If there’s anything I learned from studying abroad last year, it’s that planning and preparing for any kind of travel is good, but ultimately, flexibility will be your best friend. The most notable time that my friends and I were taught this lesson was on a bitterly cold day in Munich, Germany. We had devised a strategy to catch a train to Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, later take a different train back to Munich, and then ride to Vienna that evening. Despite the chill, we were all excited for the day’s coming events.

Sadly, our plan fell through almost immediately when we missed our train to Bavaria. We had made it to the train station on time, but the German signs confused us, and we couldn’t figure out exactly where to go next. Dejected, we acknowledged that we had two options for going forward: one, grow increasingly bitter about missing the castle and spend the rest of the day moping, or two, use our generic train ticket to spend the day somewhere else before heading to Vienna.

We chose the latter option and gamely boarded a train to the small town of Ingolstadt. The trip was transformed into a spontaneous adventure, and we enjoyed the quaint authenticity of the town as well as the kindness of its inhabitants. It was also rewarding to know that we were experiencing something that few other tourists would.

We all agree that traveling is fun when things go smoothly, but maybe it can be just as exciting when things don’t go smoothly. To best facilitate flexible traveling, always give yourself extra time to travel places, carry extra money for unplanned activities or events, and be prepared with a backup plan or two and a good attitude—just in case you need to (or want to!) switch things up.

—Kaitlyn Brown