American adults don’t go on vacation as often as they should.
While the average full-time employee received two weeks of paid time-off, research shows most U.S. workers fails to use about five paid vacations days per year. In today’s fast-paced world, there tends to be an inclination to do it all and see it all. The technology of today revolves widely around apps and websites that can do everything from book a restaurant, map your walking tour, and even find the nearest public restroom. The seeming efficiency of a vacation lived at this pace has a downside – it doesn’t feel like a vacation. In a world of information overload, all at our fingertips at all times, it can be extremely difficult to remember the fundamental point behind taking a vacation. Certainly, cultural immersion can be a part of a trip, but taking time away from the norm to experience a different life than our own, is its own reward. Here are seven ways to fully embrace your next holiday, no matter how short.
1. Live Like a Local
The #1 tip to create a memorable vacation is to live like a local. It can be easy to skim through a destination with a vacationer’s dream idea of how your holiday should look. Stopping to smell the roses will greatly enhance your overall experience and allow you to feel connected to the city or country you are traveling in. One of the very best ways to blend into the local economy is to go grocery shopping. By not simply eating at restaurants at every meal, you will meld with the locals as they go about their day-to-day living. Try that smelly cheese you are unfamiliar with, or dive into an exotic looking piece of fruit. Make an impromptu picnic by visiting local markets and assembling the perfect lunch, to be eaten in a scenic spot while people-watching. If you do fall in love with a particular restaurant, it is okay to visit more than once and make it “your place” in that city, giving a place a touch of familiarity. Traveling by public transportation is another excellent way to really get a feel for a place and an opportunity to connect with the local residents.
2. Put Down the Devices
These days it seems everyone is permanently attached to their personal devices. Rather than spend your short vacation staring at your smart phone or computer, considering simply leaving them behind. If that isn’t an option make sure to put them aside from time to time. When you spend your life attached to a device, you miss all of the intricacies of life happening all around you. Watch the sunset. People-watch in the local park. Be in the moment. It is more challenging than you might think, but well worth the effort to experience what is all around you, and truly drink in the moment, without the need to share each moment on social media.
3. Manage Expectations
Studies of the happiest people in the world show one common thread – the level of perceived expectations of events. Those who are often the happiest don’t expect every day to be a “day to remember” but instead hope things go well and are pleasantly surprised when magic happens. Go into your short vacation with the expectation to have a few days to unwind, decompress, and relax. If this relaxed attitude finds you lucky enough to experience the perfect day on the beach or an unexpectedly great lunch, consider it an excellent perk, but not a requirement of a great time.
4. Pack Light
Pack light at all costs. Especially for a short holiday, carry-on luggage is the way to go. Reducing the amount of time spent in airports checking-in, and then waiting for, your bags, will improve your attitude and get you out on the streets exploring, that much faster. Not only will you be lighter on your feet when getting to your destination, you will also avoid the possibility of lost bags and the inevitable paperwork required to, hopefully, retrieve your bags. Remember, it is possible to pick up basic toiletries such as toothpaste anywhere in the world and the need to do so simply adds to the adventure.
5. Hire A Guide
This tip may seem the opposite of living like a local, and yet can be one of your best investments, especially on a short vacation. Many city tour companies employ locals to lead visitors on half-day tours, offering up a personal perspective on their hometown. In a short amount of time you can be introduced to local haunts you would not have found on your own and get an insider’s perspective on everything – from the best restaurants, to local politics and everything in between.
6. Slow Down
One guaranteed way to turn a vacation into an epic fail is to attempt to pack too much into your itinerary. Having a game plan, especially on a short holiday, is important but it is also essential to make time for serendipity. So many factors come into play on holiday including jet lag, illness, and even local factors such as closed museums or road construction, that over-planning is a recipe for disaster. Focus on slow travel and truly savor what you are experiencing rather than worrying about what you’re missing.
7. Say Yes
Do you want to make your vacation memorable? Just say YES. We spend much of our lives weighing the options and often saying no out of fear, hesitation, or insecurity. Try to just say yes more often. Yes to an impromptu dinner invitation. Yes to a day completely different than what you had planned. Yes to serendipity. This small practice may not just upgrade your vacation but might actually change your life. At the end of the day, what is important to remember is to focus on the details. Various time studies have shown that the more detailed our memories, the longer the moment seems to last. Focus on the details of each experience, and even a short vacation can become a special trip designed to create memories for a lifetime.