My husband and I have always been sightseers and “on-the-go” travelers. It likely stemmed from my childhood family vacations where we would see as much as we could within a week – Toronto and Niagara Falls; Boston, Maine, Cape Cod, Newport and every early American author and statesman’s house we passed along the way; Colorado – Denver, Estes Park and Colorado Springs.
Our first trip together was to my husband’s home state of Utah. After a couple days meeting his family in Salt Lake City, we headed south to Moab and the National Parks in the area (Arches, Canyonlands and Natural Bridges) to hike, camp and marvel at the incredible landscape. And, when we got engaged, it was also on a trip out West, visiting Grand Teton and Yellowstone (although, full disclosure I have not been camping with him since). Our honeymoon was spent traipsing around Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands – exploring, navigating and resting (somewhat, it was our honeymoon, after all) only at night. To be honest, I cannot think of a trip where we actually just sat back and relaxed. We had grand plans on one trip to Marco Island, Florida to spend a few days relaxing. We got massages, read on the beach and went sea kayaking, only to get bored after not finding more to do and went home a day early. Another was when instead of sunbathing in the Phuket, Thailand sun, we ended up hiring a taxi to drive us around the island to explore Buddhist temples, gardens and shopping versus spending more time in the warm waters of the Andaman Sea.
However, now that we’re traveling with kids all over the U.S., Europe, Canada and Asia, there is definitely something to be said for building in a day to relax, rest and get over jet lag. Adding time onto a busy trip can be tough, especially when you want to maximize the limited time you have – and particularly when you’ve traveled far to get there. But, it is well worth padding some time to adjust your time zone, rest from a long day of walking all over a new city or sightseeing from sun up to sundown.
My girlfriend and her family recently went on a 3-week trip to Europe, with a detailed itinerary of stops from Amsterdam all the way to Rome. One day, about half-way through the trip they threw their agenda out the train window. They had taken the wrong train; it was blistering hot; and both kids and adults were dragging. Their daily gelato was not even helping their mood or energy level. So, they cancelled their plans for the day, hired a boat to take them out into the Mediterranean and enjoyed a relaxing day swimming, sunning and recharging before heading to their next destination in Italy.
Similarly, on a trip to Tokyo, I sweated literally and figuratively over our agenda, trying to cram as much culture and coolness into our 8-day trip as I could, but by day two, my crew was wiped. So, we rearranged our schedule and napped for an afternoon to slough off some jet lag and weariness from the journey. On a recent trip to Washington D.C., we opted for the hotel pool for an afternoon and ate dinner in our hotel room instead of venturing out to a pre-planned activity.
- Build in one full day to your itinerary for recuperation if you’re traveling more than six hours via plane or across several time zones. You may not need it. On a trip to London, we built in almost a full day for rest and recovery, and we never needed it so, we added some things to our itinerary.
- Take a break for a few hours a day. My boys are early birds and ready to go by 8AM, but by 3PM, they need a break. So, we usually head back to a hotel for a bit and go back out for dinner or a show.
- Order dinner in. Consider eating in the hotel room a night or two. Eating out, especially with younger kids in a busy city, can add stress and be exhausting.
- If the kids are having meltdowns or are cranky and you’re in the middle of your tour, take a break. Grab a drink, an ice cream, sample some pastries, dip your toes in a lake or sit for a bit to recharge and keep going. Ice cream has been a good fuel for my family when we start to sputter.
Ultimately, being too tired to enjoy a trip or each other can ruin your vacation. So, don’t hesitate to take a quick nap or build in extra time to rest so that you can live your adventure to the fullest.