Want To Travel Spontaneously? Here’s What Works And What Doesn’t


We get you want to travel where the wind takes you. Wherever calls to you at the moment, well, that’s where you’ll go. You are a wanderer, a free spirit. You’re so ready to spontaneously take on the world.

But slow down there, tumbleweed. Sometimes traveling on a whim leads to the best adventures and sometimes it can spell chaos and sky-high airfare prices. Here’s your guide for when you should follow your impulses and when it’s good to do some advance prep.

Trip Length

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Do Spontaneously: Long Trips With Plenty Of Flexibility

Long-term travelers have it easy. They can jump all over the place, haphazardly exploring. Planning on traveling for a while? Just give yourself at least a full day in any location that requires you taking a flight to get there.

Do Some Planning: Short Trips To Multiple Destinations

Real talk: Trying to pack in a whole lotta sightseeing in multiple destinations takes some work. If you try to do a whirlwind blast through several locations in a couple days, don’t wing it. Research is the key to seeing enough to make the experiences worthwhile.

Where You’re Headed

Do Spontaneously: Off The Beaten Path Stops

Got a tip from a fellow traveler about an underrated wonder spot just a couple hours away? What are you waiting for? Go check it out! (One caveat: if your friend is a travel hipster recommending destinations without hotels or hostels, you might actually need to plan.)

Do Some Planning: Hot Spots Everyone Is Talking About
Want to hit up Reykjavik? Tulum? Macchu Picchu? Yeah, so do we all. Don’t just show up there without a little bit of prep. You’ll want to arrange lodging beforehand and probably book flights well in advance. In some cases, you also may want to make arrangements for a tour guide.

Changing Destinations

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Do Spontaneously: City-hopping

It’s completely doable to switch the cities you visit based on your mood in regions like Europe. If you can swing the transportation, don’t hesitate to travel domestically from one city to another if it strikes your fancy.

Do Some Planning: Crossing borders

While a U.S. passport will get you into Europe without any additional paperwork, many destinations such as Brazil and Australia require Americans to have a visa to enter. Also, it should be obvious, but never cross a border without your passport.

Getting There

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Do Spontaneously: Road trips

Car owners, you have the lovely opportunity to set out on a road trip at any moment. And even those who would need to rent a vehicle don’t have to be left out of the spontaneous fun. You can rent a car and be on the road on the very same day you dream up the idea for a trip.

Do Some Planning: Air travel

Y’all know not to try to book a plane ticket the day before departing. Most experts agree you should buy your ticket at least a month and a half in advance so you don’t get hit with crazy high prices.

Buses And Trains

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Do Spontaneously: Daytime trains and buses

You can usually get a day-off bus or train ticket in most locations. But again, all bets are off during peak season to and from trendy destinations.

Do Some Planning: Overnight trains

Everyone wants those precious sleeper cars, but it can even be difficult to claim an upright seat for a night of fitful sleep on an overnight train route. You need a reservation because other travelers definitely aim to use sleeping hours for transportation too.


Do Spontaneously: Hostels Or Chain Hotels

While even nabbing a bed in a hostel can be a challenge in small, yet popular destinations (think Venice or Dubrovnik), you’ll usually be able to squeeze into a dorm with little to no notice. The same goes for the big names in the hotel game. Don’t worry too much about getting into a Best Western or Holiday Inn.

Do Some Planning: Boutique Hotels Or Airbnbs

Airbnb hosts are allowed 24 hours before approving your request to rent their space, so give yourself time to confirm your spot. Similarly, boutique hotels or bed and breakfasts fill up – make sure to reserve rooms early in popular or well-rated establishments.

Where To Eat

Do Spontaneously: Grabbing A Bite

Just avoid the places with menus as thick as novels with listings in 5 different languages – those are custom-made tourist traps with mediocre food. Stick to places with a healthy crowd of people chatting in the local language and you’ll be in for a solid meal.

Do Some Planning: Fine Dining

Are you a person who keeps a mental list of well-reviewed restaurants? Yeah, traveling is not the time to throw caution to the wind. If you are looking for a white tablecloth experience, read those reviews and make reservations in advance.

Going Out

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Do Spontaneously: Bars, Pubs and Clubs

Unless you’re looking for the VIP hookup, nightlife is a perfect way to live the fly-by-the-seat-the-seat of your pants cliche to the max. Like with restaurants, you can judge a spot by the crowd. If it looks like your kind of vibe, give it a shot. Not a perfect match? That’s okay; there’re worse ways to spend an evening than drinking a pint in an average bar.

Do Some Planning: Concerts, Operas or Plays

It’s a good idea to research anything that requires a ticket. You want to make sure your dream show isn’t sold out! But even if there are plenty of tickets on sale, it’s worth digging into potential discounts such as rush tickets on Broadway and student rates to Vienna’s operas.

It comes down to preference…

Do Spontaneously: Adventures You’ve Never Heard Of

When you’re out on the road, you’re bound to hear about that super cool thing everyone is raving about, but is completely off your radar. You probably won’t regret dropping everything to go give it a whirl.

Do Some Planning: Things You Find Important 

If you’ll be sad not to be able to brag about sampling the best sushi in Tokyo, make a list of spots to try. Will you be happier knowing the history of every building you pass in St. Petersburg? Buy a book about Russian architecture and map out your ultimate walking route. Never let your desire to “be spontaneous” keep you from enjoying your trip to the fullest.