1. If you push too hard, you will be too tired.

Your time on vacation is limited and even if you have plenty of time, there’s only so much you can realistically do in a day. This is even more important to remember when you are traveling with others including older and younger family members. If you are traveling all day to your destination, just call it a travel day and expect to do a very limited number of things once you arrive. Most likely, you will only feel like eating, showering, relaxing, and/or maybe taking a short walk to explore your new surroundings. If you try anything more than this, you will be too tired, and this could possibly ruin the rest of your plans. Take it easy on travel day.

2. Cars break down.

Once, on a trip to Denver and throughout Colorado, we had the alternator go out on a car that was only a few years old and still under warranty. Then, because we’re so lucky, the brakes started going out as we were descending from a visit to Pike’s Peak. It happens, things stop working sometimes when you really need them to and when it seems like there is no reason why they shouldn’t. For this reason, we rarely ever use our own car for road trips. Not so fast, though. We’ve had rentals with problems as well so there’s just no guarantee. The nice thing about a rental is that fixing the problem is usually just a trade-in or they’ll send roadside assistance. To stay protected whether you rent or drive your own, know how you’re covered. Have you done all your routine car maintenance? Are you covered under a warranty and how does it work? Does your car insurance have roadside assistance? Do you have AAA or Good Sam in case of an emergency? Just know before you go, so you won’t be surprised or stranded.

3. People get sick.

Sometimes, they get sick before you leave but occasionally, they get sick on the way to your destination. There’s nothing like a sick kid in a hotel room, my only hope if you’ve escaped this until now is that when or if it happens, may it be a really nice hotel room. (And no upset tummies.) Our little guy was a bit under the weather during a recent trip to Savannah and I assure you the hotel was the highlight of that trip. We don’t always have a gorgeous view, but that trip just proves you can’t always have it all. When people get sick, just enjoy the view, even if it is only of the TV.

Sick at the cotton sail
Sick in bed

4. Pictures can be very pretty.

Occasionally, you’ve looked at something online or on social media and you think it’s going to be amazing when you visit. Then you arrive and realize that it looked so much better in the pictures. There may not be any foul play at hand, the truth is that they focused on the beauty in the picture and you should too. I’m not alone but I admit that I may have and will in the future trim something unpleasant off because the photo is meant to be perfect, the place doesn’t have to be. The destination is as amazing as you accept it to be.

5. The powers of stranger danger.

If you travel often and far enough, something will not match your comfort zone and perceived notions about danger. Your previous experiences make you who you are and are a big part of the complexities of your belief system. The only way to tell if an area is dangerous might be to get the advice of trusted people that can guide and enhance your experience. Bad things happen everywhere, some petty crimes are a part of life and happen more frequently in tourist areas. Good places to start are travel guides, AAA, and even your hotel front desk or concierge. Keep your wits about you, heed any advisories and warnings about areas safe for travelers, and if all else fails, then, trust your gut. Not all danger looks like poison, sometimes it looks like a rose. Stay safe out there.

6. Kids need a break. So, do you.

We visit parks, playgrounds, children’s museums, and anywhere else that’s kid-friendly for letting little legs run in between seeing all the good stuff that really interests me or educates them. Wherever I go, I look up all the above and plan accordingly to fit it in every day. It helps them enjoy the museums a lot more when they know they’ll get to playground afterwards. It’s also a good motivator after a hike because they always claim they’re too tired for the hike but magically they’re energy is refilled. Besides, it gives you a few minutes to recharge also. Take a break.

Forsyth park playground
Savannah – Forsyth Park Playground

7. Plan and prioritize.

You can’t do everything, but you can do a lot with a good plan. My cell phone is my most valued assistant. I use google maps and TripAdvisor to search places to see and reviews. On google maps, I save the locations, so I can look them up easily while I’m out or while planning for the next day and hit several things in the same vicinity at once. TripAdvisor lets you create a trip list that also makes it easy to remember “where that one place was that I said I wanted to go to” or find something to eat. If you’ve made a list, it also makes it easier to prioritize which things are most important for your travel experience.

8. Not all hotel chains and car rental companies are created equal.

I have some favorite brands and some not-so-favorites. Just because one company has always been wonderful in one location, doesn’t mean they’re wonderful in another. Review, review, review. Check out what I look for in a review to see if my assessment strategy works for you. Just because I’ve always had a great time at a place, doesn’t mean you will too. The best way to avoid service disappointments is to just try to keep an open mind and an understanding that nothing is messing up your vacation if you don’t let it. Reservations get messed up, the rental car might not be what you envisioned, the hotel room is smaller, all kinds of things can go wrong. Stay pleasant and things might just work out in your favor. I subscribe to the adage that you attract more flies with honey, so be sweet! If it doesn’t work out, it’s not over yet, don’t let it stand in your way.

9. Know thyself.

If you haven’t figured you out yet, you’d better get started. Know what kind of traveler you are. Are you the fancy type that likes to look glamorous or crazy cool casual? Knowing your style will help you pack the right things and leave the hopeful but isn’t going to happen stuff. It that takes up too much room anyway. It took quite a few trips before I realized that the only time I ever made use of the cocktail dress and heels was rare and on well-planned occasions. My usual travels have no room for that. There are some things I do need though, my toiletries, hair products, and computer. That means that if I fly, I must check a bag. I already know this, so it changes how I plan my trip expenses, as well. I may also need several pairs of shoes, mostly flip flops and sneakers though. Look at all the room I just saved! This applies to knowing what interests you also, what are you willing to try, and what do you have to visit or do to make this trip special?

10. Food can cause regret.

The only way to avoid having a serious case of regrets because of impromptu decisions is to plan. Plan everything including meals and snacks, as much as you can. It improves your bottom line for expenses and can keep you from eating something that doesn’t agree with you. If you have special dietary needs, you especially need to know what and where you can eat. I can’t tell you how many times I missed out on eating somewhere good because I wasn’t thinking about food until the last minute and we just grabbed the first fast food we saw. Plan to eat.

11. Do at least one tour, it’ll be worth it.

Have you ever gone somewhere and learned new information after your visit that would’ve been helpful while you were there? Ugh, me too. I’ve found that many tours pack in such good information that it’s completely worth it to plan to do a tour the first day. It also helps get you acclimated to a new place. How to pick the best tour though? Check the reviews and sometimes, I even just go with the Groupon or freetoursbyfoot.com. You can always DIY it as well, but that’s extra research too.

So, the moral of the story is that you must be prepared and stay flexible to have a great time wherever and whenever you go.

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