I there, I'm planning a rtw trip with my girlfriend for 8 months starting next september. Our general distinations are india, thailand, singapore, perth, sydney, new zealand and south america. My question is, do you book every hostel/hotel you want to stay at before you head off or just walk in as you go? I'd rather do the latter but it worries me that we won't get in anywhere especially if we arrive at night off a sleeper train or something! We're planning it at the moment but what kind of stuff should we plan? Just places we want to visit and things we want to do? Silly questions i know!
What I do: Depending on location and time of the year, I book a few days to a few weeks ahead, researching places to stay as I go (reading plenty of reviews online and in my lonely planet).
I recommend always booking the first few days in a new country ahead, as you really don't want to deal with the hassle when fresh off the plane. Beyond that, as long as it's not high season wherever you are, you can also opt for just walking in, but I'd recommend only doing this if you arrive no later than early afternoon, and are absolutely certain that you'll make all your connections and won't suffer delays; (In Thailand I once had a train be delayed by over an hour with the subsequent bus not leaving for another hour, which then took an hour more to cover the 50km that I'd expected it to, with the upshot that I arrived in the dark with a tropical rainstorm lashing down on me in great torrents. I was lucky that the guesthouse I wanted to stay at was still open and had plenty of room, for if it hadn't, I really wouldn't have been looking forward to finding alternative accommodation.)
Booking a bit in advance also helps you avoid the kind of mishaps you suffer when a city has an unexpected event which has caused all accommodation to be booked fully. Local festivals and sporting events and conventions always happen at the most inconvenient time. (My last visit to Sydney, I avoided World Youth Day by less than a week; that was quite an "eeek!" moment when I realized.)
Hostels generally let you cancel bookings free of charge up to 48 hours before arrival, so if your plans change, you can still be pretty flexible despite having booked ahead.
For general planning I tend to stick to having a very rough list of "must see" places ahead of time, and then doing detailed research only a week or two in advance as I go along, often making decisions based on conversations with other travellers, the weather, or just my mood at the time. If I'm "stuck" for any reason, I fall back on just heading to the next destination on the original rough list.
[ Edit: Edited on Oct 8, 2008, at 4:11 AM by Sander ]
Sander, thank you very much for your help.
So i'm thinking of perhaps booking our first 2 weeks in india completely (flights obviously and every hostel) then winging it from there once we get over (or partly get over) the culture shock and homesickness. Thinking of it we can't possibly book everywhere as our plans will change!