The Best Kind of Itinerary

If you took a moment to think about the title of this post, you may have guessed that the best kind of itinerary is no itinerary.

I don’t mean not having any idea of what to do but rather not having a specific plan of action for each day. After all, I read recently that most of the benefits from traveling—happiness, relaxation, etc.—come before a vacation and that the peak of these benefits kick in on the eighth day. I guess due to all the anticipation and then the fact that the trip ends, you somehow are happier before a vacation than after.

But from my experience traveling to Thailand’s beaches during low season (…there are the disclaimers), I’d like to argue that sometimes, for certain destinations, it’s best not to plan your days.

1 — You have freedom to explore and do what you want in that moment.
I think this is the biggest advantage for traveling without a specific itinerary. With every hour planned and scheduled, you lose some of the adventure. If you find yourself at a place you love, you may have to rush through the experience to make it to the next point. Sure, whether you end up loving or hating something, you can always change plans, whether or not you had a detailed plan or not. But true freedom for adventure comes without any plan at all. And that always makes for better stories.

2 — It’s easy to book things at the last minute.
Huge disclaimer on this one: I’m speaking from experience in Krabi, a small beach town in the southwestern part of Thailand—during low season. If you find yourself in a city or even here during peak season, this may not be the case at all. But in Krabi, on the motorbike we rented, we found a random tourism agency at 10 p.m. and booked a day trip the next morning starting at 8 to Phi Phi Islands where we spent hours island hopping and snorkeling. After such a long day, we went to get Thai massages and then walked around to find a packed bar playing live music. That night, we booked another activity for the next morning—elephant trekking. If you had asked us a few days before about our plan, we would have just answered with beaches. Oh, and you must try street food in Krabi. Unbelievably cheap and delicious.

3 — You never know what might happen.
I think I’ve had more than my fair share of bad luck in Thailand. Let’s see:

  • I fell driving a motorbike in Ao Nang, scraping my knee and hand
  • I dropped my iPhone in the water after capsizing in a kayak in Railey Beach, rendering it absolutely useless despite a night soaking in Thai rice. Ironically, this came just after we saved a couple whose kayak had capsized
  • We got caught in a rainstorm that hit only the side of Koh Lanta we drove an hour to go to for a beach that was not impressive
  • We got fined 500 baht for riding another motorbike in Phuket without helmets

Case in point: What’s an itinerary when the unexpected—both good and bad—can happen?

Again, this only works in situations such as ours. In busy cities like Bangkok, I would recommend having a more detailed itinerary to fit in everything there is to do and see. But when on an island or more secluded area, consider taking your time to be a little more adventurous, spontaneous, and fun.