How to Travel More Spontaneously

our suite

We rarely arrive in the new location without a place to stay, but were in this situation for part of our Mexico trip. We only booked the flights 24 hours before the departure so I hadn’t done the sort of neurotic planning I usually do.

Once we got to Mexico, we couldn’t find an apartment that was available for our whole stay, so we bounced around 6 different hotels/apartments over the course of the 3 1/2 weeks, typically booking hotels the day of. This experience reminded us of how this type of travel can be a bit stressful but it is also really fun. We definitely want to keep up some spontaneous travel decisions. If you’re looking to add some spontaneity into your travels, try these tips.

  • Go without reading the reviews first.

    I’m an obsessive travel researcher and 95% of the time, I like reading reviews before plunking down my $$$ at a hotel or restaurant. However sometimes it’s nice to stroll and just duck into a place that looks good. Our favorite hotel that we stayed at during our Mexico trip, had virtually no online reviews.

  • playa del carmen

  • Chat to randoms.

    I am not an extrovert but I play one on vacation. I will quite happily strike up conversations with almost anyone, whether it’s practicing a little Spanish with the checkout operator or longer conversations with other travelers and locals.

  • Don’t rule out last minute flights.

    Our flights were $205 each way from Washington DC to Cancun, only booked one day in advance. Last minute flights aren’t always expensive.

  • Jump in in situations where rooms would otherwise go empty.

    The reason we were were able to find a nice apartment for part of our stay in Mexico, without a longer lease, was that we took it last minute in a gap between two longer rentals. We also negotiated hard when we arrived late at night, since otherwise the room definitely would’ve gone empty for the night.

  • Let your other half plan.

    If one of you tends to do all the planning, let the other person do it. I did this for the few days we spent in Tulum. Kathryn was completely in charge for those days. It was awesome!

  • Consider Booking a Mystery Trip.

    I have no idea if “mystery trips” are available outside Australasia but for Aussies and Kiwis they’re a well known option, especially for a weekend getaway.

  • Leave at least one completely free day in your travel schedule.

    Our travel activities consist of visits to local supermarkets more than visits to museums. We love it that way. If you’re taking a more conventional style trip, try leaving a free day without pressure to do any “attractions” if you don’t feel like it.

  • Travel outside your typical travel style.

    Anything you get over accustomed to tends to lose it’s luster. There’s an actual term for this “hedonic adaptation.”

    Mix up your travel style with spontaneous splurges or spontaneous roughing it. If you’re feeling braver than usual, try some type of physical activity you wouldn’t normally try. If you’re a die hard independent traveler, try booking a package and see how it goes. If you always hire a car, try public transport and vice versa. I overheard this super funny conversation about someone’s husband refusing to take the luxury, direct, airport bus form Cancun to Playa Del Carmen. I’m sure once his wife eventually got him on the bus, he would’ve realized he was being ridiculous in insisting on not taking the bus.

  • What are the ways you curb overplanning and sticking too hard to your typical travel style?


    1. //

      Great tips! I definitely over do it with reading the reviews…sometimes so much so that every accommodation/tour/restaurant option looks awful!

    2. //

      Though I’d prefer to plan, we have a habit of waiting until the last minute to make our plane and lodging reservations. Have you tried renting a place through Airbnb? We’ve had pretty good luck with them.

    3. //

      Kate, thanks for sharing your tips. I always try to find a balance between planning and also trying not to overplan! It sounds like you have some of the same issues…

      the main thing is to retain flexibility – sure, lock in the cheap flights etc but be careful that you don’t restrict yourself too much in between the fixed elements of your trip.

    4. //

      i recently switched to traveling with only carryon luggage and I’ve been traveling heaps more spontaneously since then. I also find traveling solo I am much more spontaneous!

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