This blog post was updated on May 7, 2020.
I spent the past three months traveling around Europe and I planned all of two weeks of my trip before I left. To say that I was traveling last minute and without concrete plans is an understatement. While last minute and spontaneous travel can be exciting, it can also be a budget’s worst nightmare. While I had to fork over a considerable amount more of my budget due to my lack of advanced planning, I did learn a few ways to survive the costs of last minute travel.
Always have the ability to change your route: When I arrived in Germany in July, I quickly learned that the vacationing Germans planned quite far in advance in the hotel department. Many hotels were either booked up or quite expensive for what they were. In case the accommodations are sky high or you can’t afford to stay in a city as long as you thought due to a lack of planning, you should always have the ability to change your route. It helped to have a rental car so that I could head to the Czech Republic when Germany grew expensive for last minute travel. If you want to survive winging your travels, you need to be open to visiting places you might not have set out to visit in the first place. An open mind to an open itinerary will help you find where to go that you can afford or that has availability.
Try to at least plan your major transportation means in advance: Last minute travel appeals to loads of travelers, namely for the freedom it presents. While you can certainly wing each day of your travels, in most cases, you could meet financial trouble if you try to wing your major transportation means. For example, I tried to have most of my flights and rental cars around Europe booked well in advance. If the major costs are out of your way, you can better afford last minute travel.
If you strike hotel gold in price and amenities, add on to your stay: I checked into a little hotel in Germany, right in the heart of the Black Forest. It had everything I needed, a clean room and working Wi-Fi, and best of all, a budget price per night. Instead of heading for higher priced options after my two nights were up, I decided to add on to my stay. I got to see a great deal of the area, all for very little per night. If you strike accommodation gold in the budget and services area, you might as well add on to your stay to figure out your next move and to avoid those often sky high last minute travel costs.
Save when you can and accept when you can’t: Throughout Italy, Spain and Germany, there were spots that were much more wallet friendly than others. Cities for example can be quite expensive if you don’t plan ahead. Rather than tearing my hair out to try to keep everything in budget, I accepted where I couldn’t save on last minute travel and embraced what areas I could. For example, if you have to overpay on your rental car or even your hotel, try to find cheaper eats and free attractions. A careful balance will help keep your budget in line on last minute travels.