I’m a planner. I’m sure that’s of absolutely no surprise given that I’m a Type A blogger who writes travel guides and bulleted posts full of how to’s on a regular basis. I like to go into any situation with clear expectations and a detailed road map. That means my travel plans tend to consist of detailed itineraries and minimal downtime.
Our trip to Ireland, which you’ve already heard extensively about over the course of several posts, was a lesson in flexibility. I had to learn on the fly that sometimes even the best laid and extensively researched plans need to leave a little room for adjustments – especially when you’re in a foreign country.
GO IN WITH A PLAN…
Contrary to what you may think, the best way to be ready for flexibility when traveling is to actually go in with a plan. Do you research. Read up on others’ experiences. Have an itinerary.
It’s easier and less stressful to make game time decisions when you have some idea of what you’re doing. We had our driving route of Ireland mapped out, our hotels and Airbnbs booked, our adventures lined up, and many of our meals planned. Without that plan in place, we would have spent hours wasting time trying to figure out what to do on the fly and we would have had less confidence in our ability to add and subtract to the set itinerary.
…BUT BE READY TO ADAPT
This is where flexibility comes into play. Don’t marry yourself to the itinerary you set! Be ready to adapt your schedule as necessary throughout your trip. Don’t be disappointed in yourself when you realize you need a more low key day than you originally had planned, but also don’t be so rigid that you can’t let loose and stay out a little later than you had anticipated just because you have an early morning museum visit booked. Keep reading below for the four specific takeaways I had from learning flexibility during our Ireland trip.
MY FOUR LESSONS ON FLEXIBILITY WHEN TRAVELING
- Do you research and have back up options. Our first night in Ireland was a disaster. We had booked a charming, pastoral Airbnb in Athenry outside Galway. It was perfect in every way with a fireplace and fresh baked scones. Except that a mouse or some sort of critter had died within the living room and had yet to be found. The smell became more and more overwhelming throughout our first evening and the next morning we packed our bags, opened up HotelTonight, and made an immediate back up plan. And we did this all while en route to an early morning ferry out to the Aran Islands. But, because I had done my research during our planning process, I knew of several hotel options within Galway that would be suitable. I was able to book a back up stay for our second night in the area knowing that we’d still be in a great location and in a comfortable bed – and our Airbnb host graciously refunded us for both nights.
- Leave an open mind for suggestions from locals. As I mentioned earlier, we had our itinerary planned down to the meals, but we still left time for fun suggestions from locals along the way. They know best, right? In Athenry, a man working the burger stand at a grocery store gave us one of our best recommendations of the whole trip – drinks at the The Europe Hotel in Killarney. We ended up blocking out 2 hours in our itinerary to spend an afternoon there drinking gin and tonics and taking in perhaps the most stunning lake view I’ve ever seen. Another one of our favorite stops was Teeling Distillery. When we were in Kilkenny, we were told to skip Jameson and Guiness while in Dublin and instead make a trip to this craft distillery. I have absolutely zero regrets about taking that advice.
- Respect what your body needs. This suggestion is an example of do what I say, not what I did. When planning our itinerary, I had us driving straight from the Dublin airport to Connemara National Park and then on to Galway. We got into Dublin around 9 AM and both knew we weren’t up for the three hour drive, but we pushed through anyway. If I were to do it again, I’d listen to my exhausted body, book a hotel in Dublin for the evening, and relax rather than force my eyes open.
- Slow down and enjoy the journey. On our fourth day in Ireland, we had planned to wake up super early and drive to Dingle from Killarney before hiking the Gap of Dunloe on the way back into town and then making it to a whiskey tasting at 7 PM. This was after going constantly for three days already. Well, while we were at dinner the evening before, we came to the executive decision that we just were not up for another day of driving and running from one sight to the next. We decided to slow down and have a more leisurely day of taking in the town of Killarney rather than just ticking more stops off our list of must-do’s. Did we have a little FOMO over missing Dingle? Sure, but there’s so much in Killarney that we would have bypassed had we chosen to squeeze in another mini-day trip.
Have you ever had a similar revelation while traveling? Or have you always been someone that thrives on a lack of plan and seeing where the open road takes you? I would love to hear about your own experiences!
MORE INFORMATION ON OUR IRELAND TRIP
Looking for more information on our Ireland trip? Check out the following posts: How We Planned Our Ireland Trip: A Road Trip Abroad, Travel Tips: Packing for Ireland, Travel Guide: A Road Trip Through Ireland, Part One, and Travel Guide: A Road Trip Through Ireland, Part Two.
Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with specific questions and itinerary advice!