Spontaneous travel, a trip at the last minute, is truly possible when you travel solo.
Gone is the hassle of coordinating with others. You can leave home at a moment's notice. As you travel, you can change plans, leave a place early or stay longer, or turn left rather than right, whenever you want.
A spontaneous trip is an adventure. Your travel choices will be based on timing, availability, and pricing rather than a specific destination.
On short notice, pricing for flights will likely be higher. To compensate, this could push you to less expensive destinations you might not otherwise consider. There may be great deals on tours and cruises as companies try to fill the last available spots. Again, the destination selection may be not be your first choice but one of them could turn out to be that surprising trip of a lifetime.
So, how do you make spontaneous travel happen?
With the right attitude and the right tools.
9 Tips for Booking a Spontaneous Trip
On a spontaneous trip you need to take care of the basics of travel planning: transportation and accommodation. With that figured out, you'll be good to go, unless you are going out of country. Traveling abroad, you will need a few more things like travel insurance, visas, and a phone plan that will work for you.
1. Start your road trip at a moment's notice.
A road trip is so easy. Pack a bag, hop in the car and go in any direction you want. It could be to visit a friend in another city or to a destination that is just for you. As long as there is accommodation and a grocery store on route, you'll have what you need.
2. Use the “everywhere” search for affordable last-minute flights.
Skyscanner has a cool feature where you can search for a flight based on dates but without specifying a destination. It will then present flight options based on the least expensive by country. Dig into the countries of your choice and book an affordable flight.
3. Use Rome2Rio to plan a multi-destination trip.
Rome2Rio is my favorite site for planning to get from one place to another. It works just about anywhere in the world. Put in your starting point and where you want to go to and it will let you know your travel options as well as approximately how long each option will take and what it will cost. I use it for big picture planning but also for figuring out small details like how to get from the airport to my hotel.
4. Book your first three nights before leaving.
A last-minute trip won't be as well planned as one that you've spent a long time researching. You will likely do a lot of planning while you are there. It is, therefore, important to land and stay put for a bit while you get oriented and make a plan that is realistic for your time, budget, and interests. I book using Booking.com.
5. Be aware of your booking commitments.
The cancellation policies for accommodation and transportation are important for the spontaneous traveler. Know what your commitment is when you book.
6. Stay central.
For the same reason as above–the fact that you have not researched this trip extensively–plan to stay in a central location so that you can easily enjoy your first few days of travel while you are also planning the rest of your trip. You'll also have better access to public transport, giving you more opportunities to explore in more directions.
7. Resist overpacking.
When you're heading out at the last minute it's easy to overpack. You look at your clothes and think that you may need this or that and end up overstuffing your suitcase. Resist this, especially if you've booked a budget airline which will ding you at the airport for your luggage being overweight. Our packing list will help you stay on track.
8. Don't forget travel insurance.
I don't travel without insurance but it's easy to forget as you get organized for a spontaneous trip. Here's our guide to buying travel insurance. If you're American, go right to travelinsurance.com, a comparison site that will help you book quickly.
9. Get your phone ready for travel.
If you're a little reckless with your phone when traveling out of the country you can end up with a very large bill. I have an account with UBIGI. Once it's set up on your phone, you can quickly and simply buy data for just about any destination. Read more about how to use your phone when traveling here.
How to Find a Last-Minute Tour or Cruise
1. Sign up for emails from your favorite tour and cruise companies.
All tour and cruise companies have a mailing list for future deals. If you have favorite travel companies, sign up for their newsletter so that you know when there's a deal. You can be spontaneous on your schedule but it can also be on the schedule of a special deal.
2. Look for the Special Offers links.
The larger tour and cruise companies will have a menu link to their special offers which often point to last-minute trips. Sometimes it's a great deal. If there are no options for solo travelers, you may want to call the company directly if the trip departs within a week or two. They may be willing to negotiate on the single supplement of a double room in order to have some revenue on the spot.
3. Look for the search function by date.
Not all companies have a special offer section on their site but some will let you search based on dates as well as destination. Active Adventures has this feature. Click here and drag down to choose the year and month.
4. Book a cruise with an Online Travel Agent – OTA
Cruises can be incredibly cheap at the last minute. Go to a site like Expedia, choose cruises in the top menu, enter your dates, and see what pops up. The deals can be shockingly cheap.