While I am a firm believer in the need for occasional spontaneity, I also relish the ease of the familiar. Thus, I’ve found that one of the best ways to calm my traveling fears is to take some of the guess work out of it beforehand. Before you leave, book your hotel, research attractions, and check out photos of the area. Then, when you arrive you won’t be overwhelmed with the foreignness of your surroundings. As an added bonus, learning about your destination really builds up anticipation for the vacation. In fact, I’ve found it can be almost as exciting as the actual departure.
2. Don’t Overbook
While you’re busy working on step one and planning ‘til your heart’s content, be sure not to overschedule yourself. I know it can be easy to feel like you have to go to every single tourist attraction or your trip is a failure, but take a deep breath and relax. While it would be great to visit every store on the boardwalk, walk on every pier, or ski down every slope, narrow your must-see list down to a manageable number and be sure to leave time open for things like casually exploring or diving into a good book. Your day planner (and your psyche) will thank you.
3. Don’t Mess With Mother Nature
Nothing’s worse than arriving at a beach expecting shorts and t-shirt weather and being greeted with pelting rain (not that I’ve ever done that before <cough, cough>). It may seem like a no brainer, but be sure to check the weather before you leave and pack accordingly. After all, it’s hard to relax when you’re busy fending off heat stroke or hypothermia.
4. Ditch your Tech
This paragraph may cause a plethora of teens to roll their eyes, but unplugging from technology during your vacation can really boost the relaxation factor. For safety, I recommend keeping your cell-phone with you but on a silent mode. Getting away from the world for a bit is what travel is all about, so don’t worry. Your favorite game, social media feeds, and e-mail account won’t go anywhere while you’re gone and by eliminating distractions you’ll get a lot more out of your trip.
5. Beat the Beaten Path
Although there are some sites worth seeing no matter how busy they are, lines and crowds can be a real downer. Some of my favorite vacations memories are of low-key, local places, and while they may be less famous, they’re certainly no less amazing. Talk to locals and see what activities they recommend. There’s a reason they love living where they do, and they’re usually happy to tell you about it.
No matter what, remember to have fun on your trip. Don’t get so caught up trying to have the time of your life that you forget to live. Close your eyes and savor the moment (and the squid) while you have the chance.
P.S. I wrote this for a scholarship entry at myfamilytravels.com, but thought it would be fun to post it here too. Plus, nothing gets me out of the winter-hating-cabin-fever-blues like thinking about vacation. Well, that and ice cream, but that's another story.