When people share with me about their upcoming trip, I often hear the same things.  I also tend to respond to those things with little tidbits of advice. I try not to be obnoxious, but I am genuinely excited for people to go somewhere that I just want them to enjoy every second of it.  Over time, I’ve realized I hear the same four things over and over from people right before their trip.  Here are those four things and my little tidbit of advice.

1. “I would love to go see that, but we probably won’t have time because our itinerary is already so full” 

When people tell me where they’re going, and I’ve been there, I usually offer up one or two of my favorite spots that are off-the-beaten-path.  I know people can’t see everything, everywhere they go, but I almost always get that response.

Now, I’m not saying people need to go see whatever I suggest, but when they start talking about how jam-packed their itinerary is, I know their trip is going to be more of a pain than a vacation.  If you are more concerned with checking everything off a list and jamming everything in, where’s the real sense of exploration and adventure?

My advice to a jam-packed schedule is this: make sure to schedule some rest time. Make sure to always have a day or half a day or a few hours of nothing scheduled.  If every second is counted for, you will need a vacation from your vacation.  Some of my favorite vacation moments have been this unscheduled time.  Where we can go sit in a coffee shop and people watch, or wake up early, take a walk and see what we run into.  These are the times you actually experience the real every day life of another culture.  Schedule some non-scheduled time.  You won’t regret it.

2. “We’re going with a group of people, so I’m not sure we’ll get to spend a lot of time just the two of us.”

I hear this a lot from couples who go on vacation with their family or even another couple.  It’s hard to navigate the needs and wants of a group of people on vacation, as well as your own.   Not only that, but everyone travels differently.  Some people like to wake up at 6am and don’t stop moving until 10pm.  Some people like to sleep in.  So, what do you do?

My advice to going on vacation with others is this: be upfront with the group about your intentions of wanting some quality alone time.  No one wants to be that person, but if you’re upfront about it, people should respect it.  If you wait until you’re frustrated and shout “I JUST WANT TO BE ALONE”, that would be inappropriate.  But if you can be honest upfront and say, “Hey, it’s important to me to have a little independence on my vacation.  So I’ve planned to do 3 things just me and my spouse,” then people can also schedule some of their own quality alone time.

As a word of warning: if you aren’t upfront, and you decide to do something on your own, you run the risk of someone saying, “Hey, I’ll come with you, too” or being offended that you want to be alone.  Just be honest, and hopefully it won’t be an issue.

3. “We haven’t really thought much about food.  We’ll just figure it out when we get there.”

Whenever I hear someone say “We’ll just figure it out when we get there,” I cringe.  Not because I’m OSD or have to have everything pre-determined.  It’s because I can remember every time I’ve done this with food and it going poorly.  When your flight gets in at 4pm, and you arrive at your place by 6pm, and you haven’t given one thought to what you’ll eat, you’re going to be frustrated.

My advice to “we’ll just figure it out” is this: put thought and planning into the first couple meals of the trip.  That way you can have a plan while you get the lay of the land, and then wing it on meals going forward if you so desire.  Don’t wing it right away.  It’s always a frustrating experience.

4. “Well, we have to see that.  It’s just what you do when you’re in ____________________.”

There are some destinations where I can get on board with this.  You sort of have to see the Eiffel Tower in Paris.  And by you have to, it’s hard to miss it even if you’re just walking around.   But let me tell you something, if you don’t love art, you’re not going to love an art museum just because everyone tells you that you have to go.

My advice to feeling like you have to do something that you might not even enjoy is this: you don’t have to.  You really just don’t.  You can go see the stuff you want to see, instead of spending your money and precious vacation time at a museum that you hate.  I have gone to a lot of “you have to go here” and honestly, I wished I’d spent that time wandering the city or hiring a local guide to take me to some of the city’s best restaurants.

Don’t let the “you have to”s get in the way of your vacation.  Go and see what you want!  This is YOUR vacation.  I have taken my own advice and not seen every “you have to” place.  And guess what?  I don’t regret it.  I never look back and say, “Crap, I wish I spent 2 hours in line at some overcrowded place to look at something I don’t even really care about.”

I am well aware that if you have a case of FOMO (fear of missing out), you’re going to go see it anyways, even if you aren’t interested in it.  Then, I’ll be over here saying ITYO (I told you so).

Nina Thomas

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