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Getting the most from your vacation.

The market in Barcelona
The market in Barcelona
Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

There may be “no place like home” and you if you THINK that “home is where the heart is”, then why do you need to venture beyond our front door? I don’t know about you, but I have a NEED to explore. I love nothing more than hopping on a plane to drink sherry in Jerez de la Frontera, take a drive down to the Keys, or trudge through the snow as I learn to shush down a mountain in British Columbia do you do it all and get value AND the experience you want?

Do your homework
Trying to fit a month’s worth of exploring into a few days can be exhausting. By doing my homework ahead of time, I figure out JUST what I want to take away from the experience. Sometimes my gallivanting is food related (I drank Sherry from sun up to sun down in Jerez), and other times I’m the consummate tourist taking in the sites. By deciding in advance what you want to get out of your trip, you’ll waste less time doing what you really don’t care about, and more time really enjoying the area.

See the sites EASILY
You’ll often find me spending ONE of the days on either a hop on, hop off bus. I do this not only to actually see the sites, but it also gives me a sense of the layout of the city. It’s an inexpensive way to “do it all” in one day, leaving the remainder of my vacation for focusing in on what I REALLY want to do.

Take it in
I’ve had people ask me repeatedly why I don’t post millions of photos and videos of my travel. Honestly, I forget to take them much of the time. I’m more interested in actually EXPERIENCING my travels than documenting them. I’ve seen people who end up visiting a destination through the lens of a camera, never engaging in conversation with the locals, never tasting a local delicacy that they stumbled upon, and never getting a feel for the pace of the city. As a travel writer, it’s wrong, but as a traveler it’s PERFECT.

Enjoy like a local
You’ll almost never find me in a limo or a taxi when I travel. I’m often chatting it up on a bus or subway with a local, standing at the bar of a local tabac with a coffee, deep in conversation, or making small talk in line at the museum with those in front and behind me. I’ve learned the BEST places to visit that are NOT in the guidebooks, and made friends along the way by taking the non-tourist approach to travel. I’ve been invited to dinner, taken to see architecture that’s off the beaten path, and learned about ordering local specialties that are not on the tourist menu.

I’ve seen travelers work so hard at vacations that they come home exhausted, without having done what they truly love. While weather and circumstances can put a wrench in your plans, you may find that it is the unexpected experiences that are the memories you treasure the most.

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