Food on a Cruise: What to Expect for Free

Did you know all of your food on a cruise is included in your cruise fare?

 

Not everyone realizes that the price you pay to get on board the ship includes three meals a day—or as many as you’d like, really. That’s right, there’s no shortage of food on a cruise. But is it any good? And will there be anything you like? The answer to both these questions is a resounding, “Yes!”

Whether you’ve got a hankering for sushi or steak, ice cream or apples, you’ll find something for every taste on a cruise ship. I’m a vegetarian who doesn’t like vegetables, and even I can find an overwhelming amount of delicious fare to chow down on. So, what can you expect for free? Let’s take a look.

Main Dining Room

Each night, a three-course, gourmet dinner is served in the main dining room. You’ll get your choice of three or four appetizers, entrees, and desserts, and you can order more than one of each if you’re feeling extra hungry. Typically, the menu matches with your itinerary, serving up local flavors whenever available. And you can count on lobster being featured at least once on your cruise. On most cruises, you can choose either an early or late seating in the dining room, though many cruise lines also offer a dine anytime option. In the morning, you can grab breakfast in the main dining room if you prefer being served over standing in line at the buffet.

Buffet

Day or night, you can always find a wide array of options at the buffet. It’s open bright and early, offering made-to-order omelets, sausages, cereals, pastries, and more. At lunch, you can find a variety of salads, soups, sandwiches, meats, vegetables, and other snacks. For dinner, the buffet often includes the same foods being featured in the main dining room. The only difference is that you have to serve yourself, and you can take as much as you want.

Poolside Grub

While the buffet is usually only a hop, skip, and a jump from the pool area, on most cruise ships, you’ll find a poolside, outdoor eatery. These quick-service restaurants typically offer up fast foods like burgers and fries. My personal favorite? Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint on Carnival Cruise ships. The fires are to die for.

24 Hour Snacks

Are you the type of person who likes a bedtime snack? Or maybe you want something greasy to fill your stomach after a night of partying. If you’re like me, you get hangry if you don’t eat every couple of hours. Have no fear…you’ll always have access to food on a cruise, whether it’s the wee hours or the middle of the night. Most cruise lines have a designated 24-hour restaurant where you can grab some chicken tenders, a chocolate brownie, fries, and other fan favorites.

Room Service

I cannot tell a lie…I have never ordered room service on a ship. I figure if I’m sitting in my room when there are so many amazing activities going on, I’m doing something wrong. But I recognize, there are times when you just want to drink a cup of coffee or an orange juice on your deck when you wake up in the morning. And you don’t want the hassle of having to get dressed and go get it yourself. Room service is always available with a limited menu.

Pro Tip: Depending on the time of day (like 2 a.m.) or the type of food you want (AKA an entire pizza), there may be a nominal charge for room service.

Sea-Day Specials

On some ships, you’ll find special food-based events on days when you’re at sea. These may include tasting menus or cooking classes. Watch your daily itinerary for times and events. Two of my favorites happen to take place on Carnival cruises. Each sea day, Carnival hosts an afternoon tea in one of the dining rooms. Choose from several specialty teas, and enjoy macarons, traditional English sandwiches, scones, and other delicious treats. Carnival also puts on a special sea-day brunch that includes some fun food selections. My favorite is the cereal-crusted French toast.

Specialty Splurges

In addition to all of the amazing free food on a cruise, there are a few specialty restaurants on each ship that cost a few extra dollars. These fine-dining establishments specialize in everything from Italian to French to Asian cuisine. If you’re celebrating a special occasion or just want to try something different, you can treat yourself to specialty experience, such the entertaining and flavorful Japanese teppanyaki restaurant on Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL). You will also find a cafe or bakery on most cruise ships where, for a few dollars, you can grab a sweet treat, such as gelato, cupcakes, or biscotti. If you’re a fan of the TLC hit show Carlo’s Bakery, you’ll be excited to know you can grab one of Buddy’s infamous cannolis on most NCL ships.

With the exception of the cafe and specialty dining venues, all of the food on a cruise is free. Tell us about your favorite foods to eat at sea on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook page.

 

The Top Reason Cruises are Better than All-Inclusive Resorts

All-inclusive resorts are a great way to travel.

 

Once you’ve booked your vacation, you don’t have to spend another penny. Everything you could possibly want or need is part of your vacation packaged. From sun and fun to booze and food, there are no other expenses.

Cruises are very similar to all-inclusive resorts…only instead of being surrounded by sand, you’re surrounded by water. Like a completely self-sufficient, floating island. Like all-inclusives, the price you pay for your cruise includes everything you’ll need for a good time. Whether you want to lie around the pool and drink in the sun or dance the night away, you’ll find everything you need to have a good time on a cruise ship. And if you feel like splurging, there are a whole host of additional activities and services you can choose from. Spend a day at the spa or enjoy a gourmet meal at one of the specialty restaurants—the options are endless.

These days, most ocean-going ships are pretty stacked. Water parks, climbing walls, and mini golf are standard, all-inclusive features. Some even have ice rinks and circus tents. Most ships have multiple restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and swimming pools. There’s nightly turn-down service in your room, several swimming pools, daily dance classes and other activities, and much more. Most cruises don’t include alcohol in their list price, but they’re also much cheaper than many all-inclusives. And the good news is that you can buy a bottomless beverage package for a few extra bucks. Your travel agent can even book it for you so that you don’t have to open your wallet once you’re on the ship.

Each night on board a cruise ship, you’ll be entertained by live, Broadway-style shows. Cruise lines employee an entire team of talented singers and dancers to put on elaborate productions. They also fly in magicians, acrobats, comedians, and other performers to bring you a variety of entertainment options. But that’s not all, there are also house bands that play in the various venues around the ship. Styles range from rock to easy listening to ensure there is something for everyone.

While cruises share many of these things in common with all-inclusive resorts, there is one major difference. And in my opinion, it’s the top reason why a cruise is better than any all-inclusive resort you’ll ever visit. You travel someplace new each day!

Cruises are a great way to get a taste of several different places. For one affordable fare, you get to sample a variety of destinations. In the Mediterranean, you can travel through Greece, Italy, and Turkey all in one week, visiting the top attractions in several cities. Or, if you want to just lounge around by the pool all day, you can stay on board the ship.

Sure, you only spend a day—maybe two—in each place. But in some places, that’s more than enough to see all the sights. There are plenty of places I’ve thought about vacationing for a week or two, but thanks to cruising, I’ve visited those same places for a day and realized that was all I needed. On the flip side, if there are places you truly enjoy, you can revisit them on a future trip. It’s a win-win.

What’s your top reasoning why cruises are better than all-inclusives? Share your ideas with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

 

 

 

New Year’s Eve in Paris: A Wanderlust Experience

What could be better than New Year’s Eve in Paris? It is the City of Lights after all.

 

Paris is one of the most beautiful, romantic, decadent cities in the world, so it’s a real treat to ring in the new year in this amazing place. Throughout the holiday season, the city is filled with festive lights and holiday cheer. There’s are even Christmas markets all about town, including one that runs along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, where you can grab a cup of steaming gluhwein or a sweet boules de Noel to enjoy as you shop.

If you’re heading to Paris for New Year’s Eve, here are the top three things you need to know.

1. No Official Events

Believe it or not, there are no official New Year’s Eve events in Paris. The city does not put on a fireworks show or anything of that nature. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of fun things to do around town. Like any other big city, parties take place at most restaurants and bars—it all comes down to how much you money you want to spend and what you feel like doing.

If you’ve got a lean budget, you can make your way to the Eiffel Tower at midnight. Sacre Coeur is also a great place to take in a beautiful panoramic of Paris. for Many people head down to the Champs-Élysées, have a meal at one of the many restaurants there, and then watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle as the clock strikes 12. If you’re prepared to shell out the big bucks, the infamous Moulin Rouge. A table for two in the cheap seats will run you a cool 800 Euros. Alternatively, you could check out the show at the Lido, which also comes with a lofty price tag. On the low end, tickets for two come in around 600 Euro.

2. Book a Boat Cruise

If you’re looking for something special that won’t break the bank, a late-night sailing on the Bateaux Parisiens is a lovely idea. For as little as 65 Euros, you can take a quiet cruise along the Seine for a view of the city lights. The tour departs from the dock just below the Eiffel Tower or near Notre Dame Cathedral and includes a half-bottle of champagne, a packet of macarons, and party favors, such as a hat and horn. This is how I spent New Year’s Eve in Paris, and it was wonderful. Even if it’s cold outside, you’ll be toasty warm sailing along the Seine. We chose to depart from the Eiffel Tower, which is also where we docked at the end of the cruise. We returned just in time to see the tower twinkling in all its glory, and though I had seen it many times before, it seemed just a little more special this time round.

3. Midnight Kisses

Whether or not you’re looking for a midnight kiss, be prepared to get one. Strangers will walk up to you on the street and plant a peck on your lips or cheek. They don’t mean any harm—they’re just a little drunk and a whole lot excited. No one seemed to understand what I was saying—or maybe they simply didn’t care. I’m a happily married woman, but it seemed a lot easier to go with the flow than to cause a ruckus. It’s all in the name of fun after all.

These are just a few things to keep in mind if you’re planning to spend New Year’s Eve in Paris. Have other tips you’d like to share? Head on over to the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

3 Tips for Checking In at the Cruise Port

Not sure what to expect when you arrive at the cruise port?

 

Every cruise line and port is a little different from the next, but there are a few things you can count on every time you arrive to check in for your cruise. These are the top three things you can expect when checking in at a cruise port.

1. Baggage Porters

When you first step foot on the street outside the cruise port, one of the first sights you’ll see are baggage porters. These people are eager to collect your bags and carry them onto the ship on your behalf. They are perfectly legit, and the only way to transport any bags bigger than a carry-on on board. You can personally carry any bags that will fit through a typical security scanner—like the conveyor-style ones found at the airport. Anything bigger needs to be handed over to a porter. Make sure you have a dollar or two per bag available to tip the porter. It is expected, and I always think it’s best not to upset the person responsible for safely getting all of my belongings on the ship.

Most often, your bags will arrive before your ship sets sail, especially if you’re at the port early. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes you will not get them until a few hours later. Be sure you have everything you need right away inside your carry-on. This includes medications, a swimsuit and sunscreen if you plan to sit by the pool for the sail-away party, a sweater if you get cold easily, or any other essentials. Also be sure to remove your wallet, ID, cruise papers (including your boarding pass), and other valuables from any bags you check with a porter. You will not be able to get in the ship if you do not have proper identification or the papers from your online check in.

The cruise line knows you may not have your bag in time for dinner, so they don’t usually set any expectations for your attire in the dining rooms on the first night. Still, I like to assume I may have to wear whatever I have on. I try to choose an outfit that is comfy enough to lounge around in for a few hours but also classy enough to wear to a restaurant. It’s a fine line to balance.

Pro Tip: Be sure your bags are properly labeled with your name and cruise ship cabin number before turning them over to the porter. Otherwise, they won’t know where to take them, and you’ll be without your bags longer than you need to be while they try to sort it out.

2. Long Lines

No matter what time you arrive, you will encounter a long line of people. The longest lines tend to be when the cruise port first opens and the first two or three hours after that. Don’t be surprised if the line extends outside and wraps around the building. Some cruise lines and ports have very organized lines with signs telling you where yo go. Others are quite disorganized and seemingly chaotic.

Depending on how many times you have sailed with a particular cruise line, you may have priority boarding over other cruise guests. There is a special line for these people. Some cruise lines have multiple lines for past cruisers, each with its own special boarding privileges. There is also a special line for people who have paid through the teeth for priority boarding, even if they have never sailed with the cruise line in the past. Don’t jump into the first line you see. The best way to sort through the hustle is to simply ask someone where you should go.

Once you have found yourself in the appropriate line, expect to wait 30 minutes to and hour to reach the front of the line. Even if you have checked in online, you still have to go through this process. Don’t try to skip ahead—you’ll end up right back where you started. The good news is that once you reach the front of the line, the check in process usually only takes a few minutes.

Most times, you’ll be able to walk right onto the boat after you’ve check in. But sometimes, you’re ship simply hasn’t come in or is still being prepped. If this is the case, you’ll need to wait some more. You will likely be handed a number and told to wait until it’s called to come to the boarding area. In the meantime, you’ll need to find someplace out of the way to stand in the overcrowded embarkation area (there are rarely very many seats available and you need to stay out of the way of people in line).

3. Don’t Wait Til the Last Minute

If you’re boarding the ship in a foreign city, it may be tempting to spend every last minute you can touring the local sights. But be sure to leave yourself lots of time to get to the cruise port and through the boarding process. The same goes for anyone flying or driving into the cruise port on the same day the ship sets sail. No one wants to have to wait for a straggler. Not to mention, it puts the ship behind schedule. And while it may seem like the captain has tons of time to sail to the next destination, it’s simply not the case. There are many factors the crew needs to consider at each port, from weather to underwater obstacles, tight turns, and high-traffic ports. The last thing they need to worry about is whether or not everyone is on board when they should be.

Your boarding pass likely says you must check in at least two hours before the scheduled sailing, but I recommend arriving a minimum of three hours before that time. This will give you extra time in case you run into any last-minute snafus…like forgetting your paperwork in your checked baggage. The ship will sail without you—I’ve seen it happen many times. Don’t be that person…you know the one.

These are just a few tips for checking in at the cruise port. What other advice do you have for fellow travelers? Join the conversation on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook page.

4 Tips for Choosing Early or Late Cruise Dining

Selecting the perfect cruise dining option can be a slippery slope if you don’t know the pros and cons to each option.

 

When you book your cruise, you’ll be asked which dinner seating you want: early or late. If you’ve never taken a cruise before, this question has absolutely no context and is nearly impossible to answer. Even avid cruisers often flounder, since each cruise dining option comes with its own advantages…and disadvantages. Try these four tips to help you decide which cruise dining option is right for you.

cruise dining

1. When do you usually eat?

If you like to have dinner on the table the minute you get home from work, stick to your regular routine. Choose the early dinner seating—it usually starts around 6 p.m. But if you like to lounge around a while or hit the gym after work, you might prefer a later setting, which typically starts at 8:30 p.m.

I get up at the crack of dawn, which means I eat breakfast early. As a result, I usually have lunch around 11 a.m., so the thought of eating dinner any later than 6 p.m. makes me cringe. But if you like to sleep in, the later seating might be just what you need.

2. What activities are you taking part in?

If you like to dance the night away, a late dinner is a great option. You’ll have more energy and all the sustenance you need to soak up any spirits you might be imbibing. And you can sleep in a little longer the next morning before your stomach starts grumbling. But if you plan on turning in early, choose the earlier seating. No one wants to go to bed on a full stomach.

Evening activities are not the only things you need to consider when selecting the best cruise dining option. Check your cruise itinerary to see how long your ship will be in port each day, and consider what you plan to do once you’re ashore. If you’re not leaving the port until early evening, you may not want to rush back to the ship in time for an early dinner. If this is the case, stick with a late seating. The same thing goes if you want to take advantage of the hot afternoon sun on your days at sea. If you choose an early seating, you’ll need to cut the afternoon short in order to give yourself enough time to get cleaned up for dinner.

Pro Tip: You don’t have to show up at all for your dinner seating. There is always a buffet or 24-hour eatery you can head to instead. This is a great alternative if your shore excursion does run late and you miss your assigned seating.

3. Who is in your party?

If you’ve got children or seniors in your group, an early seating is probably better for you. But if you’re on a romantic vacation with your better half or a group getaway with a circle of friends, a late seating is the ideal choice. There are fewer children and families at this seating, lending to a more mature atmosphere.

4. Are you spontaneous?

If you still can’t decide which cruise dining experience is right for you, maybe you don’t need to choose at all. Many ships offer an anytime dining option. On NCL, you can simply show up at the dining room whenever you want, and you’ll be seated at the next available table. Carnival has a similar program—you simply show up at a designated area and wait to be assigned to a table in the main dining room.

Pro Tip: Don’t worry if you have second thoughts about the cruise dining option you’ve selected. You can always change your seating later. When you board the ship, simply head to the dining room and ask for a table at the opposite seating. The ship can usually accommodate your request.

Hopefully, now you have a better handle on how to choose the best cruise dining time for your next adventure. If you have other ideas, we’d love to hear about them on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook page.

7 Ways to Make Your Cruise Even More Special

For a few extra bucks, you can make your cruise even more special.

 

Everything you need to have a good time is already included in the price of your cruise. You don’t need to spend one extra cent if you don’t want to. But you may want to budget for a few extras once you’re on board. Here are some of the main ways you can upgrade your experience as you sail the seven seas that will make your cruise even more special.

1. Specialty Dining

Every cruise ship has places you can dine for free. There is usually at least one dining room and a buffet. But most ships also offer alternative dining options. For a small fee, you can eat at a sushi bar, steakhouse, teppanyaki house, or pizzeria, for example. Prices usually range between $10 and $30, depending on the restaurant. Many ships also have a full-service cafe, where you can buy specialty coffees and pastries for a few bucks.

make your cruise even more special

2. Beverage Packages

Water, coffee, and tea are always available on typical cruises. Most also offer free juice at breakfast and some sort of water-based beverage, like iced tea or lemonade, throughout the day. But if you’re thirsty for a pop, bottle water, or anything with alcohol, you will need to open your wallet. But there’s a loophole. You can buy a beverage card that lets you drink as much as you desire, and it usually costs much less than you would spend overall buying one drink at a time. You can get either alcoholic or nonalcoholic versions of the card so the entire family can take advantage.

make your cruise even more special

3. Spa Treatments

Ships of all shapes and sizes have an on-site spa. But beware, the prices are typically well above anything your would spend on land. A massage typically costs at least $120 but can be close the $300 if you’re in the mood for a something more specialized, like a seaweed wrap. If you’re really looking to treat yourself, you can even get acupuncture, Botox, and cellulite treatments on many ships. But relax, there are a few affordable ways to pamper yourself on a cruise, such as a scalp massage, haircut, or manicure.

make your cruise even more special

4. Shore Excursions

If you’re not sure what you want to do when your ship docks at each cruise port, fear not. There are plenty of tour options available through the cruise line. They would with the best local tour companies and guides to make sure you have the best experiences on land. Whether you’re into adventure, culture, shopping, or history, they’ll have something for every taste. Parasailing over the open ocean, horseback riding on the beach, a cooking class at a local restaurant, a visit to the outlet malls—you’ll find it all and more at every scheduled stop.

make your cruise even more special

5. Celebrations and Gifts

Are you celebrating a special event during your cruise? For a small fee, you can arrange to have your room decorated with flowers, balloons, special signs, desserts, wine, and more. You can choose from a variety of themes, including birthdays, anniversaries, and bon voyage. Even if you’re not sailing, you can surprise a friend or loved one by contacting the ship in advance. You can also purchase cruise merchandise and other gifts in advance of sailing so that they’re waiting in your room when you get on board. I’ve secretly hoped someone would surprise with a celebration or gift, but alas…maybe they’ll read this post and get the hint.

Pro Tip: If your travel agent lets the ship know about your special day when you book the cruise, you may get a little something special for free. That’s right…I said free. On my last sailing, I got a gift card for a bottle of wine and a free photo of my choice from the photo studio. It was lovely.

make your cruise even more special

6. Photo Packages

Wouldn’t it be great if life were like the movies and every minute of your special getaway was captured on film (or digital thingamabobs)? Well, every cruise ship has a photo studio to do just that. Every time you get on or off the ship, a team of photographers will be on standby, ready to snap a shot of you at each port. At night after you’ve dressed for dinner, they’ll have impromptu portrait studios set up in strategic locations around the ship. You can even hire a photographer to follow you around for the day.

make your cruise even more special

7. Shopping and Sales

If you love to shop, you don’t even need to step off the boat to do it. Designer handbags, fine diamonds, and couture cosmetics are just some of the upscale items you can purchase in the ship’s boutiques. You’ll also find duty-free tobacco and alcohol, candies and chocolates, costume jewelry, cruise merchandise, cheap tees, and knick knacks. You want it, they got it. And they have special sales every evening. One night you might get a deal on scarves and sunglasses, while the next night there may be a special offer on earrings or t-shirts. The deals are often amazing.

make your cruise even more special

Pro Tip: You can purchase just about everything on this list in advance of your sailing by contacting your travel agent or accessing your online itinerary. You can even buy gift cards to make purchases in the ship’s shops. This way, you still don’t have to spend any extra money once you set sail.

These are some of the main ways you can make your cruise even more special. What other ways can you think of? Share them on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

3 Tips for Choosing a Vacation Destination

With so much world to see, how do you choose a vacation destination?

 

My bucket list is at least a mile long. Israel, Bali, Myanmar, Peru, Portugal, Russia…these are just a few of the places I’m dying to visit. But I’m open to traveling just about anyplace, which means I have a terrible time choosing where to go. Each year, I can only get to three—maybe four—countries. So how do I decide which ones to visit?

Here are three tips to help you choose the perfect vacation destination when you’re not sure where you want to go.

Decide What’s Most Important: Date, Budget, Destination

When you’re searching travel sites for vacations, there are a few different ways you can filter the results: date, price, and place. So before you even begin your search, decide which of these is most important to you. Are you a sun seeker or a skiier? Do you like farms or cities? If you have a specific type of activity you like to do or part of the world you want to see, narrow your search using those details. Otherwise, if you’re open to any destination, your best bet is to base your decision on date and price.

Perhaps, you can travel any time of year, but you only have $1,500. Sort your search by lowest to highest price. This way you won’t end up flipping for something with a hefty price tag that’s out of your budget. You may be surprised by what you find. There are plenty of times I’ve booked a trip someplace I didn’t know I wanted to go because I found a smokin’ deal. But beware…You know how they say not to try on a wedding dress that’s out of your budget because you’ll fall in love and nothing will compare? Well, vacations work the same way. Don’t look at river cruises if you’ve got a Carnival cruise budget—no offence to Carnival. It’s just a lot cheaper than other options.

If you know you only have four days of vacation time, and you can only take days off in September, filter your search by date and number of days. You’ll weed out a bunch of options that don’t apply to you, making your choice for a vacation destination easier. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found the right place for the right price but then realized it was at a time of year that simply wouldn’t work for me. Talk about disappointing.

Who is Your Travel Companion?

Even though you may be open to all sorts of different places, your travel companion may not be. Consider the types of things the person you’re traveling with likes to do. Does this person like to shop? Then New York City might be the perfect escape. Or maybe your companion really likes animals. You might decide to take a safari together.

There are three people I typically travel with: my mother, my husband, and my best friend. Each one has completely different tastes. So when I look at my bucket list, I think about which vacation destination is right for each person. For example, my mom loves charming seaside villages. A river cruise through France is perfect for her. My best friend? She’s all about the shopping. Vegas or LA are the best types of places for us to hit up together. My husband is a bit more adventurous. For our next trip together, we’re thinking an ATV drive through Machu Picchu, for example.

There are many items on my bucket list that don’t interest my regular travel companions. For these places, I’ll either convince one of them to cave in and go with me, or I’ll look for other options. I might join a tour group, or I’ll simply hop on a place all by myself.

How Do You Like to Travel?

Do you like to create your own schedule while you drive along vast highways? Or do you prefer to let someone else do the driving? Maybe you like a mix of both. These are important factors that can help you narrow down your vacation destination.

If you like to be part of a large group, start your destination search with a look at what tour companies have to offer. If you like being on the open ocean, then look at different cruise lines to see what they have available that interests you. Don’t bother looking at dates and rates for tour or cruise vacations if they’re not your style, but you might want to use them as a jumping off point for planning your own vacation.

There are times when I like to plan every part of a trip—train tickets between towns, bed and breakfasts in little villages, entry fees for attractions. And then there are times when I’m super busy and like to let someone else do all the work. Get a stack of vacation magazines and brochures, and simply start leafing through the pages. See what’s out there that catches your eye. You’ll likely be inspired by a few different itineraries or images. You can either book directly with the company that made the brochure or start booking your own plans based on the itinerary you found.

Want more great ideas for the perfect vacation destination? Follow Wanderlust Wayfarer on Twitter, where we’re constantly sharing cool places to go and things to do around the world.

Learn to Have a Relaxing Vacation

I’ve always been the kind of person who can’t sit still. And I found it difficult to have a relaxing vacation. But not anymore.

 

Does the thought of kicking back on a beach scare you? How about the idea of being stuck on a cruise ship with no access to the Internet? if you’re the kind of person who likes to keep busy, you know how hard it is to have a relaxing vacation. Here’s how I learned to overcome my fear of doing absolutely nothing for more than a few hours at a time.

1. Start Small

Don’t try to be something you’re not. Just because a friend tells you how refreshed she feels after a week sunning herself on a beach in Mexico doesn’t mean you have to jump on that train. You like the fast lane, and that’s okay. If you’re used to the kind of vacation that takes you on a whirlwind tour of six countries in seven days, booking a week at a relaxing resort in Cabo San Lucas may be a bit overwhelming to start. It would be a huge departure from what you’re used to. Instead, try booking an overnight stay at a secluded cabin in the woods or a cruise that has one day with no port stops. You’ll get a taste of what it’s like to have no choice but kick back.

relaxing vacation

2. Travel Someplace Remote

If you’re ready for something a bit more extreme, go someplace where you simply can’t do anything but nothing. Take an African safari, an eco tour through Costa Rica, or a river cruise through the Mekong Delta. You’ll be hard pressed to find a good mobile connection or even a television. But you will find amazing scenery that will distract you from the fact that you’re having a relaxing vacation. Take along a good book (or eReader), a deck of cards, a travel board game, or some crossword puzzles. Heck, toss in an adult coloring book for good measure. You’ll be surprised by how quickly you adapt when you have no other choice.

My first foray into forced relaxation was on Tortuguero Island, a remote village on the northern coast of Costa Rica. There were nothing but iguanas, geckos, and torrential downpours to entertain us. I thought I would die of boredom at first, but after a few hours I eased into the slower pace. We were only there one night, so it was a great experiment. Later, I would take a safari where I was out of connect with the rest of the world for seven of nine days. With elephants roaming the savanna right outside my window, it was easy to enjoy myself.

relaxing vacation

3. Leave Your Electronics at Home

The biggest favor your can do for yourself vacation is to leave your electronics behind—specifically your cell phone and tablet. For most of us that’s a bit of a challenge since nowadays we all use our phones to take pictures, set an alarm, and tell time. So a good alternative is to skip buying an international cell phone plan or buy one with fewer minutes. The costs of data roaming are atrocious without want, stopping you from using it to connect with folks back home. Set your cell to airplane mode and tune out. Tell everyone you know not to expect to hear from you for a few days. Plan your work in advance so that you can clear your calendar. If you really must take your work with you, then schedule specific days and times to do it and tell your coworkers they will only hear from your during those times. The rest of the time, you’ll be having a relaxing vacation.

relaxing vacation

4. Treat Yourself

For days when you know you’ll be doing absolutely nothing, treat yourself to a little something special. Get a massage or pedicure, for example. Doing this first thing in the morning can help you get into the spirit of things. Or if you want a break from doing nothing, schedule one for the mid-afternoon. A low-impact workout, like some yoga or a swim, is another great way to unwind. Go for a walk around the area and grab an ice cream, or splurge on a dinner at a fancy restaurant. These are all relaxing ways to enjoy your day.

relaxing vacation

I’m still never going to be the kind of girl who can sit on a beach for days at a time. But over the years, I have come to enjoy a day or two of a relaxing vacation. What are your tips for taking a few days away from it all? Use the #wanderlustwayfarer on a relaxing vacation photo of yourself on Instagram to share your ideas.

 

3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Vacation Days

Most of us have limited time off work. With so much world to see, the last thing you want to do is squander your vacation days.

 

Being a writer, I’m always looking for creative inspiration. Travel is a window to the world, unleashing my enthusiasm and refreshing my zest for life. But like most people, I started out at my current job with only three weeks vacation from work. I like to get out of town every three months on average. So, I had to learn how to manage my time carefully. These are my top three tips for stretching your vacation days throughout the year.

Weekend Warrior

Vacation Days

Thinking of weekends as vacation days gives you an extra four days for every trip (Saturday/Sunday before your week off and again after). I’m always amazed y the number of people I talk to who don’t take advantage of weekends as part of their vacation. Many people like to pack on the Saturday before they go or have a few days to relax after a trip. When you’re working with limited days off and a huge world to see, there’s simply no time for such luxuries. As my mom says, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Words to live by for a budget traveler like me.

The minute I punch the clock on my last day before leaving on a trip, I’m in vacation mode. I make every minute count. Instead of only having five days off work, I now have nine. And I try not to waste a minute of that time. My preference is to catch a late-night flight on a Friday if I’m heading overseas or the Saturday-morning redeye if I’m staying within North America (I hate spending money on a hotel if I’m not going to arrive early enough to enjoy it.) This means there’s no time to chill or prep following your work week. But it does give you more time to spend at your final destination.

Pro Tip: Long Weekends

I plan every vacation around a long weekend. Instead of taking five days off work, I only need to take four, saving me an extra day each trip. If you have three weeks off each year, and you plan to use one week per trip, you’ve got three days in your back pocket. Tack those days onto another long weekend, and you’ve got almost an entire extra week off. Hello trip number four!

Tag on to Other Trips

vacation days

If you travel for work, consider tagging on a few vacation days. My former company sent me to Frankfurt for a conference each year. I wasn’t expected to be at “work” until the Tuesday afternoon, and there was always a three-day weekend leading up to it. I would fly to Frankfurt after work on the Friday night, arriving in Germany Saturday morning. From there, I would pay my own way to another place in Europe. I would arrive Saturday afternoon, spend all day Sunday and Monday in the other city, and fly back to Frankfurt Tuesday morning. Often, I would snag a flight between the two cities for as low as $50. And since the conference ended Saturday, I would spend the weekend in Frankfurt to see the sights there. Win-win.

I’ve also done this in US cities, such as Chicago. I was asked to give a presentation on a Thursday afternoon. My company paid to fly me in on the Wednesday night and covered my accommodations through Friday. I took one of my vacation days, giving me a long weekend to enjoy the city on my terms. I paid my own hotel accommodations for the next two nights, but my flight home was covered by my company.

You can use the same tactic for leisure trips as well. Two years ago, my husband and I did a Christmas market river cruise through Germany and Switzerland. The tour ended on a Thursday, so rather than fly home and waste away the weekend, we looked for nearby places with cheap flights. We ended up on a private tour of Istanbul for the next few days.

Similarly, earlier this year, my mother and I were departing from Barcelona on a cruise that started on a Wednesday. Since we had to take the Monday and Tuesday off work to accommodate flight time, we decided to take advantage of the weekend as well. We flew out on the Friday night and had four full days to enjoy Spain before setting sail. Why not?

Work Remotely

vacation days

In this day and age, most jobs let you work from home if needed. If you have a flexible office atmosphere, you can be creative with your vacation plans.

If I know I have a long connection between flights, I make arrangements to fly out early on a Friday morning. Rather than use one of my vacation days, I work remotely from the airport during my layover. My office still gets what they need from me, and I’m able to make the most of my vacation days by not wasting a whole day on flights.

Some workplaces may even allow you to work from your final destination. If you’re a writer, like me, all you need is a decent laptop and Internet connection, and you can do your job from anyplace in the world. If you don’t mind being tied to a desk for eight hours a day while on the road, you can take advantage of the evenings to enjoy the locale and not have to dip into your vacation days.

These are just a few of the ways you can make the most of what may seem like limited time off from work. Have more ideas you’d like to share? Head over to the Facebook group, and let us know how you stretch your vacations days.