Instead of exchanging Christmas gifts, Brandon and I decided that we were going to take a spontaneous trip together for New Year’s Eve. We decided that neither one of us really needed anything and rather than dishing out the dough on material things, we would pull our money together and make some new memories. The plan was to get on Skyscanner a few days before our scheduled departure date (Dec 30th) and book the cheapest flight from Atlanta. Whether that was Iowa or Durham, we were excited to jet off to a new destination to ring in the New Year.
Fast forward to the week of Christmas. As luck would have it, I got the flu. This spontaneous trip was the last thing on my mind. I legit was hoping Brandon would forget about it. I was feeling HORRIBLE and couldn’t even imagine packing a suitcase and getting on an airplane. Well, Brandon broke the no gifts rule and surprised me on Christmas with flights to St. Pete, Florida. To say I was surprised was an understatement – I also felt like a jerk because I really got him zilch. Oops.
Come to find out, Tampa was the cheapest flight to Atlanta and it couldn’t have been a more perfect destination for our trip: a super short flight away and a warm climate is the perfect combo for getting over the flu. Although I was feeling under the weather, the thought of getting out of the cold perked me up enough to get excited.
And then Brandon got sick.
The tickets were purchased and we decided to rest up with the hopes that we would both be back to 100% by our flight date. Surprise surprise, we weren’t, but we powered through for our next adventure anyways.
We landed in Tampa and grabbed an Uber to the condo we were staying at. And then we didn’t leave the couch for a solid 72 hours. Okay, that’s an exaggeration but we definitely spent the majority of our three days sipping Nyquil and blowing through tissues.
I luckily started feeling better on day two and was able to at least get in some gym time and read on the balcony. Brandon, however, had a really rough time. We ended up at the ER at one point (long and very scary story but he’s all good) and then at the CVS Minute Clinic only to find out that he had Bronchitis. He got his meds in his system and somehow rallied through it all.
I still can’t believe we were both sick but I am SO proud of us for not letting it totally ruin our trip together. We made it out of the condo a few times to explore, saw Star Wars and rang in the New Year with fireworks and a delicious dinner. I feel really lucky we have so much fun together no matter the situation – stuck to the couch in St. Pete or going on Safari in South Africa.
How to Plan a Last-Minute Vacation
- Set a budget. Obviously, with any last-minute travel, you’re risking coming out of pocket more than you might if you had months to plan. We set a limit on how much we would want to spend on flights + hotels so we at least had some sort of guidelines. Same goes with the things you do on the trip. Rather than packing a full itinerary with expensive restaurants and lots of activities that require tickets or entry fees, look for freebie activities and places that are open to the public and then splurge on one nice meal or activity.
- Book your flight at least 3-5 days out. Although we wanted this to be “spontaneous” we also needed to be able to pack and make arrangements around the back to back holidays. We used Skyscanner and it’s perfect for planning last-minute trips. You set your departure city and dates and set your arrival city as “Everywhere”. The app then spits out all of the flights from the cheapest to the most expensive. You can also use Skyscanner to set alerts for price drops on trips you have planner din the future. We used this for Morocco and South Africa!
- If you’re wanting something truly spontaneous and have at least 4 weeks, check out Pack Up and Go. I really wanted to use this service but we looked into it a little too late. They require at least four weeks from your departure date but they plan your flight and hotel for you based on your budget. You don’t know where you’re going until you get to the airport!
- Use HotelTonight to secure a last-minute hotel at a great price. I’ve used this app a few times in the past and we were going to use it on this trip but since we ended up going to Tampa, we stayed at a family friend’s condo. I also like Booking.com!
- Do your research + keep things flexible. Although we ended up not doing much, we still did some research before we landed on places we wanted to check out. One of my favorite ways to find cool places wherever I’m visiting is to Google search for “CITY travel guide blogger” or “blogger CITY travel diary”. I might be biased but travel + lifestyle bloggers usually round up their travel guides in a way that makes the most sense to me and I usually can rely on their picks. We made a list of restaurants we wanted to try, a few museums to check out and details for one of the beaches we wanted to explore. We also knew that we didn’t want to make our itinerary too robust or “scheduled”. Spontaneous trips like this are usually best when you have some flexibility and just let the day take you from place to place.
Highlights from St. Pete
So although we didn’t really get a chance to explore as much as we would have liked, we still managed to make it out of the condo a few times. Check out a few of our favorite highlights below – spoiler, it’s pretty much all food because we mustered enough energy to eat and mot much else. Oops.
- Red Mesa Cantina: if you’re looking for yummy margaritas and the best queso, this is your place. Loved the outdoor eating and the overall vibe was really relaxed and fun.
- Bella Brava: you know I always find Italian no matter where I travel to. We went here for lunch on our last day and it was SO yummy. We sat outside and shared a pizza and pasta – the sangria is also really really good.
- Cassis: we came here for NYE dinner and it was such a fun night. The bar makes the best cocktails and they also apparently have a great brunch. I really want to go back to St. Pete just so we can eat here again. Loved the whole vibe.
- The Canopy: I sort of dragged Brandon here on our first night and we was a real trooper. The view from this rooftop lounge is gorgeous and while we didn’t stay very long, this would be such a fun place to grab a few cocktails and take in a chill night with your boo or girlfriends.
- Downtown St. Pete, near the marina: this is where we stayed. Now, we didn’t get to explore the beaches or really any other part of St. Petersberg but this part of town that we did get to explore was PERFECT. Everything was walkable or a super short Uber ride away. There were a ton of bars, good restaurants, cute shops and a really bustling nightlife – something that surprised us for this city.