We all talk about how nice it is to get away and relax, not have any school or work responsibilities, but really, when was the last vacation that you went on that you came back and felt refreshed rather than thankful to be home where you can finallyrelax?
Don’t I look all nice and relaxed? This was not taken on a vacation
That’s probably because we have so little time to travel or escape from our normal responsibilities that we try to compact as much as we possibly can into our trips. It makes sense, we have limited time and funds so you’re trying to get your money’s worth seeing as much as you can in the small window of time that you do have. From my experience, we practice this form of hectic vacationing until we’re about 50, then we decide that there’s nothing better than just sitting in a swing on our back porch watching nature around us. So, until we hit that point in our lives, Colton and I have to remind ourselves to add some breaks into our trips. This is my main focus right now as I plan our next European adventure wherein we do a whirlwind tour of 4 countries for the Christmas season.
Looking back at our previous trips together, England back in August and northern France in October, we did a lot of running around and crammed a lot of stuff into our days. We probably would’ve enjoyed more of our trip if we had given ourselves more of a break rather than trying to do as much as we could simply because we were there.
Make travel days just travel days
-Especially towards the end of your trip. All that energy and excitement you had at the beginning?
Well it’s gone now and you just want to sleep and get home so make your last day a day of just traveling, not trying to cram in a visit to the Louvre before heading back home (lesson learned the hard way). Now this can depend on how much traveling you have to do, but in general try to not worry about getting in a last attraction. Relax, enjoy a late breakfast and catch your train—or whatever you are taking back home.
This may mean going back to the hotel for a nap, it may mean stopping and seating on a bench for a bit, it could simply be limiting how much you see that day. When we visited the palace at Versailles, Colton declared it our “Geriatric day”—take it easy and not feel pressured to see absolutely everything. There will be days when you want to do everything and have the energy and time to do it, but if it’s in the 40s and misty and you just want a cup of cocoa and a fire, go get your cocoa and fire. Because you’ll inevitably enjoy that more than dragging your tired self through another museum or cultural site.
So give yourself time when planning out your days (if you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type then can disregard that), incorporate having a break or two throughout the day. Colton and I try to walk everywhere (an advantage of Europe) but we have a multiple mile walk from the hotel to the Vatican when we visit Rome, so we’re planning on finding a little café to stop and get a cappuccino so we’re not worn out by the time we get to our actual location.
Less can make it more
This goes with the previous one, but by visiting fewer locations and attractions you’ll have more energy and time to devote to those that you visit. So even though you are seeing less, you will probably get more out of those experiences because you’ll have the energy to appreciate what you’re seeing/doing and won’t feel pressured to hurry along to get to the next location.
To make the above easier, figure out what activities/sites are most important to you. I’ll get into this more when I discuss surviving theme parks, but don’t wait until the very end to do what you were looking forward to most of all—I can’t tell you how many families I turned away from the dolphin area who came to the park “just so they could touch a dolphin”. Why wait until the end of the day to do that then? Figure out what you really want to do and either schedule a time for it or do that activity first.
Visit Places not Attractions
We didn’t do this in England and we didn’t do this in Paris but we did do this in Saint Malo. Now this will depend on your preferences but I am not a city person (and proud of it); I enjoy the conveniences and features big cities have compared to small towns but I prefer the experience of smaller towns more. At Saint Malo we walked around the small town, frolicked on the beach, and in general were not running around like crazy.
In Paris and London we were bouncing around from attraction to attraction. This increases the time you spend traveling, something that chewed up a decent amount of our days in England, whether it was on the underground getting to different parts of London or on trains going to different parts of the country. Travel in a way you spend less time getting somewhere and more time experiencing the places you visit. This may mean having more time in one area or paying more for a hotel in the middle of it all—just depends on where you’re going.
Visit like you know you are going to come back
This was some advice from a former coworker and although it may be a difficult mentality to get into (especially if you don’t travel often) but it certainly takes a load off. Right now we haven’t planned a trip to Spain, somewhere I had originally thought we’d visit, and keeping the thought in my head that we will be back again keeps me from feeling the pressure to squeeze that last country in. The goal with this is to not get stuck in the condition of “some days”—it might be a while before you return or see a new place, but don’t just put if off or forget about, keep working toward eventually make the trip back.
Now, let’s just see if I can remember that as we gallivant across Europe.