I am spontaneous, but in an extremely planned way. Oxymoron you say? I disagree. It is all about knowing about the area you are traveling. A little research can add options that you can switch up on the fly.
Here are a few tips for a planned spontaneous vacation:
- The main attractions - Chances are you are visiting a specific area for a reason. There is something there you want to experience. Find out all the details up front. What are the hours, the price, and the parking situation? Do you need reservations? Should you arrive early? Do they have a behind the scenes tour? It would be a huge disappointment if you did not get to see a specific attraction because they are closed that day or sold out.
- Where are you staying? Read the reviews! Do they offer breakfast, Wi-Fi, free shuttle to airport, free parking? This information can make a big difference in your stay.
- How are you getting around? Find out if a car rental, taxis, local transit, or just hoofing it makes more sense for the area you are visiting. Some areas may have extraordinarily high parking fees that effect your decision. Other areas have everything you want to see in walking distance.
- You HAVE to eat. Take in some locally recommended restaurants. Yelp.com is a great tool for this. Keep the name and address of several that appeal to you and have great reviews. You can choose from this pre-checked list. You aren’t limited to this list, so get the local’s tips before you arrive.
- Weather or other circumstances may change your itinerary. To enjoy a trip, you’ll need to be able to “roll with it”. Plans change, events are cancelled, it rains, the show is booked, etc. so be ready with back-up options. Have some side trips or activities pre-scouted in case you find yourself with extra time. This could include a great shopping district, artist’s area, historical tour, or museum.
- En route - You never know, you might drive right by a Bigfoot museum. Check to see if there is anything worth pulling over to explore. If you find yourself wanting to take a break from driving, you’ll know where to stop.
This research is much like packing. Now you have a suitcase full of all the clothes you’ll need, and many you won’t. Just because you brought that blue sweater, doesn’t mean you have to wear it. It also doesn’t mean you can’t buy a sweater while you are there. But if you get cold, it is wrinkle free and ready to keep you warm.
I’m not suggesting you schedule every minute of your trip. That can actually add stress. However, knowing what to expect can alleviate stress. Plan to be spontaneous!
Here are some tools I use when I plan a trip:
- Yelp.com is a wonderful source to scout our restaurants and bars.
- Tripadvisor.com is my first stop. They have terrific lists of attractions and helpful forums.
- Check out the area’s own website for local tips. Many offer travel guides.
- Of course, I always reserve my airport parking at parknticket.com