Travel Tips For A Happier Vacation
There are few things more exciting than the thought of enjoying a week or two away from work and home. You plan, you book, you are ready to hit the road! How do you make the most of your vacation time and come home with that rested glow? I am an avid traveler and have learned a few things along the way to help you have the vacation of your dreams.
Give yourself some rest during your vacation. You may only have a week in a beautiful European City but don’t overdo. Remember you are taking a break from the 9 to 5. Don’t treat a vacation like work.
Figure out what is really important for you to see. Which attraction would make you sad if you missed it? Is it a museum? Eating at a fabulous restaurant? Book that. But please, have a morning or two where you don’t have to be anywhere. Allow yourself sleep-in time, a day to walk around and discover the place. Part of the joy of vacation is to take a break from the daily grind of up and at ‘em. Unplanned days give you that chance to discover the small tea place on an unmarked street or stumble upon a museum that isn’t in the guidebooks. You can lose your sense of discovery if every moment is planned.
If you need naps or rest time in your day, plan them in. Go out early but come back to your hotel after lunch and put your feet up. Many countries have their version of a siesta. Take advantage of it.
If you are doing a multi city tour please please please don’t put too many cities on your schedule. Enjoy each city. You can go back. When taking a driving vacation, the drive is the vacation, hitting cities that lie along the way. A day in each one works perfectly. But trying to fit 4 European cities in a week is exhausting and doesn’t do justice to the cities or the treasures they hold
Editing is vital to a happy vacation.
Know where you are going
I have been on both sides of the vacation spectrum: I have planned too much so every day had things crammed into it, and planned nothing and thought we’d figure it out as we went. It is up to the kind of person you are. I like it a bit in between. We recently spent 10 days in Ireland and I had a few things planned. I read a fair amount so I knew where things were. I had an idea of each town we were staying in and a place or two I wanted to visit.
We went to Barolo once and I did no planning except booking a hotel. We wandered around lost, and a bit irritated, because we were looking for a tourist office and it wasn’t apparent. Even though there were arrows pointing to it we found ourselves walking around in circles. Turns out it was a computer kiosk inside the tiny Corkscrew Museum. Luckily the guy at the counter knew wine and offered to take us on a tour the next day. His English was great and he knew wine. In fact he introduced us to a few wine makers whose wine we carry in our shop today, including the renowned Chiara Boschis and her Barolo and Dolcetto. He has remained our friend and we follow his wine adventures on Facebook. That instance worked out beautifully which is a recommendation for hoping for the best now isn’t it? But I decided after a few “no planning” trips to at least read up on the area, be aware of where the better restaurants are and any attractions that might interest us, so that once I got there I had a better lay of the land and could make good choices for dinner and such.
Just a few pointers:
I prefer to get a room with a view either via spending a little more when I reserve or asking at the desk.
When spending a few days in Victoria Canada I reserved a larger view room and it was well worth it. It is a beautiful town and gazing at it and the water from our balcony was one of the highlights. I didn’t feel the need to rush out to experience it. It helped me relax. We would come back in the afternoon and put our feet up and have a cup of tea while taking in the vista. When we got back at night we could see the city lit up. It made it one of the nicest stays ever. No restaurant in the city had the views we did. It was well worth it. The extra cost was not much at all, maybe $15/night.
Tell the front desk about your preferences when you check in. Don’t assume they know what you want. They probably don’t even think about it, a room is a room. By asking you put their attention on it.
Don’t Like Your Room?
If you don’t like your room ask to change. BUT (and I mean it ) be kind and gracious. Ask for a room with more space, light or just something that is quieter (note that rooms that face the street in a busy city may have great views but can be noisy. It is why I ask for a higher floor). Don’t demand it. I rarely have it denied. We were in Kinsale Ireland and our room was okay but a bit small and dark. We asked. We got a big room with lots of light and a seat in the window with a cushion so I could sit and look out over the charming town. It became comical because one reason we asked for the change was there was no table or space to work in the original room. The big one didn’t have a table either but we had other furniture we could use. They insisted on bringing in a small table which we didn’t really need. They were so kind we just gracefully accepted it. It is better to ask for a room you prefer than keep quiet and be disgruntled. You can’t hold it against them if you didn’t give them a chance to fix it.
When a hotel accommodates me I not only thank them profusely, I write a good review on any number of sites and often will eat or drink at their facility. I pay it back so to speak. They want you to be happy. They want good reviews. So it is a win win. Don’t pout if they can’t get you a better room. Make light of it and get out and enjoy the area. Sometimes hotels are booked up and they only have what they have.
Tourist Town Good or Bad?
I’ve been told to avoid certain cities because they are tourist traps. One person even told me to cut my trip to Venice, Italy short because, “it is so touristy.” I get it. Many tourist towns seem to be a barrage of shops selling crappy souvenirs and mediocre food – if you don’t explore them. However, I have found that if I am getting off a long plane trip and am a bit jet lagged those towns can also have services that make it easy for me to relax. I am a tourist and don’t mind taking the easy way out sometimes. There are often easy to find Tourist Information Booths and people to help you find your way around.
When staying in Venice, our first stop on our first trip to Italy, we were thankful for menus in English that first day when we were wobbly with exhaustion. I didn’t have the energy to figure out where the small off the beaten path places were. We had two young teenagers who were also tired. I just wanted something charming and good. We found it. I asked the people at the hotel. Was is touristy? I don’t know. But I am a tourist so that is okay. Actually we ate at a place that gave us one of our favorite traveling stories. And Venice is so beautiful and there is so much to see I was glad we didn’t follow the bad advice to cut our stay short.
Airbnb versus Hotels
This is completely a matter of where you feel the most comfortable. I like hotels for short stays or at the beginning of a trip so if I am tired I can order room service and put my feet up. But If I am traveling around a lot I like to have an apartment with at least a refrigerator, a coffee maker and a toaster oven. Part of the fun for me in a city is to find the cheese shops and bakeries and bring things back to our place. Grocery stores in other countries are a tourist attraction for me. I don’t like eating every meal out. We prefer eating breakfast in and having coffee without having to run down the street. I find it more relaxing.
Airbnb and like places do a great job. Look closely at the photos. I usually won’t rent unless I’ve seen the bathroom. I read the reviews but many aren’t specific enough for me. I don’t care about the hosts communication skills (that seems to be in every review). We have used Airbnb a lot. I can only think of once where I didn’t love the place. By mixing it up on a long trip you get the living in the city feel and then can go to a hotel with nice sheets and maid service.
In Europe you often get more room using Airbnb than in a hotel for less money. On our last trip to Paris we landed a great place with a corner window that had a counter under it. We sat and looked at the Centre Pompidou and the streets of the Marais as we ate our brioche in the morning. We stayed in an apartment in Bath, England and it had a washer and dryer. Being able to wash my clothes felt so good. We also had remarkable views of the surrounding hills. After spending a few weeks on the road in hotels the space of a one bedroom apartment gave us a chance to spread out and get away from each other a little (a little space never hurt a couple)
A lot has been written on air travel but there is one trick I’ve been using for long flights that I love. We carry one-use moisture masks at our shop. They come in foil packs and are made of a non woven cloth you put on your face.
When we do a long trip I put this on my face during what would be sleep time or whenever I feel like I need it. I rub in the excess lotion when I’m done and my face feels great when I land. I put a little makeup on and I hit the town. It allows your fact to really absorb the moisture which we all need with the dry air of planes.
I also sometimes use Jane Eyesteas Put them in a little warm/hot water and put them on your eyes for about 15 minutes. You feel great, better than eye drops, and it helps the skin around your eyes.
I am lucky, Fancifull has allowed me travel while meeting producers and learning about food, wine and cultures from all over the world. It fuels my passion for great products and travel. Go explore wherever your fancy leads – near or far- and here’s hoping you enjoy every moment.
One Last Quick Tip
For a night light in a hotel room take a small flameless candle, votive size. It is small and lightweight and gives off enough light to make it to the bathroom without tripping over something.
Any tips for travel? Leave them in the comments below
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