The Wandering Frame Adventure Blog
Perhaps my favorite moment in the movie Captain Ron (1992) was when the Harvey family is sailing in to Miami, about to bid farewell to the adventures they've just experienced. The entire family is somber, knowing that they are saying farewell to the life at sea to return to normal American life. Suddenly the mother has an epiphany and presents her revelation to the family. "The way I see it, we have to options: sell the boat and return to our lives in Chicago... or don't!" In an out-of-character move, the father spins the helm around and the family cheers as they sail off into the sunset.
That's me: the spontaneous, forget normal life, live the adventure kind of girl. With my husband's vacation time rapidly approaching I present a gutsy idea (the day before his vacation was to begin nonetheless). "Let's try and make it to the California coast" I say to my husband. As a man of thought and process, I awaited the expected pause before his response. "Do you think we could really do that" he asks with a mix of excitement and hesitation in his voice. I reassure him that with our trusty GPS and cell phones we had the ability to be spontaneous and adventurous.
Without further ado, I give you The Wandering Frame's Tips for Spontaneous Travel:
1) Trip Advisor is your first source for last minute lodging options. With reviews, availability, photos, and more; this site is a last-minute (and pre-planned for that matter) traveler's best friend. What I immediately look for are customer reviews, followed by customer photos. Things to remember: there's always more complaints posted than good reviews, so look for issues with cleanliness, security, and major maintenance problems. Customer service is important, but what does it matter in the grand scheme of things if your front desk agent was crabby?
2) Always negotiate your room rate. With last-minute travel, this is your ace in the sleeve. When hotels want to book their rooms last minute, they are typically willing to negotiate. We have generally received 20% off the initially quoted rate. Additionally, you want to ask for any discounts you are eligible for after you ask for the walk in rate. We have several different discounts we qualify for which typically knock another 10% off that quoted price.
3) Make sure you have data! Day three of our spontaneous adventure began with a friendly data warning from our cell phone carrier. Although this hampered our ability to read reviews and know our options, this certainly did not prevent us from continuing with our "no plans" plan. With free Wi-fi available at many public facilities, we determined how far we wanted to travel that day, set our GPS for that area, and continued using our regular method.
4) Spontaneity is great, but a little research goes a long way. Knowing some of the must-see places along the route from our Missouri home to our California dream helped us stretch our budget and have options available to us. Watching weather patterns, we avoided routes that looked like they would be rained out. Traveling during the busiest holiday of the summer means the tourist hot spots are going to be busy, room rates are going to be higher, and travel times will be greater. A little foreknowledge goes a long way. Siri and Google are your go-to for the last minute research (when the above mentioned data is available).
5) Food is your biggest daily expense. You may think hotels or fuel are the biggest hit on the wallet, but the cost of meals can quickly add up to a greater expense than both. There are ways to keep this part of your travel budget within reason. First, book hotels with a breakfast. Even the basic continental breakfast is a savings. Purchase your lunch from the grocery store and enjoy it at a local park. A loaf of bread, big bag of chips, and lunchmeat can feed our family of four for more than one day and costs far less than the lesser-quality fast food options available to budget travelers. Dinner is typically your biggest expense, but the blow can be softened by utilizing different dining apps which will advertise dining specials. Drink water! You'd be surprised how much you can save by avoiding soda... your waistline will thank you too.
Our spontaneous trip was a great success; filled with laughter, quality time together, and was set among some of our country's most beautiful places. We indeed made it to the coast and enjoyed equally fantastic stops along the journey. Stay tuned to hear about these adventures and the awe-inspiring places found in this beautiful country we call home.
Born with a severe case of wanderlust, I'm always searching for new adventures and sharing those stories here.