Travel

The Weirdest Best Part of Trips

Natalie Portman

Nine years ago, when we were just babies, Alex and I took a vacation to Paris. Although we ate our weight in chocolate croissants and rode bikes by Notre Dame at night, the part I remember most about our trip was…

…doing nothing.

Our fourth night there, we decided to scrap our restaurant reservation and stay in. We had rented a dive-y studio apartment, and we brought home stinky cheeses and red wine (decanted in an old coffee maker). We opened the windows and watched Seinfeld reruns, while cars honked on the street below. It was an evening I’ll always remember. It just felt so fun and relaxing, like we didn’t have a care in the world.

So, this week, when I was reading Bon Appetit’s travel advice, this blurb by Carey Polis jumped out:

It’s not possible to hit every place on your list. So don’t even try. That desire to visit 30 different spots is also what makes you end vacation more tired than when you began. Which is why I always carve out do-nothing time. Maybe that means sleeping late, having a leisurely breakfast and actually reading the books I schlepped. Or I’ll have an early dinner at the one restaurant I really want to try, then head back to the hotel, rock the complimentary robe and watch whatever awesomely bad movie happens to be on TV. Nothing says vacation like She’s All That.

Somehow, those in-between moments can be so magical, right?

Thoughts? What random moments have you enjoyed on trips? I’d love to hear…

P.S. Traveling alone, and another weird thing we do on vacations.

(Photo of Natalie Portman in Hotel Chevalier)

  1. This post enlightened me to the fact that I really need to sit for a minute and determine exactly which type of vacation I need a particular trip to be: Sightseeing? Adventure? Relaxation? Then I can feel good about making it a “___” trip and not worry that it

  2. Kris says...

    My husband gets really excited when someone gets sick on a trip and we stay home. We’ve only traveled to Hawai’i, where I’m from, the past few years, a couple times/year. Our trips are so busy w/hanging out with friends and family it feels nothing like the relaxing trip it should be. I start off w/out plans, but run into people out and about and end up with dinner/lunch/beach plans and suddenly we’re rushing to the beach, rushing home to get ready, rinse, repeat and we are so exhausted, we need a vacation when we return home just to recover. But seriously, what a problem to have.

  3. Lucy says...

    Perfect timing to read this post! We’re getting married in a few weeks, and then honeymooning for a week in Spain. We’ve got 2 nights in Barcelona, then we’re going north to a small town called Olot where we will be staying in a beautiful old house, eating breakfast and dinner with ingredients gathered from the garden. I cannot wait to RELAX.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      how wonderful, lucy! have the best time :) :)

  4. LIMOM says...

    I’m with you!! Here’s memorable vacation veg outs with my husband.
    Orcas Inn (RIP) drinking wine, an apple, and smelly cheese in the claw foot tub.
    After walking all over Paris – stinky cheese, bread, wine, CNN, calls to check on kids back home, laughing at our incredibly small shower.

  5. annie says...

    In the first few months of dating my boyfriend and I took an week-long trip to Italy. We both got the flu (me the first day, him the second) and subsequently never left our hotel room except for pharmacy runs and to go to the airport. Even though it was a drag to miss out on Italy, we only remember it as a special, magical time of getting to know each other and falling in love. Quiet times really are the best times!

  6. My husband and I (pre-marriage) lived in Spain for a few months during college. We took weekend trips to beach towns, the mountains, and France, and it was the most life-changing summer. 10 years later, we were a year into parenthood living 15 hours from the nearest family members. My mother-in-law gave us the best 8 year wedding anniversary gift, by flying out and staying with our little boy for a full week so we could take a trip alone. We flew back to Spain, hit up a couple of the spots we visited during our college trip, and felt absolutely no need to see the major sites, since we’d already done it years ago. Everything felt familiar, even after all that time, and we virtually spent every (late) waking hour strolling, sipping wine, lying in the grass/on the beach, and doing whatever the hell we felt like doing from moment to moment. We’ve done a fair amount of traveling with lots of sightseeing and adventure, but this was by far the most magnificent trip we’ve ever experienced. (Some of that could be related to 12 months of little sleep and baby-raising!)

  7. Kim says...

    My boyfriend and I went to New York last year – it was my first time. We rented this great airbnb with a little lounge room and great couch and it was just so lovely to have a place to chill for a few hours every day and not rush. He’d read papers while I read, watched Netflix or online shopped. Then we’d go out in the afternoon and not come home until late. Such happy memories.

  8. Kailey says...

    Most of my favourite memories from the trips I’ve been on in the last five years have been the moments of doing nothing. There is something about relaxing together and letting the day happen to you that breeds it’s own kind of magic!

  9. We’re going to Paris this summer, but I really doubt if my Chevy Chase Vacation kinda husband is going to stand for any downtime…. Thanks for sharing an awesome post!

  10. Nazeefah says...

    My bff and I did a contiki to Eastern Europe last year. As you can probably imagine it was jam-packed but during our free-time every single day we wandered through the old-town squares and inadvertently ended up browsing in bookshops. Also, people-watching! One of my best memories of the trip is sitting on a bench outside St Stephens basilica in Budapest for three hours eating ice-cream and guessing about the lives off all the people we were watching!

  11. Anna says...

    Agreed! I always have to remind myself that “you can’t do it all”. My husband and I hiked the West Coast Trail for our honeymoon and we had planned lots of sightseeing in Victoria, BC before we started. Being so tired from our wedding, instead we ordered take-out, stayed in our hotel room in bathrobes and basically slept for 2 full days. I’ll always remember those days as some of the best – something about the coziness was so romantic.

  12. Love this! I completely agree that it’s a great idea to plan for a few days of lazy lounging even when you’re on holiday! I recently went on my first solo trip to Amsterdam, and had planned my days pretty well (museums, neighborhoods to visit, cafes to stop by for lunch, shops to browse, tulip fields, etc.), but made sure that my last day (which coincidentally was the only sunny day!) was completely open before my flight home that evening. I went to one of the biggest parks in Amsterdam, sat on a park bench with some snacks, and relished the feeling of the sun on my face. I even made some puppy friends! :) It was definitely one of those small but intensely happy moments.

  13. Mari says...

    My husband and I have this habit of doing nothing while traveling. He sometimes feels guilty for not setting up an alarm when we are half way across the world… And I’m always setting my foot down. Unless is something very specific, like wanting to see the sunrise over a dune in Namibia, I don’t leave the bed if I still feel like sleeping. Also, like I read someone say here… I don’t stand too long in lines. I either buy things in advance online or simply don’t go at all. I HAVE to do so many things in my life, that when I’m on vacation I don’t HAVE to do anything but enjoy myself. And no, I don’t feel like I’ve wasted “opportunities” in those 50 countries I’ve been to. Just being somewhere different, with an open mind, is enough to make me grow and feel like all those hours in a plane were worth it.

  14. Meagan says...

    My husband and I went to Paris for four days 3 years ago. Neither of us had anything on our to-do list aside from spending a half day at Versailles. It was the most relaxing trip and I honestly remember more of it than any of my busiest, jam packed ones. The slowness and in between spaces are so key to processing the experiences and they allow you to fully be present without worrying about where you have to be next.

  15. Joanna says...

    My sister and I are currently visiting Japan. It’s our last night in Tokyo, and we have verrry very slowly come out of our jet-lag fog (we’re not there yet!) Early mornings, and making it a goal to not go to bed before 9pm has given us a whole lot of do-nothing time. Tokyo has been the best place to do this. We’ve loved trying new snacks from Family Mart/7-Eleven, and we’ve each been reading Crazy Rich Asians when we can’t sleep. Although this city is insanely busy, we’ve managed to relax, and tour it on our own time.

  16. selby says...

    i just got back from a vacation where i backpacked 110+ miles over a week. sounds exhausting right? it was actually the most relaxing vacation i’ve ever had. i came back with my head clear and feeling refreshed. i think this is because my only job every day was to hike. i didn’t have to worry about life or school or work or my friends or my failing relationship. i didn’t have to worry about a “must do/eat/see”. it was wonderful.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      wow, that sounds amazing, selby. 110 miles = you must be so proud (and sunkissed and strong)!!

  17. Emilia says...

    I could not agree more! Once, during a weekend in San Francisco, I didn’t have time to do much before my flight so I walked to a nearby coffee shop for pastries, then came back and watched Mean Girls in my hotel room. I still remember it – it was just as much fun as going to Bar Tartine, and exploring Chinatown on my own!

  18. Becky says...

    I love this! When a friend and I traveled to London, our trip was jam packed. But we saved a day towards the end of our week to just wander the streets of London with no destination in particular. We walked through some beautiful residential neighborhoods off the beaten path. And then we decided to revisit a couple of our favorite spots that we had so quickly visited earlier in the week. Saving one day to aimlessly explore is a must on all my trips!

  19. Alyssa says...

    Ahh I love this post and all the comments.

    My mom is my favorite travel buddy! When we go on most vacations (Disney, Branson, MO) we plan the heck out of our days. It just makes things less stressful for us planners.

    However, once a year we go to the Outer Banks for a whole week with some of the ladies in our family. And it’s just freaking relaxing. We walk to get breakfast at this little local shack of a restaurant, we walk on the pier, we play games, we sit on the beach. We also sightsee but it’s is much more manageable and relaxing.

    Only two more weeks until I’m there. <3

  20. Mandy says...

    Yes. We went to Riga a few summers ago. One day it rained, and so we spent most of the day sitting in the cafe below our Airbnb reading, internetting, drinking, eating… it was restorative.

  21. Loesie says...

    Hubby and I have, over the years, created our principle ‘if there’s a line, we don’t go in it.’
    We went to Paris, and figured the line for the Eiffel Tower was sooooo long, it would take up half an afternoon to see it all. So we just took in the pretty sight and continued walking.
    (Might make a difference that we live about 4,5 hours car drive from Paris, but still. We’ve stuck to it through the years.
    I also always have exactly the same breakfast in hotels. I only eat that breakfast on vacation. So whenever I have my sandwich with hard boiled egg, relaxation kicks in.
    What we did last year in the Black Forrest in Germany was great as well. We were looking for a place to eat in a very, very small town close to the gorgeous town of Gengenbach.
    We saw a sign to a restaurant, and followed the right road (we thought…), but no restaurant.
    Then we took a chance and drove in to another road. It took us up hills, into valleys, through small turns and narrow roads and there it was, on top of a very high hill… the best restaurant ever! Good food, with a gorgeous view and cows standing right by our dinner table! Sooooo worth it to wander off the path.
    (If anyone wants to know the location, let me know!)

    • Erin says...

      I’d love to hear where this is! I’m planning a trip to Switzerland and up through Germany this fall. My boyfriend and I are making the trip from Texas :)

    • Loesie says...

      Hi Erin!

      I looked it up and it is Gaststatte (with two dots on top of the 2nd ‘a’) Strohhof in Gengenbach (check Google for images).Make sure you check their opening hours before you go; we went back during our vacation and they were closed that day. Even though it’s technically located in Gengenbach, it is about a small 20-minute drive from the city center (but sooo worth it!)
      Close by, we really liked the store ‘Markt Scheune’ in Berghaupten, which is a tiny town across the road from the Gengenbach exit. They have THE BEST schwarzwalder cake! We stayed in a hotel in Berghaupten which was nice and peaceful. It was hotel Hirsch. I recommend it! I found Gengenbach hotel prices were higher than Berghaupten, and that town is really just across the road ?Gengenbach is definitely highly recommended! (Check Google images!)
      Also if you’re driving through Germany, I highly recommend Rothenburg ob der Tauber! Check Google images for that one as well. Sooooo pretty!
      Let me know if you want more info, I always love sharing travel tips, but I wouldn’t want to be writing an entire Lonely Planet chapter on Cup of Jo’s website ?
      I’d be more than happy to send you a mail with my tips ?

  22. marianne waalwijk says...

    Our favourite part of travelling is going to a small convenience store and find local snacks. Grab a few beers or wine depending on where we are..and relaxing on our airbnb bed chatting and reliving out day!

  23. Lauren E. says...

    Your Paris memory sounds like my engagement! When my now husband and I went to Paris we’d spend nearly every afternoon (we were there for 2 weeks) hanging in our divey apartment rental, watching Netflix and eating cheese and pastries. The second day, while watching 40 Year Old Virgin, he paused the movie and said, “I need to ask you something.” He pulled the ring from his shoe and got down on one knee. So um… yeah. I’m a big fan of the vacation down time :)

  24. Vanessa says...

    I love traveling and thinking of upcoming trips sooooo much!
    This thread is so fun!

    We travel abroad every summer and as a mom of two girls (5 and 3) I focus on finding parks or water spots to center our day around and then figure out which ice cream places we’re hitting up that day. Ice cream is treat during school year but on summer vacation…. twice a day is totally normal. Right?!

    And if we book Airbnb it’s been fantastic to stay at family homes bc the girls end up totally enamored with other kids’ toys. Like “leave me alone for hours, this house has 10,000 tiny colorful cool things I’ve never seen”.

    This is easier when alone but I try to do it with kids too…figuring out what type of exercise is happening that day (yoga, YBB,hiking, swimming, walking) and then letting the dice fall with the cultural piece.
    Sweating reduces stress and fatigue and keeps me grounded. Momma is chilllllll and happy so fam is happy.
    Oh, and food is always a priority. Like….must try pizza in every port.

  25. Wendy Dooldeniya says...

    Sounds crazy, but we hit up the public library for some down time. We will spend hours browsing books, making lists and holds back at our library back home. It is like a peaceful oasis in our trip. Our kids have started to join us on trips and this too has become a favorite tradition.

  26. Yes, why pay so much, or any amount of money, for accommodations and not enjoy them.

  27. Emily says...

    My husband and I don’t have a tv in our room or a king size bed or cable. Our favorite part of vacation involves grabbing a beer, some salty snacks, and snuggling in a big king size bed watching bad cable tv.

    • Lauren E. says...

      Gaaah that big hotel bed! One of my favorite travel memories is my husband and I getting In N Out and eating it in our underwear in our big hotel bed while we watched football. It was magical.

  28. Years ago we’d been hiking every day on the Coastal Path in Cornwall on our honeymoon. One day we’d hiked even longer than the previous days and the best thing about that day was having a hot shower at our bed and breakfast, then sitting face to face at each end in the bed, wrapped in robes eating mars bars for dinner. We seriously couldn’t move anything more than our arms to our mouths, but it felt so good.

  29. Haley says...

    I love this advice! When I went on my first (solo!) trip to Paris, the realization that “seeing the must see sights” wasn’t how I wanted to experience that place was heavy. As soon as I devoted my remaining time to walking around then eating sandwiches in the closest park while reading, I was instantly more relaxed. I love having memories of all the places I sat, ate, read, and watched the world move around me. Cheers to lazy vacations!

  30. Alice says...

    If i wanted to stay in bed and eat cheese while watching tv i would stay home.

  31. My husband and I love traveling (and we actually live in Rwanda!) and what we’ve found works for us is a ‘siesta’ model – we’ll head out in the morning, do touristy things and explore and grab lunch, then go back to where we’re staying and just chill for part of the afternoon. Then we head back out for late afternoon/evening and dinner!

  32. Lana says...

    When I went to St Ann’s in Dublin, I stopped for a scone and tea in the church and spoke with the ladies serving there. While they were giving me shopping tips, in walks the priest and he goes on to describe a pub fight he witnessed the night before. The combination of accents, lilt and animated discussion was hilarious!

  33. 100% agree! One of my favorite memories from our two-week honeymoon in Argentina was the night we decided to hit up the local grocery store, buy a bunch of different cheeses, crackers, local fruits, etc, and stay in room to watch Splash on one of the few English-language channels we got in the little town we were in. Totally indulging in laziness, without watching the clock or thinking about a to-do list, is the height of luxury and for some reason a vacation is the only time we can really do that guilt-free.

    • Tara says...

      I so agree….that vacation freedom just never exists at home

  34. Gen says...

    I completely agree with this! Especially as you get older, I’ve felt I need less adventurous trips and more vacations that involve doing nothing, or at least doing things within a much tighter radius, haha. I was just thinking on my last trip to Japan that I would have loved to spend more time there to do more “local” stuff. For example in Kyoto I noticed every day that a lot of younger people would have impromptu “picnics” sitting on the banks of the river, just sitting and chatting with friends. This is particularly possible, I believe, b/c it’s convenient and cheap to grab snacks and light food everywhere in Japan no matter where you go from vending machines and 7-Elevens (sounds gross, but the 7-11 stores are much, much better in Japan!). I made a mental note to do more relaxing stuff on my next trip to Japan.

  35. Lili says...

    I was visiting a friend in New York to celebrate her finishing school. We were walking around Bushwick and on a whim decided to go into a bar. We ended up getting completely wasted and I met a guy…. who I then dated for five months….

  36. Chantsy says...

    Yes!! I couldn’t agree more. Years ago (when we were babies too!) my husband and I took a trip to Chicago and my most vivid memory is lazing around our swanky hotel room in bed ALL DAY LONG while watching National Geographic channel…just because we could. Ten years and three kids later that sounds like the perfect kind of day.

  37. Kim says...

    My husband and I have recently discovered the perfect combination for just this! We are totally daytime people on vacation (ok, really just all the time – 9pm bedtime here!). We wake up early, do as much as we can, but almost always spend the nights hanging out in the hotel/airbnb/etc. We even try to get out of the house for just one night, but always end up renting a movie and hanging in. It allows me to feel like I’ve accomplished so much in the day (skiing! hiking! all the things!), but to totally chill out at night. Honestly, just thinking about how relaxing and easy those nights are makes me want to book a trip right now!

  38. Ine says...

    Yes! Our best vacation memory is similar to yours. The year before we got married, we spent two weeks on the beautiful island of Corsica. Although we went out to eat at fancy restaurants and explored different parts of the island, the best nights were spent in the hotel-bed eating greasy pizza, drinking beers and watching the European Cup (soccer) on TV. Fun fact: being Norwegian means we love soccer, but it’s been a while since our national team qualified for the Cup. Our tradition has therefore become to cheer for the team closest to home or the country we vacation in that summer.
    Ps. Just want to take this opportunity to tell you something I have been meaning to share for a while: you are such a great writer! I love reading your blog, it’s the only one I keep coming back to. Keep up the excellent work of bringing us the perfekt mix of entertaining, interesting, clever, thought-provoking, funny and sad stories.
    All the best, Ine

  39. Rose says...

    MY absolute favorite part of all times of any beach vacation is showering after a day of sun, water, and sand; and dolling up for dinner! It’s pure bliss for me.

  40. Sandra says...

    Loved this post! It reminded me when I was studying abroad. My friends and I planned a trip to Italy, packed with a lot of “must see places”, trying to fit everything we wanted to do in a very quick backpack trip. I don’t even remember why, but we ended up in a non-turistic park in Rome, filled with trees and Italian families playing around. I remember that afternoon so vividly, we layed in the grass, ate gelato and laughed our hearts out trying to figure out how to ride our rented tandem bikes. It’s funny that this is one of my best memories of being in a spectacular city.. an afternoon in the park. :)

  41. Nicole says...

    I’m defintely the opposite. I’m a ‘sleep when you die’ type traveler when I am abroad. I’ve tried the relaxing thing when I’ve traveled with others who roll that way, but I’m just left antsy wanting to get out of the room. To each her own!

  42. Katie says...

    When I travel by myself, my days are structured down to the 15 minute mark – because, for me, part of the fun is the planning. For my BF? Not so much. When we travel together, I plan one activity a day. The rest of the time, we just let things happen.

  43. H says...

    Absolutely! I went travelling around India solo last summer. I spent one memorable evening snug in my hotel room watching The Affair with the ambient noise of tuktuks beeping in the background. At the time I felt really guilty and that I should be doing something more culturally specific to India but travelling can be exhausting as much as exhilarating. I can still feel that moment of peace and calm.

  44. Cassidy says...

    Yes! Napping on trains is one of my favorite parts of traveling. I am generally a terrible sleeper and can’t sleep on a plane to save my life but put me on a train and I pass right out. It’s a real bummer that I’m probably never going to have my “Before Sunrise” moment but the motion is just so soothing that I can’t stay awake! And yes, I have missed my stop before.

  45. kiley says...

    It took my husband and I seven years to perfect our compromise on travel – I grew up in a “get up at crack of dawn and see everything family”…him not so much.
    I used to work for an airline and our last trip before quitting to start a family we were actually lucky enough to get to Paris over Valentine’s weekend. I dragged him around to all of the tourist stops in the freezing cold and made him promise that we’d do a fancy dinner…but when it came down to it we were freezing and tired and a pizza on the bed in the hotel with a bottle of red wine while watching the winter Olympics was actually exactly what we both wanted.

  46. Michelle says...

    When we were in Oregon we were scheduled to go on a boat trip and no one felt like doing it. We had rented the cutest little house in this very remote area that had BlackBerry bushes everywhere. Instead of going on the boat ride we stayed in took a hike enjoyed the waterfront and made BlackBerry jam and syrup

  47. This is so funny and true! One of my best memories is a trip with a girlfriend to Portland where we ran bubble baths, watched Blades of Steel and ordered popcorn from room service! It was the most relaxing time ever!

  48. I love the quote and I saw agree! I write about travel often and the advice that I give everyone is “you can’t see everything – just enjoy what you do see.” Especially families traveling with children – your trip is so much more enjoyable when you tour at their pace. Not only is everyone happier but children really do see the everyday wonders of a place. I traveled with my daughter (only) to Paris when she was 12 and it was the best trip ever. We saw some sights of course but we also went into Picard and wondered at all the frozen foods (it’s a store that only sells frozen food – like a frozen French Trader Joe’s). We stopped at parks and I let her play as long as she wanted. We bought macarons from 3 different places and did our own test taste. We sat in Place des Voges for hours just watching and being. We counted every dog we saw. One night after being out all day wandering the streets I just didn’t have the energy to find a cafe for dinner so we got Chinese take-out, took it back to our tiny hotel room and ate on bed while watching Thor 2 on my iPad. I’ve been to Paris many times but that trip with her is one of favorites.

    • Angela says...

      I fantasize about doing exactly this with my daughters when they are older!

  49. Halie says...

    In my late 20’s, my father invited me to go to Italy with him and my stepfamily. They had rented a beautiful house in Cortona, Italy which was high in the hills of Tuscany on a beautiful cobblestone street. The trip started off full of touristy, family type activities but a few days in I got really sick. Instead of heading to a nearby olive farm and winery with the family, I stayed home in bed, feeling sorry for myself. The bedroom I was staying in opened to the busy street and below I could hear shopkeepers and tourist going about their day. I was reading a Visit from the Goon Squad when suddenly the sound of accordion music wafted into my room. An unknowing street performer, who had positioned himself on our doorstep right below my window, serenaded me all afternoon. The perfectly Italian music, combined with the summer breeze and the amazing book I was reading, all came together to become one of my favorite memories of that trip.

    Also sweet was when my dad came home from the day, realized that I was indeed very sick, made me chicken soup from scratch with ingredients he found in the local market. He then went to the local pharmacy and spoke in hand gestures and broken Italian to get me mysterious (but eventually curing) drugs. It had been since childhood that he had lived close enough to be able to perform such classic caretaking. Getting to have him worry about what I was eating and what time I had to take medication felt like a vacation in itself from adulthood.

    • anne says...

      love this <3

  50. Laura says...

    My best traveling days were when I was young and broke. Now that I am not so young and not so broke, I still try to recreate what made me fall in love with traveling. I remember my first trip to Paris when I was 19 with my boyfriend, at the time. We stayed in a gorgeous flat that a friend’s mother owned. We could see the Eiffel Tower from the kitchen window! There was a tiny leading courtyard leading up to the flat! There was a blue door from the street! We walked everywhere, sometimes hours to sit on the lawn of our destination and soak it all in. Who needs to pay $35 on an entrance fee when you can sit on the lawn for free and take it all in?! Who needs a museum when there are people to watch! When you are young and in love a peach from a fruit stall is as much of a treat as a four course dinner is now. I try to remember that…

  51. Totally agreed! A vacation isn’t meant to be work but so many people who don’t travel often plan it as if it’s there job to see as many selfie worthy historical spots as humanly possible.
    If it’s truly a vacation and about enjoying yourself than the more time and freedom you give yourself the better! I always recommended people pick 1 singular activity a day that matters to them – an amazing bistro they have to visit or going on a stroll through a famous garden – and leave the rest of the day open! You’ll find things that are better and sweeter than the guidebooks this way and truly tap what you actually want to do and not what you think you have to do to look good on Facebook!

  52. When I visited Paris with my 8-year-old twin girls this past November (for a big birthday for me), we arrived before my sisters and two life-long girlfriends. We had two days of just the three of us. We had to take it easy. Our favorite times were in the gardens and parks at Luxembourg and Tuilleries. I sat and ate the snacks we packed, while the girls played. I so believed I appeared to be a French mom with my children at the playground. Lovely.

  53. When I was in Reykjavik two summers ago, I went to their local public library to see a photography exhibit they had running on the top floor. On the way down, I caught the “books in Enlglish” display and found your brother-in-law’s book. I picked it up to read the back and the first few pages, and before I knew it, I was curled up in the Reykjavik Public Library reading it cover to cover. It was so wonderful to be able to just stop everything and have a cozy (tearful) moment in a completely foreign place.

    Oh I miss traveling so much- as soon as my finances are back in good shape I’m heading out into the world again :)

    • I love this!

  54. Tshego says...

    My parents are the best vacactioners! On our family(4) holidays to Nambia, the first day we arrive we drive straight to the local seafood shop and buy some bulk fresh fish for the week. Every single day our vacation day starts like this: We sleep in, dad happily fries up enough eggs and fish to feed a village , the smell wakes the entire family, we stuff our faces, we throw on comfy clothes and go for a walk to the beach and decide what to do with the rest of the day. Those cosy little mornings are some of my most cherished memories :)

  55. Yes. I was always a planner that felt that the quality of my travel was measured by how much I accomplished. Then I got married to someone that can genuinely relax and something magical happened. On our honeymoon we did nothing but enjoyed the beach, enjoy each other, and have a beer and guacamole every afternoon. We kept intending to walk over to the little hilltop village, but we never found the time amidst our relaxing. And I’ve been traveling like that ever since.

  56. Katie Weltner says...

    I love getting suuuuper into a TV show on vacation. My husband and I watched all of House of Cards in our 1 month stay in Thailand. It was so intense! We would stay up late watching way more than we would at home. And then we had an ongoing theme to talk about when we were hiking around. (not that we couldn’t have talked about other stuff, but you know – sometimes you gotta freshen up the conversation topics)

    • Sarah says...

      I love this! I have been meaning to watch a few shows and I think my family’s upcoming beach vacation is the perfect time to do it!

  57. Erin says...

    I think there’s an important balance here. Hit those key spots but absolutely don’t do them on a time crunch. Who wants to make it through the Louvre in two hours? Or the Vatican? Definitely not me. I’m 27 and a lot of my friends have dreamed of country hopping in Europe in 10 days. The advice that I give them is simply “choose one or two places and enjoy them”. When you see that cute little cafe or are totally engulfed in the performance of a street performer, you want to have the time to stop in and do those things. However, it’s also important to me to spend some time at those monuments and enjoy them as well.

  58. Gaby says...

    Omg yes! Some of my favorite moments from our trip to Tokyo were our morning walks to 7-11 to pick out our ramen and salad breakfasts and eating them while watching the news/Japanese music videos in our room.

  59. Sarah says...

    When our children were younger we went to Amsterdam for our summer holiday – we decided to go on the train (we are Brits!) the whole way and the best ‘do nothing’ memory was buying a picnic of Dutch cheese, meats pickles, crisps and beer and going up on to the rooftop of our apartment building, enjoying a magical rooftop picnic. Happy days.

  60. Iz says...

    Everyone’s stories of doing this sound so romantic! However, I always feel like I can (and frequently do) read or watch TV at home, so when I’m in some distant and interesting location that I may never visit again, I should make the absolute most of it that I can. It feels like a waste of time, money and opportunity otherwise. My husband doesn’t always agree though, so sometimes he’ll have some down time alone while I explore some more.

    • Maggie says...

      I am on this bandwagon. All that time and money to get somewhere cool and TV just sounds like a waste. I have discovered that lingering at a cafe for a long while to people watch, or journal etc really is a great recipe. All that said and sleep is NEVER overrated no matter where you are.

    • Emma says...

      I think the key is to remember to do what you like to do, not what some imaginary checklist tells you to do. Me? I like coffee shops, food and people watching; I also like architecture and historic house tours…. what I like less is museums…. so I do a lot of the first and a lot less of the latter now and had the best 2nd experience in Venice because of it. :)

    • To each our own. My favorite thing to do on vacation is read for hours and hours at a time, something I generally don’t have time to do at home. When we went to Argentina several years ago, we packed in so much stuff it was exhausting. Every day a museum, landmark, restaurant, etc. At our last stop in Buenos Aires, we were in this beautiful little hotel with a balcony overlooking the street. I swear my favorite part of that whole trip was sitting on that balcony with wine and a book. I wish I had done that more and gone to fewer museums. Now on vacation, I’m way more balanced. On our last trip we did an activity every other day, which was great, but my favorite parts were sitting out on the deck off our room, walking along the beach, dipping my feet in the pool with a cup of coffee and book by my side.

  61. M says...

    My last vacation was spent staying out all day on the beach and then having dinner and coming back to our Airbnb and watching Queer Eye!

  62. Kim says...

    I love this! It reminds me of my favorite Paris night with my husband. We traveled there when I was pregnant with my daughter Astrid in 2011. As a lover of all things Paris and food, I had done my research and made considered reservations for lunch and dinner every day we were there. By the last day, when we arrived at our final dinner reservation of the trip, all the way out in the sixteenth arrondissement, we looked at each other, exhausted, and my husband said, “I just can’t.” And with that, we chased the cab down and went back to our hotel. From there, we walked down the street to a local bar, ordered some cheese and sat with the locals under a tarp in the rain! It was the best night! The waiter brought us wine and I told him, in French, that I was pregnant. He replied “Congratulations! Would you like red or white wine?” I love the French. We tell that story all the time.

  63. My husband and I were in Rome 5 years ago. We have never been to Italy or any European city for that matter. After the 3rd day of running around like mad, we finally took a cab at the end of a very long day. I leaned my head back and told my husband, “If we don’t stop and enjoy this, I’m going to hate Italy and hate you!” The next day we lingered with our espresso and roll. We spent 2 hours people watching on the Spanish Steps and ate gelato for lunch in Villa Borghese. It was certainly our best day in Rome and probably one of the top 10 in my lifetime. Slowing down makes all the difference! xo

  64. My husband is a very activity oriented person. He feels like he’s wasting his money and time if he is too idle, ha. He’s been getting better at relaxing more. In the meantime I really love when we go somewhere to ski in the winter. The activity has to end at 4 pm. We are usually xc skiing and staying in motels so nothing fancy. One of my fondest memories is watching a Lindsey Lohan (Mean Girls and Parent Trap) marathon in a cheap motel exhausted and surrounded by snacks. So fun.

  65. Aislinn says...

    YES. I sometimes feel “pressured” (by no one other than myself) to hit all of the things in a certain city. Who is telling me those are the places I NEED to go? Sometimes I’d rather drink coffee and people watch leisurely in Paris. Thank you for this important reminder!

  66. YES! We honeymooned in England for two weeks, and my husband insisted that we plan a week in the countryside without much sightseeing. After the rush of London, it was absolute bliss. We stayed in a gorgeous little hotel in the Cotswolds, and because we were both terrified of driving on the other side of the road, we walked EVERYWHERE. We’d pack our backpacks for the day and take off through fields on communal paths, hopping over stiles and trekking into town for lunch. Then we’d head back to the hotel for afternoon tea in the sunshine, and have leisurely dinners at the bar eating the only thing we could afford: lots of beer and the most delicious sandwiches. We ended up stumbling across lovely little discoveries we’d never have found otherwise, like a little village of canalboats docked next to yards filled with ducks and chickens. We still talk so fondly about that part of the trip.

  67. Sharon in Scotland says...

    I’m due to go to Edinburgh for a four nights in October this year. I have one appointment every day for about 2 hours then I’m free! I used to go to the city quite often, (ex-boyfriend) and love it, but apart from the National Gallery and the Portrait Gallery, all I’m interested in is watching films on my laptop, reading, drinking wine and napping. Also, I’ll indulge in my once yearly McDonalds, (the nearest one to me is a 45 minute drive away, who can be arsed?!). I feel like coj have given me permission, THANK YOU! X X X

  68. Lisa says...

    We have small children so holidays look nothing like they used to. What I have enjoyed though was
    – we did a trip and went to stay with my husband’s best friend, whose son is 3 weeks younger than ours. They have a house in a village in France with a pool, and it was amazing because the toddler had a great time – he had a friend to hang out with and ALL NEW TOYS. Their nap times coincided and we managed to get some adult hanging out time, and the friends obviously understood when I fell asleep at 9pm (I was pregnant at the time)
    – we did a beach holiday at a resort. I still feel kind of guilty that all we saw of Mauritius was the airport, the hotel and some of the village, but I had little energy (pregnant!) and we had a toddler so things like snorkelling and windsurfing were totally out. Instead, we had leisurely (ish – someone had to chase the toddler) breakfasts, we sat in the ocean and chatted, he played in the sand and we had long naps. It was perfect

    I also spending some evenings in the hotel chilling (my husband less so). We ended up doing it a couple of times on trips to the US – getting sucked into Seinfeld / Big Bang reruns. It doesn’t bother me as much (I have a weird fascination with commercials for medication. They’re banned in Europe so a novelty) but it drove my husband nuts that every five minutes there’s an ad break. How do you people cope?

    • Lisa says...

      My memory is so bad (sleep deprivation). One of the best ever trips we did was to Tobago. It’s not very touristy like other Caribbean islands so is very chilled. We spent a week in various places on the island (it’s tiny), mostly just hanging out. It was where my husband proposed (at sunset, overlooking the ocean) and the next day, we drove up the coast stopping at different beaches (almost all empty) to swim and relax. Literally the only “tourist” things we did were a jungle tour, and a boat tour, both of which were incredible. I would love to go back again.

  69. Kristen says...

    My boyfriend and I went to Montreal, Quebec last weekend for 2 nights. We walked a ton and went out in the evenings to listen to amazing live jazz, but we also carved out time to sit in the robes provided with our room and take naps, drink G&T’s on the balcony and watch bad TV.

  70. Maire says...

    One of my most memorable nights is when I had two days/one night traveling solo in Paris before catching a flight back to Cork, Ireland. I booked in at a hostel very close to the Sacre Coeur that had a gorgeous deck with hammocks and patio furniture. I don’t entirely remember how it happened, but I ended up making friends with a group of American, Australian, Canadian, and British travellers. We went across the street to the Monoprix, purchased bottles of 2 euro red wine and other snacks and spent the entire night drinking on the steps of the Sacre Coeur, looking out over the lights of Paris. I fleetingly fell in love with a dude in the group who was an American from Denver, and after the group was breaking up, he and I wandered the streets and popped into a cafe for a final glass of wine around 2AM or so. I never saw him again after we said goodnight back at the hostel, but I will never forget that night in Paris with all my fleeting friends!

  71. Jean Bernard says...

    Agreed! My husband and I did a parent getaway weekend in Nashville. The music scene was great, but our favorite memory from that trip was the rainy afternoon that we spent drinking old fashioneds and playing checkers in the hotel lobby.

  72. Rosie says...

    Two years ago hubs and I were in Paris and after traipsing through town all day, we and our dogs were dead tired. So before heading back to the hotel we stopped at a pharmacy (aren’t French pharmacies the BEST..whole other topic), picked up some foot salts and when we got back to our room perched on our bathtub edge, soaking our feet while drinking wine. Like you we had the windows open and heard the sound of the city below us. I smile just thinking about it.

  73. Teddy says...

    My roommate and I have traveled extensively together and have found lots of fun (and romance) hanging out at local bars at night. But equally enjoyable is our tradition of trying new cookies in every country we go to and staying in to watch Netflix and snack.

  74. I totally agree! When I was in Paris ages ago, I remember seeing American TV and finding it fun to watch it dubbed into French. Not sure if I’m remember this right, but I think I saw an episode of “Who’s The Boss?” when I was there. Who knew that a few decades later, Alyssa Milano would be a leader in the American Resistance!?!?

  75. Ali says...

    One of my favourite moments in Dubrovnik was walking a few hundred metres from our rented apartment to the cliffs, then plonking down to finish reading ‘The Kite Runner’. Every time I see or think of that book, I’m back there on that cliff top. The most glorious elements of travel are the simplest.

  76. Amy says...

    I used to date a guy that planned out each entire aspect of a trip, which is something I’m not good at personally. While it was an amazing trip, the one thing I always seem to wish I’d done more of is just spend time in the natural atmosphere of the place.

    In Chicago, all I wanted was to be around the hustle and bustle of the city. In Florida, I only wanted to be near the ocean. And most recently in Colorado, I didn’t want to leave my cabin’s porch at the base of Estes Park, where I could see all of the beautiful mountains.

    That Colorado trip was my favorite, I sure felt revived for a weekend trip. Driving out of Colorado, I had my eyes glued to the rearview mirror until the mountains disappeared behind me.

  77. I’m heading to London, Paris, Florence, and Rome for a whirlwind 10-day trip with 36 teenagers in June. It’s through EF Tours, which allows for one free traveler per six paying travelers. I’m a public school teacher; so is my husband. Along with a few other of our teacher friends, we decided to get this thing rolling–one of the only ways you can experience international travel on a public school teacher’s salary! Super stoked to be traveling to Europe for free!

    During the time when we don’t have to be chaperoning teenagers, we plan on eating all the food in our downtime. All. The. Food.

    • Loesie says...

      Hi Elizabeth!

      I did 24-hour excursions with 50 teenagers once in Paris and once in London. The best but soooo exhausting! But still the best ?
      Anyway, make sure you check out the bookstore ‘Shakespeare & Co’ in Paris, and Hemleys toy store in London. Definitely worth it! Like so much more (but that’s a whole different story..)

  78. Leah says...

    My husband and I are in Shanghai (from the States) and just did this two nights ago! We’ve been traveling in Asia for the past two weeks and I felt a bit guilty at first taking an entire afternoon to do nothing but sit in our hotel room and watch Love, Actually on TV while munching on Chinese convenience store snacks (China’s are some of the best!)—but it was completely worth it. Even with the excitement of travel, you can burn yourself out if you don’t take occasional do-nothing time.

  79. Naomi says...

    Oh yes! This reminds me of when my husband and I went to Marrakesh, of course we loved the intense and vibrant souks, taking trips to the Atlas Mountains. We tried to soak in every part of this new culture but staying in a resort hotel just outside the city centre with nothing much going on in a walkable distance, meant taking a taxi every time, which also meant haggling with the same taxi drivers who were so insistent on ripping us off. And so on our last night, we gave in and ordered room service, we had sub standard club sandwiches and spaghetti bolognese and watched a movie, and it was one of my favourite moments (the Atlas mountains were pretty rad too).

  80. Adriana says...

    My mother and I visited Bath, England several years ago. We loved being immersed in what we considered to be “Jane Austen culture”! But the best memory of the trip was a rainy afternoon, when we didn’t feel like getting rained on. Our B&B had the most amazing beds, so we brought lunch to our room and watched Sense and Sensibility while eating our bread and cheese in our cozy beds. It is one of my most favorite memories!

  81. Nina says...

    We like to make repeat visits to some sights or spots within one trip – see a few things really thoroughly, rather than everything just barely!

  82. Rachel says...

    My husband and I recently went to Austin for a long weekend, and the weather had been great until our last night (I’m a wuss about cold and was not feeling motivated to walk around in a cold/rainy city) . We were so exhausted from non-stop bike riding and exploring, that we ordered Chinese take out to our hotel room and watched a Trading Spaces marathon. It was great!

  83. Marcela says...

    Last month my boyfriend and I went to Vietnam for a long weekend trip, we were both crazy busy right before this trip and barely had any time to research or plan anything in advance. It turned out to be the best weekend we have had in a long time, we got a hotel room with a balcony and would sit there every night having beers and talking watching the street come alive after sunset. The second day trip we booked that weekend we decided not to read the intinerary to avoid frustration, we found out about all the plans once we were in the van with the guide and everything she said sounded magical! Had the best time that day even though it was pouring all day.

  84. Karli says...

    Hanging out in Madrid after walking the 744km Camino de Santiago across Spain. Dad and I found an English book shop. He got a murdery book and I spent a few days reading All the Light We Cannot Se and Me Before You in between watching Tiny Houses on the only English TV station.

  85. Bonnie says...

    Ha! My husband and I have been to Amsterdam a number of times, but my favorite night was the one where we climbed in our Air B+B bed with a brownie (yes…) and watched Zoolander. Ha!

  86. Alice says...

    Absolutely!! I took a solo trip to Portland, OR, in March and while I walked over 60km in the 3.5 days I was there (!!), I also carved out time to just lie on the sofa in my airbnb, drink wine, eat cheese, and watch episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. It was THE BEST and made me feel so relaxed.
    I also go on holiday with my mum every year, and we always book a beachy trip. There’s something so lovely about lying on a sunlounger next to her, reading our books, just taking the time to fully relax!

  87. Maia says...

    I travel to the US from India on work and when I do, I go over to the nearest Trader Joe’s or equivalent, stock up on lots of food and fruits (especially the kind I don’t easily find in India) and head back to my hotel to watch (sometimes rewatch) episodes of Law & Order SVU. Even now, the title track makes me all happy- nostalgic. :)

  88. For me, the best moment is that first second after you wake up in another place for the first time, you open your eyes, see something new or strange through the window (bonus points if what you see is the sea or any body of water) and feel super excited and deeply relaxed at the same time. You curl up in your bed, smile and spend a few minutes in silence thinking about the lovely day you are going to have!
    xx,
    E.

  89. Shellyrem says...

    I had one of these experiences on honeymoon. We travelled from our home in Dublin after a wonderful wedding but also a full year of stressing about seating arrangements and flowers for the ceremony. We were so, so, so tired. We reached our apartment in NY and while my new husband popped out to buy wine I curled up on the bed with a cosy blanket over me and watched Seinfeld with the sounds of the city drifting in through the window of our tiny terrace. It was one of my most vivid memories from the honeymoon (and my husband wasn’t even there; sorry Andrew!). It was lovely to feel the weight of all that expectation from the wedding just draining away and be able to just exist in a new place. There is something so freeing about doing the ordinary in extraordinary places.

  90. Veronika says...

    oh yes! On our recent honeymoon we spent 2 weeks India and Sri Lanka so our schedule was pretty packed. We never plan the shedule for day-to day as it puts lot of pressure on you but still…whenever we felt tired and overwhelmed with things to see, we just took a break and decided not to visit a site or two and just enjoy the current activity without thinking about rushing to another site. One day in New Delhi -India we decided that for the next night we book a really fancy hotel and take a half day “off” and :just chill in the garden sipping cocktails. Or one day in Sri Lanka I felt sick so decided to cancell a 1 day trip and just stay at the hotel. In the evening I wasn’t feeling going out but didn’t say anything to my husband as I didn’t want him to miss out on sg in the town..but he surprised me instead: he ordered pizza delivery (in the middle or Sri Lanka and downloaded a good show on Netflix and spent the night with me in bed) I was so grateful!

  91. Sheila says...

    This post came at the absolute. best. time. We are on vacation in Italy and after running around trying to do too much (and getting lost until 11:30 last night!) we’re hanging out for the day where we are staying in Lucca which is a beautiful walled city. On today’s agenda: walking under the trees on the wall that circles the town, having a leisurely lunch somewhere, doing some food shopping, after of course getting out of my pajamas which I’m still wearing at 11:30 am Italy time. So many thanks for this!!!

  92. Merel says...

    Being from europe, I am lucky to be able to travel to lots of different countries. I just returned from a trip from Denmark and Sweden yesterday. My absolute favourite thing to do is going to supermarkets. My partner and I walk around for two hours and just explore, all the time in the world. I call those trips treasure hunts. It is where I get souvenirs and a sense of the local way of living!

    • Rebecca says...

      Same! I absolutely love visiting supermarkets when I travel abroad. Rare candy or potato chip flavor we don’t have in the States make great and inexpensive gifts, too.

  93. joana says...

    so true, joanna!
    last week i had my first holiday away with my boyfriend (a word i’m still getting familiar with at 33!) and it was so, so nice to just take it slow. take naps, talk on the couch, walk around slowly (a hard task for me!), hold hands… one of the high moments for me was one morning where i woke up before him (as i usually do) and i was reading for awhile and at some point he turned to me and continued sleeping on my chest. we stayed this way for maybe an hour and i didn’t even want to fall back asleep it was so sweet.
    i never thought i would feel like this, so happy, but slow and quiet and sweet happy. which is actually the best kind of happy, i’ve realized :)

  94. Allison says...

    Before we had kids, my husband and I just used to walk for hours and hours whenever we got to a new destination.

    One of the few times we planned something was going to see the ball drop on NYE in Times Square. We arrived by subway at about 10, took one look at the crowds and another at each other, and turned around and walked the 35 blocks back to our hotel where we watched the ball drop on TV in our hotel robes. Best. Decision. Ever.

  95. Tracy F. says...

    Best advice! I’ll also give a plug for finding your familiar. My husband joined me on a work trip in Tokyo recently. After 4 days of intense information download and absorption with my coworkers, my brain was too full to function. But, Tokyo! For the next two days, we forced it, running around all over town. It was great, but I was mentally and physically exhausted. Neither of us speaks Japanese so almost everything was an unknown and required some level of sleuthing to understand. At the end of that second day, I couldn’t bear another “stranger in a strange land” experience. So, we went for pizza – the love language spoken round the world! The most joyous sounds I could’ve heard at that point was the boisterous, “Buona Sera!” from the entire restaurant staff when we walked in. (“Hey, I understood that!”) And, of course, melted cheese cures everything. It gave me the strength to power through the rest of our amazing trip.

  96. Rachael says...

    When we go to the beach with my extended family, we always get a house with a pool so we can observe the best vacation tradition ever—pool snacks. Every family group is responsible for one day of meals and it is AMAZING to have six days where you don’t even think about meals and they just show up, but the best is when you’re lounging in the pool and somebody floats a tray of snacks out to you!! We all use it as a chance to show off so I’m talking seriously amazing snack game here. ? On our last trip I was 36 weeks pregnant with baby #6 and my OB was like, are you sure you want to go on vacation? And I thought of that question later when I was floating in the pool with my drink and snack and just laughed.

  97. Tallia says...

    We went to Idaho Falls to see the total eclipse last year with some family and friends. The day before the big event we visited a tiny zoo and then spent the rest of the day hanging out at the park, like five hours of kids throwing frisbees, adults swinging in hammocks, everyone trying out a friend’s new skateboard. It was heaven. We still talk about that day where we all just hung out.

  98. Jennifer says...

    Several years ago my daughter and I were traveling overseas. We spent one evening in Ireland in our hotel room, ordering all the potato items from room service and watching Irish Netflix. We still talk about how much fun that night was!

  99. Jodi says...

    I am in a long distance relationship and I hadn’t seen my boyfriend in over a year. I went home this past January for a well deserved vacation. My greatest memory from that trip was of us sitting by the beach talking about random topics. It was relaxing and fun which solidified our relationship even more.

  100. Lindsay says...

    Yep. I really don’t care if I check off much. I just like to soak everything in, people watch, walk around exploring and eating everything. My favorite memories of our recent trip to Paris was reading at the park, a bike ride, picnic by Seine, and eating la fermiere yogurt in the hotel room Looking out the window too

  101. jenn says...

    We don’t eat in bed at home, or have a television in the bedroom, but when at a hotel eating in bed watching,dumb tv is my favorite thing!

  102. Hannah says...

    My boyfriend and I just got back from DC – in a particularly hectic day we had a tour (Pints + Politics) scheduled for 3 on Monday. We were absolutely dumbstruck by the Newseum and ended up running late. As we searched frantically for the tour group, Duncan stopped me and told me it was okay – we didn’t have to make this one tour group. We ended up getting iced coffee, heading back to our Airbnb, and watching an episode of Parks and Recreation which gave us two hours before our perfect dinner at Momofuku. That’s when I fully realized this was the person I was gonna marry – the one that traded “should have’s” on a trip for “need to’s”. And had no regrets.

  103. Jo says...

    This is so like my husband and I. We get all enthusiastic on a weekend trip with no kids and say let’s go out to that restaurant we passed earlier and by the time we’ve walked all around the city, shopping and stopping to eat when we feel like it that we end up popping into the local supermarket and getting wine, bread, cheese, crisps etc and eating them in our hotel room watching sport and a movie! EVERY SINGLE TIME.

  104. Kristin says...

    We have to have downtime on our trips, and in our life at home too. We chose one of my husband’s sisters and her husband to be guardians of our children if something happened to us. We took a trip with my husband’s whole family and, after a weekend of “Hey, we have fifteen minutes…let’s put the kayaks in the water!” and similar situations, we knew we had to change our wills to specify his other sister and her husband. We love all of them dearly, but our children would have blown a gasket if they’d had to live in a house where there is absolutely no time to just sit and BE.

  105. jan says...

    This post enlightened me to the fact that I really need to sit for a minute and determine exactly which type of vacation I need a particular trip to be: Sightseeing? Adventure? Relaxation? Then I can feel good about making it a “___” trip and not worry that it coulda-shoulda-woulda been better any other way.