The Big Five

A fool-proof formula for planning the perfect trip

1. Visit a small city

Arriving smack dab in the middle of a giant, mega-city is standard practice for most vacations. Sure there’s plenty to see here. But once you check off your tourism must-sees and have had your fill of smog, long lines and public transport, be sure to venture out to a smaller city. These small, charming towns are often unspoiled, and offer more opportunities to soak in the culture. They move slower, are less intimidating, easier to navigate and pretty much rock. So relax and get lost in the small-town-awesome. Fair warning, you might fall in love and just decide to stay put.

2. Mingle with natives

You’ve come all this way, might as well rub elbows with the people who actually call this place home. Many times travelers go from hotel to tourist attraction to tourist approved restaurant to airport and miss out on any true local interactions. Sure it might be a little out of your comfort zone, but that’s part of what traveling to new places is all about! So pick up a local paper and find an event to attend. Go to a local dance, a festival, the bowling alley, the hardware store. Ask a local for a restaurant that they would go to on a special night out. Then go there. You’ll know you’re in the right place if you’re the only tourist.

3. Learn a skill

I love taking classes when I’m on vacation. It’s a great way to meet locals and generally all-around awesome people. And you get to learn something new! I find cooking classes especially fantastic because often it includes a trip to the local market to pick up supplies, learning to cook those ingredients, and then feasting on your exotic dishes with your new friends.

    a few ideas:

  • cooking
  • drawing
  • painting
  • tango
  • meditation
  • flower arranging
  • tai chi
  • wine making
  • learning a language
  • sailing
  • archery
  • falconry
  • martial arts
  • scuba

4. Get dirty

Once you’re all citied out, it’s time to get off the beaten track. Zip-up your hiking boots and go find a waterfall, take a rafting trip, go bird watching, trek though the jungle and then zip-line over it, track a mountain gorilla, climb something tall and watch the sunrise, ride a horse, ride an elephant, sleep in a treehouse. Get some nature! A little wild adventure is good for the soul – and the body. After all that indulgence a little workout may be just what the doctor ordered.

5. Chill out

Ever heard the phrase “I need a vacation from my vacation”? Travelers often jam so many activities into their itinerary that they never actually have time to relax. Now is the time to slow down, take a deep breath and enjoy some me time. There’s no better way to end a great trip then by doing absolutely nothing. Save the last few days of your trip to pamper yourself and let go. Doze off on the beach, lay motionless on a raft in the ocean. Book a spa or yoga retreat. Get a massage. Lounge for hours in a hammock reading a romance novel. Enjoy yourself you’re on vacation!

Parting words

If variety is the spice of life, vacation should be an all-you-can-eat fiery buffet of awesome-sauce. Sure, you may think you want to see every temple in SE Asia, but after temple 37 or so you start saying things like … “if I see one more ruby-cloaked, buddhist monk reverently chanting prayers to the Gods so help me…” Yes you CAN have too much of a good thing. So plan on being spontaneous and mixing things up. Even varying your modes of transportation is a great idea. Plane, train, boat, burro, balloon … I’m already jealous!

Want more trip planning? Download my trip-tastic new trip planner.

Happy traveling!

Ashley