Monday, June 6, 2016

10 Things To Make Vacations More Fun and Memorable

We've all been there. We spend hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars on a vacation, only to be disappointed when we get home. Things didn't go as planned or live up to all our expectations leading up to said vacation. It doesn't have to be that way though. Life is about experiences! And, even if those experiences aren't what you planned, they can still be great and make your life all the richer for them. A little planning and a lot of attitude can make even the smallest of vacations memorable. Here are 10 strategies we use to make each trip we take amazing and wonderful.

Half of the fun of taking a vacation is the months leading up to it. Having something to look forward to can get you through the mundane routine of work and school. Do all you can to enjoy the anticipation of an upcoming trip. I change my computer desktop picture to something associated with where I'm going, I will put a countdown calendar on the fridge for all to see and will also share new things I learn about our destination to get everyone excited about where we are going. Just enjoy looking forward to your upcoming trip.

I can't stress this enough. A well planned trip is a happy trip. Don't just assume that a rental car is going to be available for you upon arrival, or you are going to magically fill your days with fun things to do. Make sure all your ducks are in a row before you leave. Get all the arrangements (flights, hotels, cars, travel routes) all planned out ahead of time. Then, once you are on the road everything should run smoothly for you because it will be ready to go and you know exactly where you are going.

Even the most meticulous planning can have glitches in it, so roll with it and make the best of your situation. Several years ago Aaron and I had a trip planned to Maui. I spent months planning everything out. Flights and hotels were booked, rental cars were reserved and surfing lessons arranged. We were planning on having a layover in Oahu for a day so we could visit Pearl Harbor and Waikiki Beach. What was NOT in our plans was missing our flight in Los Angeles on our way. For three stressful hours I was so angry with the airlines I was verging on tears. We were stuck in LA for two days before they could get us out and on our way to Maui - Oahu was just out of the picture for us. All those plans ruined. However, once we resolved ourselves to the fact that it was what it was, we sat down that night and planned out our day in LA - and I have to tell you that we had the most fun ever! We did all the "touristy" things LA had to offer: The Hollywood Sign, The Walk of Fame, Santa Monica Pier.... we had the best time because we were flexible, rolled with the punches and made the best of it.

There's nothing worse than taking a vacation and then spending the next 6 months paying for it. What a buzz kill! We save for our vacations and have them completely paid for before we leave so that we can just relax and enjoy ourselves without watching the dollar signs add up and stress us out. Here are two posts I wrote on how to pay for vacations:


Some of the most memorable experiences I've had on vacations are the ones that weren't planned. Sitting outside an ice cream house, with my ice cream cone, listening to a local musician; discovering a local cafe with the most amazing food; seeing a beach tucked away on the side of the road, stopping and sitting listening to the waves crash on the beach. Even though you have carefully planned out your vacation, make sure to leave room for the unexpected. You never know what's around the corner and you have to be fully present in the moment to recognize those magical experiences.

There have been several times in my travels where I have been lost in one of those moments I was just talking about. The unplanned magic that you just have to sit and enjoy. Then a tour bus loaded with people will pull up, they all pile out and take a few pictures of themselves, hop back into the bus and continue on to the next destination. What?! How can you fully experience anything in 5 minutes?! Ya, you may have your picture to prove you were there, and to look back on, but what meaning does that picture have to you if you didn't take the time to really stop and enjoy where you were? Slow down! Enjoy the scenery, people, food and culture of where you are at that moment. Lock it into your memory. A picture is great for helping you to remember, but a great memory will be remembered with or without a picture or little trinket.

The most enriching thing about travel to me is the amazing people that I meet. I learn more about a place and it's culture just by talking to the people that live there. We are not about the fabricated experiences, and learning about a place based on what an excursion company thinks are the highlights of a given area. Talk to hotel staff, waitresses, park rangers and museum staff. Ask them about the history of the area, what they like to do on their day off and their favorite places to eat. Hobnob with the "locals" you run into while walking through a park or sitting at a cafe enjoying a cup of coffee. The world is full of amazing people. Get out there and meet some of them.

Get outside that comfort zone and try some new things. We have done rock repelling, cliff jumping into a cenote, taken surfing lessons and gone horseback riding through the jungle. We have eaten alligator, frog, snails and snake. You might be pleasantly surprised at how delicious a new food is or how fun a new skill or activity may be. Don't let fear keep you from trying new things.

Every night before slipping into slumber jot down the highlights from that day. What you did, how you felt and who you met. A lot of times, when everything is said and done, the little details are forgotten. Remember them vividly by keeping a journal of every day as you go along.

On my mantel at home I have a handful of vacation photo books: Shutterfly is my favorite company to use, but there are many out there. Take all of your pictures, and the journal you were keeping, and put it all into a book. I love to sit down and reminisce about past trips by flipping through my books. And, they are a very popular item when we have guests - they love to look through our books and see all of the adventures we have been on. When I look through my book it feels like just yesterday that I was on that trip, and I get to enjoy it all over again. Plus, it's kind of cool to be able to see all of the great places you have been!

Don't be disappointed in a vacation ever again! They may not all be extravagant trips to exotic places, or full of life altering experiences, but they can all be great. Even the most simple of vacations can be enriching and fun - it's all in your attitude. So, get out there and experience life! Meet people, try new things and have some fun.

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