Last week I was on vacation. Leading up to my trip, it had been a busy few weeks, at work and outside of work, so I’m pretty darned pleased that my trip went off without a hitch, unlike the Amtrak delay on my trip the weekend before.
From its start in Indiana at a family wedding to its finish in San Diego with my best friend (and some amazing times in Palo Alto and San Francisco in the middle), my vacation was a lot of fun. It was, I think, the longest trip (barring ones to see my family upstate) that I’ve taken since my UK travels in 2011. With two nights in each city and one night on a plane, I was never in one place for very long, which should have made the trip feel choppy and disjointed, right?
Instead, I felt like I spent enough time in each place to feel briefly settled, and I saw so many people (ten friends in California, around twenty relatives at the wedding) that the trip felt full, without feeling rushed. Once I’m settled and have gone through the hundreds of photos I took, I’ll definitely work up some posts about various parts of the trip. But since I’m tired, let me just give you a few tips about how to make a long trip like this one go smoothly.
1. Go to the library. I knew I wanted to do some sightseeing in San Francisco, but since I was only going to be there for two days, buying a guidebook seemed silly. Instead I bought a laminated map, which was helpful and will be useful the next time I go, and I picked up a DK Eyewitness guidebook at the library. Looking at it before the trip, and on the train from Palo Alto to San Francisco, helped me decide to spend an afternoon in Golden Gate Park – especially once I realized that one of the places I wanted to visit was free on that day of the month.
2. Loop your friends in about your travel plans. I crashed at four different friends’ apartments in California, which kept things inexpensive for me and gave me quality time with friends I don’t see nearly often enough. I was even able to take a shuttle from the airport to her apartment with one of them since she’d just flow in as well. I saw several other friends in California because I reached out to them, via email or Facebook or text, before the trip and during it, and we were able to schedule time for meals or drinks. I love sightseeing, but catching up with people is the best.
3. Pack lightly, and pack wisely. All of my stuff fit inside my oversized backpack and a zippered large tote bag, including three pairs of shoes (in addition to the sneakers I wore for most of the trip) and dresses for the wedding weekend. Most important items for the California part of the trip? Sweater, zip-up hoodie, and light jacket, for those cool San Francisco days; socks, because I did a ton of walking; and, of course, lots of underwear. Item I skipped: an umbrella.
4. Make plans, but be willing to change them. When I was plotting out my time in San Francisco I figured I’d spend a whole day wandering the city – until my friend suggested we drive up to see the redwoods. Best decision ever, or best decision ever?
5. Build in time to relax. I knew when I arrived in San Francisco that I’d be a little burned out after seeing a bunch of people in Palo Alto, so I scheduled a solo trip to Golden Gate Park to take a break from gabbing and just enjoy being outside. Toward the end of my vacation, my best friend and I spent an afternoon watching movies and reading together – exactly what I needed after all the walking and talking I’d done at the beginning, especially since we spent four hours at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park the very next day.
6. Unplug.I don’t have a smartphone, so I only had internet through Wi-Fi on my iPod and Nook tablet. I checked email and Facebook most days, but I didn’t have constant access to either, and I never went on my work email. It helped me be focused on where I was and who I was with, and it meant I was more likely to read in my downtime than to mess around on the internet.
7. But… bring music. Headphones make long flights bearable, as screaming toddlers recede into the background, and music can sometimes worm its way into your trip and become the soundtrack of your travels.
Now that I’m back and staying put for a while, I’ll have more NYC adventures to post about, but in the meantime, any great trips in your recent past or near future? Do you have travel tips to share?