If you’ve ever traveled with us, you’ve probably seen our blue folder. It’s nothing fancy: just a simple folder with plastic sleeves inside. It’s our low-tech travel organizer: filled with all sorts of paperwork, maps, and information about our trip and travel destination. It always contains the reservations we have for hotels, flights, rentals, and activities — and it never needs a wi-fi connection or has a dead battery!
Yes, we’re planners. We like to know what a destination has to offer before we visit, and since we want to make sure we’ll be able to do the things we really want to do, we usually make reservations. But when we went to Everglades National Park in December, we were thoroughly unprepared. We had hotel reservations, but nothing more. Not only did we not know much about what there was to do there (it had been more than 15 years since our last visit), we had no idea we were about to arrive during its busiest week of the year!
Not having made many travel plans made us a little uncomfortable, but we decided we’d consider it an experiment for this blog! Since many people do travel without doing loads of pre-planning, we decided to see if we could make it work. The Shark Valley Tram was the biggest test. It’s a two-hour tram ride around Shark Valley, an area which can also be explored on foot or by bicycle, and we really wanted to do it.
The tram ride isn’t free, but it is very popular. Reservations can be made online ahead of time, but must be made at least two days in advance. By the time we found that out, our only option was to buy same-day tickets. We were driving past the park just before closing time on the day before we hoped to ride the tram, so we asked a ranger about our chances of getting same-day tickets the next day. He told us that they do hold back quite a large number of tickets for same-day trips, but they’re given out on a first-come, first-served basis. And he told us that the parking lot, which is really small, routinely fills on busy days by 10 AM. The challenge was set!
We set our alarm for 7:00 and crossed our fingers. When we arrived at the park around 9:00, we were happy to see there were still some parking spots. We hurried to the ticket booth, and with no trouble at all we got two tickets for a tram leaving in a half hour. We could even have gotten on an earlier one! We were glad we’d stopped to ask the night before, though, or we might not have arrived as early and we’d have decreased our chances of getting tickets — and a parking spot.
Although it worked out for us this time, we still feel like doing some planning ahead of time is worth it. We’d have had more flexibility and less stress if we’d gotten our tickets online ahead of time. And there would have been no chance we’d miss out on the thing we wanted most to do, which was awesome!
How about you? Are you a travel planner, or do you tend to go with the flow? Let us know in the comments. Enjoy your week or your weekend, whether it’s all planned out or not!