Whether you’re a big planner or someone who likes to go with the flow, it’s super important to be diligent in order to avoid bucket list disappointment! Have you ever traveled to a new destination with one particular experience in mind? For example, you visit a place for one week and you don’t care what you do for six of the seven days, as long as you visit that ONE place or do that ONE thing?
Imagine booking an entire trip around one specific activity and returning home without that experience due to a careless mistake. It may seem like a simple concept, however, you’d be surprised how many people book trips without doing the most basic bit of research! Even if you’re the most relaxed traveler of them all, I recommend these four tips before planning that bucket list activity. It takes less than ten minutes but will spare you major regret and disappointment!
ONE: Never wait until the last day or two to visit the most important place on your itinerary
In your mind, you may think it’s a good idea to end your trip on a high note or “go out with a bang,” but what happens when something beyond your control happens and you’re unable to reschedule because you’re flying home at 8am the next morning? For example: if you’re doing something that requires good weather, plan to do this early enough in your trip to allow back up days in the event you get hit with a storm.
When I visited Dubai, I scheduled my SkyDive session for day two of my trip. I booked this three months in advance so I had no idea what the weather would be like when I arrived. However, if the weather was bad and I needed to reschedule my jump, I had three more days to slot it in. When something is super important (and expensive) it’s not worth it to take that chance… especially when you’ve traveled so far.
TWO: Keep wiggle room in your itinerary for rebooking
I LOVE to do research and plan general outlines for my trips. It’s half of the fun for me! However, I never plan with the intention of having every second of my trip booked before I get there. I like to leave free time in my days to aimlessly explore and rest. It’s also important to keep open time available in your schedule in the event you have to rebook or change the order you planned to do things.
For example, the first day I went to The Pearl Harbor National Memorial, a huge monsoon hit the island. Due to this storm with extreme winds and rainfall, all boats to the USS Arizona memorial were canceled for the rest of the day. If I was unable to reschedule this visit during my downtime a few days later, I would have been devastated. Instead, I didn’t panic. I enjoyed all the indoor portions of the memorial and returned a few days later for the boat ride and to see the remaining outdoor memorials.
THREE: Double-check opening days, holiday hours, and last entry hours
Never assume a site is open 7 days a week just because it’s a major tourist attraction. Always check the days a specific site is open as well as their hours. It’s also important to remember all countries don’t have the same holidays or religious beliefs as your home country. It would be a shame to visit a place just to later find out what you were planning to visit is closed in observance of a local holiday.
Lastly, opening hours can be deceiving. Many attractions close at a specific time, however, they allow the last guest in an hour or two before the official closing time. Pay very close attention to this. For example, The Vatican Museum technically closes at 6:00 pm but the last visitor is allowed in at 4:00 pm. Another example is the Diamond Head Crater Hiking Trail which closes at 6:00 pm but the last hiker is allowed to begin at 4:30 pm, latest.
FOUR: Sometimes you HAVE to book in advance
You may prefer to go with the flow, but if it’s something you really want to see, do a quick google search to see if advance tickets are required. Some places don’t allow you to book a ticket at the door, you have to purchase online. Some places may allow tickets the day of, but if they are very popular, they may be sold out. If it’s at the top of your list, it’s not worth the disappointment of missing out.
For example: when I went to New Zealand (North Island), the #1 thing on my list was to visit Hobbiton. Since I was driving from over an hour away, I wasn’t exactly sure when I would arrive so I originally thought I’d just buy a ticket for the next available entrance after arriving. A couple of weeks before I left, I did a quick check and realized Hobbiton is by tour ONLY, you can’t just pay at the gate and walk around at your own pace. Since each tour group has a maximum capacity, I decided to not take the chance.
After arriving, I was so happy I did. It turns out they were sold out for that entire day. I overheard a few people attempting to get last-minute tickets at the site, but they were unsuccessful. I can’t even begin to describe to you how heartbroken I would have been if I was unable to experience Hobbiton. New Zealand is pretty much as far away as I could possibly be from home on planet earth, who knows when I’ll be back?
Don’t take the chance. Book the ticket!
Do you find these tips helpful? Do you do these things already? Let me know in the comments!