Successful travelers and not-so-successful ones. If you are like me you have both types of these people in your life:

First there are those who take a vacation and have very little good to say.  They were tired, didn’t like the food, the accommodations, the people, etc etc…

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Then there’s the ones that were amazed by how wonderful and fantastic their trip was, and are sure that no one could ever top what they have just experienced!

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Most of us fall somewhere in the middle, and for me, being a successful traveler means that I come home refreshed, having learned something new, experienced something different, and excited to go again.

If this hasn’t been your story, there are Traits that you can learn from a successful traveler that can help you making the most of your time away from home.  Here goes:

1). Know why you are going to your chosen destination and what you expect to get out of it

 How do you know if your trip was successful if you didn’t have a goal or purpose?

A goal can be as simple as:

                a). Seeing the Rocky Mountains in Colorado

               b). Relaxing and getting away from the daily stress

               c). Getting a tan at the beach at the Florida Keys

              d). Spending some quality time with Grandma in Poughkeepsie

It can also be a little more intentional such as:

                a). Seeing all the Great Lakes

                b). Climbing a 5.7 in Moab

                c). Enjoying the Balloon Festive in Albuquerque

                d). Visiting and learning about the Missions in San Antonio

Or, your goal can be specific and focused as with:

                a). Studying the flora and fauna of the Washington State Rainforest

                b). Following and studying Sherman’s ‘March to the Sea’ Campaign in Georgia

                c). Learning about the specific architectural designs of plantation homes in New Orleans

               d). Viewing and learning about the Puffins (cutest birds ever) off the coast of Nova Scotia (yep…that one is mine)

Whatever you decide is your goal / purpose for your trip, make it clear and keep focused when all the other distractions of traveling get in the way.  Don’t, however, be SO focused that you miss the unexpected things that are also most likely going to happen along the way!

2). Have a plan but make it flexible

A great read is ‘Life is Tremendous’ by Charles Jones.  In this small, short book, Charles outlines the ‘Laws of Leadership’ that are great suggestions for making the most of your life (and travel!).  One of the ‘Laws’ he sites is the ‘Law of Flexible Planning’.  You’ve probably heard that, ‘a failure to plan is a plan to fail’, and while that is undoubtedly true, you won’t be able to make the most of your trip or be a successful traveler if your plans aren’t flexible.

 I once found myself at the Palace of Versailles just outside of Paris, France with 4 teenagers and an 11 yr old in tow.  The plan had been to see the Palace and then make our way to Melun to see the Vaux-le-Vicomte Palace where the story of the ‘Man in the Iron Mask’ had taken place and where scenes from the movie were shot.  I thought we could squeeze that  in because the youngest in the group had desperately wanted to do that.  I was wrong.  Melun was a whole day’s trip in another direction.  My little one was upset and took aim at my poor planning skills.

Instead of feeling like the day was ruined however, the kids got a chance to spend a little more time on the grounds of this great Palace running around and hiding until well after the grounds had closed.  We dodged the Gendarmes (French mounted security guards) until dusk when they finally caught up with us and threw us out.   We did manage to see the Vaux-le-Vicomte on another trip, but for this trip we giggled incessantly and no other mention was made of the disappointment!


3). Work within your limitations

Although travel is sometimes about pushing yourself and overcoming your fears, it’s also important to be sensitive to your limitations.  Take inventory and make notes about the things that are truly a challenge for you.

                What do you struggle with?

Personally, have a bad knee and a bad ankle, so does hiking the entire Via Amore’ Trail on the coast of the Cinque Terre in Italy really make sense for me? This hiking trail connects all 5 of the Cinque Terre’s hill towns along the coast of the Ligurian Sea and has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, so would I want to miss it?  Absolutely not! Should I really traverse the entire (sometimes strenuous) trail that takes all day to hike?  Probably not.  There are, however, ferries and trains that connect each town, so I can pick and choose which legs to hike and which legs to enjoy by transit.  Perfect!  Working with limitations doesn’t have to mean missing anything!

                 Instead of deciding that you can’t do something at all, or deciding unrealistically that you’ll just push through, see if there is a way to overcome your challenges and compromise.  Always be willing to make the most of what you are able to do without sacrificing the enjoyment of the experience!  That alone will make you a more successful traveler!

4). Understand and accept that things are going to go wrong (or at least not according to plan)

If you haven’t yet figured out that things don’t always go as you had planned, then you haven’t left your house!

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Here are some common things that happen on vacation:

Getting Sick

Getting Injured

Vehicle breaks down

Things cost more than what was budgeted / said / posted etc..

Lines are longer than expected

Major sights are closed for renovation

Weather is terrible

No vacancy at a place where you had a reservation

Getting separated from  luggage that got loaded onto a different flight 

The list goes on and on.  There are so many things that can happen on a trip that could potentially ruin a day – or the whole trip – that you might as well plan for it!

Here’s a few of the things that have happened to me or to Eddie and me

Finding our campsite floating in 8” of water as a hurricane blew through Tupelo

Losing the brakes on the truck, while pulling a trailer on the highway, at 80mph in Fredericksburg, VA    (See our story HERE)

Getting stopped by border control for carrying firewood across the Canadian / U.S. border

Swollen feet due to chigger bites in Bowling Green, KY

Having a ship held on my behalf in Victoria, BC (See our story HERE)

Getting stuck in road construction traffic leaving Yellowstone for 5 hours

Nearly missing a flight from Munich because I was unaware of a time change

Walking 40 blocks from Central Park because we didn’t know that the ‘green line’ on the subway was closed on Saturdays

Losing a passport in Europe

You get the picture!  Vacation mishaps can sometimes make for the best stories later, but a successful traveler still starts out prepared.

Here are a few things that you can do ahead of time for a little piece of mind for when things happen:

                    a). If you are on a Road Trip, have a small safe cabled somewhere that is not visible.  In it have a backup credit card with a large credit limit, an alternative form of I.D. and copies of all important documents such as medical insurance cards, I.D.s etc.  If you are traveling without your own vehicle, make sure your backup info is not in your wallet.

                b). Have a plan for if your vehicle breaks down.  Will you rent a vehicle and continue your trip?  Maybe you will fly home and back when it’s fixed?  Will you give up the rest of your trip and settle in to wait on repairs?  Have this conversation before you leave and make sure that you can live with the decision.

                  c). Make sure to pack logical medicines such as: cold & sinus, allergy relief, flu, diarrhea, constipation etc… as well as a good first aid kit.  Make sure to contact your health insurance for policy information – especially if you are going out of the country.

                d). Have some back up things to do if you are stuck in the trailer on a rainy day: books, movies, music, etc… and try and enjoy whatever the weather decides to do.  I like to get out and take pictures!

               e). Have an extra set of clothes, underwear and socks as a backup.  Put these in your carry-on if you are flying.

Whatever happens, make the best of it and dwell on what you have gotten to see & do rather than what has not worked out!

Click HERE for a fun questionnaire to get started planning for a successful trip!

5) It’s all in the Attitude

traits 4      ‘nough said…

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  1. This is the best, most realistic travel tips article I have ever read! I have COPD and am limited in what I can do, but I am gifted with a childlike wonder at nature’s marvels, and especially enjoy studying edible plants and mushrooms. So there is no end to the wonders I can enjoy almost anywhere!

    • Thank you for your kind words! I’m sorry that you struggle with COPD, but keep traveling and being an inspiration to us all!

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