How to Travel Spontaneously. Part 2

Traveling can be a pleasant, carefree experience, but the large amounts of planning and preparation which usually precede actually traveling can make the process seem like more trouble than it’s worth. If you’d like to travel without putting in so much work beforehand, try to travel more spontaneously. Making spontaneous travel plans can open doors to new experiences that you wouldn’t have taken part in otherwise. However, you’ll need to leave yourself open to occasional misadventures, getting lost or wandering, and relying on local advice and assistance.

Limiting Planning on the Ground

Plan only one event per day. The idea of being in an unfamiliar location and planning nothing may be daunting, so approach your spontaneous trip by planning one daily excursion ahead of time, and then making two more, unplanned things. This will allow you to structure the days of your trip without making your schedule feel over-planned.

  • For example, plan on one significant cultural experience per day: if you’re in Rome, you may wish to visit the Colosseum; if you’re in Paris, plan a trip to the Louvre.
  • After that, do something spontaneous that appeals to you: sit in a café and watch people passing by, visit a local market, wander into a nearby museum, or take a hike or rafting trip through nature.

Ask a local for their advice. If you’re having trouble finding an activity in a certain city or region, or are simply looking for a travel experience that you wouldn’t come by in your native city, ask a local for a recommendation. Locals can let you in on which neighborhoods are worth visiting, if a city or region has any hidden gems that won’t be known to foreigners, or if any popular tourist destinations are not worth the hype. For example, ask something like,

  • “I’m spending a few days here without a travel itinerary. What are some places you’d recommend I visit, other than big tourist attractions?”
  • If you’re open to any type of spontaneous experience in the region you’re traveling, ask locals about their favorite outdoors activity (weather permitting): you’ll likely receive recommendations for hiking location, but perhaps also fishing, swimming, bird-watching, or mountain biking.

Avoid relying on review sites. Sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp can be useful, but when you’re traveling spontaneously, it’s best to go without consulting review sites. Over-reliance on these sites will make your trip feel planned and bland, and you’ll likely find yourself in touristy locations that do not offer much local interest or color.

  • Avoiding review sites will leave you open to enjoyable surprises as you use your own intuition and the advice of locals to find interesting travel destinations.
  • Sometimes tourist destinations plant reviews in order to drum up business. A high rating may not be entirely legitimate.
  • Go to touristy sites to scout out more hidden local treasures. One benefit of going to a “tourist trap” is that locals (bartenders, tour guides, waiters, hotel staff, shopkeepers, cab drivers etc.) expect outsiders–and these people are often are great informers to local favorite places.

Look for last-minute deals. Another benefit of spontaneous travel is that your plans can be revised with relatively little notice to accommodate good deals or cheap attractions. Once or twice a day, provided that you have an internet connection, you can check websites like Groupon or TravelZoo to see if there are any attractions in your area. This approach can save you money and also present opportunities to attend events you wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

  • You can also look for last-minute bookings at hotels and through travel apps like Priceline, HotelTonight, Blink (for travel in Europe), and Booking Now.


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