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.

 

Travel Inspiration: Tips for Deciding on a Destination

How do you decide where to go on vacation? With so much world to see, we could all use a bit of travel inspiration.

 

There are so many places I want to go all across the globe that, sometimes, I don’t even know where to begin. Occasionally, I think about throwing a dart at a wall map and heading to whatever city it lands on. Often, I hear about a good deal and book it immediately. Other times, I fall back on these trusted sources of travel inspiration.

Newsletters and Brochures

Travel Inspiration

My number one source of travel inspiration comes in the form of weekly email newsletters I get from some of the best tour companies in the business. I also stock up on travel agency brochures featuring extravagant vacation packages. I can’t afford a single thing they offer, but I can dream. And I can use the itineraries they offer to create similar, more affordable travel plans. In fact, I often follow their exact day-to-day plan, finding my own transportation between communities, lower-priced boutique hotels, and local guides to show us around.

Occasionally, I get lucky, and one of the tours I’m coveting goes on sale. It pays to keep an eye on the prize. For example, last year, I scored a 7-day AMAWaterways Mekong River cruise for just over $1,000 per person. It was ridiculously luxurious and the deal of a lifetime.

Similarly, after seeing an amazing Costa Rican experience in an Adventures by Disney brochure, I was inspired to venture to this part of the world. I did some digging around and found a similar travel package from Caravan Tours for $995 per person. It wasn’t quite as intricate as the one offered by Disney, but it was within my budget and a great way to get a taste of a new culture.

Blogs and Social Media

travel inspiration

Surfing the net for random travel ideas can be tedious. Instead, I search hashtags like #travel and #wanderlust on Twitter. This is a great way to see where other people are going and find offers on places you may not otherwise have considered as a vacation destination. It’s also a great way to find travel bloggers, like me, who might inspire you in the long term.

A lot of the people who post in popular travel hashtags on Twitter belong to travel companies or websites. But many others are travel bloggers. On Twitter, you can find a brief profile outlining their special interests and a link to their website. Look for someone who has similar tastes to you, and subscribe to that person’s blog. There’s something for every taste. Some blogs highlight adventure travel or romantic escapes, while others focus on fun family vacations, for example.

Books and Magazines

travel inspiration

I love to get lost in the pages of a good book. And it seems I’m attracted to books that take the protagonists on adventures to faraway places. This makes for great travel inspiration. I always want to go to the places I’ve read about. I can’t read a single Laura Florand book without wishing I was in France. And don’t even get me started on The Buenos Aires Broken Hearts Club or Under the Tuscan Sun. A few years ago, I took a vampire tour of Romania after re-reading Dracula. You never know what might pique your curiosity.

Flipping through pages of a magazine can ignite similar wanderlust. Looking at pictures of beautiful places can spark a yen to know more about those places. If you feel like you simply don’t know where to begin your search for a vacation destination, grab a copy of Condé Nast Traveler. It’s rare I can afford the resorts they feature, but I do get plenty of ideas for places I’d like to go.

Friends and Family

travel inspiration

Listen to what friends and family have to say about where they’re going or have already been. Look at their vacation photos. Get a little jealous—actually, get jealous enough to take action. I know hearing about all of the cool places people have gone makes me want to go there myself. And getting a first-hand account of someone’s personal experience can really help when it comes to choosing accommodations and activities.

Lean on friends and family for advice. I know hearing about a friend’s African safari adventure or a cousin’s SCUBA story from Australia can really get me in the mood to make my own travel plans.

If you’re looking for travel inspiration, these are a few great ways to find out about new places or adventures. What inspires you? Head over to the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group and 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.

 

Know Before You Go: Tips for the Savvy Traveler

There’s much more to planning the perfect trip than booking airfares and accommodations. Here’s what you need to know before you go to make sure everything goes off without a hitch.

 

Just this past week, I was chatting with a fellow traveler onboard a cruise ship. As he was talking about his pending travel plans abroad, it quickly became clear he wasn’t aware of some of the things he needed to take care of before stepping foot outside the country. These are just a few of the things you need to know before you go on your next trip.

Travel Documents

By now it’s pretty common knowledge that you need a passport to enter another country. But that’s not always enough. While our great country has travel agreements with many nations, you may need a travel visa as well. You can check with the US Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs to find out if the place you’re planning to visit requires any special travel documents in order to enter.

Avoiding Illness

It’s always a good idea to keep up to date on your immunizations. If you’re an avid traveler, it may be more of a necessity than you know. Some countries require you to be immunized against specific diseases and provide proof upon arrival. For a list of recommended and required immunizations, you can check the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention Traveler’s Health site. For the basics, like rubella or tetanus, your family doctor can likely take care of them for you. For less common vaccines, such as yellow fever, you many need to visit a special travel clinic. You can find a listing of local clinics on the CDC Traveler’s Health site.

Money Matters

Financial institutions may lock down access to your credit cards and bank accounts if they don’t know you plan on being out of town. The last thing you need is to be without money in a foreign place. Most banks and credit card companies have pretty sophisticated technology these days. They have ways to monitor your accounts for unusual activity. But it’s a good idea to check if the companies you use require a travel notification when you plan on leaving your hometown. Usually, you can find an online link where you can provide the details of your travels. Or you may need to make a quick phone call.

Consular Contacts

Sometimes unfortunate events occur. We don’t usually plan for them in advance. But things happen. If you find yourself in a sticky situation—a lost passport, act of nature, health scare, local state of emergency, or even an arrest—you need to know who to call for help. Always have the contact information for the local embassy or consulate handy. They know how to get you the help you need when you need it.

Safety Considerations

No one wants to focus on the negative before going on an adventure. But it’s just good common sense to know the potential dangers before you leave home. For everything from petty crimes, such as pickpocketing, to possible terrorist threats, you can find the latest travel warnings and alerts online. It’s a good idea to check them out before you book in case anything raises a red flag for you. We all have different thresholds, so what seems like the norm to you, may be a deal breaker for someone else. And because we live in an ever-changing world, check again before you leave the country to be sure you have the most current information.

Ensure You’re Insured

It’s the little details that fall through the cracks. Travel insurance is often one of them. It’s highly unlikely you’ll get so sick you need to be hospitalized or that your luggage will completely disappear off the planet, but you never know. If you break your leg the week before you’re planning to hike Machu Picchu, you’ll be thankful you spent the few extra bucks for cancellation insurance. Or what if you knock out a tooth when you trip and fall on one of those cobblestone streets in Europe? A trip to the dentist is extremely costly if you don’t have proper coverage.

These are a smattering of things you should know before you go on any vacation. If you’ve got others to add to the list, share them on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook or Twitter pages.