Episode 164: How I Plan A Vacation
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Decluttered Masterclass Coming Soon!
I wanted to quickly let you know that the doors for my new Decluttered online masterclass will be open this weekend. If you head to the show notes, you can click and learn a little bit more about Decluttered. It’s a six-week intentional living masterclass that has an optional shopping pause, consumer pause, like the one that my family and I did, that I talk about in my book More Than Enough.
Some people choose not to because of different things happening in their lives during the six-week masterclass. But I think it is a great informative experiment part of the process. And then throughout the six weeks, we talk about decluttering your home, organizing, getting rid of things that may feel a little sentimental or how to detach those emotions from your belongings. But we go in deeper than just physical items. We talk about decluttering your mindset. We talk about decluttering your schedule and how to decide what things will bring you energy and be fulfilling in your lifestyle and what things you’re doing that you may not realize are draining or that you don’t even actually really like.
This is a revamped version of the Live Free From Clutter workshop that I have taught five times over the last couple years with huge success, just incredible testimonials from some of the past participants.
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Decluttered has both synchronous and asynchronous information. So there are prerecorded lessons each week that you can listen to on your own time. And then we do a live webinar where I teach a topic more in depth. You can choose to join that live. And if it doesn’t work for you, it’s totally recorded and is posted to the course page after. So, if you decide to just use this course as a self-study option, once you are registered, it’s available to you forever. So, you can listen to it along the six-weeks with us, you can come back and listen later, you can hop into some of the lives, or you can disregard them completely, and just listen to the recordings.
I tried to make it as accessible for all different schedules and lifestyles as possible. This course is really for you if you desire more time, money, and energy in your daily life. If you embrace a challenge and are motivated by progress, if you want to declutter your house, schedule, and mindset, as we kick off 2022. If you desire a deeper sense of fulfillment in your life, and really would love to have a little bit of an added dose of purpose and understanding to why you’re doing the things you do. This intentional living masterclass is for you.
If you want to be the first to know when the doors open for registration this weekend, you can put your email into the notification list, the interest group list, just head to livefreecreative.co.
Now as a fun, optional bonus, I realized that one of the ways that I could really help hold people’s hand for those who need that are to do an added accountability group. So, we do the six weeks together. And for those of you who really could use a check-in each week, as you do the physical decluttering on your house, you can join this bonus group. We will check in with each other each week. I will give you a specific area to focus on some specific tips to get that one area worked out and you can bring your questions.
If you run into an obstacle, bring that to the weekly check-in we will reset your house in the 12 weeks. I will help you all along the way. This is for those of you who are better at doing things for other people, then you are doing them on your own.
I’m like this at the gym. For example, if I go to the gym just to like exercise or lift weights on my own, without an accountability partner, I tend to just slack off. Where if I go with someone and I’m checking in with someone, a coach. Right now, I’ve tried CrossFit and it’s so fun because there’s a schedule. They tell me what to do. I pick up the weights and I do it. I don’t have to think too much.
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So again, Decluttered coming up doors open this weekend, we begin on January 10th, so you can sign up now. We won’t begin lessons until after the new year, so you can get through the end of the year, celebrate the new year, get your kids back off to school and then rein it back in and give yourself a chance to focus on you on getting some of these things done on resetting your mindset, your schedule, and your house for 2022.
I can’t wait. I hope you’ll join me!
How I Plan A Vacation
So, let’s dive in now to how I plan a vacation. This is a super fun topic. I get questions about it all the time. Especially when I shared that our family’s traveling again this year for Christmas, I feel like we’re coming to sort of a weird funnily end of the pandemic. I know it’s not like legitimately over and probably isn’t ever going to be technically like there will be COVID-19 out there in the world circulating like a cold virus.
I think we’re getting a little bit better. I think we’re…deep breath…we’re to the point, even with the new variants that things are looking like. It’s going to be safer. People are going to be feeling comfortable. We can be out exploring again. And I can’t tell you how excited that makes me. So how I plan a vacation.
What You Wanted To Know:
You know, it’s interesting when I mentioned on Instagram that I was going to do a show about this, and I asked for questions, two thirds of the question had one of these words in it:
The word “right”
The word “best”
The word “ideal”
The word “perfect”
Now these were in reference to the right place to stay the ideal time of year, the best activities I must just begin this episode by letting you know that I do not believe in the right, the best, the ideal or the perfect when it comes to planning vacations, or honestly, anything else in life.
I think we set ourselves up for a lot of disappointment when we cling to the idea that there is one choice that’s better than all the rest. That there’s one right answer, that there is an ideal situation we can maybe think of like, yeah, there could be an ideal situation, but I think it’s better to think in terms of what do I hope for, what is my goal?
What is my purpose for this vacation? I think that that lens of, and this is like what I talked about last week with choosing an intention for the season. I think having a, not necessarily a word for each vacation, but knowing what the purpose of the vacation is will help you shape it. Right?
So, if you have kids and you’ve taken them on vacation, you know, that vacations with kids are very different than vacations without kids. The purpose of a vacation with could very rarely be relaxation and have that purpose feel successful. I don’t know about you. I very rarely have traveled with my kids and felt totally relaxed, right? Where I have traveled without my kids and had a relaxing time. So, I think that trying to align our purpose, our understanding what we’re looking for and recognizing also at the beginning of this, that our choices are so individual there isn’t a right way to do this.
There isn’t a RIGHT way to travel
There isn’t a right itinerary. There isn’t a correct place to stay. A lot of planning, a vacation is like a lot of life, which is there’s a lot of options and any number of them could be wonderful. Any number of them could help you have the type of vacation that you want. So, let’s unstick ourselves from the idea that there is a right way or a best way to do this and acknowledge that we get to choose the experience that we have, and it can be based on a lot of different factors.
So, I’m going to walk you through where I begin. I think that for me, it’s helpful to have sort of a step-by-step process in decision-making not, which are the best decisions, but I like to order them in a specific way that works for me. So, I’m going to share that with you and kind of talk you through this process.
First Decide WHO and WHERE
I know that it can feel overwhelming. So let me help you break it down. I’d like to start planning vacations from the question of where we’re going or who is involved. Sometimes those flip flop. And I will say occasionally, there’s a third that comes in that’s timeframe. Like we recognize there’s a school holiday coming up. And so, we say, okay, we want to go somewhere during that timeframe. Most often I’m planning the where and the who before the, when.
So, I’m going to start by telling you that the things that will influence the location for me will often be the distance that we want to. The weather involved in the location and, uh, also the age groups of who’s coming.
So, if it’s a family vacation, I tend to choose what feels like more family friendly destinations. Those would be cities that have a lot of accessibility that I could push a stroller if I needed to. I think beaches are natural kid friendly environment. So anywhere that we’re going to a beach, I think that cities that are known to be safer and friendly to tourists, generally, I think if you have no idea about this, that a quick Google search, and I’m going to mention Google a lot in this episode can help you come up with some ideas of more family-friendly locations.
Weather, Distance, and Age Group of people that will help determine where we’re going. So, if it’s winter and we want to go somewhere warm, we’ll look in a warm weather location. If we want to go somewhere warm that’s nearby, then we’ll look to, you know, the Carolinas if we want to do a longer drive. Virginia Beach, if we wanna do a shorter drive, Florida. If we want to do a short flight, or somewhere in Mexico or central America, if we want to do a longer flight. Hawaii would be a long flight from where we are. We’d have to really, really want to go to Hawaii to get ourselves there from the east coast.
So, I start to think about the weather and the distance, and of course, budget will come in there as well. Here again, we are going to go back to this reminder. There is no right place to go for your kids, especially if you’re planning a family vacation, a beach in Virginia is going to feel really like them as a beach in Hawaii. And there may be some of you who argue with me on this point, but I will say that if you’re sitting on a beach chair with a cold lemonade in your hand, and your kids are playing in the waves, you could be a lot of different places and be having the same experience, the same actual like present experience.
Consider that you can have similar experiences at lots of different distance levels and lots of different places. There isn’t going to be a right, perfect, ideal choice.
On occasion, the who comes before the where. This would be something like we want to go on a family vacation. So, we know it’s our family involved that will help us determine where we want to look. Or I’ve had several occasions where I am planning a girl’s trip. I know who wants to come, whether it’s my sisters and my mom, we do that every couple of years or whether it’s some of my own personal friends that we get together on Marco Polo or for local friends, we’d chat at the school drop-off zone and say, Hey, we’d love to go somewhere this weekend, or maybe we should plan a girl’s trip for the spring.
And we start to develop the who and the budget. And we choose together the where again. The where usually is dependent on weather, distance, and budget. Of course, weather and distance tend to make an impact on the budget. Traveling during the holidays tends to be more expensive than traveling, you know, in October. Going somewhere warm in the summertime in that location is usually more expensive than going, for example, to the beach in the winter, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere.
I can go to North Carolina, Outer Banks in November and have it cost a lot less than going during the summer. The experience will be a little bit different though because I might not want to spend as much time playing in the waves during the winter as I would in the summer. As a side note, I think it’s fun to plan vacations around special activities, festivals, or times of year in a particular location.
Is There Something Special To Attend?
I know that millions of people come to Northern Virginia in March, April, may, every year, depending on when the cherry blossoms blossom. The Tidal Basin is full of people. And it’s incredible. People travel from all over the world to see this specific blossoming. In the fall, I planned one of my retreats in October in New England, in Vermont, specifically because that season in that location is other-worldly.
When we lived in Austin, Texas, there were thousands of people who plan their vacation around coming to South by Southwest or the Austin City Limits Music Festival.
If you have a particular interest or something that your family loves, that seems like it’d be fun to see. I think starting at that place that we know we want to go to that festival. We know we want to be in this location because of that season. Those can be fun guiding principles as well, that you’re deciding based on something that’s already occurring, whether you’re there or not, and you choose to go experience that.
We did this a couple years ago when we decided we wanted to spend some of the Christmas season in New York city, because it is magical. There are special activities that only happen in New York at Christmastime. It is the same with the New Year. Going to Times Square to watch the ball drop is something that people travel from all over to experience. Standing in the freezing cold amid thousands of strangers at midnight, no longer sounds interesting to me. It did once upon a time. I was in New York city for the ball dropping in 2020, and it was a wild experience. I wouldn’t choose to do that now.
So also thinking about the seasons of your life and things that sound fun now versus maybe don’t sound as fun. Now this is your vacation. You get to make the choices once I’ve established location and or participants.
Establish A Budget
The next thing that I move on to is budget. Again, this could maybe flip flop. Maybe your driving factor is budget. So, you may want to consider that before choosing location or choosing who’s involved. I think that having a very clear and realistic budget is one of the most important factors in determining whether you really relax and enjoy your vacation.
The last thing that anyone enjoys is being stressed out about money the whole time that they’re traveling. It’s just not fun. Having a clear budget is more important than what the budget is. Having a realistic budget is also important. And someone asked me on Instagram, how do you know what to budget for travel?
I think that there are two ways to determine your budget. One is what money do we have available? To travel and then fitting your vacation to fit within that budget. In that sense, you are using your own family’s budget already in determining what is available for that type of family experience. Or to set that aside.
It might be kind of arbitrary that you look at your numbers, your personal finances, and you say, we can afford to spend a hundred dollars a month on travel. So, whether that’s a weekend trip once a month, or like a camping trip once a month, or whether that’s saving up for six months and going on a $600 trip, or maybe it’s saving up for a year and going on a $1,200 trip, these are all just, I’m just making up numbers here. Right? But I think you can travel at any budget so you can fit, travel into even a small budget.
The other way to go about it is backwards to decide on a trip you want to take and price it out. In this case, you’re going to have to use some research tools and a little bit of flexibility. I would say for me, it’s better to budget on the higher end. So, then I’m pleasantly surprised when things cost a little bit less than I expect, but you can easily search for plane tickets and get kind of an average of what they might be. You can search for hotels, the timeframe that you are thinking you might want to travel and get kind of an average of what that might cost.
You can do a little bit of research ahead of time. What are the museums or the activities you might want to do? What are some of the restaurants you might want to go to? What are some of those prices and add all those things up, and then you can look at it and say, Hey, maybe it’s going to cost $4,000 for us to take our family to Disneyland for the week. So, we’re going to plan that trip when that money’s available and we’re gonna, you know, save up for it. Or maybe you have that already somewhere. And you say, we’re going to allocate this money. This is now our budget for that trip. What having a budget for the vacation does for you is make it easier to spend that money or make it a little easier to not spend more than that amount.
Are you a spender or a saver?
I think most of us fall into one of two camps where we’re more readily spenders or more readily savers.
The savers have a hard time vacationing because they want to save all that money. And the spenders may have a harder time vacationing because they find that vacations get expensive quick. When you have a budget, it’s kind of like this container where you can, if you’re a saver, you can rest easy knowing that that money has been set aside and it’s been planned on ahead of time, that money is to spend on the vacation. It is to spend on going out to eat. It is to spend, if you decide to get souvenirs that is for travel, and it can kind of lighten your load and you. Your need to save it all you can feel like, okay, we’ve set this aside and we think that this is valuable and important for a family to do this.
And if you’re a spender, you can try to reign yourself in with the budget and know that there is money set aside for each of these things that you’ve planned of time. And when an opportunity arises, you can decide to say no, because you’ve already chosen to stick with your budget.
I know a lot of people were interested in budget travel tips, or how to travel a little bit more affordably. And I want to refer you to Episode 32. I did a whole episode with about six tips on budget-friendly family travel, and I give lots of great ideas in that show. I’m not going to go over it again in this episode. I will just leave it at, I think a budget establishing a budget is an important part of. It helps make so many things easier and clearer as you plan.
Figure Our WHEN
At this point, we’ve got our, where our, who, and our, how much well established. So, we’re going to move on to our when. Again, you may have had to choose your when at the beginning and then gone through those others. But at this point, most of the things are kind of getting settled. I’m going to mention our own personal family sort of guidelines for timeframe.
This doesn’t have to do so much with the season of the year we’re traveling in. We did learn when our kids were young, that it was much more fun for us to spend the same budget on a shorter trip with kids and make it easier, like pay for some of the extra conveniences then to try to stretch out and make a long trip work with our kids.
My recommendation for timeframe is: you can do two to three days with kids that are under five and have it feel fun. Two to three, maybe four days feels fun with kids that young it’s exhausting to travel with kids who are young they’re out of their routine. Oftentimes, naps are disrupted, food is different. Some kids are crankier when they’re not at home and giving yourself the leeway of saying, we’re not taking them for, you know, 10 days of travel. We’re going to keep it a little bit shorter and a little bit easier while they’re younger. Feels better to me. Of course. That’s not to say you can’t have an incredible long vacation with toddlers.
This advice is mostly for people who feel like it’s not worth it to take a vacation unless it’s a certain like a week-long or 10 days. I think even two days is totally. Even three days is totally worth it. You may determine to stay somewhere a little bit closer. Like maybe you’re not going to spend eight hours on a flight for a two-day vacation. Don’t feel bad traveling for short amounts of time with your young kids. It’s still great.
If we leave our kids at home, I think five to seven days feels fun. Once the kids are older, five to seven days is also about what we choose.
And then if we’re going abroad, if we’re going transatlantic or transpacific, I guess we like to stay for seven to 10 days or even longer, if possible, but seven to 10 days abroad feels because you’re losing essentially two days to travel. That amount of time feels fun to us.
WHERE to stay
Okay. We now have our location. Who’s coming the budget, the timeframe next we’re going to get into some of the nitty gritty, which involves where to stay, what to do and where to eat. Some of the questions I like to ask myself when determining where to stay within the location like city that we’ve chosen is what is the tone of this vacation?
This is when we get into some of that purpose, some of that intention, is it a luxury relaxing, peaceful vacation? Is it at adventure themed sort of fun experiential vacation? What is our budget look like? Are we trying to live like locals? Are we trying to camp that will determine some of the choices that we make on where to stay?
One of the big decisions that our family is usually making is between staying in a hotel or an Airbnb. If you’ve listened to this show or followed me online, you know, that we love using Airbnb. And if you’ve never been an Airbnb customer, you can get $40 off your first stay using the link in the show notes. ** Shoot! They no longer offer this referral discount! So sorry!
So, the reason that I love Airbnb is that they’re usually a bigger bang for our buck, especially traveling as a family. They are, they tend to be a little bit bigger than hotel rooms. So, you can search for a whole house or like a two-bedroom condo rather than a hotel room itself. I think that the locations of Airbnb’s tend to be fun.
Hotels are most likely concentrated to inner city locations or outskirts of town. You can find Airbnb’s dotted throughout all different areas. In my experience, there is a little better bang for your buck in and Airbnb as well. You can see in a nicer Airbnb for a similar price to a very budget hotel. Those are some of the reasons that we choose to stay in Airbnb’s often when we travel.
On our recent trip to Costa Rica, Dave and I stayed in two different Airbnb’s, one in La Fortuna, one in Nosara.
And then we stayed in a hotel for the last three days of our trip because of some of the pros of hotels that I’m going to mention, namely, they are bigger operations. So, they tend to have some nice features like wifi that you can count on. And Dave was working remotely the last few days of our trip. So, we knew we needed clear wifi.
Sometimes we also think that it’s nice to do a nice, super relaxing splurge at the end of a vacation where we know that we’ve been doing some experiences. Costa Rica is a good example. We spent the first five days doing a lot of adventure activities and the last two, three days. Stayed in a nice hotel where we knew that the agenda was to lay by the pool and watch the surfers down below. There was not a lot of adventuring happening. So it made it worthwhile to stay in a nice hotel where we were using the amenities of the hotel.
Another note for Airbnb is, and the affordability, or even like a more budget hotel, if your trip itinerary doesn’t include going and doing a lot of stuff, you probably want where you stay to be a little bit nicer, but if you’re not going to spend a whole lot of time in the hotel or the Airbnb, then that can influence the way that you choose that the pros for staying in a hotel is that they do have some of those inner city locations or maybe right on the beach locations.
I know there’s a lot of beach front hotels that have like walk out to the sand beaches in areas where there aren’t as a lot of private properties along the beaches. So that can be fun if you’re looking for a very specific location, there’s a lot of security in a hotel. There is going to be obviously someone at the front desk, there’s going to be security guards. Most likely there’s going to be locked doors. There’s going to be timeframes. If that’s something that you’re worried about staying somewhere, kind of out in a neighborhood, then that’s a big pro of a hotel. And sometimes I like that a hotel is going to be serviced every single day.
So normally if you’re staying in an Airbnb there, isn’t like a cleaning person that comes in and does service during the day like there is in a hotel. So, your beds in an Airbnb, you’ll have to make them yourself where in a hotel, depending on the hotel. Most of them, I think, especially now that COVID is kind of closing a little bit, are doing their daily cleaning in the hotel. If you want to come back to your room and have your beds made and have fresh linens and all of that, then hotel is good.
Exactly what hotel it is, is going to be determined again, by your budget, by your timeframe, by who’s coming and what their preferences are. Someone asked on Instagram about a good budget kid-friendly hotel.
The first one that came to mind for me is La Quinta, which I don’t think that they exist on the east coast, but when we lived in Texas and we did lots of road trips to Utah and through all, you know, Western Texas, we like to stay in La Quinta. As we thought they were pretty good family-friendly value. We also have stayed in a lot of Marriotts at all different levels. They have courtyards and they have nicer ones. And I think that we have some sort of an affiliation, maybe Dave’s job or something as some affiliation with Marriott. So occasionally we get discounts and things. So, we choose to see in Marriott sometimes and I really trust that brand as well.
Here on the east coast, if you live in a city that has a Graduate Hotel, This is one of my new favorite hotel chains. They’re popping up in cities that have a big university and they’re so cool. They’re really, well designed. The one here in Richmond has a rooftop pool, and I feel like the nightly rates are comparable to a more budget friendly hotel, and the experience at a Graduate Hotel is much nicer. I think they’re cool. So, if you live somewhere, there is a Graduate, or you want to plan a trip to stay in a Graduate hotel. We did this on our last road trip back West. We determined our route based on where there was a Graduate hotel at the first stop.
Once we got a little further west, there weren’t any, because I think it’s mostly kind of an Eastern South chain, at least right now, knowing that our first night was going to be in a nice Graduate hotel, made us excited to get there. And then I think we stayed maybe in a courtyard Marriott or something further along the drive. That was last Christmas. It was a very, very long drive to Salt Lake.
For our upcoming trips to Paris, I did another split. So, the first two nights we’re staying in a cool boutique hotel. I can’t pronounce the name for you, but I’ll put it in the show notes, Les Deux Gares. I’m going to just say that. I don’t know exactly.
It’s a cool boutique hotel and we had to choose two rooms because all five of us don’t fit in one room. So again, here, we’re getting into budget that our family of five exceeds the space limits on one hotel room. So, we needed to book two. I really, really wanted to stay there though. It looks like an experience in and of itself and Dave’s parents are coming to join us in the city on our third day in town. And so, we decided that we would stay there the first two nights, and then we’re moving into an Airbnb that I found right near the Eiffel tower. It’s going to be fabulous. I will make sure that the link is in my recap of our trip.
The Airbnb accommodates all seven of us, four adults and three kids. It’s in a great location and it was much more affordable to rent this Airbnb than to rent three hotel rooms, which is what we would have needed as all seven of us.
I also really liked that the Airbnb. Three bedrooms. It has a couple bathrooms. It has a full kitchen; it has a patio. So, we’ll be able to do some of our breakfast, a little slower. If we choose to walk around the corner to the market and bring home accoutrements for lunch and maybe even snacks and things, we won’t have to always be eating those out and about. We can come back when we’re kicking off our shoes for a midday rest and enjoy some of that a little bit more budget friendly, right in the Airbnb itself.
One of the questions that I got on Instagram this week was how do you find the right place to stay again? We’re going to ding, ding, ding, the right word, because you might not find the right place. Like what does that even mean? There isn’t a right place to stay. I love to use Google to find blog posts written by fellow bloggers about their experiences in different areas. So, I found via the Instagram blogger Jordan Ferney. She was recently on a trip to Paris. I happened to follow her anyway, and I took a screenshot when she mentioned where she was staying, because I was like, this is such a cool, beautiful hotel that I’m seeing.
I looked it up and booked it for our own trip. Normally just Google searching. Great family-friendly hotels in Paris or swanky boutique hotels in Paris, or best location hotels in Paris. All of these will bring up articles, some written by people who’ve traveled there that you can follow along like fellow bloggers or travel writers.
Some of them of course will be like bigger magazines. I always like to pay attention to the date of the post because Google will find articles that were written. Years and years and years ago. So, I like to make sure that my search results, that I am not only looking at what the article is about, but also how recently it was written, because I’m going to want the most recent information that I can find.
Is it possible that you come back from a vacation to Paris and you the next week, see a post or an article, or have a friend tell you about this amazing hotel that is so affordable and it’s beautiful and it, they give you chocolate covered strawberries every day and it’s free? And you’re going to be so sad that you didn’t stay there.
Yes, of course, we can always find something that seems better, especially after the fact, as you’re planning your vacation, allow yourself to make choices based on what feels easy and fun and fits within those constraints that you already know. You don’t have to feel like you’re looking for a needle in a haystack.
What easily comes up as something that seems great. Seems good enough for your family. It doesn’t have to be perfect. If you have some specific criteria that you’re looking for, several rooms, a proximity to a site, a budget, list those out, write them down. Don’t just go searching blind for anything, because there are millions of places to stay all over the world.
Allow yourself a little bit of criteria in what it is that you’re looking for as far as where to stay. And that’s where it comes in the tone of vacation. Are you looking for a relaxing place? Are you looking for an exciting place? Do you want it to feel more local or do you want it to feel more all-inclusive and kinder of corporate?
After Dave and my seven days living in a little un-airconditioned guest house in Montego Bay, Jamaica, we kind of wished we could have gone back and done the vacation again, staying in one of the gorgeous all-inclusive resorts. Our vacation with our 10-month-old was nothing like we expected it to be partly because we chose a place to stay that wasn’t all that aligned with what we had hoped out of the vacation. And that’s okay. It was a funny learning experience. And if we ever decided to go back to Jamaica, we have a little bit better idea of how we might do that.
One suggestion that I have if you find yourself getting wrapped up in overwhelm or decision fatigue, as you’re planning some of these specifics, like where to stay, what to do and where to eat, I’m going to recommend two things.
Two Tricks for Decisions: Time Limit, Option Limit
The first one is to give yourself a time limit, say, I am going to allow myself 30 minutes to search online or to text my friends or to look on Instagram, hashtags. And I’m going to make a choice at the end of those 30 minutes. The best thing that I can find in 30 minutes, that’s what I’m going to choose.
The other one is to give yourself a choice limit to say, I’m going to look at 10 different options in depth, and then I’m going to choose of those. There are so many fun options in all different cities, all around the world. And I know that where you decide where you settle on, what kind of in your gut feels like, oh, this looks fun. This looks great. That is a great place to stay for you. You don’t have to second guess yourself. You don’t have to think that there’s going to be something better. Maybe what you choose is just right for now.
WHAT to DO
Let’s move on to what to do. Sites, activities, museums. There are so many different things to do on vacation.
I like to balance doing and seeing with allowing some space for spontaneity and wandering. Again, we’re going to go back to your purpose for the vacation or your overall goal for the vacation. Are you trying to explore and experience a particular city in that case? There are probably some highlights that you already have in your head or with a quick Google search, you can find out what are kind of the main highlights for a particular city.
If you want to go have that cities kind of main highlights experience in New York city, this will look like going to the top of the Rock, going to see the Statue of Liberty, visiting Chelsea Market, getting some banana pudding at Magnolia Bakery. These things are all on the list. So, you can do those things and have a spectacular time.
If you’re traveling for relaxation and ease. Don’t book your whole trip up with sites and adventures. If the purpose of the travel, if you find yourself yearning for a vacation so that you have some downtime, then don’t fill your vacation up with go time downtime. Things would be going to the beach, allowing yourself to enjoy that hotel pool, not having FOMO that you’re not out seeing the whole town when, what you really need and the reason you went on vacation was to allow yourself to sit and relax.
If you kind of think you want a nice balance, I like to choose one main activity per day and possibly add a site or kind of a lower energy activity for half of the day. So, if the day is divided up between breakfast and lunch and between lunch and dinner, I’ll choose an activity for the morning and then allow the afternoon to kind of be rest time, wander time, curious, discovery time, or choose a lower key site for the afternoon.
An example from our upcoming trip to Paris is that one morning we’re going to go simply wander the Luxembourg gardens. So, it’s not really like an activity. It’s more like wandering around, giving our kids time to explore. Maybe we’ll sit on the bench and have some pastries. It’s sort of a relaxed site. And then after lunch we have booked a specific covered passages tour of the city that I found on a website when I Googled family friendly tours in Paris, it came up and looked so fun.
We’re going to go see the covered passages and hear about the history. And because of the kids coming along, they include a little scavenger hunt. So, they’re going to give my kids clues and they’re going to be looking for some of these specific things throughout the tour, which keeps them occupied and excited while the adults can learn about some of the details that maybe the kids aren’t very interested in.
When I’m planning a vacation I like to see all these things. So, I normally will Google first, all the different activities, get some of those top 10 lists. If I’m doing a family friendly vacation, I make sure I include family-friendly in my search results so that I can pull up some of those specific things. I like to write a list of all the different things that seem like they might be.
And then look at a calendar, whether I pull out my Golden Coil and I write them down, or sometimes I do this digitally, I’ll bring up like a Google sheet so I can do a column for each of the days. And I start to build it like a Tetris schedule, just like I would at home with appointments and activities and school and all of that. I like to drag and drop in the different activities so that I make sure that we’re not overbooking ourselves. I tend to have more of a problem with overbooking than under booking.
When there are so many things that I want to see, I’m going to know right off looking at, going somewhere for five days, and there’s a list of 30 amazing things to do in the city. I’m going to have to narrow that down to five, seven, maybe ten, if I’m pushing it, what we’re going to get to. I would much rather see a fewer number of activities in a more in-depth way than see a hundred different things so quickly that I don’t really get to be present and have it sink in.
And I think some of that maybe has come with age too. When I was younger, I remember feeling like, oh, we can just see it all. Let’s just go do it all. And now, and especially maybe with kids and just being a little bit, maybe a little more chill than I was in my year. I’m still not that chill, but a little more chill than I was in my younger years. I really find value in being able to experience something more fully. I’m not nervous about having wasted time. I don’t feel like being in a different city. I can sit on a park bench and just experience like being there and watching people and eating food from a local street cart. I don’t need to feel like there’s something else I should be doing.
And I think fear of missing out, knowing that you’re somewhere that you could possibly never go back to again, that you might not be doing it right. Again, we’ve got to go back and kind of uproot some of these beliefs and these understandings that there’s a right way to do it, or that there is an ideal vacation that you might somehow miss out on if you plan it wrong. You only will get to enjoy the things that you’re present and experiencing. It’s okay to not do everything on the list. It’s okay to do a couple things that end up kind of being a bust. You learn from that.
Don’t sign up for activities that don’t interest you. I think this probably happens a lot to people traveling to well-known cities. There’s sort of the shortlist of like, did you see the Eiffel Tower? Did you see the Mona Lisa? Did you do this or that or the other? And if something doesn’t really appeal to you. Don’t go see it just because it’s something you’re “supposed to do”. Do the things that seem interesting to you that seem exciting to you travel the way that you want to travel.
One thing that’s kind of silly, but I really love is wandering flea markets when I travel, I usually don’t buy a whole lot. If anything, I am so inspired by the vendors and the knickknacks and all the little treasures that I’ve seen. I’ve shopped, you know, browse, shopped at flea markets all over the world and I always find it so delightful. I just absolutely love it.
That’s not something that’s for everyone. And it’s not something that you may even find on a lot of lists. And yet it’s something that I seek out when I’m traveling because I appreciate it. On the flip side, there are a lot of sites and even some museums, I mean, in a city like New York or Paris or Chicago cities that are really museum heavy, You could spend an entire week exploring one of those museums and you could spend your whole life exploring all of them.
You must come to some sort of a settled agreement with yourself that it’s okay to not do it all. And that going at a pace that feels reasonable for you. And especially if you’re traveling with kids or with older adults who are going to need to take breaks or who don’t walk as fast, those are all things to take into consideration.
No one likes to feel hurried on vacation. No one likes to feel like they’re in a rush. Allow yourself the space for your plans to breathe and for them to take on new life. So, once I have some of these basic activities at most, for me, my personal idea is at, is at most two per day. So, one morning activity and one afternoon activity.
WHERE to EAT
I like to build around those for the details like where we’re going to eat, where I’m going to eat sometimes is the activity. I’ll be honest. I love food. I love eating out Dave and I go out to eat almost every Saturday in Richmond for our date night. And we almost never repeat a restaurant, even just here in Richmond in four years. There are so many places to go.
Sometimes I do plan the vacation around some of the places that feel like activities because I’ve sort of built up the food at great example of this. Uh, tearoom in London called Sketch that when my sisters and I were in London a few years ago, that was our afternoon activity. One day we made reservations in advance, and we went, and we spent a couple hours enjoying this afternoon tea in this incredible location that sort of feels like its own little museum almost. It was really, fun.
So, restaurants and where to eat, I think do sometimes count as activities. If not, if I’m doing planning a museum or planning going to the zoo or going to Disneyland, you know, Disneyland, see an example of something that you may plan your day within Disneyland to accommodate some of the things that you want to make sure not to miss. And then just allow yourself to disregard the rest.
In a regular vacation, I will have my activities sort of figured out. One, maybe two per day. And then I like to choose where to eat that is convenient to those activities. So, I don’t want to be crisscrossing town all day. If I’m going to visit the Blanton art museum in Austin, Texas, with my girlfriends on scooters, then we’re going to scooter straight down the street and have lunch at Walton’s Fancy and Staple because that’s nearby.
How do I know what’s nearby? By using Google maps. I can put in the location of where the activity is and then search for restaurants nearby and then do a little bit of cross-referencing with other lists. Best places to eat or great cheap food or best local dives. All of these are just Google searches.
Then I can see of the 10 restaurants that pop up nearby X location. This one seems like it fits our budget, the style of food that we like and all the other accommodations that we’re hoping for. Another favorite place to find great restaurant ideas is by searching Instagram, hashtags. I think by now most major cities, at least maybe not little cities, but most major cities have at least one to two food Instagrammers to their name.
Food Instagram Is A Gold Mine
Some of them will be more well known, some of them won’t, but I think that there’s at least one person in each city, major city that kind of fancies themselves the city foodie. And if you search hashtag that city and food like #richmondfood, or #newyorkcityfood or #saltlakecityfood. This person or these people, this group of Instagram, foodies tend to come up and you can scroll through a lot of times, it’s just pictures of food you can scroll through and see what looks interesting, what looks good, find their recommendations.
Oftentimes Google will help as well. I think that it’s easier to find more kind of smaller local places through the city-based Instagrammers than it is through Google as a whole, either way, a quick search can give you lots of fun ideas. And then again, I like to base those around where I’m going to be any way for the sort of anchor activities that we have on the vacation.
I’m going to come back to. It’s okay to not eat at all the coolest places. It’s okay to find a restaurant that you love and go back and back to it. When Dave and I were traveling in Thailand years ago, right when let’s see, I had just graduated from nursing school. So, 2008, we spent a month traveling Asia, most of that in Thailand.
And we got to a little city, a little town called Rilay and found a restaurant that we loved called Mamas. Now this was, we didn’t plan this trip. This was just like a backpacking using our Lonely Planet Guide as we went, it’s a little different format. We found this little beach side shack called Mamas and we ate there for lunch and dinner for like four days, we loved it. It was inexpensive. The food was amazing. We liked to kind of hangin. It seemed like more of a local dive. And so that’s what we did. If you find something that you love don’t feel bad that you’re not experiencing other places, there is no right way to take a vacation.
Sample The Local Fare
I will say. I think that it’s fun, especially if you’re traveling somewhere outside of your own city. I mean, even within your own city, but a lot of even places within the United States, regions, states, cities have a specific food that they’re kind of known for. This is true in countries around the world.I think it’s fun to sample the local fair, even if you don’t do it. Every single meal, part of the experience for me is getting to sample some of that. What the place is known for again, a quick Google search will usually help you determine.
So, what have I taught you in this episode to plan a vacation, you just heavily rely on Google and know that there are not any wrong choices? Really?
I hope that more than anything, this episode can give you just kind of an idea of basic framework, maybe all of this. You’re like, yeah, of course. Where, who, how much you want to spend when, where to stay, what to do, where to eat. All this planning is going to go much easier if you start with what the purpose of.
What you hope to feel on your vacation and then use that as a lens to make the smaller choices? No, that not any one right place to eat or one right hotel is going to make or break the experience. What matters most on vacation is your vacation mindset. If you are understanding that some things are probably going to go wrong and that’s okay that you may have some hits and some misses, and that’s okay.
That everything’s probably going to be a little more expensive than you planned on and that’s okay. Deep breath. Being able to allow yourself to enjoy the experience is probably the most important part of it. Allowing that experience to unfold and to allow yourself to be present in it for it is important deciding ahead of time that you don’t have any specific expectations for how things are going to go, how people are going to react, what it’s all going to be like. And instead open yourself up to what happens in the moment and find the best part of that to enjoy. That’s important.
I have a great example of when I didn’t do this a few years ago, Dave’s family did a sort of family reunion on the beach in, I think we around Newport beach, probably in Southern California.
Our Disneyland Fail
We decided since we had never taken our kids to Disneyland and we live in Virginia, which is far away from California Disneyland, that we would take one day of the trip and surprise our kids with a day in Disneyland. So, one of the mornings we woke up and we got the kids in the car and went to get donuts where we were really getting donuts and then road tripping up to go to Disneyland.
And outside of the donut shop, we told the kids, we’re not going to the beach today. We’re going to Disneyland. And they were like, wait a second. We wanted to hang out on the beach with our cousins today. Like, so not interested. It took a minute to get them excited. So, we were already a little bit disappointed in like, gosh, we should have told them and had like given them time to prepare and be excited for this.
The surprise was a little bit woah. So, we drove up to Disneyland and we went in, and we spent the day, the first half of the day, we got to spend with one of my good friends, Lena, who. Was so gracious and she’s, uh, she was a seasoned passholder. So, she took us around and showed us her favorite spots. And we got to skip the line at a bunch of places, and we had a lot of fun and then she left midday and we went into the other theme park.
If you’ve been there, there’s two California adventure in Disneyland. And we had done California Adventure in the morning. And we went to Disneyland in the afternoon. At one point, my kids were probably getting a little worn out and they weren’t that interested in going on rides, which we didn’t really know this.
I mean, this is the first time we had done like a big theme park, and we didn’t know that our kids aren’t really into rides or, or that they didn’t have the experience of going on them to know that they maybe weren’t scary or that they could be fun. I had all these ideas and expectations about how it was going to look and feel to be there and to go on Pirates of the Caribbean with them and to go down Splash Mountain and to do the Small World.
But of course, we did, and it was fun. There was a point. In the middle of this day that I thought, why are we even here? They’re not having fun. I’m not having fun. They’re not even going on any of their rides. We’re kind of walking around. They’re still complaining, just like kids do. And what are, what are we even doing?
My built-up expectation was making the day a disappointment. The day was not a disappointment. My kids were having a great time. Yes, they were a little bit whiny and arguing, but they’re kids and that’s what they do. And I had envisioned this perfect day of floating through Disneyland with confetti in the air and chosen our hands and smiling, laughing pictures down Splash Mountain.
And because I was holding so tightly to this unrealistic non-reality expectation, I had blinded myself to the reality of how wonderful it can be simply to walk around Disneyland with my kids and observe other people or get a Dole Whip or watch the cruise ships go by in that like lazy river. Think what the, the ships have you been there? What, why, why are there ships in the middle of Disneyland? I don’t know. There’s this place where people can go on like a boat ride. I don’t know what it is. We would have loved if we had been home or if we had been out on the beach, I would have just sat and watched the boats go by with my kids and felt like this is so great.
But because I had built up what the experience was supposed to look like, this is my version of thinking something was quote unquote, the right or the best or the ideal or perfect that those sorts of ideas can have a tendency to blind you to the beauty that is happening to erase what is actually unfolding in front of you and how wonderful it can be to simply be experiencing the world with your children in the present moment that can be at home.
It can be at the park, and it can be at Disneyland. You don’t miss out on the experience by not doing the experience a particular way. Your vacation is your experience, whatever you experience. Is the experience and it can be incredible. So, as you’re planning your vacations, try to, yes. Come up with an outline and where to go and do some Googling and give yourself a limit, a time limit, or an option limit if you’re running into that decision fatigue, but more than all of that, allow yourself the space to experience it for what it is to be present.
All of that, the choices that we make about where to go and how much money we’re spending and where to stay. All those things are just a framework. None of them are a guarantee of anything. They’re just a framework to help make things a little bit pointed in the direction that we’re hoping for. What really makes the difference is the attitude and the enjoyment and the mindset that we bring to the vacation experience itself.
So, to wrap up, I like to plan my way. And who, and then how much to spend, I like to plan on how many days we’re spending. And then I investigate where to stay that will best fit our kind of hope or our intention. And then I look to Google for what to do sites, activities, and always leave some room for wandering and curiosity and just discovery along the way.
I like to pat in the, where we’re going to eat or what we’re going to eat around, the more anchored activities and sites. And most of all, I like to do all that work ahead of time and then release my grip on the way that I think it’s supposed to go and allow it to be wondering. Allow it to be exactly what it is, understand that I’m still going to be me.
My husband’s still gonna be him. My kids are still going to be them. We don’t all magically transform into a different family dynamic when we’re on vacation, we can however, adjust our mindsets to allow ourselves to be pre. And enjoy the experience as it happens.
I hope that this episode has given you some ideas, a little bit of a framework and mostly, probably a little bit of a soapbox moment there at the end, that vacation is what you make it. It can be short, it can be long, it can be very inexpensive. It can be super luxury and you can enjoy all of it by being present and loosening your grip on what you think it should be.
Thank you so much for listening in. I hope that if you haven’t yet you’ll subscribe, you’ll share this or any of my episodes with a friend or family member or on social media. And if you haven’t left a rating or review, I would absolutely love it. If you took a minute to do that, I’ll chat with you again next week.