If you know me or have read even one of my other blog posts, you know how much I love to plan. BUT, I also love being spontaneous. Spontaneous travel has happened for me several times.
Often we overthink traveling, but spontaneous travel can be really rewarding. We want to plan out every moment, not miss a thing, or put it off because we don’t have a lot of funds. While travel can be planned and wonderful, I know that there are also times where you don’t have to plan ahead. If an opportunity comes my way, I take it!
In college, I was known as the crazy friend who wasn’t afraid to just go and do things. It’s true I promise. I love this side of me as much as I do my planning side. This makes me think about some of my favorite trips I have ever been on and honestly, many are the ones I didn’t really plan.
I know these moments are ones that I will never forget. I’ve created this list of my favorite spontaneous travel moments because everyone needs little unplanned, free moments in their life—even when it comes to travel! Hopefully, you are inspired to take your own impromptu trip somewhere soon.
I also just want to point out that none of these trips were expensive (at least by my standards). Most were under $50 (except Niagara, it was more like $300 considering I spent two nights in a hotel, meals, etc.). I probably spent just as much on some of them as I would on a normal weekend anyway. You don’t have to spend a lot to have an awesome time!
Also, I work full-time! Yes—full-time and have still made some spontaneous trips. I decide on a weekend I have nothing planned or when I realize I have an extra day off! It’s possible with a full-time job!
Going to Canada on Thanksgiving
A few years ago when I was living in Baltimore, I didn’t have enough money to time off to go home for Thanksgiving. Luckily, I wasn’t alone in this situation and had a few friends who wanted to get together for Thanksgiving. We bought all the fixings, the turkey, and started cooking. While cooking we started talking about traveling and all the places we had been. We all love traveling but had many places still on our lists.
Well, turns out, none of us have ever been to Canada. How had none of us been to Canada?! It was on our border! Then we started talking more, none of us had been to Niagara Falls. How had none of us been to Niagara Falls?! We kept talking and looked up how far away it was—just 10 hours?! LET’S GO! And thus started an epic road trip to Canada. We left the turkey in the oven, grabbed our passports, and booked the hotel on the drive. It was an epic weekend of casinos, food, and ridiculously cold gorgeous views.
Volunteering in North Carolina
I had just gone through a breakup and was telling my friend, “I just NEED to get out-of-town.” Well, she just happened to be going to NC for the weekend to volunteer at the SPCA there. She graciously invited me to come along that weekend—of course, I accepted! We left early Saturday morning (like 5 am early) and started talking about how funny it would be if I got a dog. Well… we got to the shelter and about 5 minutes later, I had bonded with Oakley and was dying to take him home. No, I wasn’t planning on getting a dog, but it ended up being the best decision ever! Now I have a new and adorable best friend. Plus we stayed at the cutest AirBnB in a barn and got to wake up and pet horses on this gorgeous farm. Amazing weekend!
Climbing Mount Tai in China
This one was a really wild one. While I was teaching in China, I wanted to go on one last weekend trip before going back to the states. I started researching great things to do within a train ride of Tianjin and found Tai Shan. Tai Shan is one of the 5 holy mountains of China. The emperor had to climb the stairs to the top to be considered the true emperor. The stairs are still there and it is an incredible climb over 40 flights of stairs! It’s not for the faint of heart. It was Wednesday and my friends and I found this mountain by Googling and decided if tickets were under $20, we would go. Well, we found third-class tickets (which I DON’T recommend buying—find my full list of China tips here) and were on our way at 3 am that Friday.
We were so tired by the time we got there. I am shocked that we still climbed all the way to the top where we visited a temple, ate ice cream, and napped on the edge of a cliff. We were also the only Westerners we saw there all day. It was not a huge tourist spot for foreigners which made it even more unique. It was incredible, and we upgraded our tickets for the train ride back because saving money is great, but sharing a booth seat with four people isn’t. I was so glad I did it, but oh so tired at the end of the night. We finally got back around 11 pm to our apartment—definitely an adventurous day!
New Years in Austin
I was home for Christmas and got to talking with an old friend of mine via text. I had just moved to DC and was not really sure if I wanted to spend New Year’s there, but I had bought my return ticket before NYE. Elizabeth started to tell me about the girl’s weekend she had planned for NYE in Austin and invited me along. I checked tickets (thanks, Southwest!) and there was a cheaper flight back if I left on the 2nd of January. I got $67 back in credit and got to stay longer and go to Austin with one of my good friends! We ended up spending two nights there and having a blast. New Year’s in Austin is always a good idea!
One Black Friday after being up all night shopping with my friends, we started thinking… What are we going to do for the rest of the weekend? My grandmother is from Virginia and had given me many books about Assateague as a kid. I LOVE horses and love the outdoors. We decided, why not drive to Assateague for the day? We hopped in the car and got here just before the sunset and immediately saw the wild horses! It was so freezing cold and we were running in and out of the car. We drove back through Ocean City to get seafood for dinner (this is still the only time I’ve been to Ocean City) and stopped in Annapolis to dance before heading home. I don’t know how I survived on such little sleep, but it was an awesome spontaneous day!
Want a quick getaway? Try using AirBnB for the first time and get $40 off!
So yes, I am a huge planner, but sometimes the best memories come from not planning at all and just taking a risk to have some fun. It usually works out and you end up having a blast. Don’t be afraid to live life the way you want to and go for those moments when you can. I never regret it!