1. Be Proactive.
As with all things the first key to traveling is to choose your own weather. Not only do we plan on things going wrong here and there, but we expect them and use those opportunities to try something new. How many vacations have gone downhill fast because a plane was delayed, a rainstorm blew in, or a bus missed. First off, always free your calendar for a day before and a day after your trip, this leaves room to deal with such things as delayed planes, jet lag and general getting acquainted. Plan on time to simply live in the moment, walk from one place to another, you never know what adventures you will find along the way. What may look like a set back or a detour may just be another adventure so keep your eyes out. Most of all, remember that you are on vacation, so relax.
2. Begin with the end in mind.
A great trip is 50% planned and 50% unexpected. So the first step is to ask “what is the goal of this trip?” Answer this question and you have already decided the large majority of your trip. If you are there to experience a new place then you will probably want to spend your time doing tours, eating the food, driving to places and general sightseeing. These vacations can cost a bit more than others so plan accordingly. If you goal is to relax, easy peesy, this is the time to find an all-inclusive beach resort (which you can easily find a great deal for) or cruise and you are done. If your goal is to get out in nature, then get out, pack a lunch, don’t book hotels in the middle of a city (if you don’t like to camp consider finding guesthouses or bed and breakfasts). We love architecture and history so there is rarely a time we will let a castle or cathedral go undiscovered, if we happen to see one, we go. Give your trip a mission, a flexible mission, and then choose activities that fit within it.
3. Put first things first.
Refer to your mission and then ask yourself, what activities are going to meet that mission. If your goal is to experience a new place or culture, would booking spa treatments and spending hours in a bar really meet that goal? At the same time, experiencing local cuisine and drinking local wine, beer, etc. could easily create the basis for a great vacation. Do your homework. What are the “must see” areas? Where are the best beaches to relax? What are the best restaurants serving local food? Here are some websites that help:
The best advice is going to come from the locals and local websites. Even if you don’t speak the same language you would be surprised how much people are willing to help when you are there to experience what they have and how much communication can be done with a map and a few pictures.
4. Follow your bliss!(Bet you were expecting another Covey habit, here is where they start to differ)
One reason we have never been a fan of booking complete tours with one agency is because they do not leave room for people to do what they love, shop for their unique collectibles, stop at a boutique winery, go on long hikes or visit tiny family owned restaurants where the owners have to run to the store to buy the food (our favorite meal while traveling took place in Milan and it took the owner and his wife four hours to feed us. We never saw a menu or had a choice of what we ate, they would simply go to the market, make the food and bring it out).
5. Make plans and then be prepared to forget them.
It is great to have a schedule but don’t forget that you are on vacation. Break your own rules if you must. Typically we say that when we arrive in a new time zone than we will force ourselves to stay awake until 8 at night in order to help with jetlag and schedules, but once we were so tired it was either sleep or be miserable trying to stay awake. In the end it is about what is going to make you happier.
6. Transportation is key.
How do you plan on getting around is a major factor in a vacation? Taking the subway, taxi, bus, rental car or walking can completely change the amount of money, time, stress and needs of a vacation. So what does your budget and mission say? Whatever method you choose, take time to walk. See where the natives live and eat, get off the tourist track. To really experience an area you must be in it.
7. Share it.
Our philosophy is always the more the merrier. But make sure these are people who have the same mission as you do. Remember that just because you know each other does not mean you have to spend every waking moment together. We love vacations with friends where we see the tours that we all want to do together, then we go do our own thing for a while and meet back up to share a great meal. That is Bliss!