Changing Plans on the Road
When Andy was researching our trip to New Zealand, he found a scenic train similar to the one I took from Wellington to Auckland, but this one goes from Greymouth to Christchurch. He loves trains, so we booked tickets for New Year’s Eve and planned a few days in Christchurch afterwards. Christchurch is still struggling from the major earthquake they had in early 2011, but it’s not a reason to stay away from the city. Unfortunately on Christmas morning, Andy and I woke up to the news that there had been more earthquakes in Christchurch. They weren’t as big as the one from early 2011, but at least three within a few hours registered above 5.0. We left the next day for our Milford Sound cruise with a bit of concern about our Christchurch plans.
The Best Laid Plans
Over the next day or two, Christchurch had a few more earthquakes. Neither of us really liked the idea of going somewhere that was actively having strong earthquakes. But we already had a lot booked: a bus ticket from Wanaka (our next stop after Queenstown) to Franz Joseph glacier, a hostel near the glacier, a bus ticket to Greymouth, the train to Christchurch, a hostel in Christchurch, and a flight from Christchurch to Rotorua. The idea of having to change all of that seemed daunting. But we started examining our alternatives to see if it was reasonable to change our plan.
The train ticket was fully refundable, and most of our hostel reservations were either refundable or had a small cancellation fee. The bus tickets were non-refundable, but they were so cheap we were fine with losing them. The flight was the major thing we’d have to change. We also needed to figure out where we were going to go instead of Christchurch and hope that we could find a room for New Year’s on such short notice.
Divide and Conquer
When we returned from our Milford Sound trip, we spent some time sifting through our Lonely Planet New Zealand book to see where else we might want to go. There were a few places north of Franz Joseph that I had heard of, but they sounded a lot more rural and outdoorsy than what Andy and I were looking for. We’re more the city types. But Dunedin, which is in the opposite direction, looked like an interesting college town. So we checked to make sure we could find a decent place to stay and went to work on rearranging our trip.
Andy contacted the hostels, buses and train to cancel those reservations and get refunds where possible. I called Air New Zealand and changed our flight to Rotorua so that we would depart from Dunedin instead of Christchurch. We booked four nights in a hostel in Dunedin and booked bus tickets there for the next day. We had to pay a few small cancellation fees and a change fee on our flight, but overall we didn’t lose much money. We had to give up going to Franz Joseph Glacier, but we wouldn’t be moving around as much either.
A lot can be said in favor of not booking ahead. It allows you to be more spontaneous and more flexible, and it means you won’t have to deal with cancellation and change fees. However, by having to rearrange out trip at the last minute, we were still able to be flexible and spontaneous. We also learned that having to make last minute changes and planning on the road aren’t as stressful as I once thought, and it keeps things interesting. I love the planning part of a travel, and this was just another aspect of my planning passion.
April 26, 2012 @ 4:45 PM
I love changes plan on my road as it’s the best way to discover a new place. When I travel I just outline generelly what I want to visit and then just let the fate works and my feet walk!
April 26, 2012 @ 5:45 PM
Sounds like a good way to go, Robert! I’m getting better about not planning as much and being flexible, but I will always enjoy the planning part of travel.
April 26, 2012 @ 8:21 PM
I completely agree about not booking ahead and having the ease of changing plans easily. Right now our trips are short, so we usually book ahead just because I hate getting stuck with a really expensive hotel room or flight. But we have had our fair share of kicking ourselves in the butt for booking ahead and ended up wasting money because of it. I guess that’s the price we have to pay for the security of knowing we will not have to pay extreme prices last minute. I’m glad you guys were able to get some stuff refunded!
April 26, 2012 @ 10:06 PM
Thanks Christy! I guess it’s all a crap shoot. You can really miss out on something or pay way too much if you don’t plan ahead, but sometimes the same is true if you do plan ahead. I’m starting to learn which situations I’m comfortable leaving open and which ones I want planned out. I really do enjoy the planning part, even if I don’t book everything ahead of time.
April 26, 2012 @ 10:12 PM
I wish I could be more spontaneous with my travel plans, but my trips are always so short. I have gotten better though and always leave the guide book at home now.
April 27, 2012 @ 10:56 AM
Andy and I are trying to be better about leaving some things open to figure out when we get there. Ended up working out really well in Turkey.
The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen)
April 27, 2012 @ 5:25 AM
I agree with Christy and Andi — wish I could be spontaneous, but we mostly have to plan things again because of short trips. If we were on a long-term trip the theme would definitely be “seat-of-our-pants” travel. It’s great to have that flexibility and learn to embrace the unpredictable! Great photos!
April 27, 2012 @ 10:57 AM
Thanks Ellen! I’m finding that even on a shorter trip, I can at least leave some parts of it flexible. Although I like the planning part enough to plan anyway, just not book everything!
April 27, 2012 @ 7:14 AM
We are ones who just don’t like planning. We always have a rock-paper-scissors battle who does it. In fact if we could hire someone at any point, this might be the first position we create, a decision maker slash planner. Hope to eventually meet you two 🙂
April 27, 2012 @ 11:00 AM
I hope to meet you eventually too, Pete! Andy and I loved hanging out with Dalene last week. I understand about not wanting to plan, though I do usually love it. Even if I don’t book everything, I always seem to have Plan A and Plan B in my head.
April 27, 2012 @ 7:50 AM
This is exactly how we felt last year travelling around – we booked a lot in advance, too much – especially in NZ. We ended up changing our plans there as well. It’s hard to know when to book and when not to but I’m starting to lean more in favour of John’s way, which is to never book anything!
April 27, 2012 @ 11:01 AM
I can’t stop myself from planning things, I love it too much. But I’m getting better about waiting to book things. It is kind of nice to leave some things open and be flexible.
May 6, 2012 @ 8:55 PM
I am a chronic planner – and that’s mostly due to the fact that I never have a long time in which to travel, or the fact that I can often only travel in high season, when you don’t really have a choice but to book things in advance. But it really is nicer when you have some flexibility in your plans!
Sorry to hear you guys had to skip the glacier and the TranzAlpine… hopefully you enjoyed Dunedin, though!
May 6, 2012 @ 9:41 PM
Even when I tell myself I’m going to be spontaneous, I still end up at least planning things out in my head. Partly because I worry and partly because planning is just fun for me. We did enjoy Dunedin, posts coming soon!