From a young age, I’ve had an unquenchable case of wanderlust. When my brothers and I got old enough to remember our trips, my parents set out to conquer the entire United States as a family. Before I graduated high school, we had traveled to all 50 states. My parents also got certified as travel agents (in addition to their real jobs) so we could get deals on cruises, which was another favorite travel experience for our family.
Luckily, the woman I met — who became my wife — also has a deep love of travel. During college she studied abroad in England and Spain, and she spent a summer volunteering in Ecuador. We both knew that seeing the world would be a top priority for us as a couple, and we also wanted to share that with kids. After we got married, we spent six weeks traveling in Europe. I would easily say that trip played a major role in laying the foundation of our relationship.
Travel is amazing that way. It changes you, especially when you immerse yourself in a completely different culture.
It gives you an understanding of others who seem so different from you on the surface, because you get to see things through their lenses. And it opens your mind to the fact that your way isn’t the only way to do things.
Travel also bonds you with your traveling companion, or companions, in ways that staying home cannot. When you break out of your comfort zone and experience new things together, a new emotional attachment forms. It’s hard to put the connection into words. So much of travel is intangible — just a feeling you get when you are in a new place, and that is a gift you cannot experience any other way.
For these reasons and more, I decided to get as good at traveling as I can. Over the years I’ve picked up a few tips that I try to utilize when planning trips and experiencing them. Maybe they can help you, too. Here are a few key points to remember as you plan your next trip:
A good vacation is at least three days long, but it’s also over before you want it to be.
I truly believe that in order to fully “get away” from your responsibilities at home and experience a new place, you need at least three days away. That being said, if your trip is so long you become bored and anxious lasts to get home, then you may have stayed too long. You should be sad to end a good trip.
Think outside of the box when it comes to accommodations.
Our best trips have involved staying somewhere other than a standard hotel. I love websites like AirBnb and HomeAway for finding unique places to stay and ones that make you feel like a true local. Don’t be afraid to stay with someone. My wife and I stayed with a charming guy in Barcelona who ended up giving us VIP tickets to an amazing Spanish guitar concert in an ancient cathedral, which was easily the highlight of our time there.
Plan extensively, but allow for spontaneity.
Do your research, especially on the things you most like to do on vacation. For us, this means researching (ahead of time) the best restaurants, bars, and markets and when they have good deals or live events. Use websites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Zomato. Even Google reviews can be a great resource for identifying the most memorable chow-down spots. I also really like to look at TripAdvisor’s Top Things to Do in whatever city we are going to and plan a loose itinerary around that. Have a list of things you want to do, but create space for spontaneous stops and weather glitches.
Blend in with the locals.
Try to discover where the locals go to do x, y, or z, and do those things. Eat the food that’s in season and popular in that area. Don’t be afraid to ask people for recommendations. When in Rome, do what the Romans do. So, what are you waiting for? Start planning that trip you’ve been dreaming of. And make it one to remember.
Where will you go first? What’s the most incredible place you’ve ever visited?
By Mitch Reinholt with Ben Higgins
Images by Goh Rhy Yan, Mike Kotsch, Hector Martinez, RP Imagery