Part of my role at Traveling Mom involves helping folks with all things Disney. A reader recently asked “how much does it cost to go to Disney World?” which is basically the same as asking “how much does a house cost?”. It’s a question that’s simply impossible to answer without more information, which most people don’t have when asked. The question reminded me of the single biggest mistake a travel planner makes: forgetting to look in the mirror. If you don’t know who you are, you can’t possibly plan the best possible trip for you.
Who are you?
I hope you know yourself and your family by now. You know the obvious: how old are your kids? Do they have any special needs? Allergies? Sensory issues?
Where most people fail is taking it to the next level. If you take time to think about it:
- You know if you prefer foreign cultures or crave the familiar.
- You know if you’re high energy or nap-craving.
- You know if you’re foodies or pizza and hot dog lovers.
- You know if you prize proximity over space.
- You know if you can tolerate lines and for how long.
- You know if your kids will focus long enough for a museum or need to burn off energy.
- You know if you prefer blazing your own trail or if you prefer keepin’ it simple.
- You know if you break out in a sweat at 70 degrees or need a coat at 65.
- and on and on and on…
Armed with this knowledge you’d think most people would then pick vacations that make sense for them, right?
In the last year I’ve met folks who told me:
- they didn’t like a cruise because the rooms were small
- they didn’t like an International destination because no one spoke English
- they didn’t like Disney World over 4th of July because it was too hot and crowded
- they didn’t like the all-inclusive because the food was just average
- they didn’t like driving in Europe because you could only get a stick shift
- they didn’t like XX Museum because the kids wanted to leave after five minutes
- and on and on and on
I’m not picking on Ugly American stereotypes here- or at least I’m not trying to. My point is that all of these problems are avoidable with a little-self knowledge and planning.
If you look in the mirror…
- Maybe the 2 and 4 year olds aren’t ready for the Louvre. It’s ok. The Mona Lisa isn’t going anywhere. Try outdoor historical sites- one of my favorite memories is of Deal Kid, aged 2, using the steps at the Roman Ruins of Baelo Claudia as a Jungle Gym.
- If you know you don’t like small hotel rooms, a cruise is definitely not for you. Try a condo and you’ll get plenty of room to spread out.
- Plenty of Caribbean Islands, European Countries, and even Asian destinations are more English speaking friendly than others. If you are not comfortable with your language skills, know that about yourself and stick to those. Nothing wrong with knowing that about yourself- just own it in advance and your trip will be a lot less stressful.
- If you know you hate crowds and heat check out Disney World in late January instead. It’s much less crowded and you might even need a sweatshirt.
- If you’re a foodie you need to know that all-inclusives are not known for great food. You can find consistently good food at some, but Michelin star? No. They may just not be for you.
- If you can’t drive stick, you can find automatics at some locations in Europe if you’re prepared to pay double (or more). You can also stick to cities and use the excellent train networks to your advantage. Bonus: you don’t have to designate a driver.
True Deal Mommy Confession
I’ve failed to look in the mirror as a travel planner from time to time. A last minute weekend in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, springs to mind. I had a bit of an upset tummy but shrugged it off. Deal Dude (this was before he was Deal Dad) and I took off on a waterfall hike and it was a complete disaster. We didn’t get 100 yards before I thought I was going to pass out and 200 yards before I was crying and limping back to the car.
If I had taken a really good look in the mirror maybe I would have realized I was pregnant.
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