You’re probably thinking – planning even your vacation is too much and I’m a personal organizing freak. You want your spontaneity and freedom during your vacation, not carrying your agenda around and marking tourist spots.
Well then, we’re on the same page.
I hate tourist queues. I don’t get up in the morning early to see the sunrise. I don’t mark the sights on my map.
I like letting my vacation take its own rhythm.
Last year, on a short trip to Venice, I did not want to plan. My fiance and I, we took the map and strolled on foot through the island. Of course we got lost several times. Of course we did not see all the “tourist sights”. But we ended up in the most strange places, we played with a local cat in a small yard in the Jewish quarter, and only after a few months did I notice I had a picture on a closed fountain that appeared in a “Corto Maltese” comic.
As they say. “Trip with the vaporetto: 1 euro. Shopping in Billa: 10 euro. Eating Prosciutto with fresh olive bread, and drinking Bellini on the stairs of a church in La Giudecca in the sunset wind: priceless.”
Mixing organizing with spontaneity
In order to get your vacation “in flow”, you want to enjoy it. To enjoy it, you need to be relaxed. To be relaxed, well, you need to plan SOME of it.
What to plan:
Trips to and from vacation location. Make sure the flight details/or car details are set. A missed or delayed flight might ruin the whole mood.
The “must see” or “must do”, or as I like to call them, the vacation milestones. In my Venice short trip, I really wanted to go to Murano, where the beautiful glass works are made. So we set aside half a day for Murano, and on the way back, we also stopped in Burano (where lace is made, which I did not know). Burano is a very small island with the most colorful houses in the world. Blue next to red next to orange next to green – you get the picture. And you know what? I ended up liking this place more than the glass works.
The budget you want to spend – and for what. Split your money in these big chunks:
- accomodation and flight
- local ground transportation (try to use public transportation, not taxis)
- shopping and museum entrances.
Keep a daily tracking of what you spend, so that you don’t end up paying more than expected.
How you will get from one place to another. If the place you’re visiting has local public transportation, figure out how much a weekly pass costs. Most tourist cities have special tourist passes that encompass museum entrances with full transportation – this way you can save a lot of money and still get to visit most sights!
If you’re doing a road trip, find out how much it costs to rent a car vs. going by train or other local transportation. Sometimes it might be worth combining the two (for example the TGV in France goes three times faster than a normal car – you do the math).
Clothes. After packing only Tshirts and one pair of jeans on a very windy, 15-degrees-in-August vacation, I learned my lesson. Always get something warm, something light, underwear that you can wash by hand and dry overnight, and comfy shoes that don’t get wet. If you need to buy something locally, don’t go for the tourist stores – a raincoat will always be cheaper in a local department store.
What you want to be spontaneous about:
What you do each day. Don’t plan your schedule in detail in advance – what will you do it it rains, or your feet ache from too much walking? Give in to the nice scenery. If you see a beautiful house on a street nearby, go check it out – you might discover a hidden treasure.
Getting lost. Don’t freak out if all of a sudden you don’t know where you are. Ask locals. Venture out to find the right route. You’ll feel so much better when you see a landmark you recognize, and put the puzzle pieces together. But, of course, keep a map handy. And leave your valuables in a safe box – take only the small cash you need.
Food. Experiment local cuisine. I remember a brilliant small pancake shop in Paris, where we returned the night after the proposal, and celebrated the event. We had some “crepes flambees” and rose wine, while outside blew the chilly January wind. Or the seafood with chips, served for 10 euro “all you can eat” on the French coast.
This being said, I can’t wait to try some local Gyros and Tzatziki tomorrow…:D
and I wish you a beautiful vacation this year!