, you can just send it out every few days and pack even less!

4. I bring as many light weight, quick drying items as possible and just one sweatshirt and one sweater to wear over light weight clothes (usually only either the sweater or sweatshirt can be in the pack)

5. I don’t spend a lot of time packing, but I always do spend time thinking about what I’ll need and want to wear and how it can all be coordinated.

6. If I really want to do some serious shopping, I ship it home – usually for less than the airlines’ baggage fees.

It’s so liberating to be free of luggage when I travel that it’s well worth the extra thought I put into it. Plus, with all the added baggage fees these days, it’s nice to know I can fit everything under the seat in front of me!

Click here for a great article on traveling light!

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A lovely final 24 hours in Asia spent on the water with a Singapore Sling