It’s true that planning far ahead can often secure you the best prices and options when it comes to travel — you’ve got your pick of flights, of Airbnbs, and of reservation times for that hot new restaurant that just opened up. But sometimes, the chance for travel pops up unexpectedly and sometimes those last-minute deals are even sweeter than the ones your super-organised friend scored six months ago.
Here are some ways to maximise your trip when you’ve got minimal time to plan:
Hunt for last-minute bargains
We know, this is kinda obvious (actually, totally obvious). But still, you might be surprised by how many people just search for a flight or destination and book the first thing they find. Lots of companies offer last-minute discounts (ahem: like Urban Adventures and Intrepid), and with a bit of savvy Google searching, you can usually find a reduced option for those of us who like to book on the fly.
As well, if you’re prone to I-don’t-know-where-I-want-to-go-but-if-a-deal-strikes-I’ll-take-it, then subscribe to a deals mailing list. Even airlines will email out last-minute deals, so sign up for their lists if you’re willing to book whatever’s on sale that week or day.
Book a day tour
Yes, we’re biased here but we don’t care because it’s the absolute truth. There’s no better way to get an overview of a city than by hopping on a day tour for a few hours at the beginning of your trip. You can find out how public transit works, get a general overview of the neighbourhood, find out where the best restaurants are (and what places you should avoid), and, best of all, meet new people. You can easily plan the rest of your trip just from the tips you’ll pick up in a few hours on a tour, which means you won’t spend your spontaneous vacay spontaneously reading a guidebook.
Social media can be the answer to all your travel woes. The great thing about that massive group of Facebook friends (90% of whom you never actually really talk to) is that someone in there probably has a friend of a friend or a distant cousin or knows someone who knows someone else who can help you out once you’re in a destination. Put out the call that you want to go away and see what comes up. Someone may be able to suggest an aunt who rents out her summer home, or someone else may know about a tiny village where there’s always availability at the inn.
And you don’t have to limit your social search to just friends. Troll airline companies, hotel brands, tour operators, and any other travel account that might just have a quickie sale going out as their next tweet.
Beware the details
While we’re all for just saying, “HELLS YES! LET’S GO!”, you also have to remember that some destinations are easier than others when it comes to last-minute travel. Before you buy that non-refundable airfare, check what the entry requirements are for your destination. Do you need a visa in advance? Do you need any vaccines? You can likely easily find all these details on your local government’s website, so it just has to be a quick extra step. Because life would suck if the flight you booked for tomorrow requires you to have gotten your visa last week. Also, remember to check your passport expiry date if you don’t know it already. Most destinations require that your passport be valid for at least six months after your return date, so don’t get trapped with a flight ticket to nowhere.
We don’t just mean with your travel dates (although, being flexible with your dates can save you some serious money — some flight prices can differ by a few hundred dollars just by switching departure days). Rather, what we’re really talking about is being flexible with the experience. Often the best trips are the ones we haven’t planned down to every detail, since we’re not caught up with trying to make it perfect before we’ve even arrived. So be spontaneous, go with the flow, change up your day’s plans at the last minute, and just enjoy!