Plan Your Vacation Like a Boss
For me, there's nothing better than having a trip on the horizon. I spend my days planning, packing, and prepping, and my nights dreaming of what I'll eat, see, and experience. After visiting 50 countries over the last 5 years, I've learned that there are a few simple tricks that can be applied to every trip you plan to ensure its success!
1 - Get Creative With Your Research
Don’t just Google “what to see in Paris” or open up Rick Steve’s Europe. You can do better than that! The key to finding outside-the-box places is researching with outside-the-box techniques. Get on Pinterest, type in where you’re going and find photos that speak to you. This will lead you to links for articles on specific things that interest you and will give you ideas for what to see. Do the same for Instagram: search under #paris or #montmarte. If you’re looking for advice on a certain subject, like where to eat in Paris, be more specific: “parisfoodie” or “pariseats.” Drool-worthy photos of dishes will pop up and you’ll get ideas of where to go for the best meals. Or check out Anthony Bourdain’s fantastic show The Layover and see where he recommends. Put the word out among friends (try a post on Facebook) about where you’re going and ask if anyone has tips. You might not know that your colleague vacationed there, or that a neighbor studied abroad in that country, or that your best-friend’s cousin spent their gap-year there. I’m not saying to take everyone’s advice - but if you feel like you have similar tastes to the person giving it, they can be a great resource.
2 - Don’t Over - Plan
Trips that are too packed with plans will leave you exhausted, stressed, and unsatisfied. Many times people have told me that their whole trip was spent hectically running from site to site, waiting in lines, and fighting crowds. Having a general itinerary for your trip is not a bad thing, but you need to leave some things up to chance and how you feel in the moment. If you schedule every hour, every meal, and every activity in advance, it doesn’t allow you to stumble upon something great, go where the day takes you, or decide to take a last-minute day trip somewhere your friendly waitress told you about. Some destinations obviously require more planning ahead than others - like an African Safari or a trip a Disney World. But for 99% of trips, I only book only the reservations I absolutely need to make in advance because they will not be available otherwise - like dinner at a top restaurant or a theatre ticket. Otherwise make a list of places to see, eat, and things to do, and then pair them together into ideas for each day based on what’s near to each other. I recommend having no more than 1 - 2 concrete reservations or plans per day. Leave your itinerary loose, and don’t be afraid to break or change it if an opportunity comes along.
3 - Get in the Spirit of Where You’re Going
I find traveling to a place is much more exciting and rewarding when I know a bit about it. Before going somewhere, I like to get in the spirit of where I’m going with books, movies, documentaries, museums, anything that sparks my interest. Before our honeymoon in India I read Shantaram, revisited Slumdog Millionaire, and watched a documentary on Ghandi. Before I went to Guatemala, I took a class on Mayan Art and Culture. Prior to his trip to Egypt, my husband visited the Met several times and soaked up all he could in the Egyptian wing. It’s sort of like travel homework - but the assignment can be whatever you want. The object is to gain some knowledge about where you’re headed before you go, and to begin immersing yourself ahead of time. That way when you arrive, the place already means something to you. I can promise the town of Arles will impact you much more if you’ve recently viewed Van Gogh’s paintings.
4 - Change Your Mode of Transportation
When you’re visiting a place, try to change your mode of transportation as much as you can so you actually change the way you’re seeing it. If you spent a week in New York and just took a taxi everywhere, you’d only be seeing the city one way. Instead, one day plan a walk through Soho. The next day rent bikes in Central Park. Take a boat cruise around the island or rent a kayak from Chelsea Piers. If you can splurge on a helicopter ride over mid-town, go for it! Changing the way you see a place can often give that place new life. The castles in the Loire Valley look completely different when seen from a hot air balloon. The snowy fields of Canada are much more exciting via dog-sled. Visit Iceland’s Golden Circle by horseback instead of motor-coach. Take one day on Safari to do a guided walk instead of a game drive. And always try to travel the way the locals do at least once - there’s a reason the Dutch bike through Amsterdam, the Londoners take the bus, and Romans Vespa. Changing up your mode of transportation will keep your trip interesting, exciting, and keep you active!
5 - Keep An Open Mind
I strongly believe in order to truly immerse, you need to keep an open mind and not be afraid to dive in to where you are. Some of our best meals in India were at places where our guide took us that my better judgement thought RUN when we got there. I once took the train from Paris to Malmaison despite not caring an inch about Napoleon, and it was one of my favorite days in France. I don’t like classical music, but hearing Mozart played live at Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna brought me to tears. I’m far from “outdoorsy” but I didn’t let that stop me from taking an overnight river rafting trip down the San Juan River in Utah. Travel is about relaxing and enjoying, but also about immersing, exploring, and learning. So don’t go all the way to Switzerland and pass up the opportunity to try raclette simply because you don't know what it is. In simplest terms: When in Rome…