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How to Enjoy a Great Vacation

Ah, the anticipation of a great vacation! Visions of pearly beaches or quaint shops dance in our dreams. We can’t wait to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa or sample bratwurst in Frankfurt. Traveling is a chance to touch history or experience anything that takes us out of our typical daily routine. Of course we want to do it all! But nothing spoils a vacation faster than stress and unfulfilled expectations. Here’s how to simplify your vacation plans for a terrific getaway.

Establish your goal for the trip
What is your number one goal for your vacation? Is it to visit with relatives? Get some needed rest? See specific tourist attractions? Do some family history research? Study a foreign culture? Even if you have more than one goal for your trip, prioritize your list so when there is a decision to be made, you’ll easily opt for the one that accomplishes your number one vacation goal and you’ll return home feeling satisfied.

Avoid cramming too many activities into the itinerary
If you’re spending a lot of money on airfare to a foreign destination, you’ll understandably want to see as much as possible. But it takes time to enjoy any one activity. Inexperienced travelers don’t realize that there can be long lines to contend with, transportation snafus, language barriers and other factors that contribute to delays. A tightly scheduled itinerary looks great on paper but in reality, it forces you to rush, rush, rush from one event or location to the next. Not only does the constant clock-watching keep you from fully immersing yourself in the present experience, but any little delay will affect your list of activities like falling dominoes.

Plan a reasonable amount of activities and then subtract one from your list. This will allow for inevitable delays that happen along the way.

Go with the flow
Part of the fun of travel is discovery, exploration and—surprise! Some of the best experiences aren’t planned at all. Instead of getting angry over plans that go awry, shrug your shoulders and let the Universe/God take you down an impromptu path. Learn what it means to “step off the beaten path.” You can always “travel” to touristy destinations via travel DVDs so choose the best real life moments to experience. Do you really need to take the tour of the Alamo in Texas or would you rather walk through Austin (“Keep Austin Weird”) to see some quirky folk art and sample salsas? Stay at a Sandals resort or zip-line in Brazil? Snorkel in the reefs of Hawaii or go to Sea Life Village which is just another ocean attraction like Sea World?

We are avid underplanners when it comes to vacations. One of our best vacations was a spur of the moment decision to drive to San Francisco. One day my husband got wanderlust as we sat in LA traffic and we literally drove through the city and kept going. No reservations. And hardly any money in our pockets. Nine hours later, we found ourselves in San Francisco, strolling down Pier 39 and eating clam chowder. We didn’t know what we were going to do or where we were going to stay and that was part of the fun. Anything was possible! We would choose to do whatever felt right at that moment. We ended up having dim sum in Chinatown, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, driving up Mount Tamalpais and exploring the nooks and crannies of the San Francisco that don’t show up in travel guides. And then, we drove back home, stopping at mom-and-pop eateries, local artisan shops and endless beaches to dip our toes into the blue Pacific.

Whatever your do, remember to enjoy!
Defining a perfect vacation as an escape from your daily routine will assure you have that perfect getaway. Don’t pack your bags with unrealistic expectations. Just enjoy the break from your stressful schedule. When I go on vacation, I make it a point to remind everyone that “nothing is set in stone” and we don’t *have* to do anything. We choose activities we want to do but if they don’t happen, there’s always something else to experience. You can’t do it all in one trip. And that gives you a good reason to look forward to your next vacation.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Lori Phillips. All rights reserved.
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