Archived Story

Tips for planning a vacation

Published 12:29pm Thursday, January 3, 2013

Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.”

And for those of you who have ever had a hellish travel adventure, you’d probably agree with Mr. Stevenson.

A huge chunk of any journey is actually traveling to that location – moving from Point A to Point B. And in my experience, the one thing that can make or break a trip is whether the personalities of the travelers jive.

I took a several-day vacation with one of my best friends and her boyfriend for New Year’s Eve to one of my favorite places – New Orleans.

Contrary to popular belief, New Orleans has much more to offer than the seediness and drunkenness that can be observed on the French Quarter’s notorious Bourbon Street.

Highlights of our trip were going to the New Orleans Saints/Carolina Panthers game (my first ever NFL game), exploring the antique stores on Magazine Street in the Garden District, wandering around Tulane and Loyola universities’ adjacent campuses and admiring the scores of hundred-year-old trees in Audubon Park.

But a great deal of what made the trip enjoyable was the company I kept. Thankfully, our personalities all meshed quite well – enjoying our time together just as much as the sights and sounds of New Orleans.

We joked about how old we were because we spent more of our time admiring decor through the windows of the area’s beautiful homes or admiring the wares at an estate sale rather than consuming copious amounts of alcohol on Bourbon Street with the other post-grads.

Had my friends had a different idea in mind of what our trip was supposed to be like, it might have turned out much differently.

Here are a few tips in my own meandering experience for how to have an enjoyable vacation with anyone, anywhere:

- Know what you’re getting into. Conflicting ideas of what the trip is supposed to be like can ruin the whole vacation. If you’re traveling with someone who has to have an up-to-the-minute itinerary planned, packing in every last tourist-laden attraction, be sure you’ve packed a good pair of walking shoes and are prepared for the stress that may ensue. Talk it out before you set one foot outside your door so you know everyone is on the same page.

- Know where you’re going. This may sound silly, but there have been many times I’ve traveled with someone, only to realize that person has no idea how to get to our destination. Plug your destination’s address into the Maps application in your cell phone or print out a paper copy of a map to keep with you.

- Have an idea of what you want to see or do – and be OK if you don’t get to do everything on the list. When traveling, people tend to gravitate toward the extremes – either packing in too many activities or missing opportunities to see things because they have no idea what the city has to offer. Do some research beforehand and have a general idea of what you want to do. If you don’t check off every item, don’t worry – that’s all the more reason to plan another trip there.

- Expect the unexpected. Cars break down. Flights get delayed. And great restaurants can have waits that are hours long. Try not to let those unexpected things get you down or ruin your mood for the rest of the trip – it’s all part of the travel experience. Trust me, you’ll laugh about it later.

- Go off the beaten path. Ask the locals about the best places for a cup of coffee or – in New Orleans’ case – a shrimp po’boy. You’ll most likely avoid the tourist crowds and get the real flavor of a place by sticking to the unknown.

I wish all of you many adventures in 2013. But remember, as Chinese writer and inventor Lin Yutang said, “No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.”

Spears is general manager and managing editor for The Outlook.