January 30 , 2023
‘Stop and smell the roses’ – a commendable but sometimes naïve expression of gratitude in the face of our hectic everyday lives. Funnily enough, even on vacation it can be hard to slow down and take pleasure in life’s simple moments. In our desire to fulfill bucket lists and impress with the best photos, our itineraries can get the best of us.
Unlike the characters in “The White Lotus”, many of us aren’t booking a week-long stay to unwind at an enviable resort hotel. A lot of us traveling overseas want to visit multiple cities and even multiple countries in one trip. There is a temptation to see more and do more! When planning a dream getaway, especially to a once-in-a-lifetime kind of destination, the most common mistake is trying to pack in as much as possible.
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The most common feedback we receive from clients is that they wish they had more free time. Even when you talk with your travel advisor about trip pacing and preferences, it’s easy to underestimate the importance of plain old leisure time during your vacation. You might be the kind of person who likes to stay active, but that doesn’t mean everything needs to be scheduled in advance. Leave some free days and let yourself discover what speaks to you once you arrive in your destination.
FOMO is real – but make a priority to only schedule those activities that really align with your interests (maybe it’s art museum visits or food experiences), or that it’s imperative to pre-book (like a ticket to see Michelangelo’s ‘Last Supper’).
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As we see time and again from traveler feedback, you’re unlikely to regret having fewer or shorter pre-booked activities. Leave yourself some unplanned time to explore a destination at your own pace and see what unfolds and who you meet.
Here are a few ways to slow down and connect in spite of all the travel buzz:
Free yourself from expectations and obligations.
It’s nice to get suggestions from friends, relatives and guidebooks, but keep in mind that one person’s ‘must-see’ will be another person’s ‘rather skip’. Also, a sightseeing experience has a lot to do with outside factors, such as your guide, how tired you are that day, your interest in ancient history, and the weather.
Just because your friend raved about their boat trip through the Calanques de Cassis, you might find that inclement weather prohibits a boat ride on the day you visit. Or you may prefer to do a hike or kayaking if time permits. So stay flexible!
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Set aside one day (or more) with no plans.
If you can, spend at least one day – preferably in each new itinerary point – with no plans. When you give yourself the time to go off script, you can get a taste of local daily life. Don’t think of it as doing nothing as much as allowing anything to happen. Maybe you spotted a local neighborhood hang out you’d like to go back to. Or you need time to do some shopping or re-charge in the middle of your trip. More than the sightseeing, being able to connect to the rhythm of a totally different place is the magic of travel.
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Put down your phone.
Vacation is a great opportunity to get away from your devices. If you remember traveling before Google Maps, then you might be nostalgic about the pleasure of getting lost and discovering something unexpected. You’ll probably still want to take photos, but on the other hand, we have heard it said that if you really want to remember a moment, don’t take a picture. If your reason for traveling is to be more engaged with your travel buddies, and also the wider world, then the best way to connect is to disconnect from the tech world. On days where you have sightseeing or tours scheduled, you might want to prioritize taking photos, but on free days you could try switching off for a while.
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Be strategic about accommodations and transfers.
Choosing centrally-located hotels and the most efficient means of transport will allow you to get around more quickly so you’ll have more time leftover for relaxing. Do your research about what sights you most want to see so you’ll know which area to look for hotels or other accommodation. For example, if you’re visiting London and you’re all about the theatre, then the West End is the place to be, or if you’re a first-time visitor then Westminster would be a good fit. You should also be conscious of the best transit method from place to place. In Italy, for example, the train connections are quite convenient between main cities, but in Türkiye you’ll often take flights or private transfers to get around. If you’re working with a travel advisor, make sure you tell them about your must-sees in specific cities so they can make sure your hotel and included tours will be convenient.
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Every traveler is different, and some might get a big adventure rush from seeing as much as possible. But where you can, remember to give yourself some down time during your vacation so you can experience those unplanned and unexpected priceless moments.