Make the Most of Your Time
I’m not one to base my next trip off of flight deals or trendy destinations. I research where I want to go months in advance and make detailed notes to compile an itinerary that encompasses my interests and tries to maximize my time. I operate from the perspective that there are so many wonderful and awesome places to see in the world that this my very well be the only time I’ll ever set foot in this location.
For international travel, I’ve used Rick Steves’ travel guides and absolutely love them. For domestic destinations, I use websites, word of mouth and even Pinterest to help build an itinerary. I find restaurants in advance, figure out how and where to buy train tickets, know the hours/location and have tickets in hand for attractions and museums as well as figure out what special events will be happening in the cities we’re visiting prior to arrival. That said, itineraries are flexible. If we pass by what looks like a great restaurant during the day, we may skip what’s on the itinerary and come back for dinner. For me, the itinerary planning part is almost as fun as taking the actual trip.
When in Rome
I don’t travel so that I can do the same things I would have done if I had stayed home. We follow the “when in Rome” philosophy when on an adventure. If it’s customary to wear a dirndl dress and lederhosen to Oktoberfest, then that’s what we wear. We try all the local foods and drinks, even if it’s not something we’d eat at home. We live in an area not known for it’s seafood, but when in Santorini where lobster spaghetti is a local favorite, you order it and discover it’s really good.
This same mind set holds true when it comes to tourist attractions. You don’t visit Paris and not climb the Eiffel Tower. Yes, it’s touristy and yes you may have to wait in line or get in queue months in advance for tickets, but the things that made the destination popular shouldn’t be shied away from. The first time I laid eyes on the Colosseum in person, I was floored. I agree that it’s also important to get off the beaten path a time or two, but I wouldn’t do it at the expense of missing the major sights.
Before any tickets or reservations are made, I look into costs of flights, hotels and attractions and map out an anticipated total trip cost. Working from that estimated cost, my husband and I outline how we’ll save for the trip and in what timeline it can be accomplished. Though we don’t meet this goal each tip, it’s a great feeling to board a plane having already paid for the majority of our trip’s expenses. That said, it’s important to budget for what I call soft costs. Soft costs are things like subway/tram or local rail tickets, meals and snacks, entrance fees and souvenirs (or treasures as they are referred to at our house). Our budget needs to include a little extra for meals, as we like to order a bottle of wine and have dessert on vacation. This is not something we typically do when eating out at home. Whatever your travel style, make sure you account for it in your budget planning.