7 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your Vacation

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It’s summer in the city which means if you’re anything like me you’re constantly daydreaming of beaches, rooftop bbq’s and your next awesome vacation. It’s seriously one of the best times of the year to step away from the busy 9-5 and pick a new place to cross off the travel bucket list… which is exactly what I did last week when I ventured to San Fran for the first time! And by San Fran, I mean San Francisco of course (apologies to the local Cali dwellers who are probably rolling their eyes at my super touristy lingo). 😉

As most of you know, preparing for a trip can be a semi-daunting experience – it’s almost impossible to avoid the stress that comes with making sure that you have everything planned out and that you’re going to have the “best vacation ever”. I tend to go through waves of being super hyped up and googling absolutely every “What You Should Do While Visiting XYZ” list, and then settling down into a super chill phase where my thoughts are literally “meh, we’ll just wing it.” As you can imagine, this approach tends to drive my boyfriend absolutely nuts – but it always works out in the end.

As I was staring at the gorgeous view from Battery Spencer, I started thinking of all the little nuances that helped me really get the most out of this trip… and I’ve cumulated them all in 7 tips below! If you’re feeling the pre-vacation stress take over, I hope these tips can serve as a little reminder that sometimes it’s best to keep things simple and just go with the flow.

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1. Make A “Must See” List 

I’m kind of a list fanatic – I make shopping lists, to-do lists, travel lists, bucket lists… like literally anything that can be jotted down in a list fashion is my cup of tea. So naturally when planning this vacation I had to ask friends, family and even Instagram peeps if there were any particular things I should DEFINITELY make time for while in San Fran, and then compile them into a google doc list.

It was really great because from that gigantic list, I think it was originally 20 items or so, we were able to narrow it down into 5 feasible things to span a 3 day trip:

The only thing that required a reservation was the wine tasting in Sonoma, which helped us to plan out the rest of the trip with lots of time in between the different locations.

2. Leave Some Wiggle Room 

So 5 things may not seem like a whole lot to do while on vacation, but we were delighted to find that we were busy the whole time and yet were never stressed to rush off to the next thing. Leaving the wiggle room allowed us time to truly enjoy each destination to the fullest and let us run on a flexible schedule that could change based on how we were feeling. We weren’t rushing off to make that next reservation, we were simply living in the moment and this led to impromptu explorations of things that weren’t necessarily on our “must-see” list, like Lombard Street, but were super cool all the same!

3. Turn Off Your Phone (Or Leave It Behind)

When’s the last time you unplugged? As in, turned off your phone for a day or left it behind while you ventured somewhere outside? I’ll admit that this was actually a happy accident for me… we were leaving the hotel early Saturday morning for a roadtrip out to Sonoma Valley and I accidentally left my cell phone on the nightstand in the room. It took me about 15 minutes of driving up the road before I realized my mistake, but seeing as we were super hungry and my boyfriend had a phone for google maps and emergencies, we decided to leave it behind and simply continue on the trip.

At first I suffered from slight withdraw. It was the first time in YEARS that I had ever left my cell phone behind and I was itching to check my social media accounts, text friends and snap photos. Luckily, after stopping at a charming diner on the side of the highway for breakfast, I realized that I didn’t need or even want my phone with me at all. It was so freeing to not be tied to the ever present device, and I was able to truly soak in every single moment of the day… from the gorgeous views of wine country, to the incredible castle at Ledson’s, to the undistracted conversations with my boyfriend, and the awesome hike up to Battery Spencer. Each experience remains super vivid in my mind and when I finally got back to the hotel, I realized how little I had missed.

4. Go Off The Beaten Path 

You know that quote about taking the road less traveled? Well it’s totally worth it when it comes to exploring new places (as long as it’s safe of course). Not only could you possibly uncover some local hidden gems, like eclectic coffee shops or a hidden speakeasy, but you’ll also get away from the more touristy crowd and experience the culture of the destination. This doesn’t just apply to finding random local spots, but also can translate into finding a more exciting or interesting route to the place you’re trying to visit. For example, when visiting Battery Spencer, instead of driving up the mountain we opted to park at the bottom and take the very small hiking trail instead. A little more exhausting but so worth it!

5. Allow Yourself Some Down Time 

Have you ever had a vacation where you felt like you couldn’t relax at all – and ended up coming home feeling 10X more exhausted than when you had left? Yeah, we’ve all been there, and it blows. The whole point of getting away from the stress of every day life is to relax and refresh your body, mind and spirit! If you’re filling your day with too many activities and not allowing yourself time to unwind, it typically generates more stress. And who needs stress when you’re supposed to be living it up?

6. Leave Your Worries At Home 

Speaking of living it up, that also means it’s important to leave your worries and stress from {insert main cause of stress here} behind you and tune your mind into the present moment. We live in such a fast paced world and so much of our time is spent worrying about the “next” thing on the list. Even when I’m not at work, I’m usually thinking of work (and on really bad days, dreaming of work – agh!). Scheduling time away from the office doesn’t help if you’re still carrying those day-to-day worries with you while on vacation. It’s time to ground yourself, enjoy your surroundings, and let all the other shit go.

7. Choose Your Travel Buddy Wisely 

Probably the single most important tip to getting the most out of your vacation, is to choose who you’re spending it with wisely. If you don’t think the person you’re going with will enjoy the experience as much as you do, or if you know that your vacay-goals are just way too different, it’s probably best to not go with that person. I won’t launch into a cheesy quote about how I love that my boyfriend is my favorite travel buddy (whoops, I guess I just did!) … but in all seriousness, I really do feel blessed to have someone to share these experiences with. 💕

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I hope if nothing else this inspires you to bust out a map, or at least google one, and start thinking of your next vacation destination. If you happen to go to San Francisco leave a comment below! I definitely have a few suggestions of some “must see” items that you should add to your list. :)

Wishing you all a wanderlustful summer ahead!

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