Sometimes I wish I could be one of those people that could just land in destination unknown, without any advance preparation or planning. Someone who could allow the fates to buffet me to wherever it deemed fit. You hear so many stories of people arriving in a new city or place with no hotels/hostels booked, no idea about geography and without any plan whatsoever, and ending up in the most amazing of adventures. Of course, you also hear stories about people who do the same thing and end up sleeping on the street or getting robbed in some scary neighbourhood they inadvertently stumbled into.
I probably veer more towards the planning side of the spectrum, while The Bear definitely leans towards spontaneity. And yes, this has indeed resulted in him sleeping in the doorways of certain hostels in Amsterdam in the pouring rain. Ahem. I’m not sure if I feel more compassion for him, or for all the passersby who had to listen to him snoring, but anyways…
It’s hard to know how much you should leave to chance. These days, you could argue that with the wealth of information readily available at our fingertips via the internet, it’s actually way easier to just show up somewhere and work it out in the moment. You can literally land in the airport, connect to a wifi network, and book your accommodation from there. There are definitely advantages to this. I’ve scored some super amazing deals by following this strategy.
One that comes to mind is Mango Tree Place in Penang, which is one of the most unique places I’ve ever stayed in, anywhere in the world…hands down. It’s just one of those places that’s got it all figured out, from amazing breakfasts to fantastic design to super committed owners. It’s a bed and breakfast, where the owners will drive you to a local restaurant, hang out with you chatting and stuff you full of everything you could possibly want to eat. Posted rates? Between $200 – $275 per night. Worth it? Probably. Willing to pay it? Nope. Especially when decent accommodation is available all over Malaysia for a fraction of that price.
But this was an instance where spontaneity definitely paid off. After landing in Penang, a quick check on Agoda showed rooms for only $60. And the best thing? Mango Tree honoured the rate for the entire length of our stay, though we’d only booked at that rate for 1 night.
Of course that strategy doesn’t work well just anywhere. Normally, we just show up in a destination, walk around and book something after we’ve seen it with our own two eyes, or hope to get some kind of amazing last minute deal in a hotel like Mango Tree Place. But because our trip to Macau / Hong Kong is only 4 days long and our time so limited, we booked the whole thing from start to finish. In hindsight, I’d have to say that Hong Kong is one of those places where spontaneity definitely doesn’t work as well. With limited hotel rooms and China’s huge population base right next door, scoring a deal at the last minute is almost impossible. (It’s not scoring a deal if the place is disgusting!)
Moral of the story – a little advance research never hurt anyone. Knowing where you’re going and what the accommodation situation is like, will help you make a more informed decision about whether to book on the fly or not.