Oh, hello! Yes: I am, in fact, still alive (and well)! And we just got back from our trip to Cape Cod.
It was wonderful, but I’ve realized something over the past couple of years: we’re (the Raums: Jeff & I) not good travelers. Despite exhaustive planning (on my end) and good intentions (on both of our ends), we generally don’t know what the hell we’re doing when we vacation. It seems easy – relax. Do whatever you want. Eat all the delicious food. Swim. Repeat. But, for whatever reason, I always feel a bit…lost. And end up worn out and exhausted, instead of refreshed.
So, in interest of making myself a better traveler and helping those who may feel the same way (hopefully you don’t, but you never know), here are some tips that I’ve learned the hard way – a kind of “what not to do” travel guide.
1. Don’t overestimate how much you can eat.
This one is really as simple as this: for the love of god, remember you’re a human! Listen. As Jeff solemnly stated the other night while dining at the Lobster Pot – not as an insult – “You [I] can EAT.” He speaks the truth – I really CAN put it away. But I tend to plan my trips almost SOLELY based on food, and end up committing myself to eat more food than is humanly possible to consume in a day. And that’s without factoring in drinks, and we all know that liquid FILLS YOU UP. This ends up making me feel bloated and sluggish, which makes walking around less than pleasant. Definitely do some research and figure out your must-haves, but if you’re used to eating three meals a day and maybe one or two snacks (which is the case with me recently), remember that you’re going to feel like garbage if you attempt to eat literally NON-STOP every single day. Don’t feel bad if you can’t get to every single restaurant you’ve read about. You can always go back another time if you want.
2. Maybe eat a vegetable; DEFINITELY drink some (lots of) water.
On a related note, if you typically eat relatively healthfully in real life, your body’s going to be peeved if you attempt to eat nothing but butter, cheese, bread and ice cream on vacation. I’m all for indulging on vacation and would never dream of trying to follow any sort of healthy eating plan while traveling for pleasure, but maybe eat a salad here and there, or maybe a piece of broccoli. And DO NOT forget to drink water, especially if you’re drinking a lot (of alcohol). Dehydration will ruin a vacation faster than you can say “Ugh, why do I feel like a bucket of discarded fingernails and fish heads?” I tried to get ahead of this this time by buying some yogurt to keep in our mini-fridge and eat for breakfast, but mostly failed. Oh well…next time!
3. Don’t feel guilty about downtime.
I know that it’s easy to feel like you should fill every minute of vacation time with fun and out-of-the-norm experiences, but some of our favorite vacation memories have been watching garbage TV in our hotel room (we are who we are). If you’re constantly going going going, you’re GOING to end up completely exhausted by the third day of vacation. If your vacation is three days long, fine…but if you’re going somewhere for, say, a week, you’re going to need to relax at some point. Whether that’s lounging with a good book or sleeping through dinner and waking up at 10:30 PM to watch Craig Ferguson on the “American Channel” in Mexico while eating room service cheeseburgers (true story, and one of my most treasured memories), enjoy your downtime and don’t feel like you’re “wasting your vacation.” We spent more late evenings than not this past trip watching Shark Tank in bed, and frankly, it was glorious.
4. Don’t try to be a sun goddess if you’re not one.
I’m constantly torn between wanting to bask in the sun (the amount of sun exposure I get DRASTICALLY affects my mood and general disposition) and protect my poor, mid-thirties skin from sun exposure. And I DO slather on high-octane sunscreen before hitting the pool or beach (or anywhere else I’ll be getting more than a couple minutes of sun), I wear SPF on my face every single day without fail, and I try to remember to bring a few hats when I travel somewhere warm. But then I get there, and I forget just how BRUTAL the sun can be. I’ll lay on the beach or by the pool for 10 minutes and start thinking “Holy shit, the sun is ACTIVELY TRYING TO HURT ME!! This actually HURTS MY BODY!!” I don’t know how people lounge on the beach ALL DAY, but if I spend more than a few hours in the sun, I’m BEAT for the rest of the day – even if I’ve been in the shade.
5. Don’t force yourself (or your partner) to do things you don’t enjoy “for the gram.”
On a related note – don’t do things you don’t enjoy because it feels like you “should.” For example: Jeff and I aren’t really beach people. Jeff doesn’t like sitting in the sun, and doesn’t really enjoy the ocean (unless it’s SUPER CLEAR, bath-like, tropical water). I really don’t enjoy sand, and lugging everything onto and off of the beach just isn’t my idea of a good time (the juice is NOT worth the squeeze for me, generally). I can get into the beach for a while with a big group of friends, or if I’m at a resort or hotel with private beach access with chairs and umbrellas, but if it’s just me and Jeff and we’re schlepping all of our stuff to just sit there for a few hours and then drag a ton of sand into our car when we’re done, I’m not really into it – I’d rather hang by the pool or elsewhere and read or whatever else I’d being doing at the beach. This has been hard for me to admit to myself because I was a MAJOR beach baby growing up (but on Lake Erie, which is much more low key than the ocean), and people in Delaware are ALL ABOUT salt life. I’m definitely in the minority around here, but it’s just how it is. I like the beach ATMOSPHERE – I love an ocean view, and I’m all for a trip down south to wander the boardwalk or eat some seafood, but the beach itself just doesn’t do much for me. That said, I always feel pressure to do at least one “beach day” when vacationing somewhere beachy – we did it in Cape Cod, and we did it in Spain. While I can’t say I necessarily regret it, the beach experiences definitely weren’t my highlights of either trip (not counting the untouched beach we boated to in Spain – that sort of thing is a definite exception to this rule). In the future, I’ll definitely prioritize a hotel or rental with a sweet pool setup over beach access, because it’s what we prefer and that’s okay.
6. Don’t buy crap you don’t want just because you “need a souvenir.”
I mean, this is pretty obvious. I personally haven’t done this in years, but I definitely fell victim to the “souvenir trap” before I started traveling more regularly. Pretty much anywhere with any tourist population is going to have 15 million crappy souvenir stores…and I’m not going to lie, I have always and will always go into them and look around, because it’s fun. But the stuff in those stores is usually poorly made, overpriced, and garish looking, and it’s not something you’d ever buy anywhere else. If you want to bring something home, try going off the beaten path to a locally owned store selling things that are genuinely cool and unique – stuff you’ll actually use and/or display when you get home. We typically still buy some kind of ridiculous souvenir because our parents genuinely like those kinds of things (and our friends get a kick out of them), and I decided a while back that I was going to start collecting magnets when traveling (after noticing that I didn’t have enough magnets for my fridge, and the ones I did have were a random assortment of local advertisements and other ugly crap), but other than that I try to find more unique shops and support them instead if I feel like shopping.
7. Be good to your body.
I’ve kind of already covered this, but for me, this means exercise. I’ve never once successfully exercised while on vacation despite ALWAYS packing running shoes and a sports bra, but I honestly think it would make me feel better to go on a short run before starting my day. Not only would it make me feel slightly better about eating all the everything for the rest of the day, but it would provide some peaceful alone time and a chance to see a different side of our travel destination. I’m always a little worried I’ll inadvertently overdo it and end up sore, and have used it as an excuse to skip working out altogether, but a 1 mile run (or even a brisk walk or short hike) isn’t going to hurt me in reality. I’m committed to giving it a go on our next trip.
8. Research rainy day activities in advance (and be realistic about it!).
Almost every trip I’ve been on has included at least one rainy day, and I almost always end up stumped as to what to do. When we went to Savannah, it rained almost the whole time we were there. I knew it was going to in advance (I’m an obsessive weather checker), and I had researched a bunch of things to do, but the things I “decided on” were mostly things we definitely weren’t actually going to do: visit museums (we’re not museum people), travel out of town to do a brewery tour (we weren’t renting a car), shopping (I’m not going to drag Jeff around various shops all day, and I’m not realistically going to spend an entire afternoon on vacation shopping). It rained all day one of the days when we were in Cape Cod, and we ended up spending most of the day chilling in our hotel room reading, then driving to the next town to get Duff Goldman’s favorite lobster rolls. It was actually a pretty great day, and I’m glad we saved our mini-excursion for a day when walking wasn’t in the cards.
The last thing is less advice and more of a crowdsourcing attempt: how do you guys ward off spending guilt when you’re traveling? Is this just a me thing? These days I always budget for travel and even have a separate “Vacation” savings account, so I have plenty of money set aside to spend while traveling. It’s not like I’m using credit cards and going into debt, or spending money that was earmarked for something else, but I always feel cringe-y about the amount of money we spend on vacation. Is this just how I am as a result of being broke for so many years? The only way I can think of to prevent this is to only to all-inclusive resorts…don’t get me wrong, I love an all-inclusive vacation, but they’re pretty limiting and I definitely want to travel to places other than the Caribbean. Christ, that sounded gross…this is absolutely a “check your privilege” situation, but nonetheless – I guess it is what it is. Any tips would be much appreciated (or, y’know…feel free to tell me to kick rocks). Cape Cod recap to follow!