Slightly oddball tips for a great travel vacation. (AKA, things I’ve learned by doing or observing or by having common sense.)

travel blog & musings

In no particular order, and not all-encompassing. Accompanied (mostly) by pictures from a recent trip to Maui & Kauai. Also perhaps not all oddball… that could just be me.

Hawaii_1 NIKKOR VR 30-110mm f:3.8-5.6_215

1. Schedule super busy time at work for the 8 months previous to vacation so everything seems magical just by virtue of not working. Or, schedule vacation right after your busy time at work so everything seems magical just by virtue of not working. Or if you’re always busy at work, just go. If there’s never a good time, just go. You need to go. Do NOT say you’re too busy to go. Downtime is essential for being a good human. You can’t have a great vacation if you don’t take one.

2. Just go.

3. Bring an extra pair of contacts if you wear contacts. And your glasses.

4. Monochromatic or all complementary colored non-wrinkly wardrobes makes packing so easy. Especially if you’re throwing things into your bag an hour before you take off to the airport.

5. Consider hiring a driver/guide for a day or schedule a day tour with guide for whatever interests you. Like this one on Maui or these people on Kauai or this guy in Beijing. ONE day. Unless you have an unlimited budget. Seriously. Tours can feel canned if you don’t get the right one (I’ve been pretty lucky with getting the good guides!), but it’s a day when all you have to do is sit back & observe nice-looking things (like the scenery. Or your guide/driver) and not make any decisions or hunt down food or need to pay attention to road safety. After your previous months of super busy work leading up to your trip, this easy day is nice recoup time to gather energy and information for the rest of the trip. And is a day when you won’t need to pay for a rental car, if you’re a rental car type of person. Especially recommended at the beginning of your trip, since it does help you get acquainted with the area to plan activities for further days or give you a chance to pick your guide’s head about awesome things to do. (But know what you’re signing up for. Don’t be expecting to be hiking all day when you sign up for a driving tour. And vice-versa.)

Hawaii_iPhone 5 back camera 4.12mm f:2.4_003

(This is the only picture I have of our tour van & guide on the Hana Highway on Maui. This was a 12-person vehicle. The largest group I would probably ever recommend going anywhere with. Any larger, you spend more time getting on & off the bus than seeing anything off the bus.)

6. Face some sort of fear. Which may include but is not limited to: The ocean. Surfing. Talking to people you don’t know. Sitting in the back of a tour bus on hairpin turn roads. Driving those roads later yourself. Haggling. Meditating. Skiing that black diamond. Spending part of a day on a beach & eating shaved ice.

Hawaii_iPhone 5 back camera 4.12mm f:2.4_058

7. Don’t be afraid to get dirty. Hotels have sinks to rinse mud out of clothes. And shoes are meant to be in dirt.


8. Fancy sandals not needed. Leave those at home, bring the walkable sandals instead.

9. Train for a 5k or sporting event of your choosing, as long as it requires self-propelled physical motion, before your trip. Run your race/event 1-2 weeks before vacation so you reap the benefits of the energy this gives you during vacation. And vacation will also seem like vacation away from more than just work–you’re taking a break from work AND training, making your time away doubly magical.

(UNLESS your vacation includes an activity such as climbing Kilimanjaro or running across Liechtenstein–then train for that, of course, up until that part of your trip.)

Side note: who wants to climb Kilimanjaro or run across Liechtenstein with me?

10. Bring a book to read or something to do, but if you don’t get to reading it, not a big deal. You’ll have it there if you want to read it. Point is, don’t feel beholden to preconceived notions of what you HAVE to do on a vacation (things with large monetary deposits excepted). Do what moves you at the time. Don’t over-schedule.

11. Don’t spend your entire time shopping. Memories & experiences are souvenir enough, you don’t need kitsch too (I’m not saying don’t ever shop. Just not ALL THE TIME. If one of your friends is being kind enough to watch your pets while you’re gone, please do get them something.)

12. Talk to the animals you see! (From a safe distance. Beware, they’re not all friendly. Like wild boars and long horn sheep. Not particularly friendly. Cats in Istanbul = friendly.)


13. Try the local foods. Try them. There is very little excuse. (except for, ya know, deadly allergies. And belief systems.) You’re in a new place for a reason. Try the local culture.

14. Realize the culture of the place you’re visiting is different than your own & respect that. Even if you don’t agree. Just respect. Be a good human. And if you can’t respect, you don’t need to return on vacation. (If you want to enact social change, that’s a whole different ball of wax. And also not a vacation.)

15. Tell someone you don’t know that you really like their TARDIS phone case, or similar sentiment. And make a friend for a day.

16. Have a thing you do. Mine usually involves dance moves—throwing down waltz steps in Taksim Square, or having bad attitude in various places:

(which I completely forgot about in Hawaii. Hence the picture on the Great Wall. Perhaps I’ll just have to go back to Hawaii to remedy this.)

Or sometimes even running in new locales, dependent on what shoes came with me on the trip. This was my view for a couple of morning runs on Maui:

Hawaii_iPhone 5 back camera 4.12mm f:2.4_054

17. Wear a flower tucked behind your ear all day if the opportunity lends itself. If someone gave you the flower for one reason or another or if the smell is lastingly delightful, even better.

18. Coffee, no matter how delicious & no matter how delightful the small farmstand it came from & no matter how jetlag is hitting you, shall not be consumed on an iffy stomach while riding in the back of a small tour van driving roads with many hairpin turns. Ever.

19. Luck out & get an exit row to yourself on the flight there. Since we all have such control of that.

20. Get inordinately excited about something small. Like the coelacanth you just found out was in the museum you’re going to. You will always remember this as a happy moment.

21. Wherever you go, notice & enjoy the light. The light can be amazing.


22. Pack light. You hear it all the time. This is not slightly unrealistic–more necessary. And is actually my #1 travel tip. Other than have an open mind. So maybe pack light is #2 after have an open mind? Whichever. Have an open mind & pack light. Enjoy where you are, don’t get caught up in the stuff you have with you or what you don’t have.

23. Figure out if you’re a picture taker or not, and be that. If you ARE a picture taker, for the love of whatever you believe, BRING YOUR MEMORY CARDS. They’re expensive to buy on trips and it’s just really annoying to have to take time to find one.

24. Embrace the idea that you will likely forget one major thing on a trip, and only realize it right after the airline door closes or when you first pull out your camera for pictures and realize your memory cards are at home next to your computer instead of in your camera. You will forget something. And it will be ok. And will give you a fun workaround story later. (Unless it’s your meds or your passport or one of your travel party. Make sure you have those.)

25. Don’t rely completely on your smartphone for directions, itineraries, confirmations, etc. Those batteries can die before you realize it. Even if you’re prepared with a backup charger.

26. Just GO.

27. GO, and experience. Don’t impede your own enjoyment.

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