How To Plan for Spontaneity in Travel
The art of planning for spontaneity in travel does not mean simply ‘planning’ to not plan. That is called ‘winging it’ and while winging it may work for the ultra-experienced or super laid-back traveler, this approach spectacularly fails for the average person. The goal of planning for spontaneity is to reduce hassle and stress while also enjoying a bit of whimsy while traveling.
Teenagers have this skill down to a science. On a Thursday, they survey their possible social options for Friday night and plan to do A if B doesn’t work out or C doesn’t call. However, they will abandon A, B and C in a hot second if D comes along and offers something more exciting.
The lesson here is plan but don’t always commit.
Here is how you do it.
Step One: Reflect on the purpose of the experience.(What do I hope to get out of this experience? What are my goals, challenges, fears, and interests?)
Step Two: Decide on the basics. (Where do I want to go? Who do I go with? When and for how long? What will it cost?)
Step Three: Find options that are the right fit. (What will I do? How will I do it?)
Step Four: Plan and book only what you need to in advance.
Complete steps one through four and a framework for your travel experience will emerge. Beyond the basics, search the web and tag activities or websites to come back to. Again, book only when necessary to reserve a coveted spot.
- Local or theme-based itineraries such as Vayable, Spotted By Locals, Unanchor, SideTour or the recently launched Tripzaar. Traditional guidebooks also provide valuable insights, but typically with less flair.
- Official tourism websites for X country or X city provide good focused information on a particular destination.
- Google or Bing. Quickly finding specific things still works best on these search engines. Cooking classes in Madrid? Ah ha! 10 options on the first page.
- Twitter. Check out the Top 6 Ways to Use Twitter for Travel to learn how to make Twitter the most customized, updated crowdsourced travel resource on the planet.
- Blogs written by a student, expat, or local in the destination you are going to. Matador Network is an excellent place to begin the search but Googling ‘blog’ and the name of your destination often renders surprisingly good results.
- Trover and Pinterest provide great visuals for travel ideas and inspiration.
- For logistics (flights, housing, transportation), Travel & Leisure’s article on ‘Best Travel Websites and Apps’ and WiseBread’s ‘40 Most Useful Travel Websites That Can Save You A Fortune‘ provide more than enough options. Apps like TripIt help with itinerary management.
Planning for spontaneity in travel is about optimizing the travel experience and it takes practice. It is striking the perfect balance between allowing for on-the-spot decisions or change of plans while not missing out on activities that require advanced planning.