By the time you read this, I will be on vacation. I read once that the glow from taking a vacation lasts only a few days, but the happiness from having planned a vacation lasts eight weeks! I can attest to that. There is something about knowing you have a reservation sometime in the future at an exciting place that makes you feel…secure, relaxed, and pleasantly anticipatory.
I am by nature an explorer. I have often admired those people who can go to the same place year after year and just relax. I have too many places I want to see in my lifetime. Whatever hormone spikes when you do new things (dopamine?), it’s my drug of choice.
But honestly, I have special challenges when planning a vacation. My husband hates fancy things (he often loses out on that one) and loves cold, dark lakes, while I am happiest in the turquoise sea of the Caribbean, preferably in a very fancy hotel. The ages of my kids—as many of you know—range from 4 to 28 (and yes, the 28-year-old still wants to go on vacation with us—I mean who wouldn’t, with the joy I take in planning?).
So here are my five tips for planning a vacation that everyone will enjoy:
Plan in advance—at least eight weeks ahead of time. That way you don’t cancel out the eight weeks of pleasure from having planned by ending up with a vacation that may not work out as planned (one word: airplanes).
Do your research, but make it fun. I happen to love travel magazines, and get lots of ideas from seeing an amazing photo of a place I just have to go to. Or from hearing about some magical place from a friend. My favorite magazines for travel ideas are Garden and Gun, Saveur, and Travel and Leisure.
Focus on something active. Now that the little one is growing up a bit, we can do more adventurous things together. On this vacation, which happens to fall on her birthday, we are going fishing! It’s something she seems to really want to do, so we are doing it. The older ladies love horseback riding—I always try to find a place that has trail riding nearby, which is a great way to get out and see things. My husband and I also love to kayak. There is nothing quite like really getting out in nature in a new place and smelling the soil, the plants, the air, and the water.
Book a few special things, but not too many. I do struggle with this one since I am naturally a planner and scheduler. This year we are going to Nashville to the Grand Ole Opry. Unfortunately, due to the flooding in Nashville a few months ago, the usual venue is still shut down. Fortunately for us, performances are going to be in the Ryman Theatre, its original home. We are all looking forward to that!
Take guidebooks and maps along. It’s amazing how much you learn, and how much richer a trip can be, when you can not only explore a place, but also explore stories about a place. I love guidebooks and maps because they often point out things that you may not have thought of or heard about before. For some reason, I find the Frommer’s Guides easiest to understand and use. And the iPad, with its mapping capabilities, actually turns out to be really useful for car trips (just don’t use it while driving). It’s the best use I’ve found for the iPad so far.
The goal of planning a vacation is to eliminate the stress of not knowing where and what things are going to happen, while leaving lots of room for not knowing where and what things are going to happen…
I’ll let you know how this vacation goes. In the meantime, take this quiz and tell me about your planning tips