It’s been over six months since Aaron and I went on our three-week Europe trip to Italy and Spain. It feels like a dream, and if I didn’t have photos and if Aaron wasn’t with me, I would be convinced that it was a dream (similar to our wedding day.) Three weeks sounds like a long time, but it goes by so fast including the prep time leading up to the trip. Also, you never take time after the trip to fully lock in those memories and talk about the things you’ve seen or did. So, you definitely want to make the most out of your time.
If you’re thinking about making the financial and time commitment of traveling over seas to explore, I have three simple tips that I wish someone would have shared with me before I jumped on the plane.
These tips are more like things I wish I didn’t worry about…
1. I wish someone would have told me that you truly cannot see it all and don’t even try seeing it all in one day. My husband had never been to Europe before, and the only time I’ve been was when I was 16 years old and it was for a school trip. To say we were excited to travel to Italy and Spain together is an understatement. We took that excitement and turned it into a little bit of stress during the planning phase. We asked for recommendations from our friends and family, took polls on Facebook, Googled things to do, researched cool Instagram spots, etc. all before getting on the plane. We had a mile long list of the things we wanted to do in each town. However, we never really thought about which items we wanted to do. We figured, well Joe from work and our neighbor down the street did that, then we must do it too.
TFK Travel Advice: Discuss with your travel partners what types of things you want to do and rank them in order of importance. For example do you like to shop, eat, or sight see. If sight seeing is number one or two on both of your lists, then start to rank what kinds of things you’d like to see. For example, historical monuments, monuments based on architecture, art museums, outdoors, top touristy spots, local hidden gems, etc. Take into consideration that art museums may overlap as a historical monument. If you or your travel partner does not enjoy art museums, but wants to see history, it would be wise to look into the top tourist attractions in both categories and discuss which ones are must sees or throw aways. Speaking from experience, Aaron wanted to see the Statue of David (historical art), but was not interested in looking at the art in the rest of the museum. As long as you have a general idea of both of your interests this will help you to prioritize what you want to do, especially when time is running out. Take it from me, break your activities up into days. If you try to check off your to do list in the first day, eventually it will catch up to you and you won’t be able to move. Then, you’ll miss out on other activities that were must sees later on in the trip.
2. Plan out your budget ahead of time and don’t worry about it as much while you’re there. Aaron did a great job of researching how much food and activities would be at each location we went to. He used Google, advice from his friends, and averaged it against our overall vacation budget. We ended up spending almost exactly what we had estimated and saved up. I believe we even spent a little less than what we thought. I was pretty worried in the beginning of the trip that our money would run out. We refrained from shopping or buying souvenirs. By the time we left Italy and were heading to Spain, we had a little bit more money left than we thought we would. I probably could have bought that pair of blush adidas shoes that I wanted (I ended up looking everywhere when I got back to the States and Aaron finally found them three months later in Ohio) as long as we stayed within our daily budget. Later on in our trip we were in areas that were more expensive than our first stops, so more of our budget was spent. Still, we did not exceed our daily budget and we easily could have in the second half of our trip if we didn’t discuss it initially. Also, Aaron’s Nike’s brought towards the middle of the trip, so we had some additional expenses that we were expecting. It helps to add an emergency budget too.
TFK Travel Advice: Make sure your travel partner understands your budget. If you’re a couple that shares finances it will be easier, but if you’re traveling with a friend it’s okay to let them know that you’ve set aside enough money for inexpensive meals and a couple splurges. Or on the opposite spectrum, you can also let your travel partner know that you’re looking for high-end restaurants and to go shopping. If they aren’t on the same page as you, then being respectful of each others budgets and experiences is key. It’s okay to break away and do something on your own to get the experience you’ve traveled for. Also, when you get back home, remind yourself that you are no longer on vacation. If you typically grocery shop and eat at home, then do that when you get back. Otherwise you’ll find that you spend more money once you get home because it’s nice to have that “I’m on vacation feeling.”
3. YOU WILL NOT GAIN 20 LBS JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE ON VACATION! Sorry for the ALL-CAPS, but seriously I wish someone would have told me this. Towards the end of 2016 I had been working so hard on my health and fitness (search fitness to read more about my journey.) In 2017 my hard work was finally paying off! I was the fittest I had been in a while, maybe even forever. I was feeling strong, lean and healthy. I hadn’t been sick in a while, but stress from a busy schedule was starting to wear me down. Going from exercising everyday and meal prepping to a three-week vacation definitely messed with me mentally. I was overly concerned with what I was eating that it may have effected my choices in experiencing new and cultural foods. We walked everywhere, so even though I wasn’t sticking to my regular workout routine, I was getting a ton of exercise and actually probably more than before.
TFK Travel Advice: If you are following a specific fitness and nutrition program and you’re concerned that it will all go out the window as soon as you get on the plane, well it’s totally up to you and your mindset! If you want to embrace the culture and try new things, then be mindful of the nutrition plan that you’re following and remember not to splurge at every meal. It’s okay to splurge every once in a while and it’s okay to try something and then throw it away. How many chocolate croissants do you really need to consume? (lol) From three weeks of traveling and eating out for every meal, I gained 4.8 pounds and 3.75 inches over my entire body. If that scares you, I am also 5’9″ and have hypo-thyroid, so I thought it was actually pretty good considering I can gain/lose 5 pounds in a week! One-week later I was back to my pre-vacation weight and total inches. The problem here for me was that after my first week back it was Memorial Day and my family was in town for my Grandma’s funeral. After my family left, I continued to eat like they were still here and had a serious lack of motivation for exercising. Similar to Tip #2, the time when you gain the vacation weight is when you’re actually back home from vacation. It is too easy to continue the “I’m on vacation feeling” and prevent yourself from getting back into your health and fitness routine.
Thank you for reading my 3 Things That I wish Someone Told Me Before Traveling! Do you have a travel tip that you wish you knew before traveling? Please share below!