EVERYDAY EXCHANGE TRAVELS: HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST TRAVEL EXPERIENCES
Wine Tasting in Paso Robles
One of my favorite things to do is travel plan. Family vacations, getaways with the hubs, girl's trips...you name it. We've had the opportunity to travel to so many great locations that finding amazing experiences at our travel destinations has become a little hobby of mine.
From swimming with wild dolphins in the middle of the ocean in New Zealand to kayaking through the almost Disney-esque mangroves into the bioluminescent bay in San Juan to the most authentic and out of this world all-day wine tour in Tuscany, we've found some real gems when it comes to travel experiences.
When it comes to excursions I always remember two things:
1. Quality over quantity
2. Everything in moderation
The main thing most everyday travelers want to do is get the most out of their vacation time & money without wasting any of it. So how do you know if the excursion you're booking is going to be worth your time? Whether you're looking for a peaceful getaway or an adventure filled few days there are some key questions you need to ask yourself before booking your travel experience.
1. First Things First: Do Your Research
My favorite and most used resource when it comes to booking travel experiences is other people. You can really find out a lot about a certain company, person or place just by looking at other people's travel reviews (not to mention the company website...if it's hard to navigate and somewhat archaic just walk away). My favorite review resource is TripAdvisor. You can find things to do in the area that you're traveling to as well as the top rated experiences, food, hotels, etc. People like you and me tell it like it is and don't hold back any of the feedback they have. Remember--most people want to get the most out of their vacation time & money and will adamantly recommend any company or place that can give them the perfect vacation experience (and will blast any company that wastes their hard earned time and money). I've found almost every single one of our travel experiences on TripAdvisor and have not been disappointed yet. The key is to only search the excursions with 5 star ratings. The more people who have reviewed + the higher the star rating = a sure bet that you will have a good time and get more bang for your buck. As a courtesy I always go back and review the places we've gone which helps the TripAdvisor community stay relevant and trustworthy.
2. Who: Know Your Audience
Is this a family vacation? A no-kids couples getaway? A weekend with your girlfriends? You must think about who you are traveling with first before planning your excursions. For example: going on a "level: difficult" 15 mile adventure hike with a 35 lb. two year old who will probably need to be strapped to your back after about 10 minutes is probably not a great idea (unless you really like climbing mountains with heavy objects strapped to you and with what will most likely turn into a bored toddler). And just like that you've just wasted half a day of vacation. For family vacations convenience is key. Rental houses on the beach, hotels that are walking distance to everything, resorts with kid-friendly activities. You get the idea. Know who you are traveling with and don't try to force anything that will make your travels more complicated. The goal & purpose of vacation is fun, right?
3. When: Length of Trip
Are you headed out for a weekend getaway? Have you taken a full week (or two) off of work to go explore another country? Whatever your goal is keep your time frame in mind & in perspective when it comes to booking excursions. What is really important to you? You could even make a list of priorities (i.e.: visit a specific winery, hold a koala, hike a well known trail, see a famous landmark, etc). As much as I wanted to go up to the Great Barrier Reef while we were in Sydney I knew that we had a pretty packed 10 days to see 2 countries (Australia & NZ) and it was just too far north for us to go. Remind yourself that you can always come back! On the flip side, keep in mind that some cities don't really require much time to visit. When we toured Italy & Switzerland we only spent one night in Venice. It was one of those "must see" places that you could really do in a day.
4. Where: Location
Are you going somewhere tropical and warm or will you be heading to a cooler climate? City life or country quiet? Realize your geographical limits before you try to book something that doesn't make sense. If we are on a wine country vacation, for example, we will most likely book wine tours and a spa day since they go hand in hand. On the other hand if we are out in wine country we aren't going to try and squeeze in a day living it up in the big city or too many excursions. We came for relaxation and wine, not big city life. If you're in NYC then you're probably in the mindset to have a schedule of things to do & see so plan accordingly and make sure you give yourself enough time to enjoy the city WITHOUT a planned itinerary!
5. What: Your Vacation Goals
What is it that you want out of this vacation? Relaxation? Adventure? Quality time with family? Whether you want to enjoy margaritas on the beach all day or explore a new and exciting city, your goals for your vacation will determine what kind of experiences you will have. The most important thing to keep in mind is your timeline and burnout. Burnout happens when you try to do too many activities at once and then your vacation becomes a task list instead of fun. Keep a loose itinerary and keep an open mind if things don't go exactly as planned. Remember to enjoy your time and the little moments in between instead of letting a schedule of activities rule your vacation.