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It’s a romantic and wildly adventurous way to travel; to rock up in a new city with no script, and wing it after you arrive. To have the freedom to wander where and when you please, get a late cruise deal, or stay longer in a place that truly intrigues you.

There’s something dangerously thrilling about traveling without a fixed itinerary, and I’ve always fantasized about what it would be like. I envy spontaneous travelers, though OCD means that not having a solid travel plan makes me break out in hives!

But I’ve vowed to build more spontaneity into our trips for 2018, and pull back from over planning. So if you too are looking to recover some wildness in your trips, the following tips are how to successfully manage travel without a script.

How to Be a Spontaneous Traveler

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Save for Travel Even When You’re Not Planning It

You can’t very well wake up and decide to jump on a flight to Paris if you don’t have the funds to pull it off. So save for travel even when you’re not planning it.

Cut out luxury purchases, make do with your current wardrobe, quit smoking, cut down on coffee, share the car, ride to work, cook your own meals. I might sound like captain buzz kill, but if I hear about a last minute cruise to Bali, I want to have enough money to go.

Sort out a Cheap Data Roaming Solution

A smartphone can be the ultimate way to plan on the fly, so sorting our a cheap data roaming solution should be your top priority. That connection means access to information, money, and methods of communication when you find yourself in a foreign land.

If you’re spending a lot of time traveling throughout the same country, it’s a great idea to purchase a local sim so you’re not paying international data fees (make sure your phone is unlocked).

If you’re jumping between a number of different countries, it’s a better idea to use a service like Flexiroam X where you can earn free data before you travel (up to 100 GB) use in over 100 countries around the globe. We reviewed the Flexiroam X service earlier in the year and it’s a a great way to roam internationally for as little cost as possible.

How to get free mobile data overseas

Download the Free Skyscanner App for Last Minute Flights

Regardless of whether you’re spontaneous, every traveler should have the free Skyscanner app on their phone. It’s an all-in-one travel app which lets you search, compare and book the cheapest hotels, car rentals, and flights, and because it’s on your phone, you can book everything at once while you’re on the go.

Features of the travel app include receiving price alerts of daily cheap deals, and for the truly spontaneous, if you enter “everywhere” instead of a specific destination, it will pull up cheap flight prices to different destinations around the world from your closest airport.

The app offers the same services as their website—just more handy, convenient and fast. It’s simple and easy to use, and has been downloaded over 40 million times. Click for:

Apple Store free download (iOS)  Google Store free download (Android)

How to be a spontaneous traveler

For Carryon Travelers: Cabin Zero Backpack

For those heading on a spontaneous trip and planning on throwing together a quick carryon, Cabin Zero is a fantastic cabin backpack brand. They have a wide range of cabin sized bags for the light packer, the short adventure, or the weekend trip, and for being cabin size, their designs offer a lot of space.

Choose from a variety of different colors; each bag in their range includes a built in global tracker (powered by Okoban), YKK lockable zippers, thick padded shoulder straps, 44L capacity, are super lightweight, and made with strong durable materials.

Price: From $64.

Get a Hotel Room You Can Cancel

You’re less likely to change your plans on a whim if you’ve already dropped a couple hundred non refundable dollars on a hotel. So if you want the flexibility to make spontaneous decisions, make sure you’ve booked a hotel room you can cancel (Skyscanner app has revamped hotel listings so you can easily see hotel information at a glance).

Unless it’s peak season, most hotels can extend your stay while you’re still there, so book a shorter stay, and extend if you need to. Nonrefundable bookings will usually offer a cheaper price, but they do tether you down to one location.

Talk to Strangers

Forget what your mother told you about talking to strangers – chatting with locals is a great way to meet amazing people who can teach you about their country and it’s culture.

Locals can tell you about the parts of a destination that the guide books don’t, and the best part is you can find them everywhere! They’re at the hotel front desk, restaurants, bars, grocery stores — anywhere you come into contact with folks who are working, shopping for mundane items and going about daily life, strike up a conversation with them!

It’s also a great idea to pick up a community newspaper for inspiration on things to do. They usually have listings for activities, festivals, concerts, classes and more.

Remember That You Don’t Need to Go Far

Far too many people operate under the mistaken belief that travel doesn’t count unless you’ve packed a 20 kg bag and jumped on a long haul flight. On the contrary, you can capture the same feeling discovering something new without having to go too far.

It’s highly likely there’s at least one street you’ve never walked, a town you haven’t explored, or a trail you haven’t hiked nearby, and it’s equally as spontaneous to jump in the car instead of jumping on a flight! Become a tourist in your own state and check out a place you’ve been missing.

Planning is Not the Enemy

Being spontaneous “doesn’t mean you have to end long-term thinking or planning. Ideally, you should be able to create a plan, execute it, and then deviate from it whenever you wish.”

Remember that planning is not the enemy, and you can still have a general idea of what you want to see and do. Plan out the things you don’t want to leave to chance, and improvise on the rest.

Even if you’re not someone who plans anything in advance, it’s a good idea to check the visa, international driving permit and passport validity requirements for every country you think you might visit to make sure your travel documents are in compliance.

Challenge: Are You a Spontaneous Traveler?

Download the Skyscanner app (it’s free) and do an “everywhere” search to find out which destinations have cheap flights from your city. Who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself in Iceland this weekend 😉

Click to download free on iPhone or Android:

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

Photo credit: Holi festival photo (Pinterest) by Steven Gerner.

    42 Comments

  1. I’m so NOT a spontaneous traveler. I make excels..and plan every single day. I’ve gotten better about just planning one activity a day and saying we’ll see what happens, but still a planner. I recently did a trip where we totally let go, my boyfriend picked a country, did not plan anything and just asked when we got there + hitchhiked. It was so refreshing and I was surprised how much I loved it.

    • So glad to hear that you had a great time on your spontaneous trip even though you’re normally a planner Karen 🙂

      We don’t have to take spontaneous trips every single time, and I genuinely believe that planning is never the enemy lol … but as you said, you can plan out the overall structure of a trip, but leave room for spontaneity in each day. Or totally let go if you want a big change!

  2. Great tips! I want to me more like this. Going to try next year:)

    • Thanks Cherene! Happy travels in 2017 X

  3. It is really exciting to just hop on an airplane and go to a destination you have never been to before. I remember the first time I did it, I called a couple of my friends and told them we were going on a trip. We all met at the airport and up to this day that was one of the best trips we had been on. We ended up in Barbados. That day we were spontaneous travelers. I have never done it since, but I should!

    • Sounds like a blast! They’re always the best memories too, and it’s even better that you had a group of friends to share the experience with. Usually I find I can’t get more than 2 or 3 people organized at the last minute or same time lol so I applaud you for spontaneously organizing a group! 🙂

  4. I seem to be becoming a very spontaneous traveller with lots of last minute trips! Thanks for these useful tips, I’m a big Skyscanner fan

    • So glad to hear that Suze! It’s quite exciting deciding to drop everything and go :D! Skyscanner is definitely a huge help in that regard 🙂

      Happy travels!

  5. I love spontaneous travel. It’s relatively easy in the UK at the moment but I think we all worry how it might change with Brexit. Fingers crossed we don’t lose our friendship with mainland Europe

    • I’ve always been jealous of those who live in Europe and the UK for that lol you’ve got a great base!! For us in Australia it’s a little more difficult … the closest trip would be NZ or Asia which are a minimum of 4 or 8 hours away. Anything in Europe or the America’s and we’re looking at upwards of 15 hours 🙁 But means we have an excuse to embrace local travel a lot more too!

  6. Great tips! The only time I have ever gone on a spontaneous International trip was a last minute all inclusive vacation to the Dominican Republic. But, that was 12 years ago in the days before smart phones and Skyscanner. I’ll do the odd weekend road trip to various cities in the States, however.

    • Thanks Ray! A last minute all inclusive vacation to the Dominican Republic sounds like it would have been wonderful! We enjoy taking off on the odd weekend roadtrip on a whim too – it’s nice to be able to just decide to pick up and go sometimes!

      Happy travels 🙂

  7. Such an inspiring read with lots of helpful tips but not sure I could be completely spontaneous without having hotel or train tickets securely deposited and / or paid. As for everything else, sights, meals, etc., I am all for it!!!

    • Thanks Jeff! Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂 Hotels have always gotten me on that – for some reason I can’t bring myself to rock up in a city and not know where I’m sleeping that night … I get mad anxiety otherwise!!

      But we’re loosening up, and finding that with access to technology it’s not as bad as it seems. We had a flight cancelled in Bolivia last year and ended up in La Paz for a week when we weren’t supposed to be – booked a hotel from the airport wifi and rocked up an hour later. Wasn’t as stressful as it could have been! 🙂

  8. You have captured a set of workable ideas, Thanks.

    • Thanks Nisha 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the post.

  9. YES! And being spontaneous is a good example for your kids, too – teaches them that going with the flow is doable (and fun)!

    • Absolutely Jessie – great point!

  10. Skyscanner is my go-to place for last-minute flights. Also, not having to go far is a great tip. Sometimes we miss the things in our own backyard.

    • Absolutely Leah – I was saying to Gokul above, that we’re the same with Australia – I’ve traveled all over the world but haven’t yet explored places closer to home – it’s a little embarrassing actually!! So we’re dedicating this next year to being spontaneous with more local travel 🙂

  11. Love this! Get’s me all excited to drop what I’m doing and head out into the great unknown. A lot of people ask me how I afford to constantly adventure. Cook your own meals, stop caring so much about material living, and don’t go out to bars :). You’d be AMAZED how much that saves you! Also, picking free activities when you travel is always helpful. Activities like camping, hiking, backpacking or just people watching in a park often provide better experiences than an expensive dinner. Splurge where it’s worth it and enjoy the adventure!

    • So glad to hear it Meg! And yes, I’m totally behind you on splurging when it’s worth it but cutting out the material living when you’re at home.

      I’ve found that since we’ve cut the excess out of our lives, you get to a stage where you don’t even want it anymore, and it’s always nice to know that money is going towards something far more memorable than a cup of coffee 😀

  12. I totally agree with the Skyscanner tip! It led to our spontaneous, inexpensive trip to Ireland, which was one of the best trips we’ve taken!

    • Awesome Lillie! Skyscanner is so great for finding those last minute deals which lead to an epic trip 🙂

  13. It has always been planned travels for me. several reasons have bogged my mind to embark on spontaneous travel. Looks like most are just mind blocks and I need to set off. Thanks for these encouraging tips.

    • You can definitely start out small with some spontaneous local trips, t ease yourself into the idea, and then see if you can work your way up to bigger, international travel 🙂

      Glad you enjoyed the post Indrani … happy travels in 2017! X

  14. I tend to have my travels all mapped out before I go too but I would love to allow myself the freedom of winging it. I think it would give you a whole different perspective. Flexiroam looks like it would be extremely useful. I’ll certainly check it out.

    • We’re the same Christina – longing for a bit more flexibility in our plans. Winging it does give you a completely new perspective though so it’s nice to change it up once in a while.

      Do check out Flexiroam – I used it for data while in the Philippines recently and it was a lifesaver 🙂

  15. My husband and I are spontaneous as well. Even our kids start to enjoy the “get up and go” way of living.
    Once we get somewhere, we like to wander, just get lost. It helps us discovery the small things about towns, rather than only the big touristy stuff.
    Thanks for posting this!

    • Glad to hear you’re a spontaneous fan Meghan! I agree that getting lost, and having the flexibility in your travel schedule to do so, is one of the best ways to truly immerse yourself in a new place 🙂

      Happy travels for 2018!

  16. The Skyscanner App is a staple on every device I have. It’s just so useful! Definitely agree with the speaking to strangers- so important when traveling!

    • For us too – it’s probably the most used app across my iPads and phone! I always try to connect with at least one local in each different place we go – gives you a whole different perspective on a destination 🙂

  17. Contrary to popular belief, spontaneous travel involves a lot of work. I agree with all of your tips. In fact, we were on Skyscanner this morning planning our next “spontaneous” trip.

    • Yes it does – and can be quite stressful if you’re used to having plans and all of a sudden you dont. We aim for the best of both worlds with a little bit of pre planning and a little bit of spontaneity thrown into the day to day once we’ve reached a place 🙂

  18. You are right. We don’t have to always travel overseas. I am from India and there is so much for me to explore in my own country. I am just waiting for the season time to get over before getting started.

    • Absolutely Gokul – we’re the same with Australia – I’ve traveled all over the world but haven’t yet explored places closer to home – it’s a little embarrassing actually!! So we’re dedicating this next year to being spontaneous with more local travel 🙂

    • You’re welcome – happy travels!

  19. These are some marvelous speculations here! Never tried an unplanned travel trip, might definitely try the coming year! Thank you for the pieces of advice! All the love from Nepal! xoxo

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Ushmana! Let us know how you go with your first spontaneous trip 🙂

  20. Hey, I have something to share with you. I also love travelling and that’s why I had not been doing any job but after a long time, I realized it now I have been working in a travel agency. I also have started my blogging site and enjoying my life. Your site inspired me to move on.
    Thanks.

    • Congratulations Ranbir! It’s fantastic to hear that you’re following your dreams and achieving your goals to incorporate more travel into your life 🙂

      All the best with your new career as a travel agent, and running your blog 🙂

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