So, in about a month, my husband and I will be packing up the car and heading to Nashville for the annual ACFW Conference. Super excited here! This will be my first trip to Nashville, and I can't wait to take in the sites. Over the years, we've built in extra time to play tourist, and it's one of my favorite things we do all year.
But, we're not heading out blind. Partly because the anticipation and planning are a big slice of the fun for me when going on a trip and partly because I always want to cram in as much as I can on a trip, which calls for some strategy and planning. I've been told that I'm good at vacation itineraries, so I thought I would share with you a few tips that have helped me when planning a vacation.
1. Google is your friend.
In the weeks running up to your departure date, you can use Google to research destinations, hotels, routes, restaurants, weather, and so much more. Gathering information is the first step to a great vacation.
2. Check pertinent facts.
|Tennessee State Capitol - we're planning on touring this place!|
3. Find ways to economize.
If you poke around a bit, you can often find a coupon/bundle deal for museums and sites. In Nashville, you can see Belmont, Belle Meade, and Traveler's Rest for $40 when you purchase the tickets all together. We found something similar in Lexington, KY. They grouped Mary Todd Lincoln's house, Henry Clay's home Ashland, and the Waveland Plantation tours together for one discounted price. Some places, like the Field Museum or Science Museum in Chicago have 'free days' where there is no admission charge (beware of big crowds on those days.) And some places are free all the time, like state capitols, city parks, etc.
4. Eating out can be spendy, but there are ways around that.
Lots of hotels these days have a breakfast bar, and we tend to choose to stay where we can get breakfast thrown into the hotel price. My husband is a particular fan of Drury Inn hotels that have a HUGE hot breakfast...as well as a 'happy hour' every evening where they serve hot dogs, popcorn and all you can drink fountain drinks. When we're setting out for a day of museum visiting and historical site hopping, we stoke up on breakfast, pack a few granola bars and graham crackers and fruit in a backpack, and set off. We tend not to eat lunch on those days, instead eating an early supper and thereby saving the cost of a midday meal. This works especially well for us, since we're not traveling with small children, but you can tailor the idea to fit your family. When we had the kids along with us, we would eat super cheaply at lunch so we could have a nicer dinner.
5. Take TONS of pictures!
Especially if you're on a research trip, but even if you're just there for the experience. Take a picture of the entrance sign. That way you'll know where the rest of the pictures in the file were taken. And take pictures of the signage that goes with an exhibit. You think you will remember, but take it from me, memories are tricky, and details that were once sharp dull over time. (***ALWAYS*** get permission to take photos in a museum. Often times photos are permissible, but sometimes there are restrictions such as 'no flash photography.' If a museum doesn't allow photos, respect that and enjoy the tour. But if photos are allowed, snap away!)
6. Do something unusual.
I love history museums. I plan my vacations around seeing historical sites. But every once in awhile, it's nice to do something different, something you wouldn't do any old day. Last summer on a girl-trip to Galena, IL with my daughter, we decided we wouldn't eat at any place we could eat at home. No fast food, chain restaurants, only local places. Man, did we eat well! And we decided to see a one-man live play. (Above is a picture of us with Mark Twain!) The experiences we had in Galena were extra-special because we went outside our 'norm' to find and do something unusual.
7. Do the expected. Sort of.
My husband and I have a couple of lists, and each vacation, we're always looking for another opportunity to check something off that list. For us, it's state capitols and Presidential homes/libraries. This year in Nashville, we're hoping to check one of each off our lists with the Tennessee State Capitol and The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson's home. Having something like a state capitol list is fun, and it makes you feel like you've got a team goal you're accomplishing. Not every trip we take works to check something off the list, but when it does, it's an extra little fillip to an otherwise already-awesome trip.
8. Be Flexible
|My kids at Devil's Tower|
Sometimes you're going to get tired, so don't feel badly if you can't do everything you had planned. Take some time out to rest. And take time to really enjoy what you are doing instead of pushing on to the next thing all the time. Take a little time out to be silly. :) Don't lose your cool if there are unexpected delays, the weather doesn't cooperate, or you find yourself tuckered out.
So, are you planning any travels this summer, and if so, where are you headed? What are you hoping to see, and do you have any travel tips to share?
Earl Grey Aficionado
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