Whose vacation is it anyways?

Summer is here. It’s warm outside, many people think that COVID-19 has been beat, have cabin fever, disposable income, can take time off work, and want to travel and take a vacation.

After the decision to travel has been made, then it’s time to make numerous choices about where to go, when to go, what to see, how long, how to get there, and where to stay and eat.

And if you are traveling with another person (i.e., a friend or family) then there are always compromises that need to be made.

Some of these decisions should probably be made before leaving your dwelling whereas others can be made while on the road or at the spur of the moment.

These are perennial questions that many people in this particular situation ask but for some strange reason don’t really think through. For example, let’s say you want to visit Paris, France. Many tourists who go there often feel obligated to visit the popular attractions like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, various memorials, and possibly neighborhoods like Marais and the Latin Quarter.

But visiting these destinations can be unnecessarily challenging experiences. The lines to get into popular museums and galleries are frequently long, the popular venues and neighborhoods are crowded, the signs may be confusing, and once inside the attractions it’s a less than ideal setting to glean the information that is presented. In short, the average visitor ends up becoming overwhelmed and exhausted.

Traveling and vacationing can be especially challenging for women, visible racial and ethnic minorities, senior citizens, the disabled, and people traveling with infants, small children, and animals.

The more important question tourists and vacationers should probably ask is why should you subject yourself to these kinds of experiences? If it’s because that’s what everybody does when they go to Paris (or some other popular destination), or to post photos on your Instagram, or to show your friends that you are cosmopolitan, then I’d argue that this is a big waste of your time and money.

But so many people’s approach to travel and vacationing is simply just that.

They come home from vacation exhausted and frustrated and vow to do it differently next time.

Most people are poor travelers. This may be because they do it so infrequently and thus they are not experienced, don’t really know where to visit, what to bring along, and where to stay and eat.

So how can this frequently negative experience be minimized?

At the core of traveling is doing some thoughtful planning to avoid a boatload of regret during and once you return home. Ask yourself tough but thoughtful questions, rather than leaving it up to someone else (like a tour operator) or assume that you’ll “figure it out once you get there.”

Determine beforehand exactly what you want to accomplish by going on vacation and if the possible destinations that are on your short list will enable you to achieve this. Make multiple lists asking yourself what you want to visit and why.

Talk to people who have recently visited the location that you want to go to. Ask them what they liked and disliked the most. If finding appropriate people to talk to is too difficult then visit travel web sites like www.tripadvisor.com or www.yelp.com to get a sense of where people visit, what they see and experience, why they go to those locations, and how. This task should not be too difficult, but if you want to maximize your enjoyment start by asking questions now rather than later.

Photo Credit:

Fredrik Rubensson