Would You Book A Flight To An Unknown Destination?

Earlier this year, new booking engine GetGoing began offering deep discounts to travelers with flexibility and a sense of spontaneity. You tell the site what type of trip or region you want, and it will give you two destinations and the airfare you’ll pay, up to 40% off. The catch? You won’t know *which* place you’ll go or which airline you’ll fly until after you purchase.

Now how about booking a trip where you won’t know where you’re going until a few days before departure? FlyRoulette launched this week, taking spontaneous travel to the next level. With FlyRoulette, you’ll tell them your budget, maximum trip length, and type of trip (does “weird and exotic” sound appealing?) and it will create an itinerary for you. But you won’t know where you are going until 12-48 hours before you depart, which means you can probably rule out anywhere that requires an advance visa, but the whole world is fair game. In exchange for your flexibility, you’ll get great hotel and flight deals, but it’s not for those who want some degree of control over their travels.
Would you book a trip without knowing where you are going? While it’s an intriguing concept, there are a few issues I can see arising for even the most intrepid travelers. Without knowing what destinations are in their arsenal, a trip to go somewhere “to party” could just as easily be Daytona Beach or Berlin, two very different tastes. There could be reasons why a destination is discounted: even if you wanted a “quiet” trip, what if everything of interest is closed for the season? While you specify your maximum budget, you don’t know what portion is going to airfare or hotel, so you might prefer a destination with a more expensive flight but cheap accommodations. The site allows you to book for groups up to 25 people and was founded by recent college graduates, which may indicate their ideal demographic. It might be best for INexperienced travelers, who are more open to anything and carry less baggage (no pun intended) about how they travel and where they end up.

VIDEO: Flash mob at Beirut Airport duty free

Flash mobs are nothing new, Lisbon even staged a dance at the airport in 2009, but this flash mob at Beirut Airport is the first I’ve seen with Arab Dabke dance. Dabke is a form of line dance which is traditionally performed at weddings and social occasions, and the group here combined it with some hip hop steps. Passengers and airport staff joined in the fun for this video made for Beirut‘s Duty Free (which, incidentally, has amazingly low prices and Lebanese wine is delicious).

Seen any flash mobs on your travels? Would you stop and watch a “spontaneous” dance at an airport?

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk – Austin Mann @ the World Cup (part 1)

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk, episode 26 – Click above to watch video after the jump

For everyone out there that wanted to make the trek to South Africa’s 2010 World Cup, but couldn’t – we have a fun series of segments this week.

A few days before the games began, a good friend of mine, travel photographer Austin Mann told me that he was booking a last minute flight to South Africa to meet up with friends that had spare game tickets. I asked him to document his travels, share some of his essential equipment as a photographer, and bring us back a piece of his World Cup experience right here on Travel Talk.

We’ve broken it up into two episodes, so stay tuned for the second installment to see some of the games in action!

If you have any questions or comments about Travel Talk, you can email us at talk AT gadling DOT com.

Subscribe via iTunes:
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What are some Austin’s essentials as a travel photographer?
Surefire G2 LED flashlight
Garmin 60CSX GPS
Pac-Safe lock
Canon 5D MKII & Canon 16-35 f/2.8 II
Gitzo 15141T Mountaineering Series Tripod

Host: Austin Mann
Edited by: Jordan Bellamy
Music By: Josh Ritter

10 ways to not break your travel resolutions

You’ve made your travel resolutions, but how do you keep them? We all know the resolution drill. Sometime around the end of December, in the glow of holiday cheer when all things seem possible, we make a list of how we’ll improve. As travelers, perhaps we leaf through a copy of 1000 Places to See Before You Die and make a list of our own must see places. Or we decide that we’ll travel smarter. We’ll travel greener. We’ll be the best traveler there is.

Then roundabout January 5, the glow is gone and it’s same old same old. Your travel habits are the same they’ve always been except for perhaps a tweak or two.

There are things you can do to break your travel pattern. It has to do with your thinking. Here are 10 thoughts to keep you traveling and happy with your resolutions intact.

1. Be flexible: Let’s say you decide that you really, really, really need that trip to Hawaii. Only that trip to Hawaii will do. But round about February, it’s clear you don’t have the money to get to Hawaii. Flexibility allows you to pick another destination within your financial reach. However, you understand that not going to Hawaii this year doesn’t mean you are never going. This trip could be your pre-Hawaii trip. Voila! Your resolution to make to Hawaii is still intact.

2. Ignore aches and pains: So, you have a bit of a backache. Your joints slow you down. Your feet hurt when you walk a lot. You need a hip replacement. Go on that rafting trip anyway if it’s that once in a lifetime opportunity. Here’s the thing. You can ache at home on the couch, or you can ache in an unusual destination or on that trip you’ve always wanted. This happened to us two summers ago. My hubby’s hip was not doing him any favors but we had an opportunity to go on a group five day raft trip on the Smith River in Montana. We took the trip with my husband as one of the main rafting guides. His hip is now replaced. Six weeks after his operation this year we took a three week road trip through the West. Not to brag, or anything, but if you knew us, if we can do it, so can you.

3. Don’t give up easily: You have a trip planned, but it seems that life is not helping you out one bit. Your car, for example, needs unexpected work. Or you’re toilet on the second floor has leaked enough that your kitchen ceiling has caved in a tad. Mop up the floor, find a mechanic who can fix that car lickety-split and hit the road. Keep saying to yourself that life is not telling you to not go on the trip, but your resolve is being tested. Go, man! Go!

4. If it’s raining–so what? You’ve planned a day at the beach, or you’re heading to Disneyland–or you’re going to visit the Statue of Liberty. This is the one day you can make it to this outdoor destination. Don’t whine about it. Get out the umbrella, wear a pair of shoes that can get wet and head out the door. If you’re going to an amusement park, believe me. There are rain ponchos to be bought there. The beauty of a rainy day is that ride lines are not so long. As for the beach, enjoy the solitude. Also, it may not rain all day.

5. Be delighted with the cheapest thing on the menu— You are on a tight budget and the place you are going is not known for being inexpensive. Go anyway, but aim for the cheapest thing you can do while there. What’s free? Visiting religious places is free. Walking is free. Parks are free. Going in and out of stores is free. Some museums are much cheaper than others. Go to the cheap ones. When eating out, look for the cheapest thing on the menu, it’s yours. The whole time you are on this trip, be happy you are on this trip. Don’t keep saying if only I had enough money to do or buy . . .Be happy, for heavens sake!

6. Nothing is perfect–Don’t aim for a trip to be perfect. If something has to be perfect, you can be derailed before you start. If what you have in mind is not possible, look forward to the surprises you’ll find when the trip is not just the way you wanted it. It could be better. If it’s worse, what a great story you can tell others. People love worse travel stories better than the best times ever stories.

7. Just because you have kids doesn’t mean you can’t travel–The worst advice I ever heard was “Travel now because when you have kids, it all changes.” Harumph! Not true. If you ignore all these other resolutions, maybe that person is right, but kids will travel if you travel. When my son was three months old, we went to Thailand for several days. Once when our daughter was five and she was pulling her pull behind suitcase through Narita Airport in Tokyo, she exclaimed, “I want to travel the world.” We’ve done a pretty good job of it so far.

8. Just because your significant other has different travel likes doesn’t mean you can’t travel— Just because you have a partner, doesn’t mean you’re a salt and pepper shaker set that always has to be together. If you have different ideas about what to do on a trip, pick places that have things for both of you. Meet up at night after a satisfying day. If your partner doesn’t want to head home for the holidays but wants to go to Myanmar instead, don’t see who can get the other to bend first. Do what’s in your heart. You’ll both end up merry and bright.

9. Be open to opportunities–When any one ever says, would you like to go to–or an opportunity you hadn’t thought of before comes up, say yes. This adage has found me in Mexico building houses, on a six-week trip Rotary club trip to Nigeria, on a 7-day cruise to Greece from Venice, at my Danish family’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration in Denmark and Los Angeles meeting Mark Saltzman, one of my favorite authors.

10. Let the house go for a change–Do not ever not go somewhere because the house is a mess. Sure don’t let it go to seed, but seriously, does the vacuuming have to be done today? Don’t’ let the list of things that need to get done keep you a prisoner. Schedule your must do things, around travel. Keep resolution Number 1 in mind.

Here’s to happy travel in 2010 with your resolutions in tact. It is your life after all.

South by Southeast: The Tao of long-term travel

Welcome back to Gadling’s newest series on Southeast Asia, South by Southeast. Long-term travel is a topic with considerable baggage, both in the travel community and the world at large. For those tied to life’s obligations – jobs, children, mortgages – checking out to spend a few months (or years) on the road is irresponsible. For those righteously living out of a backpack on the other side of the world – nodding their heads smugly at their “enlightened lifestyle” – the people back home are afraid to take chances.

But both sides of this debate get it wrong. No matter your perspective on the issue, the decision to take a long-term trip must be grounded in personal circumstances and aligned with reality. To do it any other way is to fall victim to the same old travel cliches.

So what is long term travel really about? And how is it different than a vacation? The answer to this question is complicated – there are as many justifications for long-term trips as their are places to visit. But in order to give some perspective to the topic, let’s take a look at some of my own reasons for taking a long-term trip. Whether you empathize with me or think I’m an idiot, it will help explain why long-term travel isn’t just “another vacation.” Click below to see why…Long-term travel is not about “Escape”
Perhaps the biggest myth of long-term travel is you can escape responsibility and worry. Critics of long-term travel mention this as justification for why long-term travelers are irresponsible. To them, these individuals are all doing drugs on the beaches of Thailand and postponing the realities of life. Part of this argument rings true. If you hate your job and think going to Southeast Asia will fix your troubles, it’s worth taking a closer look at what’s leading to your dissatisfaction. The same issues that plague you at home will be waiting when you return.

But done properly, long-term travel has nothing to do with escape. Sure, there are backpackers out there “doing dope” and living off a trust fund. But to generalize all long-term travelers this way is an oversimplification. Instead, long-term travel is a life-affirming opportunity to open our minds to new ideas, new challenges and new ways of thinking.

Long-term travel is about slowing down
When I was working 9-5 every day, I treated my vacation days as precious gems. I spent hour after hour meticulously researching and planning my trips, scheming about where I would go and what I might do in order to maximize my time. If even an hour of the trip wasn’t enjoyable, it felt like the time had been squandered, lost to the ages. Instead of being able to live in the moment and enjoy my experience, I was too busy worrying if I was having fun.

Vacations are great, but we are all guilty of packing too much into them. Long-term travel allows us the luxury of time. We don’t have to rush from place to place, frantically taking in sights and acquiring painful new blisters on our toes. We can take our noses out of our guidebooks for a few seconds to look around. And if we find a place we love, we have the privilege of staying a few extra days.

Long-term travel is a challenge
It’s great when you plan every last detail of a trip. You know where you’re going and what you’ll be doing. But aren’t our lives already orchestrated enough? The best opportunities for learning and personal growth is not when we succeed, but rather when we fail.

The spontaneous, think-on-your-feet character of long-term travel forces us to make tough choices. In the process you’re likely to learn a lot about yourself and your priorities. And if you can adapt to tough circumstances on the road, it’s likely you’ll be able to do the same when you return home.

Long-term travel helps us meet the locals
Thanks to the Internet, we now know more about the world than ever before. But there’s a problem with this. Humans tend to seek out other humans and information that match our own values and interests. When we travel, we tend to follow a similar pattern, staying in the tourist quarter and isolating ourselves in hotels. There’s nothing wrong with this behavior, mind you, it just makes it more difficult to meet anyone but other travelers.

But arguably one of the best parts of travel is meeting the locals. It helps break down the “wall” tourism frequently creates and helps us truly get a sense of a place. But when our visits are short, meeting locals is made more difficult. The the knowledge of your imminent departure impacts your relationship. Long-term travel, again, is about the luxury of time. It’s over these longer periods that genuine friendships are formed.

Gadling writer Jeremy Kressmann is spending the next few months in Southeast Asia. You can read other posts on his adventures “South by Southeast” HERE.