For a long time, I had always wanted to take a spontaneous mystery flight. By spontaneous I mean showing up to the airport, looking at the flight departure board and choosing from one of the destinations listed. This is the story of how I went about achieving this goal.
Decide on your budget
Even though this was a mystery flight, a bit of prior planning can still be done. The most important question to ask is do you have a budget and if so, what is it. Money will be a major contributing factor to your final destination. A last minute flight is expensive as it is. A long duration flight would be adding more pain to the wallet. So I decided early on that I would try go for a shorter flight to reduce the costs. In retrospect, I was fortunate to have decided on flying in April. April is rarely a busy month for travelers around the world. A potential positive money saving strategy is to fly on a weekday (Thursday) as opposed to a weekend.
Airport selection is paramount
Living in London meant I had the option of flying from 5 airports; London City, Heathrow, Luton and Gatwick and Stansted. If you can fly from more than one airport, have a look at the possible destinations that each airport services. You want to choose an airport that hosts airlines that covers more routes. This is so you have more options of where you can go and thus making the adventure more exciting. London City, Stansted and Gatwick flew to the least amount of destinations so I easily crossed them out. That left me with Heathrow and Luton. Doing a quick google search led me to information about Easyjet hosting a majority of its operations from Luton. As I was on a budget, I decided I could only afford to fly with a more budget orientated airline carrier. In the end I decided with Luton as the place to carry out operation “Mystery Flight”.
Keep in mind the location of the airport is important in where you want to do this. For example if I was to visit an airport in Australia, I would have a few destinations. Australia is geographically isolated from the rest of the world. This means that flights are more likely to be long in duration and highly expensive. You ideally want to choose an airport which is central to a specific region. The beauty of trying to do the spontaneous travel at London is that you can go reach North Africa, Scandanavia, Western, Southern and Eastern Europe within 3 hours. If I were to play the spontaneous flying game again I would visit a Kuala Lumpur Airport. This is because Kuala Lumpur and the Air Asia airline in particular, provide a central hub for many Asian countries.
How does one pack for the unknown?
The other thing to think about is to pack doing a bit of research of the general climate of the region you will be flying to. As I was going away for 3 dags, there would be a limit to for flight length. I did not want to fly for more than 5 hours for this short trip. A 5 hour radius from London could potentially land a tourist in Russia, Turkey or Morocco. As most of Europe and the surrounding region was still cold, I knew I had to pack some warm clothes. I brought my laptop with me because I enjoy browsing websites on a bigger screen. This was important as it allows me to sort out accommodation, places to eat and things to see, upon landing in the foreign country.
What Happened On The Actual Day
As the airport’s glass sliding doors parted ways, I immediately made a beeline to the electronic flight departure board. At this point in time I had absolutely no idea what destinations would be on show. I was nervous as I did not have control of where I was going, and simultaneously excited at where I could end up. To my disappointment, most of the destinations did not appeal to me, because either I had been there before or I didn’t know anything special about the city. On the bright side it made my decision a lot simpler. You can see in the above image the list of cities that were available. The two destinations that I was keen on were Kaunus, Lithuania and Copenhagen, Denmark. I had a enjoyable time in the off beaten path city of Vilnius in Lithuania previously. However, I had never been to Denmark, so thought it would be good idea to visit a new country.
The time on the electronic board was 1:00pm. The Copenhagen and Kaunus flights were scheduled to depart at 3:15pm. To put into context the situation I was in; airlines normally recommend to arrive at an airport, 2 hours beforehand so you leave enough time to check your luggage and clear customs. I was at the airport, however I did not have a seat on the plane. Unfortunately the Spontaneous Flight game works based on if there are available flights. I headed over to the Easyjet sales desk. Behind the desk was a friendly gentlemen. I greeted the gentleman behind the desk and explained to him that I was looking to buy a last minute ticket to Copenhagen. 380 British Pounds ($US 470) later and I had my tickets to the Danish capital!!! I was physically relieved to have secured a ticket as there were a limited number of seats left.
First few hours In Copenhagen
Picking up the checked in luggage and clearing customs was a breeze. My immediate concerns turned to finding accommodation. Whilst in the airport I latched onto the free airport wifi. I had a look on Airbnb to find an apartment. I contacted several owners and told them about my last minute trip, hoping this would work in my favour. In the mean time I did some research on attractions and places of interest.
However I came to the realisation that it might take the property owner a while longer to reply back to my reservation. Consequentially, I loaded up Booking.com. I did not want to leave the airport and free wifi without securing accommodation. After all it was night time and I did not know too much about Copenhagen. Eventually I selected a reasonably priced hotel in the city centre. Getting from the airport to the city was easy with the train. From the central train station to the hotel, I relied on the Copenhagen Google offline map, that I downloaded before leaving the airport.
The tips I have are more questions for you to ask yourself before you rock up to the airport
1) At what price am I willing to spend on last minute airfare?
2) Research which type of airline companies ( budget or non budget) fly from the airport you intend to visit and what cities do they fly to.
3) Roughly know what potential regions you will fly to as it will help with packing your luggage.