Planning for Spontaneity

As noted on an earlier blog, I am the world’s least spontaneous person (although I’m working on it).

However, for quite some time I’ve dreamed of taking a spontaneous four-day weekend abroad. Every week I look forward to my American Airlines Netsavers newsletter, which notifies me of very reduced fares for the upcoming weekend. More often than not, the e-mail informs me that there are no Netsaver fares from St. Louis the following weekend.

I don't know what sport is played on this field, but I want to go to Dublin to find out.

That’s the bane of living in St. Louis–smack dab in the middle of the country, but not a single airline has their hub here.

I don’t care where I go. I just want to see an incredible fare and hop on it. I want to show up at work on Monday or Tuesday morning and have people ask, “Hey, what did you do this weekend?”

And I get to say: “Oh, I went to Dublin.” Or London. Or Tokyo. Or Istanbul.

Back in March, I was talking with friend and fellow blogger Penelope about this travel dream of mine. Somewhere in that conversation we came up with the idea of putting aside a dollar a day to use for spontaneous travel. A dollar a day. That’s nothing. And yet it adds up.

So every month, a designated “spontaneous travel” savings account over at ING transfers $30 from my checking account for this purpose. As of today, I have $180 saved for a dream weekend abroad. It’s not much, but after a year I’ll have $360.

I have to admit, I love this idea. I’m minimizing a major barrier for spontaneity–money. By designating those funds now, I’m increasing the chance that I’ll actually say “yes” when that fateful day comes.

The one service that I wish existed to help me with this goal would be a website that lets me name a price range and a destination city, and when a round-trip fare to a foreign city drops into that range, the site sends me a notification e-mail. There are similar services out there, but the catch is that you need to know where you want to go. I have a ton of places I’d be happy to go given a cheap flight.

If you like this idea and want to start putting aside a few dollars a month for spontaneous travel, let me know and I’ll send you a referral. There are no catches with ING (no fees, no minimum, withdraw money quickly at any time), and if you sign up through the referral, you get $25 and I get $10.

Where will you go?

20 thoughts on “Planning for Spontaneity”

  1. I like the idea a lot! I dream about travel all the time. I waste time on Google Maps just planning travel routes and checking to see how far various places are away from cities I visit through my job.

    Right now, my top 2 spontaneous trips would be these:

    1) Guadeloupe: I never go somewhere and just lay on the beach, but on a small Carribean island, I could do enough lounging and still explore the place.
    2) Southern Utah/Northern Arizona: I hiked Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon’s North Rim last year, and I keep thinking about how much much I want to go back. A long weekend would be perfect.

  2. must chuckle at the title of your note today. Planning for Spontaneity — I guess you know that planning and spontaneity don’t easily compliment each other —
    However with so many places to see — why plan an order of importance? Just take the next ‘good deal’ and go there — any where, and start the list with ‘places I have been’ instead of ‘places I wish to go’.

    I had never dreamed of going to Israel but the opportunity arose and I took it. I enjoyed the trip so much that I am really glad I went. I think that the spontaneity of the trip allowed me to enter the trip with no expectations. My mind was wide open for the pleasure of the experience.

    my motto: “keep dreaming — can’t make things happen without dream.” But remember ‘dreams’ are different than ‘intentions’ — as in another motto of mine: “the road to h__ is paved with good intentions.

    • I think that’s a great point about not planning an order of importance. I’m definitely not doing that–I’m just open to inexpensive adventures as they arise.

  3. Ohhhh….I have had two friends that have done that – although I don’t think the fares were all that inexpensive. One took a spontaneous – as in invited on Wednesday left on Thursday – weekend trip to Paris and the other was a similar situation but to Germany.

    I never use credit cards anymore (in college I thought it really was free money and took me a long time to get it paid) but for this particular purpose I would totally break out the plastic to go to Italy again or London or Ireland (haven’t been to those two yet). Or anywhere tropical – would love to just lay on the beach. And for a REALLY good domestic fare pretty much anywhere exciting in the US.

    I dream about spontaneous trips all of the time…..and the thing is I am not spontaneous at all either. I tend to plan my spontaneity!! 🙂

    • That’s awesome that your friends did it. I think such a trip would be even more incredible for someone who’s not spontaneous (like me) because it would be so out of character.

  4. I recently stumbled across Catalina Island while surfing the internet for vacation spots. It’s off the coast of southern California and sounds like such a relaxing island getaway. I would go there for a quick, spontaneous trip. For a longer trip, my ultimate dream is to go to Ireland. That’s where my family is from. 🙂

  5. what are the interest rates?

    The best flight deal I got was through to London for $550 from Orlando through Charlotte. I went after getting moved to a different location in my company and I had 2 bonus days of not working time on Mon and Tues. So I bought the ticket Friday night and booked a hostel and left Saturday morning. It was exciting. I have a friend in London, so I had people to hang out with, which helped immensely. I could plan my touristy day stuff around other people’s schedules and had people to eat with.

    I have a few suggestions to solve your location issue. One would be to write down all/any cities that you know someone in and put them into a hat. Every Wednesday (that you could take off that weekend) pull a city out and search for it. That way you have someone to eat dinner with. Another would be to go to this site which generates 150 cities and their time zones per visit. Some are quite little tiny cities, so you could just scroll down to one that is larger/you want to visit and use that. My final suggestion would be to type into your search browser the word festival and the dates of that weekend. Then go to whatever city is having a festival that sounds cool, if there’s a good price of course. Also another last minute deal site is There were more, but I guess they went out of business.

    Anyway, good luck! I love traveling! I do a lot of spontaneous travel, especially if I can drive there. It’s kind of exhilarating.

  6. Although I will always encourage you to enjoy international travel – cheap or otherwise – you can start by being spontaneous in St. Louis. There are so many great small music venues and festivals and local theatre…most of which is not taken advantage of by your average St.Louisian. Or, like Lorena suggested – how about driving? I’ve always wanted to do a donuts tour of the midwest. Apparently St. Louis is right in the middle of a famous donuts corridor. So throw a clean t-shirt and a toothbrush in a bag, and let’s go sample!

    One last note, as a frequent international traveler I understand the lure of grab your passport and fly. However, it’s not the airfare that’s going to get you, it’s the hotels and food while you are there. I recommend starting your unplanned vacation getaways in the US where a friend of a friend is likely to know about a good couch. Oh, and if you want a travel companion, I only need an hour to find that clean t-shirt.

    • That’s a fair point. There are lots of things in St. Louis and within driving distance. It just doesn’t seem quite as adventurous.

      And you really need an hour to find a clean t-shirt? Takes me about 10 seconds.

  7. It’s been exciting to watch my account grow, and I haven’t missed the dollar a day!

    My top two places I’d love to go are Italy and New Zealand. But there are many places in Europe and Asia I’d get excited about as well. We’ll see!

    • It might be a while before you get a great ticket to New Zealand, but hopefully something for Italy will pop up soon. Lucky you being near Detroit.

    • An interesting point. But Ariely also points out when people choose their own deadlines and stagger them throughout the semester, they get their work done well and on time.


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