Updated: Dec 30, 2020
A few years ago, I decided to make a bucket list of things I wanted to accomplish before I die. One of the goals I had written down was to go on a spontaneous trip. I specified that I wanted to go to the airport one day and just get on a plane to wherever.
Little did I know that this list would someday become a reality. The goal of trying to cross off this wish at least once, turned out to be my lifestyle for about 16 months - until the pandemic hit.
While it was nice and tiring to travel at least once a month, I learned a lot along the way when it came to unplanned trips.
How do you enjoy yourself, while also ensuring to make the most of your time? Below are some of my top tips and tricks, that have helped me throughout my travels.
1. Learn about the World
Doing your research is great, but with unplanned trips, it is unlikely that you will have time to do any research prior to getting to your destination. Most of the time, I would be booking a hotel either as I am at the boarding gate, waiting to board or once I land. This means, I would often be taking the risk when going somewhere new that I was not expecting. This left me with very limited time to check reviews quickly, before booking my stay.
Having at least basic knowledge of the world around you can be extremely convenient for you. Growing up, I would spend hours watching Departures. It was that TV show that got me through the darkest of days while stuck at Sick Kids. Watching the show helped me learn about different cultures, spots beyond popular tourist landmarks and about new destinations, that I ended up adding to my list of places I want to visit.⠀
The show was entertaining for me and though at the time (this was more than 7 years ago), I was not planning to go anywhere in particular, it helped me at least develop an understanding of what is out there and what I can expect from other places. Since I have taken a travel and tourism course in the past as well, I have done a lot of research of customs, traditions, cuisines and landmarks around the world, which leaves me with an idea of what to expect in different countries. My background in linguistics has also helped in understanding different language structures.
2. Be Open
Keeping an open mind is the best way to appreciate the world around you. I personally have been guilty of avoiding a destination, because of the negative image portrayed by the media and the fear they try to build in you. However, when I decided to step out of my comfort zone and look beyond my fears, I saw what the rest of the world could never know, unless they see it for themselves.
3. Adapt to situations easily
A life hack to get through the toughest situations. Accept the result and adapt in the best possible way you can. I am the type of person that can be picky about very specific things, such as cleanliness or noise. I am not comfortable staying in a loud environment. Traveling with friends has reminded me that everyone has their own things that they are picky about. If you do not cooperate with each other, you are bound to not enjoy yourself and you may find it hard to travel with some people.
The best way to approach the situation is to find a reasonable solution and adapt, instead of trying to change the end result. For example, for me personally, I do not like loud environments. For my friends, some prefer to blast music out loud when out.I prefer peace, but if I am the only one in the group who feels that way, then it is not fair to the rest of the group. A solution in that case is to bring either noise cancelling headphones or earplugs. That way, I am not bothered and neither are they. Everybody can still have a good time.
4. Connect with locals
They are the ones who are most familiar with the place, therefore they are the ones who can help you to answer questions you may have, find hidden gems and more. You may even escape tourist traps, by simply being with a local or talking to a local.
Connecting with locals can also work wonders for you and you may develop new friendships. You may also feel more safe, since it is easy to tell when someone is not from a place.
5. Use social media over a Google Search
Whenever I want to know the best places to visit in a country, I often do a quick Google search. However, I found that most of the time, it gives me the most common answers and it will send me to places catered mostly to tourists.
Google tends to also not always be up to date. If I want to know about a new restaurant for example, I am better off searching for it on Instagram, than on Google. What I like to do for destinations is to search the hashtags for them on Instagram and see what locals or bloggers recommend. I also try to add the word "blog" if I am doing a Google search and look at the posting date to ensure I have information that is up-to-date.
6. Choose Wisely
One way I maximize my time when I am on an unplanned trip is by booking a hotel in Downtown or close to the main attractions I want to visit. Since most of the time I have no idea what to expect of the hotel, I usually book for one night only and go from there.
That way, if I like the place then I can simply just extend my stay. If I don't like it, then I move somewhere else. Another perk of booking multiple places to stay is that it allows you to move around and explore new neighborhoods. It also saves time, since you do not have to commute back and forth. An example of when I do this often is when I go to Banff. I opt in to pay a little more to stay in the park, instead of Canmore, which saves me a lot of time and money from driving back and forth. I also do this for international destinations, as it is not always that case that you will end up in a destination where all the attractions are accessible by foot.
7. Get lost
I mostly opt in to tour a place on my own, instead of booking a tour. That way, I can spend as much time as I want, where I want and I do not have to feel rushed. Once I know the destination I am going to, I will automatically go to the Google Maps on my phone and download an offline map. Another tool I ensure to keep handy is the Google Translate app. I will download the language of the destination on my phone as well, so that I may use the app offline and facilitate communication with the locals.
I like to wander and allow myself to purposely get lost as well, since it has been the best way for me to discover hidden gems in a place and places that I could never find via a Google search. Please note that it is important to exercise extreme caution if you do decide to purposely get lost. You do not want to wander off too far off or to an area where you may put yourself in danger. Additionally, ensure to always be mindful of your surroundings and trust your gut. If something feels wrong, do not ignore the thought.
Most importantly, always be prepared for the unexpected!
Keep it humble & spread love.