There’s a side of vacation that isn’t all that fun. Or relaxing. There is an aspect of planning a trip that is frustrating, stressful, and downright infuriating sometimes. And that, is picking the vacation spot, and coordinating the transportation.
I travel often, usually heading abroad every other month. Sometimes it is for research for a book or an article, and sometimes it is for my husband’s work. Often, it is purely for pleasure and adventure, (with a little writing snuck in here and there). For some reason, it is this latter type of trip that makes for the most stress.
First of all, where in the world to go? Literally. Our plans for London or Lisbon can be dashed after a look at the flight prices. Or the unbelievable price of the rental car paired with a cheaper airfare to Dublin may nip that destination in the bud. There are so many costs to consider. The flight is cheap but the hotels are horrendous, (Venice in May) or the hotels are a steal but there is nothing to do, (Venice in December.)
He wants mountains and waterfalls, I want architecture and History. I like riding the train, he likes driving a tiny little car. Traveling with another person is an exercise in compromise and teamwork, and that begins the moment the wallets come out for booking. A 5 star hotel near the Eiffel Tower or a comfortable loft in St. Germain des Pres?
So, one compromises. Perhaps a coastal village near Renaissance cathedrals to sate our appetites for nature and culture. An admirable 3-star with free breakfast instead of that 5-star we couldn’t afford.
And after all that, there’s still the excursions to consider. But, fret not.
Vacations are supposed to be fun. Adventures through Europe usually call to mind arms full of shopping bags and well-dressed, hat-wearing people sitting leisurely at a cafe, a glass of wine in one hand and an espresso in the other. (And if there was a third it would be holding a croissant.) But so often these sunlit, pastel-perfect ideas of a trip fall short of our imaginations in the midst of the hustle and bustle of “seeing it all.”
We are equally guilty of this. It is hard not to attempt to check every last curiosity and “must-see” off our well-researched internet list or guidebook. But we hardly try anymore. It isn’t worth it, and it will make you hate traveling.
My trip advice? Stress like crazy about finding the location and the transportation. Scream and yell and debate with your traveling partner over prices and packages, car rentals and train tickets, economy comfort seating and upgraded hotel rooms. Frazzle yourself over the logistics, and then when you’re there, kick back.
See your top 3 sites in any given place, and then settle into a bistro chair and sip something sweet. Look around, smile, laugh. Talk about the castle or cathedral you visited earlier in the day. Sit on the beach and watch the waves. Admire the people around you and judge your own ill-fitting garments to theirs and promise yourself a wardrobe update. Buy a scarf. Buy two scarves. Eat the chocolate mousse, or the éclair or the stroopwafel. Stay out past your bedtime, and then sleep late and enjoy it.
It’s a vacation, after all. And once the planning is over, and you’ve arrived in that perfect location on that optimal flight, relax. You made it.