It seems everywhere I turn, I see photos of friends, advertisements, videos and TV programs showing people having a great time on vacation. I admit, I am a little jealous, but instead of moping about it, I have come up with a plan that will enable this old gal to go on a vacation that is both budget friendly, and rejuvenating.
After a very busy year, I’ve been wishing that I could get away somewhere, but wondered how I could go on a vacation, so I have embarked on a quest to plan myself a vacation that has all of the qualities of a trip to the French countryside, yet is close to home and affordable for the budget of an old girl such as me. Most vacations I have gone on have been centered around visiting family, or an event, and involved a lot of traveling. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy family and love a good road trip, but this year I want something much more relaxing. Something that is just for me. A vacation that seems to slow down time.
The desire for this sort of vacation stems from my reading many books this past winter, about women who took off for the French countryside to get away from it all. Searching for these books on Amazon became an obsession. I ruled out the ones with big plots or lots of romance. The ones I wanted to read were about gals (not young, of course), who stayed in quaint cottages in small villages, ate simple food, spent a little time with the locals, and came away finding out who they were and what they wanted out of life. I’ve come away from all that reading wanting to go somewhere to just plain relax and get away from my busy, everyday life.
I started my planning for this vacation by coming up with a list of things that were important for me. What is important for you? Get out your pen and paper and write it down. Remember that the planning can be almost as fun as the actual vacation (and it doesn’t cost a thing!), so enjoy yourself. Here is the list I came up with for me.
- This vacation needs to be either by myself or with someone who is very compatible with me and who I do not feel the need to entertain. The big plus of going with someone else, is that the cost of the lodging is split, but make sure you have the right person. The wrong one could make the time miserable, and make you wish you stayed home. For me, hopefully, my sister and, or my mom will be joining me.
- The town I go to needs to have interesting shops, good places to eat, and a great market to buy simple, fresh food. A quaint pub would be the icing on the cake.
- I want to be able to walk to the above places from where I am staying, getting in the car only to take occasional, short, sightseeing trips. It also needs to be within a 5-hour drive from my home so that most of my vacation is spent relaxing, instead of driving.
- The dwelling that I rent needs to be quaint and simple, pleasing to the eye, not shabby or stinky. I want comfortable beds, places to sit and eat outside with some sort of a view, and a kitchenette so I can prepare simple meals. It also needs to be quiet, with not a lot of people around.
Now that you have this list it’s time to search out the area or town that you want to go to. Start by looking at a map. Are there any favorite places there, or maybe new areas that you really don’t know much about? Don’t you love Google? Just type in the name and you come up with all sorts of information. Do the places you are looking at meet the criteria on your list? I came up with several ideas that fit. I live in Western Washington, so I am looking at the area from the Canadian border to central Oregon and east to the center of the state. I narrowed it down to 3 towns. No matter where you live, you can find something that fits into what your must haves. Well, except if you live in the middle of the U.S. and want to find white sand and marlin fishing within a 2 hour drive. Sorry. Have a go at it and see what you can come up with. Here are my 3 choices and the good and bad points about each.
1. Cannon Beach, OR
- Small Town with many small shops and restaurants
- Beach to walk on with breathtaking views
- Very busy during the time I would like to go
2. Lynden, WA
- Small, quaint town
- Is in area that Mom wanted to go with my sister and I to show us where my Pa’s side of the family homesteaded.
3. LaConner, WA
- One of my favorite small towns. Quaint, has a great waterfront.
- It has really neat old neighborhoods to take walks in.
- It has a FANTASTIC bakery!
The next step is to look for lodging. I am sold on www.airbnb.com for the quality that you get for the price. They offer so much more than just the private rooms that they used to be known for. Be sure that you read the reviews, they tell you a lot that the pictures may leave out, good and bad. There is also www.vrbo.com and www.homeaway.com. Of course you can always stick to the hotels that you know that you enjoy. You might also consider a B&B. Again, stick to the criteria on your first list. Since I plan to spend most of the time on this vacation hanging out at my place of lodging, the place I choose needs to fit my criteria perfectly. Don’t skimp on the things that are important to you. For example, I saw a lot of great places that met everything on my list except being able to walk to most places. I almost convinced myself that they would do, but then realized that it would take away from the slow living, simple feel that I wanted. This step also helped me narrow down the choices for the town I would go to. Cannon Beach was either booked up or too expensive. I found a couple of cute cottages in the other two towns that look promising! Save up your money, have a garage sale, or sale something you don’t use, and book your lodging as soon as you can. This puts your vacation in “I am actually doing this” mode! It also takes care of the most expensive part! Now you can really have fun planning the rest.
The last step is to search out everything you can find about the area you are going to. Again, have fun with this! Are there some interesting restaurants? What about local sites that are worth exploring? With the priorities that I listed, I want to know reviews of restaurants in the area and where to buy food. A farmer’s market to shop at would be ideal for me, and I am still thinking about that pub to go enjoy a mug of beer and some local atmosphere.
Congratulations! Your lodging is booked, you know what is available to do and see in the area, and you are ready to be the one in the photos that everyone will be envious of!
Here are some additional tips to help you have a relaxing vacation and keep on a budget.
1. If possible, be flexible about the dates you choose to go. Off season is a big budget saver.
2. Stay for a minimum of 3 days if possible, at the same place and unpack your suitcase when you get there. Not having to search for clothes through a suitcase is not only relaxing, it seems decadent!
3. Plan to make most of your meals yourself and remember that simple is better. Fresh pastries from a nearby bakery (what a fun morning walk, if the bakery is close!) and some fruit make a divine breakfast. How about some smoked salmon, cream cheese and sweet onions on a bagel? Maybe the local market has great soup or deli salads. It is amazing how little a great simple meal can cost compared to restaurants.
4. When you do decide to go to a restaurant make sure it is something special and worth the money. I would much rather go out and eat a great appetizer and a glass of wine instead of a blah dinner that you could get anywhere.
5. If there is more than one of you, split a meal, then split dessert. My sister and I do this a lot. You get to enjoy the meal with a great dessert, don’t get overly full and save money to boot!
6. Keep your traveling to a minimum. The further you go to see the sites, it takes time away from the wonderful place that you chose to stay. Also, trying to cram too many activities in can suck away your time and cause you to go home un-rested. Remember also, that so many of these activities cost money and can add up quick to kill the budget. Make sure that whatever you do it is something that you really want to do and worth the time and money.
7. Taking a walk in the evening in an interesting neighborhood is an inexpensive activity. It can be so interesting, especially if you have your camera with you. End the walk with a tasty ice cream cone and you will really feel like you are on vacation!
8. Make yourself some ground rules about electronics. Only you know yourself. Do you start surfing the web and find that your time is sucked away, but you don’t feel rested, or is that the way you can really enjoy your vacation and relax? Does being on the phone for long times draw you back to life at home and hamper your ability to relax? Do you normally turn on the TV, just to find yourself watching for hours? Remember, you are using money not easily come by for this vacation. Don’t spend the time in a way that you could just as well done at home.
9. Take time to enjoy the things that you do not get time to do in your life at home, and that help you relax. Let all the must do’s and must be’s fade away. Sometimes just sitting and letting your mind dream or wander is what you need. One of the best vacations I have had was spent sitting in a chair by the river, drinking beer, talking to my son, and just plain enjoying life.
I hope that this encourages you to start thinking about a vacation you can take and really enjoy the time relaxing and resetting. We all need these times in our busy lies to help us recharge and be the best us ever.