It’s no secret how much I love to travel and explore new places — I have an ever-growing list of places I want to visit and things I want to see and experience. When we first moved to Europe, we hit the ground running with weekends packed with new locations and things to see, but every time a weekend ended, we felt like we needed a weekend from our weekend! It can be hard to consciously decide NOT to see something when you’re in a city you may never visit again, but that’s what we started to do and are so much happier for it.
When we first started really traveling, it felt like everywhere we went our itinerary was fed by FOMO (fear of missing out) and also fear of never returning so I wanted to check off all of the “Things to do” and “Top X things to see” in every city, but as we finally relaxed into our travel, I realized that for me, the memories I was taking away from these cities were more about the overall experience and how they made me feel than the individual stops. Once I allowed myself to NOT see every cathedral, castle, garden, and statue around, I was able to appreciate the cities even more! I’m not saying we don’t hit those top tourist spots….I’m just saying we hit a few less.
If you don’t travel as much as we do, I know it can seem hard to want to follow that advise but here are my 3 tips for turning every trip into a vacation and not an itinerary.
1. Pick 1 “Must See” per day
Instead of trying to pack as many “Top 10” things into each day, take a little more time to prioritize what is really important to you and schedule just that ONE thing. Buy those tickets in advance so you don’t have any stress about missing it and then plan OPTIONS around that one thing. This flexibility in your schedule lets you see things you may have otherwise missed because you arent rushing around and instead are able to enjoy walking and taking in the sights. When it really comes down to it, a lot of the cathedrals, castles, and parks are pretty similar, so just because Tripadvisor says it’s a “must-see” doesn’t mean you have to feel that way about it too. By picking whats most important to you, you’re able to focus more on things that will make you happy and not just check boxes.
2. Pick a hotel you want to spend the day at
For a lot of our early trips, I would book hotels that were close to the top tourist attractions but were basically nothing more than a small room and breakfast. We were never in the room, so why spend more on something nicer? Now, I spend a little time looking for hotels with more ammenities like rooftop pools, spas, and fun bars so that we feel compelled to come back to the hotel to relax a little. Traveling in Europe means you are walking miles and miles each day so its nice to allow yourself the time to take a nice bath or lounge in the pool. We don’t do those things on a daily basis so it helps to make the trip feel more like the getaway it should be.
3. Make dinner reservations
When you are going non-stop, you may not want to make dinner reservations because you don’t know where you will be, or you may not have time to make reservations and just tourist until you’re starving and forced to eat at the closest café (which is probably a tourist trap restaurant next to a tourist attraction). Some of my favorite memories traveling have been the restaurants we have eaten at and the foods we have tried. Food is as much a part of a new city/country as the buildings themselves because food is such an integral part of our culture and is so different from one place to the other. It’s worth it to spend a little extra time before your vacation to plan at least one set meal and have others in your backup list (just like I suggest for activities!). A lot of the places you will want to eat at will require reservations, so save yourself the stress and set them up in advance.
I know these may be easier said than done (especially number 1) but I think you will be happier in the long run!