Saying I'm not a planner is an understatement. I always say I'm allergic to it because when people try to plan around me, my reaction is visceral. People think last-minute travel is stressful, and maybe sometimes it is, but I think the benefits far outweigh the negative.
So here's why I'm all about that last minute life.
1. Find the best weather
Planning a few months ahead, you can get a decent idea of what the whether will be like at your destination: rainy season, dry season, summer, winter. You know, the basics. But booking a trip days in advance, you get the actual ten day forecast. Fluke bad weather maybe? Go somewhere else! Seasonably warm during the shoulder season? Great! Good weather, no tourists, and lower prices. So many wins!
Our recent trip to Hawaii was a perfect example of this. We were thinking of heading to Kauai, but didn't have solid plans. It was the day before we were going to go...somewhere....and we checked out the weather. Pouring. The entire time we were supposed to be there. Hmmm.... Maui? Pouring everyday. Uh, the Big Island? Jackpot. Sunny weather and perfect temps every single day. So, we booked it! Our friends who had apparently booked a trip to Maui a few months before were bummed that their trip was ruined by rain, which I take no pleasure in, but I will put a tick under the scoreboard for last minute travel.
We chose the island that had the best weather forecast. If we had booked ahead of time, our trip would have been very wet and rainy.
2. Last minute cancelations
With many airlines, you have a 24 hour period to cancel your flight. If you book your flight 24 hours before you take off, that means you can cancel your flight without penalty. This is rare, because how often do plans change the day before your flight? Not often. But it DOES happen. Someone gets sick, there's severe weather at your destination, family issues come up, whatever it may be. By canceling flights or changing flights, you're slapped with some crazy change fees.
Last fall, we bought tickets to Kyrgyzstan less than 24 hours before the flight was going to leave. Unfortunately, after packing up, getting everything all ready and really excited about our trip, I had a scare with my pregnancy (I was 12 weeks pregnant at the time), and we had to make the quick decision to cancel our flight. Flights to Kyrgyzstan are not cheap. It was 3 very expensive tickets that I knew we would have to fight our travel insurance company for. But! To our delight, I looked at our credit card bill a few days later and the money we paid was reimbursed to us in full without even having to ask. Why? Because we booked less than 24 hours in advance.
Now, I know every airline has different policies, but this has happened to us twice now, and let me tell you, it has saved us the hassle of fighting airline companies and filing insurance claims.
Our trip to Kyrgyzstan fell through, so we did a road trip adventure through California. Luckily, those airline cancelation fees didn't get us down!
3. Myth: Last minute flights are more expensive
Everyone tells me this. I truly have never experienced it to an extreme level. Even when we are buying flights to go on a trip or to a wedding with other friends, we're always the last ones to buy tickets. But what happens? We pay the same price. We have gone to Hawaii twice now in the last year and have bought the tickets both times less than 24 hours before the flight. When we talk to others who travel to Hawaii often from the same airport, they're always shocked how cheap our flights are.
So, is this a scientific study and a bulletproof argument. Absolutely not. But I think it's all a myth and that's all I have to say about that.
4. Keep yourself open to any possibility
Last minute travel let's you live in the moment!
You are literally open to every possibility, opportunity, and experience that's offered to you. If you meet someone on your travels who invites you to stay in their home, or to a wedding, or to celebrate a local holiday, there is nothing holding you back. The worst thing is when you have to turn those things down because you have a flight or bus ticket to your next destination, or non-refundable hotel room booked. Keep yourself open by not having a plan.
While in Bali (pre-baby days when I was solo traveling), I met someone during a ceremony. He invited me to his home to celebrate the rest of the day with his family. They then invited me to their home in the country to stay with them. It was one of the most incredible experiences I've had and it would have been missed if I had an itinerary.
5. Don't spend hours searching for a place to stay
I can comb over Airbnbs and hotels for hours to pick out the perfect one. Especially in touristy areas, there could be hundreds of places to stay. Take out the choice! If you book last minute, most places will be off the market and booked up. Will all the shitiest ones be left? You betcha. But you won't even know what you're missing because you don't have to look through all the options.
Also, some of the weirdest looking Airbnbs we've booked have been the best, most authentic experiences we've had traveling. Sometimes, a weird looking place is just run by people who don't know how to market their home, which makes it a hidden little gem.
Easily one of the best Airbnbs we've ever stayed. This was booked day of with very few other options. (Goyambokka, Sri Lanka)
6. How do you know what kind of trip you'll want?
Will you be in the mood for an adventurous trip? A beach vaca? Snow? Sun? How do you know? I hate making solid plans ahead of time because I have no clue how I'll feel when it comes time for the trip. Am I that fickle?
I guess so.
I guess in some instances, you'll know what you want. Like if you're a New Englander and you know you'll be in an arctic tundra in February, you can be pretty confident that you'll be wanting a warm beach vacation to thaw your body out. But if that's the case, reference back to number 1 because... you never know.
So, I know I'm not completely alone in this, but I also know the thought of last minute travel gives a lot of people a panic attack. I just couldn't imagine traveling any other way. Anyone with me on this? What was your most last minute travel experience?