Travel light – in cargo and in activities

You miss out on a lot on your vacation if you schedule too many activities, Hamm writes, and it usually winds up being more expensive.

Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor/File
This December 2010 studio image shows a calendar. Don’t let yourself be burdened by a tight schedule on vacation, Hamm advises, and give yourself the freedom to explore the new things you find.

I’ve gone on one vacation in my life where we had pre-bought tickets for activities on most of the days. I thought I was doing a great job in terms of bargain hunting. Oh, how wrong I was.

For one, we didn’t even end up doing some of the activities. We’d go out to eat after a long day with two or three of the activities, be enjoying a beverage out on a patio somewhere, and just decide to skip the evening activity so we wouldn’t have to rush our wonderful dinner.

For another, I can’t tell you the number of times we had to rush by things that looked interesting or that we wanted to explore simply because we had to get to some specific place on time.

If your travel plans for vacation are starting to look like one of the pages in your daily planner, throw out those travel plans. You miss out on a lot if you vacation that way – and it usually winds up being more expensive if you use a detailed itinerary, too. 

So, what should you do instead?

You should absolutely have a handful of things you’d like to do in mind when you leave. Bring along info for those places, but don’t specifically buy tickets unless there’s a strong chance they’ll be unavailable when you arrive.

Yes, that might mean passing up on some bargains on tickets, but I suggest keeping any discounts or coupons that you can use at the time of admission and bringing those along with you as well.

On a given day, pick a few things that you might do that day. Don’t insist that you’re going to do all of those things. Just choose a handful that you might do.

I suggest choosing things that are geographically linked, so that you can just go to a certain area to do multiple things you’ve decided to consider doing that day.

After that, just explore. Let serendipity strike. If you find an interesting place to wander through, wander through there. Don’t let yourself be burdened by a tight schedule, and give yourself the freedom to explore the new things you find.

What you’ll find is that you end up doing fewer of the planned activities, which is particularly good if those planned activities cost money (which they often do), and you do more unplanned things like wandering through a park or visiting a public art display, which are often free.

If you end up bumping one or two of the things you’re least interested in doing from your schedule and you do it in a relaxing way, you’ll almost always end up saving money while actually having a better vacation.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere.

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