This blog post was updated on October 15, 2018.
Not an early bird? No problem! We asked pro wanderer and OneTravel Twitter chat co-host Kirsten Alana to share her best tips for planning your trip, favorite travel Instagram accounts, and the most spontaneous vacation she’s ever dared to embark on.
And if you like what you see here, don’t forget to join @OneTravel and @KirstenAlana for a special Twitter party on last-minute world travel (July 31st, 2014 at 2pm EST). It’ll be chock full of tips, tricks, and deals. Follow #OneTravelChat to participate. Three cheers for a spontaneous summer!
What’s your favorite music to listen to/books to read while on the road/in-flight?
For music my classic standby, going back to long bus rides in High School, is Radiohead but I also enjoy Rhye, Future of Forestry, Explosions in the Sky and David Gray. And whatever “icarryyourheart” recommends on SoundCloud. He has impeccable taste. For books I like to alternate between travel biographies and travel narrative. I can often be found with one of The Best American Travel Writing yearly anthologies. Favorite biographical books include Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, and Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents by Elisabeth Eaves.
When/why did you start blogging about travel and what has been your favorite post to date?
I started blogging about travel because, at the time, I saw it as the only way to get to my dream job, that of a full time editorial travel photographer. I don’t regret beginning a blog because it has taken me to so many amazing places but I wish I’d started out differently now, because I tend to always be pegged as only a blogger and rarely labeled as what I consider myself to be, a passionately curious travel photographer. My favorite post to date is one that’s not actually on my blog at all, but on my friend Abi’s as a guest post. It’s my story about a visit to a remote village in Costa Rica.
Tell us about your first travel experience.
I can’t actually remember my first. I was born in Vermont and I know we left the state a lot because of the artistic work that my parents did, they had clients all over the country. However, I do remember my first passport and first international trip like it was yesterday. My mother took me to England and from that trip on I knew that I would need to travel a lot to quench the thirst and curiosity that immediately welled up within me. It started with the different words they used for things like a television or a sweater, and continued with the magically confusing Stonehenge. I still haven’t quenched that thirst or fulfilled all of my curiosity.
Tell us about the most spontaneous trip you’ve ever taken.
I decided to spend my 30th birthday alone on a beach in Puerto Rico because I didn’t want people to actually see how genuinely fearful I was of that silly number. In hindsight, it was the worst thing I could have done and I felt so lonely and unloved (despite it being my own decision) that I wish I had taken more time to think about it. If I had, I think I would have realized that being alone was the opposite of what I needed then.
What are your favorite destinations for a last-minute vacation and why?
Paris will always be my go to. The only way I can explain it is to agree with Gertrude Stein who is quoted as saying that, “America is my country but Paris is my hometown.” Or Audrey’s, “Paris is always a good idea.” That being said, anywhere with a beach and warm temperatures is equally as good an idea and I never turn down a tropical destination without a very, very good reason.
What are some tips for booking a last-minute getaway?
I like the TravelZoo newsletter. If I had a limitless credit card, it would be put to work just because of that newsletter. Though it doesn’t indulge my love of truly authentic travel, it’s quite motivating for booking spontaneous trips based on having fun or relaxing. I also think everyone should follow the Twitter accounts of every brand and destination they really love; it’s surprising how many deals that are announced only on Twitter!
Which types of attractions are worth splurging on and which should you skip?
Riding in a hot air balloon at sunrise over the city of Melbourne is probably the most expensive thing I’ve ever done while traveling but it was also one of the most worthwhile that my money has ever bought. It’s in my top 3 travel experiences of all time. Splurging on spa treatments, especially after a long journey, is also never a bad idea.
Are there Instagram accounts/bloggers we should follow for travel inspiration?
I’m continually inspired by @dante8 who has a talent for both cityscapes and landscapes. His images are refreshing and unusual, they don’t look like copies of any else’s work. I also love @ZachsPassport because he has a love of libraries and captures them all around the world. Few people entice me more with their landscape images than @Maurice. @Charissa_Fay captures NYC as I’d like to capture it but can never seem to be able to replicate and @Mevallieres makes everywhere she travels look like the very place I am just dying to go. I also recently discovered @JonesCrow while traveling through Bali and one of his photos of a rice field near Ubud just seems to sum up the entire island for me in one image.
What are five things to keep in mind when embarking on an eleventh-hour vacation?
1) Don’t set your expectations too high. Just have fun!
2) Know that last minute trips can have a lot of hidden costs, plan accordingly or suck it up and “pay for it” later. If you worry too much, you’ll ruin the experience.
3) Leave room for continued spontaneity with a fairly open schedule.
4) Be patient.
5) During packing, take out half the clothes and throw in twice the money. You can always buy local clothing and sometimes those items make the best souvenirs.
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