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Travel without booking lodging?

Hi, we’re headed to Scotland for a month from mid-June to mid-July, 29 days. We’re the type of travelers who like to wander around without a firm itinerary, although we have a firm plan for the first 10 days. We start in Edinburgh at an AirBnB for 3 nights, then catch the train to Falkirk where we’ve rented a canal boat. We’ll slowly meander down the Union canal back towards Edinburgh, enjoying stops along the way and meeting people. After 7 days we’ll arrive back in Falkirk and pick up a car. That puts us at day 11, leaving 18 days. From there we’ll head to Stirling and from there on, we wander. Is it reasonable to expect that we can wander and find places to stay, maybe booking them that day or within a day or two of arriving? We’ll definitely be on Orkney for several days so wherever we go will eventually take us there. We may head up toward Pitlochry and around the Cairgorns and up the east coast. It looks like the kind of wild country that always tugs at me. We can head toward Inverness and from there on up to Orkney. Where to from there? Maybe Skye? What we don’t want is to have a rigid plan that keeps us on a fixed schedule. We’re pretty laid back and adaptable from our years of motorcycle camping. We may find a place we really like and use it as a base for several days. On day 28 we’ll end up back in Edinburgh to catch a morning flight the following day. Any thoughts, any input? Really excited for this trip!
Thanks! Courtenay

Posted by
16860 posts

If wandering is your firm preference, I support it. This question has come up a few times recently, under various country headings, and my personal answer is not based as much on your destination or season as on your attitude and resources. Your previous experience, laid-back attitude, and having a car all should help, along with phone and internet availability, and hopefully an adequate/flexible budget.

See other opinions on this thread, also under Scotland: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/scotland/reserve-ahead-or-wing-it.

Posted by
17 posts

Thanks! I should have looked further. Just saw the thread down the page. We are definitely the "it's an adventure" type of travelers. We're getting local SIM cards for our iPhones and have a generous budget for this 30th anniversary trip so we should be good. I'll post when we get back to let others know how it went. C

Posted by
5561 posts

Hey Courtney, I think that you'll be fine. You just need to be flexible and sure sounds like you are. You might want to check and see if there are any festivals in the places that you are thinking about going to. Those places can book up. So long as you are not planning to be in Edinburgh during the festival I think that you'll be fine, better than fine, wonderful!

Orkney is a wonderful place. Note that there is a festival there, The St. Magnus International Festival, so you might want to think about booking for Orkney. You don't want to miss it! You may be fine if you're outside of Kirkwall, but you could check with the tourist office. Here's a site with the events on Orkney. And, it's really great to be in Orkney around the solstice. Dusk goes on until 11 or midnight and the sun is back at 2 or 3 in the AM. :)

Do you have room in your luggage? I think I need to go to Orkney!
Pam

Posted by
247 posts

My husband and I traveled through Europe the first time without any reservations - only a plan of the places we wanted to see. In some ways I regretted the choice, and in some ways I didn't.

There was one day early in our trip that was particularly bad. We were trying to find a little hotel after a long exhausting day of travel. Feeling lost and exhausted combined with a conversation with a rude cabbie actually made me cry. (I blame jet-lag partially for this too).

However, as the trip progressed, we got better at finding our way around new cities and got used to "getting lost" as part of the experience. As long as you are ok with the potentially added stress, and maybe spending part of your travel time lost, trying to find the places you booked at the last minute then its a good choice and I still recommend it. We were traveling before smart phones were practical or affordable for travel so if you bring one of those the likelihood of "getting lost" being a stressor will be reduced as well.

We were able to hop from city to city as quickly or as slowly as we wanted, which was definitely a plus. On our second trip we've nailed down all the places we're staying and I've already printed directions and a few "google streetview" shots of how to get there just in case the navigation isn't working on our phones. We decided we'd rather spend our time this time doing what we've pre-planned.

I don't think either mode of travel (reservation free or not) is perfect. It really just depends on your personal travel goals.

Have a great trip!

Posted by
1291 posts

Orkney is, along with Edinburgh, is where you probably need to book ahead. Once you are on the islands, it is not easy to get back off if the accomodation is hard to find. The other places you may need to cast the net a bit further, staying in the out of town budget hotels in Inverness if going to the Cairngorms etc.

If you can get wifi, possibly worth checking availability a few days ahead rather than on the day, some parts of the country go from low season occupancy to high season in a few days.

Posted by
5561 posts

That's a great list Courtenay, but it does out some, which is one of the things that I find frustrating about researching festivals in Scotland. But then again, it's probably a good thing as the whole world doesn't show up at my favorite little festival. For example, the Tarbert Music Festival never seems to show up anywhere, and yet every September there it is! I've found that checking the town/village website is the best strategy in the end.

You're going to have a great trip! I can't wait to hear about your travels.

Pam

Posted by
312 posts

Hi Courtenay,

Visiting in summer, make sure you look for local produce when getting food items in markets. I still dream of the locally-grown raspberries I had on a summer 2010 visit!

Cheers :-)