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Choose your own adventure: Plan a holiday

Until recently, my trips have involved tagging along on someone else’s holiday or joining a tour – thus, I haven’t had much need to do research. Plus, my dates have been pretty flexible, so I just pick up and go when necessary.

But then a few months ago, I was presented with the opportunity to travel with my best friend. The catch? Our dates were set in stone. We didn’t know where we were going, but we did know when we were going.

So the challenge was – Where do we go? What should we see?

You’ve probably gathered – I love to travel. I love flying off to a foreign land. I love it even more if it is somewhere I’ve never been before. The thrill of experiencing something for the first time, the challenge, the adventure – it’s so addictive.

But you know what? My adventures haven’t all been sunshine and rainbows – I’ve had flights cancelled, luggage lost, I’ve rocked up to see a waterfall and it was dry season. So I know a thing or two, about what not to do.

Thus, today’s travel post is about planning a fulfilling holiday

Tips for Choosing Your Own Adventure

What do I use?

  • 1x Computer with internet connection
  • 1x Travel agent/expert
  • 1x Friends and Family

Why?

  • Computer with internet connection
    • This one is pretty straight forward… so you can look things up 😉
  • Travel Agent/Expert
    • They’ve made a career out of travel, they’ve fine tuned their senses to help figure out what you want in a holiday + most of them have travelled extensively and/or planned countless trips all over the world – utilise this expertise to maximise your vacation enjoyment
  • Friends and Family (to bounce ideas off)
    • It’s always good to get a third person perspective on your travel ideas. Sometimes you are so excited and wrapped up in your plans – you fail to see the more practical components of travel.

Where do I start?

  • Time of year
    • What’s the best time to do the things you plan to do?
    • There’s no point in going to Norway in summer if you are looking for the Northern Lights (a phenomenon known as the ‘midnight sun’ means it won’t get dark enough to see the aurora).
  • World Heritage UNESCO sites
    • When I don’t know where to start – I look up UNESCO sites for the country I’m visiting. If a committee of experts have deemed this site ‘significant’ then it’s probably worth seeing.
    • And most of the time, they’ve turned out to be the highlight of my trip.
    • Factor in what you like – don’t go to a Bronze Age Burial site if you’re not into ancient history, or visit the Amazon if you’re not interested in nature, flora or fauna.
  • Know the local public holidays
    • Don’t get caught out… The last thing you want is to turn up and find everything’s closed.
    • On my first trip to Melbourne, I didn’t understand why I couldn’t find a hotel vacancy and why everything was shut – it was Melbourne Cup weekend…
  • Know when things are on (and when they’re not)
    • Most places are closed at certain times (of the day, week or year) – It’s pointless visiting Musée du Louvre if you’re only day in Paris is a Tuesday
  • Read reviews, actually read them.
    • Book for your needsWhat’s important to one person may not be important to you.
    • In July this year, I stayed at Hotel Utsikten in Geiranger, Norway
      It didn’t matter to me that their less favourable reviews complained about small rooms, no lifts, no tv etc.
      All I really need in a hotel, is a clean bed + bathroom, and a good location. The location was superb (the view from our room was breath-taking) and it ticked the box for being clean. I LOVED this hotel.
  • Have a rainy day back up plan
    • Be willing to alter your itinerary – I’m going to head to the British Museum and/or the Harry Potter Studios for our rainy days in London.
    • If it rains in Paris – consider black and white photos – the Eiffel Tower has such a romantic quality in noir et blanc.

General Tips

1. Find out what you like and want, and book accordingly

This sounds obvious, but so many people go on holidays and visit all the things that a tourist is expected to visit – rather than seeing the things they’re interested in.

I know what I enjoy. I like spectacular scenes of nature. I like being wowed – blown away by Mother Earth.

I also love the buzz of a big city. I love to watch people, observe the everyday lives of the locals, how they dress, how they interact, how they walk and talk.

So I knew I would have a brilliant holiday in Europe, because I was going to see the fjords of Norway, take a photo on the steps of the Palais Garnier in Paris, and eat gelato in Milan (hazelnut is the best!).

And for my upcoming trip – I can’t wait to see a West End musical, visit Platform 9 ¾, have one foot on either side of the Meridian line, share the magic of Paris with my best friend, and look through the ‘keyhole’ in Rome.

What makes a holiday memorable – is experiencing the things you know you’ll love.

And don’t be afraid to make mistakes – give it a try – you might find yourself pleasantly surprised – or if it doesn’t work out –  you’ll know what not to do next time.

Most importantly – know what you like – do what you want – not what is expected.

Just because you are in Paris, doesn’t mean you need to go into Musée du Louvre. If you’re not a museum person, and you are happy with a photo beside the glass pyramid – do that. There’s no point spending your day inside the Louvre when you could be out doing something you enjoy more (such as eating a baguette…).

Last year, I knew I was going to love my time in the USA, because it wasn’t about visiting the Statue of Liberty in New York – but it was about seeing a musical on Broadway.

Cater for your specific interests and everything that happens throughout the rest of the trip is a bonus.

2. Make the most of what you have. Appreciate the moment. Enjoy the little things.

I remember sitting on a bus in Voss (Norway), and it was buzzing with conversation, in a dozen different languages. People from all over the world, different walks of life – all excited – all about to share the same experience. It was a simple moment – I was just sitting on a bus – but it made me smile.

3. Make the holiday yours.

After coming home from France, I mentioned to my friend that I was a little sad to be returning to the romantic city of Paris, because it’s a place I would love to share with ‘someone special’.

And this was my buddy’s response

“We’ll make it our own. We’ll make Paris a different city, we’ll make it crazy and fun and exciting and unique and special to us. It doesn’t have to be romantic Paris.”

So that’s what we’ll do – we’ll tear up the town – make it exciting and fun. We’ll laugh, we’ll sing, we’ll skip – we’ll make Paris our own.

That’s the attitude I’ll pack with me on my travels. I’ll do what I love, I’ll appreciate the moment, and that’ll make it all worthwhile.

And if doesn’t go to plan?  It’ll make a great travel tale, when I come home 😉

This post is dedicated to Divie, for adding a new perspective to my repertoire.
And Krissy.

Previous travel entry: Challenge: Keep a travel diary

Next travel entry: Practically Packed: Electronic devices

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