How to plan for a spontaneous trip

As I type this, I’m roughly 35 thousand feet in the air. I didn’t intend to be on a flight this this weekend, but my plans changed at the last minute. I checked my schedule and rearranged a few things, and here I am getting face time with some clouds.

Jetting off across country may sound exciting and fun. And, it is. But, for people like me who love to plan ahead, last minute trips usually are a source of stress. There’s an odd combination of excitement mixed with the feeling you get when you go through the triple loop of a rollercoaster. There’s something about an unplanned trip that can make your stomach do a few summersaults.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do in preparation of your next spontaneous adventure. Here’s what I did over the last two days to add this quick trip to my schedule without too many hassles.

Call in the troops

Most of us have people in our lives who can help us out in a pinch. Be sure to have those friends/family members on stand by and speed dial in situations such as this. They may be able to jump on the computer for you as you pack and help find a way to the airport/train station/bus terminal/car rental shop, research what kind of weather to expect at your destination, and help you find a way to get to/from the airport/train station/bus terminal at your destination. Really good friends and family members might also agree to watch your pets or house sit for you or make sure that your plants get a little sunshine and water while you’re away.

Let technology be your friend

Check in or get your tickets in advance online, if possible. It will save you few minutes and help things go much more smoothly on travel day. Luckily for me, I checked in for my flight a day in advance and pre-arranged to automatically check-in for my return flight on Sunday. The airline I flew then sent my electronic boarding passes to my email address. Advance check in and electronic boarding passes also mean quicker boarding times and no paper clutter when I get home. Of course, it does help if your smart phone (or tablet) is charged. I lucked out there, too. My plane has power outlets so I can charge up and have enough battery power to make calls once I land.

It also helps that I have a few tools that I normally use to get stuff done. Today’s post comes courtesy of my iPad, Bluetooth keyboard, and Evernote account. Both devices fit easily in my Butler bag and are lighter and easier to carry around than my laptop.

Have a few things ready to go

The nice thing about spontaneous trips is they are spontaneous. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t do a little advanced planning for when those moments arise. I know someone who always keeps a packed bag in the trunk of his car. His go-to items include a sweater and some T-shirts so that he’s ready no matter the weather. If a full bag isn’t your style, you can keep a packed toiletry bag in your luggage with a travel toothbrush, small tube of toothpaste, comb, 3 oz. shampoo bottle, and other supplies. You might even like to make packing lists for different types of trips — weekend at the beach, weekend in the mountains, trip to see mom, four-day conference — ahead of time and save these checklists in Evernote so you won’t forget anything the next time you travel.

Staying current with your laundry also helps to make sure you always have clean clothes when you need them. You won’t miss out on a trip because you have to do a load of wash. Owning an overnight, duffle, or weekend bag will also come in handy, and you can save time at the airport by having your name/address tag already filled out and attached to the bag. If you travel often, you may also benefit from an extra phone charger, so you don’t have to go searching for one before you leave.

Get productive

Chances are, by rearranging your usual plans to make room for the unexpected trip, you might be reducing how productive you would normally be. If that’s the case, use some down time, like when you’re on the plane or waiting for your connecting flight to get some work done. That might mean writing out your grocery or to-do list for when you return, reading that book you’ve been meaning to crack open (that book for me is The $100 Startup), or drafting a report.

Live in the moment

Sure, get stuff done (if you have time) so you don’t have an overflowing plate when you get back. But, don’t get so focused on working that you lose sight of having a bit of fun. Take advantage of the new opporutunity you have, whether that’s meeting new people or having new experiences. Your mind and body will feel less sressed and you’ll come back ready with lots of memories and stories to share.

8 Comments for “How to plan for a spontaneous trip”

  1. posted by Anita on

    Great tips! Impromotu travel is awesome, but sometimes returning from a spontaneous trip is less fun.

    I like to leave my house spotless when I go on a trip, so that when I come back I can relax, not be assaulted by chores. Last-minute travel plans can make that difficult, so my tip would be, no matter how rushed you are, try to take out any garbage, wash the dishes, and leave a couple of windows opened a crack, to prevent coming home to a smelly house (or to spare your house-sitters the chore of taking out your trash).

    Also: I’m reading The $100 Startup too, it’s very motivating and a fun read as well. Enjoy!

  2. posted by Dusty on

    I really should try this at some point. The problem is, I like to have everything thought out and planned in advance for vacations. Ugh, I’m getting stomach acid even thinking about this. I would have to have my phone out the whole plane ride, planning out what I would be doing.

  3. posted by Kristin on

    “how to plan for a spontaneous trip” ? I thought this was going to be a joke! Got some serious over-planners up in here!

  4. posted by WilliamB on

    I don’t mind taking dirty laundry with me if necessary – I or the hotel can wash them when I arrive. What I can’t stand is leaving behind dirty dishes.

    I have a standard packing list that includes all my needs for all types of trips, from elegant to business to backpacking. For each trip I make a copy, delete what’s not appropriate, and pack. It’s become a well-honed process by now.

    @Kristin: it is a weird title. I mentally translated it as “How to be prepared for a spontaneous trip.”

  5. posted by HAH on

    I’m finding that if I’m truly living the uncluttered life a spontaneous trip or just about anything is possible. Constantly tweaking my lifestyle choices to increase my freedom and ability to “fly to Rome, on a moments notice.” Left the house yesterday in a pair of shoes that just hurt my feet. Halfway through my day I looked down at my feet and thought, “These are off to Goodwill tomorrow!” Read this article and realized what if I had packed them for a trip?!

  6. posted by Shalin on

    Great post and info – thanks Deb and have fun! 🙂

    (Just for fun) Spontaneous trips can be such a relief – in a sense, I realize how much I really *didn’t* need to get done outside of me and that I need to have some good “me-time”. One of the few times I’ve had a trip like that was to see a space shuttle launch – really. awesome. trip! 🙂

  7. posted by Henave on

    For the pet owners out there, it is advantageous to be signed up with a pet sitting service. Our agency keeps our house key and pet sitting instructions, so we could arrange pet sitting at a moment’s notice in the case of an emergency. They also bring in the mail and newspaper, water plants and will handle hauling the wheelie bin (big trash can) on trash day. We signed up with them when our usual neighborhood pet sitter bailed on us the day before a family trip!

  8. posted by Karen on

    While I wouldn’t overdo the “go bag”, when I unpack from a trip, I make sure that my toiletry bag is ready to go for the next trip. I refill the shampoo bottle, make sure the travel toothbrush is dry and in good shape, etc. I keep a wallet with emergency cash hidden in my house. Don’t let your gas tank run down to empty and keep your car in good repair. Also, remember that if necessary you can buy what you forgot.

    When my sister called me to let me know that my father was dying at the end of a long illness, I was out the door in 20 minutes. I drove through the night and got to the hospital shortly before he passed away. Although he was past knowing what was going on around him, I was able to be there for my mother when she needed me.

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