Many years ago, our first trip to Europe, we traveled to Italy, Austria, Germany and Austria by train. No itinerary and all our accommodations were made at the info booths at the stations. Now, I will be traveling with my son and granddaughter and they are interested in the same "unstructured" travel by train. Will we experience the same help during June at the train stations?
I haven't tried using the TI offices to get accommodations many times, but, when I have, they have been very helpful. However, consider this. Things have changed a lot. Most bookings are now available on the Internet, and there are a lot of people out there using the Internet to find their accommodations in advance. When they find something good, they don't say, "This is too good for me. I'll leave it for someone who books at the last minute." They take it, and you get what they didn't want. Even if you book in busy times, you'll probably find something, it just won't be as nice, or as inexpensive, as what you could have gotten by booking ahead.
I agree with Lee. The old days are fading away. Too many people have to have everything planned to the last minute. I have a name for them but the web master delete it along with me. And the hotels are adopting time variable pricing just like the rail roads, airline, etc. You might reserve the major place and go looser with the smaller areas.
We used to like to have a place to stay the first night, and then just wing it by rental car. Unfortunately, $9 per U.S. gallon gasoline has minimized our travel miles. We're now more into staying 5 days in a central location doing day trips out to surrounding cities. Then, we'll move down the road to another central location. I'm seeing more and getting more out of "traveling slowly." If you carry a laptop or notebook you can easily make reservations for the next day or next stop easily on many, many websites. Having access to the internet via WiFi is great, and most hotels do have it available. There are also many places to catch WiFi, including many fast food restaurants (McDonalds.) It's also great having access to GoogleMaps.com and Mapquest.com so you can get directions from train stations to your accommodations.
Summary: Go without reservations, but having communications will make your trip much more efficient and make travel easier to deal with.
denise, I agree with the others, "the times have changed". Especially for travel in June, it would be a good idea to pre-book accommodations as that's right in the middle of spring shoulder season, and can be busy. The T.I.'s can be helpful, but Rick indicated in a recent video that many have now become "private" and are more interested in selling tourists expensive rooms, tours, etc. While you may be able to find a room there on short notice, it may be more expensive than if you had pre-booked. Also, you may have to accept lodgings that are far out of town, in a dodgy part of town or not in your preferred "comfort range". Also, what type of "unstructured" travel by train are you considering? Especially in Italy, there are now some potentially expensive "caveats" to be aware of. Using the "on the fly" approach with rail travel there could cost you a LOT. It would help to have some idea on where you're planning to visit on this trip? Cheers!
I used to travel as you describe, but in many stations, the TI offices have been closed and are now located in the city center. Many are privately owned. You can do some research on booking.com or some other site before you go, just to get some ideas. If you don't travel with electronic devices, many hotels have a computer for guests' use (sometimes for a small fee). As a last resort, you can find a Western Union or other internet spot.
I think there is another factor that impacts this as well ; the age demographic . With post war baby boomers now at or rapidly approaching retirement age , like myself ,more people are traveling and blurring the definition of high , low ,and shoulder seasons , When I was young and without children , my wife and I could travel to seacoast New England after Labor Day and find the place deserted , not so anymore , everyone is gray like us . Since we travel to Europe in the fall , we are aware of the same phenomenon there as well . Coupled with the impact of the internet , I think this is another factor that changes how one plans travel .
I think it's the economy and the change in the way of doing business. I've been almost exclusively driving for close to five decades. When I was herding a hoard of rents, we only made last-night reservations. Once they were gone I quit making reservations unless it was for something like a funeral trip, or maybe a wedding where the whole mob needed to be in one place. I suspect that more people are driving. With the privatization of the TIs, it's more economical to have just one site - - and that's going to be where it's more likely to catch people using both modes of transportation. Also, with the TIs coming out of the public/civic sector, the fees have gone up. In a small village ten places might be listed, but if you go out and snoop around, there's easily twenty more which don't pay the referral fee but do just fine with stumble-ons. The same logic applies with the advent of the Internet. It's expensive (I'd think) to list with Booking, Venere, etc. It's cheap/free to list on the town web site. Then there's the slew of places that do fine with no Internet presence at all. I think there's just as much space out there, it just might not be visible or within easy striking distance of a train station. I've been out six weeks this time, working both sides of the horizontal and vertical circles. I've had to walk across the street once and around the corner twice. Maybe an extra fifteen or twenty minutes total. On the other hand, I doubt that I've ever slept near anything but a village train station.