If you’ve got family or close friends living in distant places, you might find yourself visiting certain destinations over and over again. Sometimes I find this a bit frustrating – it feels like travelling because it involves plane trips and time off work and all the usual organisation but it doesn’t have the thrill of seeing someplace new.
Over the years I’ve tried to gather some strategies to keep the travel thrill alive in these repeated trips and I hope these tips might help you do the same.
Read and Research
Don’t rely on your family and friends to know everything that can be done or seen or visited in their hometown. Locals often overlook attractions that they drive past every day (just think about the tourist attractions you’ve never visited in your own hometown to be sure of this). Look online or even in a guide book for the area and find a few new sights to see. You can even take your local friends out to explore something new right where they live.
Try to track down some local authors while you’re in the reading mode, too, even if they’re writing fiction. You might find that reading a novel set in your destination will give you all kinds of interesting ideas. It can also be a great conversation point with your local family or friends.
Take Day or Overnight Trips
Look beyond your destination, too. If you’re spending a week with family members nobody will mind if you take off just for a day or even overnight. In fact it can be a nice break for everyone, because having visitors in your house all the time can grow a bit tiring. There’s no need to think you have to stay within a few miles of your accommodation at all times.
Plus, if you’re staying with friends or family you’re already saving on accommodation costs so you can more easily afford to throw in an impromptu side trip or two to keep it interesting. And it’ll probably make you more likely to come back again and again. Tip: If you haven’t planned anything in advance, check out last minute travel sites like Thomson for great deals.
You might need to do your own research here too. I always remember staying with my mother and stepfather in Southern California and having them swear to me that there’d be no bus traveling from near them down to San Diego. Two minutes online proved otherwise and I got to have a really fun day trip there.
Ask Your Hosts to Teach You Something
Rather than sitting around catching up in the family gossip all day – or in my case when we visit my sister-in-law in Switzerland, stuffing ourselves full of amazing home-cooked meals – find out what your hosts know of local traditions, cooking or craft and get them to teach you a new skill.
I’ve learnt how to make SpÃ¤tzle (German noodle kind of things – delicious!) during a stay with in-laws, and when I stayed with a friend in Japan she taught me several very Japanese skills, including food again (what can I say, I love eating!) with her lessons on cooking okonomiyaki, and also the very traditional art of origami.
If your hosts don’t possess any particularly unique local skills, then as a group you might like to venture out and learn something new together. Again in Japan, some local friends took me on a day trip to a small town which was very famous for its ceramics, and together all four of us learnt how to make ceramics in their style (some more successfully than others — my pot wasn’t too attractive, I have to admit!).
The bonus is that even if you’re not too capable in the local language, your hosts probably are. So you can get involved with something quite local and have help with the language barrier. And probably have a lot of fun, too!
Vary the Season
If you have flexibility in your trip planning, try to vary the time of year that you make your trip. Weather and seasons often influence the time of year that someone makes a trip, but it’s probably worth considering alternatives. If only to add some variety to your trips. You’ll see your destination in a different light — different flowers, different clothing, different mood.
You may decide you only ever want to visit in summer again. But at least you’ll have had an interesting experience, and of course you may discover visiting in your new season is actually better than your previous experience.
>We tend to arrive in Europe sometime during the summer months simply because I’m really not a fan of the cold, dark German winter. But in the next few years we’d like to brave that cold and enjoy all the traditions that go with Christmas in Germany.
Look for Special Occasions
Again, if you have the flexibility to plan it this way, have a look at a special time of year in your destination and have your visit coincide. When I lived in Germany my mother liked to plan visits to match up with the local wine festival. I loved having the extra company and reason to spend a few evenings in the town square tasting a great selection of wines from the local vineyards.
Research the festivals that are on or when some other traditional cultural event takes place, and visit then instead. The bonus is that even if it’s an event that attracts a lot of extra visitors to the town, if you’re visiting your friends or family and staying with them then you still have your accommodation at the ready, even if others don’t.