The idea of ‘planning’ a spontaneous holiday is pretty exciting and a great way of going somewhere that’s never been on your radar before.
I found this out when I randomly booked a holiday to Luxembourg this week, a country I’d never thought about visiting, even when I was interrailing around Europe, and knew almost nothing about. Apparently it’s the world’s last remaining Grand Duchy!
Right now, it feels great to suddenly have this destination in my sights for my next free weekend and because it wasn’t booked with any expectation, it can’t fail to impress.
So, without further ado here’s my guide on how to book a spontaneous holiday and what’s (or what’s not?) involved…
Before you even start, make sure you know:
- When you’re free
- How long you want a break
- Your budget
- Solo, couple or with friends?
- Ideal travel distance/flight time
What trip do you want?
This should be a quick and easy answer based on where you’ve been before and what you’ve enjoyed. If you want to go to relax, you might consider different destinations than if you want to get stuck into the culture of a city.
It’s quite intuitive so don’t get bogged down in the type of trip if you’re not sure, you’ll realise at the next step…
Pick a destination
Where in the world do you want to go? Where haven’t you been? What’s your budget? For it to be a trip that’s spontaneous in itself, it’s likely going to be a brand new destination, so write a quick list and see if one jumps out at you.
As you’ve probably already got the dates in mind when you’re free, start searching based on the time of year and then you can move onto budget. Can you afford one destination over another?
Spin the wheel…
Before doing any research, I only knew I wanted to go to Europe, with obvious benefits of a quick flight for my weekend, Euro currency and something I could easily make budget friendly.
With this in mind I went on SkyScanner, typed in my available dates and left the destination box with the ‘Everywhere’ default option! The possibilities!
Very simply, I then picked the first destination that came up which I hadn’t visited before, checked the flight length (1hr 20mins) and my decision was made. The best thing about this method is the results come back lowest price first so it’s naturally geared towards saving you money.
For me, this was ideal as it’s an extra trip I’m squeezing into the year.
Pick central accommodation
Once the flights are booked and you’re definitely going, try to book accommodation in advance and get a good deal on a hotel or hostel with a prime location. For a weekend away, or even a week, you’ll want to be where the action is to see as much as you can.
If you use comparison sites you can easily see what’s available and balance out location to budget and your own tastes. Once you have this base, it’s easier to think which activities you can do without too much travel time whilst you’re there.
Bonus tip: If you have a couple of weekends free like I did, check both for prices. Big events in a city for example can raise the price and reduce the choice of accommodation, perhaps making it a time to avoid.
Try a walking tour
Walking tours are usually free, or at least affordable. They’re a fantastic way of exploring your destination without doing too much planning as someone else has done all the research and is ready to lead.
Try and do this on the first day of your trip or in the morning of your second day so you get a good view of what’s on offer.
When I spent two months in Europe, I planned everything to the last detail but walking tours added an element of the unknown and were such a good way of getting information about a place in an engaging way.
Check travel blogs
You may think I’m just putting this one in here as this is a travel blog but really, it’s worthwhile. Guides on blogs have personal photos, unbiased opinions (usually) and realistic ideas about how much you can get done in the time you have. Check out ’48 hours in’ posts for example and see what attractions come up time and time again.
Another good ideas is to conversely look for ‘local guides’ and ‘lesser well known things to do in’ features that might reveal some hidden treasures. However…
Don’t plan excessively
Maybe you think even reading this post is too much planning? One of the things about a spontaneous holiday booking is that you don’t have the usual build-up time where you read every guide and get lost in TripAdvisor reviews; instead pick a few key attractions and give yourself lots of time to explore freely when you’re there.
For Luxembourg I’ve got a core hitlist but am open to going with the flow and researching on the go – although make sure your data plan makes this possible abroad!
Another benefit to this laid-back approach is you won’t kick yourself if you don’t get everything done. I also look forward to waking up without a regimented plan for the day.
In essence this means
- Pack light (but remember your camera!)
- Don’t panic if things don’t go to plan
- Be prepared for bad weather
- Know you can always visit again
- Enjoy your free time
Benefits of going last minute
Why does anyone do this?
- It can save you money
- Less preparation and stress
- It’s exciting to be spontaneous
- You discover somewhere new
Have fun with it! Travel should be refreshing and exciting; if you’ve chosen to go somewhere spontaneously then you’re probably in the right mindset to make the most of it.
Personally, I’d be up for taking it another step further and booking flights to travel the next day rather than the next month as I’ve currently done. Maybe next time!
Let me know if you’ve gone somewhere spontaneously and how you found it. Was it better than over planning?