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. Sarah says...

    oh and another. On our Amsterdam trip. We stayed at an Airbnb and the owners had kids as well. My kids loved to stay in and play with all of the toys. It was so relaxing for me.

  2. Laura says...

    My boyfriend and I took a trip to Italy last fall and during our one night in Venice I was sick with a bad cold and it torrentially rained. At first I was devastated- no fancy dinner or romantic walk along the canal- but we decided to get Burger King next door to our hotel and eat it in the room watching The Italian Job dubbed in Italian, and I still think fondly of that. It was a much needed junk-food, veg-out break that we often give ourselves at home but sometimes is just as important on vacation.

  3. jan says...

    It makes sense. That’s how you get to experience another city as if you actually lived there. Just doing normal life feels SO GOOD when it’s out of context sometimes! I feel more relaxed just contemplating that, haha…

  4. Sarah says...

    We were in Amsterdam with our kids last summer. Almost every night I would make the kids dinner and then put them to bed. Then my husband would go pick up take out from a new spot and bring it home and we would eat with some beers or wine. I loved it. so relaxing and we had a date night almost every night.

  5. Stacey says...

    My husband and I went to Europe last Christmas, and while we did plenty of activities during the day, we made sure we had several hours of down time every evening. We’d get an early dinner somewhere, and then head back to our hotel, put on our PJs, and watch TV while raiding the minibar (the minibar items at all the hotels we stayed at were free!). There’s nothing quite so delightful as snuggling up in bed in a foreign country, drinking beer, and watching Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure dubbed in German :)

  6. Cynthia says...

    One of my favorite parts of last summer’s trip to Europe was watching Moana on a laptop in bed and eating a bunch of candy from a convenience store

  7. Eva says...

    TBH I had to think for a minute about my philosophy with travel after reading this, because I actually had a visceral negative reaction to reading “doing nothing,” haha! I think it’s because it’s in terms of TV—to me, that’s the one thing I’m more than delighted to eliminate from my life when traveling.

    For me I think my goal is practicing slow travel—having more time and a lighter agenda. I’ve gotten much better (and happier) with it over the years, thanks to a partner with whom I’ve established a nice balance between my plan-plan-plan approach and his just-show-up approach.

    Really though, to me, eating cheese, drinking wine, and gazing at the sky or sea is far from “doing nothing.” I’d say that’s the epitome of being present and actively engaged in life and the simple things that bring such great joy :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that, eva. xoxo

  8. Amy says...

    Two really stand out for me. The first was our honeymoon, which was VERY short – only two days in New Orleans. I don’t know how – I’m pretty sure time stopped for us – but we shlepped all over the city (my husband’s home town) and hit all his favorite spots that he’d always wanted to show me, and never felt tired. The second was years later at Disneyland with our kids. On our last night we bounced between parks, walked onto every ride with no wait, soaked in the soft, warm air and danced under all the twinkling lights. It was all spur of the moment, and so, so magical.

  9. Maria Perez Puertas says...

    I always always look for the best park and arrange a day to spend there doing nothing (if the weather is good). Bring food, a book, a blanket and of course, always take a nap there ???

  10. Kate says...

    My husband and I have a tradition of rising on the early side on vacation, and napping together in the afternoon. So many happy memories snoozing together? …Though we haven’t gotten a chance to nap at our leisure on vacation since our daughter was born two years ago!

  11. yes! love this. it reminds me of when i went to san francisco on my first completely solo vacation. one night, after an early dinner, i bought a huge portion of bread pudding at a bakery, came back to my hotel room, and ate it in my bed while wearing a fluffy white bathrobe. i’ll never forget it. :)

    -kim

  12. My now-husband and I went to Belize about a year into our relationship. We stayed on a resort on a remote island with these cute little individual cabanas, spending days exploring, kayaking, swimming, and snorkeling. By night, we were tired and there wasn’t exactly a hopping social scene on the island, so we went back into our cabana and… watched The Wire on a laptop/iPad! I’ll always have fond memories for that show for that reason (plus, it’s a great show!).

  13. Chrissy Shea says...

    YES! My husband and I visited Denver on Easter weekend and ended up staying in our air bnb for most of Easter Sunday binge watching Netflix. Aside from the most incredible ice cream I’ve ever tried from Little Man, that was the most memorable part of our trip.

  14. Charity says...

    A few years back, I spent a week in Paris with my sister and then two weeks on my own. Standout moments from the trip seem to be food centric (pretty much always the case for me): eating sandwiches on pieces of baguette that were no shorter than the length of my arm from wrist to armpit, feasting on pastries while watching unremarkable movies in my underwear, throwing the windows in my flat open wide to watch the rain whilst savoring the absolutely amazing chocolate mousse I found, ready to eat, at the grocery store.
    Sightseeing is totally fun, but downtime is essential!

  15. Esther says...

    Yes! After spending over six months schlepping around Europe, I stayed with my great aunts in Germany for two weeks. My fondest memories from that wind-down period were watching “Greek” from their guestroom day bed and bicycling around the sleepy suburb of Hamburg (with the coolest forest playgrounds!). Oh, and the random midday shots I drank with my great aunts…

  16. Katie says...

    When my husband and I went to London last year, I felt guilty about spending time at the hotel, watching Netflix (I mean, they do have WAY better movies on the UK’s Netflix than the US). But it was totally awesome and super relaxing. You can’t go go go constantly and expect to come back relaxed from a trip. Thanks for a great reminder!

  17. I love this! When I travel alone, I allow plenty of do-nothing time. One of my favorite vacation memories included a nice waterfall near Portland, Maine, where we sat and ate salads from Whole Foods and just enjoyed the quiet. No to do lists or required sight seeing!

  18. Hilary says...

    YES to this! We went to Europe for 10 days and spent half of each day sitting in the park reading books, wandering around, sitting at a coffee shop etc. I find everyone wants to check off a list of sites when they go abroad and we just enjoyed soaking in the vibes of a place. My favorite moment from Vienna was going to the market and buying bread, ham, cheese, and strawberries and picnicking for lunch. The dream!!

    • That does sound dreamy!

  19. Ana says...

    I was always a see-everything-you-can-sleep-when-you’re-dead/back home kind of traveller when I was younger. Then I hiked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, which often included some enforced downtime (arriving before the local pilgrim hostel was open, arriving to find there is literally nothing but a 17th century church, arriving and just being too tired to go one more step). I have some lovely memories of places I could never find again on a map! Now I’m much less insistent on filling every moment: a morning activity, an afternoon activity, and leaving everything else up to the serendipity of travel.

    • Sharon says...

      Completely agree with your comment on slowing down, but have to say, CONGRATS. That trail is quite the accomplishment.

    • Karli says...

      Oh my gosh Ana. I just wrote about my Camino too. Talk about down time. Dreamy xx

    • Amanda says...

      Hi, Ana. I haven’t hiked the Camino de Santiago yet but I live in one of the villages along the way so I’ve seen lots of people with shells on their backpacks walking by. They are always so happy and I’m always surprised at the range of ages, body types, etc. Their energy is contagious so I feel privileged to experience it even though I’m not on the journey myself. Congratulations on completing such a huge goal!

  20. Kate says...

    My roommate and I went to Paris, and I was so busy with work that the four days we were supposed to be there weren’t enough and we decided to stay an extra two (which resulted in me getting mugged literally on the way to the airport but that’s another story). We did a lot and saw some awesome things, but the moment I remember was us sitting in our underwear on this mattress in the tiny apartment we rented, taking pictures of each other in the gorgeous underwear we’d just bought and eating sweets for a few hours, literally doing nothing. It was absolutely fantastic.

  21. Nicole says...

    The best moments when traveling are often spontaneous. A friend and I waited until sunset in Paris to visit the Eiffel tower. At the top, we met an Australian man traveling alone. The three of us spent the rest of the evening together, into the wee hours. We took the tube to the Louvre, roamed the streets, and listened to his stories of the previous night spend at The Moulin Rouge. I will never forget it.

  22. Georgia says...

    I think this is a good marker for compatibility, isn’t it? It’s great if you enjoy doing all the exciting stuff together, but the real test is if you truly enjoy doing nothing together.

    • Sylvia says...

      That is so true!

    • Ada says...

      Yes to this!

  23. We went to Barcelona with a party of 13 about eight years ago, many of whom were family on my husband’s side. While everyone we were with scrambled to take bus tours and see every famous tourist spot, my husband and I rented bikes with no destination in mind and hung on the beach. We also took a day trip out to cava country and went on a bike / wine tour. So not exactly laying in bed and watching movies, but we opted for a way more relaxed vacation than our family members. I have never once doubted that we made the right choice.

  24. Rae says...

    In the middle of a hectic 10 day trip with friends, we booked 2 nights in what turned out to be a very fancy hotel. The first night, hubby caught up on new music in the bath, while I donned the lush robe, magyvered a foot spa using the rubbish bins, and ate a bodega dinner while channel surfing. The next 24 hours we unintentionally did quiet stuff; book stores, galleries, city wanders, park bench sitting – barely speaking, just letting the city take us.

  25. TJ says...

    This is perfect. I have never subscribed to the ‘go go go’ aspect of vacations, and I am a homebody so, even tho I might be somewhere exotic, sorry, I still want to want Friends reruns. ?

  26. Breanna says...

    Growing up the only time our whole family sat down to breakfast together was on vacation. There were plenty of grilled cheese lunches on the weekends between sports practices and we ate dinner after school, but the mornings were always super rushed with my dad eating standing up over the sink and my mom always waited until work. I loved vacations when we would slow down and eat breakfast at a table in a hotel or a rented cabin. My mom would make pancakes or we would all order eggs off a menu but it always felt so civilized and erased the craziness of normal family mornings. We always felt like a unit instead of five tornadoes and it felt like we were all starting the same day, if that makes sense.

  27. Amy says...

    Before our daughter was born almost 10 years my husband and I had jam-packed schedules when we traveled. For example, we stayed in five different cities/towns in Italy over 2 weeks. It was a fun way to travel but exhausting! Now, we have embraced “slow travel” choosing to stay in one place and spend our days more like a “local” rather than a tourist. It is so great! A few years ago we started home swapping and this has only added to to richness of our slow travel experience! Our next house swap is with a couple who live a few blocks from Central Park in NYC. We will be there for almost 2 weeks and guess how many “side trips” we are taking? Zero! My favorite memory is petting the cat who lived on the first floor of our Paris house swap every time we came and went! By the end of the two weeks, the cat seemed to know my daughter!

  28. Tyler says...

    yes! my favorite day of a big trip is always the last. its when i’ve stopped caring about my checklist, and i spend the day wandering about, people watching, idling over drinks, and spending the last of my currency on something indulgent.

  29. Sylvia says...

    I watched 50 first dates, which is one of my favorites (i have may reasons) in Birmingham, Greys Anatomy in Atlanta and Friends in Italy.
    But the best memory still is one evening in Madrid, when my boyfriend and i decided to just grab some bread, dryed meat, vegtables and red vine to eat on the bed in our room without tv. Its almost 12 years ago and we still do ‘spanish nights’ atleast once a month, though not on the bed.

  30. lorena pouet says...

    My hubby and I do a variety of things spread out over the vacation in no certain order, depending on where we happen to be and whatever we feel like doing that day.
    We also don’t have a TV in our bedroom at home (although now I’m guilty of watching stuff on my tablet – arg!) – anyways, so – OMG – a room with a FLIPPING HUGE TV TWO FEET FROM THE BED!!! SCORE!! We get hypnotized by any random show, trashy, corny, crime, action, comedies, zombies, superbly written and acted period costume dramas -(okay that last one is just me), but ….it’s all about that TV!!!! IN THE SAME ROOM AS THE BED!!!! whoa.

  31. Annie says...

    On our honeymoon in Germany ten years ago, we spent the middle of every day at the hotel to sleep off some jet-lag and take a break from walking so much. The only thing in English we could find on TV was weird old MTV dating shows (I think one was called “Next”?), and watching that crappy tv together in our hotel is one of our most recalled memories of the trip! :-)

  32. Anna says...

    I love this! One of the many reasons I love travelling with my parents is that they always do an afternoon happy hour/nap/foot soak back at the hotel. I still smile when I think about my mom, dad and myself crammed on the edge of a tub soaking our feet in cold water after walking around (lost) FOREVER in St. Petersburg.

  33. Ramsey Fountain says...

    I can totally relate. We went to Paris for our honeymoon (such a splurge when we had very little money, 29 years ago!). What did we do while we were there? Pretty much nothing. My favorite memories are of sitting in sidewalk cafes for hours on end, just talking and talking, with no one bothering us to move along. Also we did other things, but I won’t go into that… It was a wonderful honeymoon.

  34. Annie says...

    Oui! I lived and worked in Paris for a year while my boyfriend (now husband) stayed behind in New York. He came to visit me for a week and despite a sunny Barcelona trip and some crisp, bright fall days around Paris, my best memory was our final day. It was rainy, and we went out and got a bunch of breads and croissants, cheese, jams, Speculoos, and craft beers, and spent the day lounging in my apartment watching Season 1 of ‘Top Chef’ on my laptop. Six years later, we have ‘cozy nights’ several times a week, but I’ll never forget our inaugural ‘cozy day’…the best.

    • Mona says...

      That’s so lovely. It’s funny how the simple things are the ones that stay with us when time passes.

  35. Savannah says...

    We took the chunnel over for a whirlwind day to Paris today in the middle of our whirlwind London vacation! With a 21 month old along for the trip downtime is going to be a must tomorrow… now hopefully She’s All That is on!

    I took some advice you posted years ago and we all split up for half a day (for me not enough, for my husband, too long apart). I loved hearing what excited him! It reminded me of the thrill of newly dating.

  36. So true! Sometimes I’ll admit its kind of nice traveling with our 2 year old who likes goes to sleep at 7:00. After a day of sight seeing there is something great about relaxing with Netflix. That’s not to say one night of babysitting wouldn’t be great but its not ALL bad.

  37. Yes! I’m actually on vacation in DC now and just had a similar freeing experience of acknowledging and being ok with the fact that I couldn’t read or see EVERYTHING in the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It was so freeing!

    • Brianna says...

      Just means you get to plan another visit.

    • Bridey says...

      Welcome to DC — I live here, and one of the things I tell everyone when they visit is that it’s an easy city to be in if you let yourself chill. My brother came to visit last summer, and one day we went to our favorite market to get snacky foods, then spent the whole day on the Mall. We set up a blanket to use as HQ, and then people would peel off to go to this museum or to check out this thing, but mostly we just laid around in the grass. So glad the weather turned a bit nicer for you the past few days!

  38. Celeste says...

    When I went to Paris in college, I couldn’t even afford a restaurant, so I lived off bread and cheese sold in the street. My favorite part of a vacation or staycation is just chatting for hours with my husband. We haven’t ever taken a trip by ourselves but maybe someday it’ll be in the budget.

  39. Asha says...

    When I used to travel for business, I relished two things…ok, three: walking around (if i could), eating an places I had heard about, and going back to the hotel room, with more food than I needed and some hilariously bad TV! Now that we travel to Germany to visit family, our off-time is more important than ever. We usually take a slow day after a 2-3 busier days. Waking up late, taking a walk that usually ends at gelateria we know or discover. I cherish those days more than hitting the “bigger ticket” places.

  40. Jenny Stanley says...

    This is hilarious because we went on a two week trip to Paris, London, and Amsterdam. One of my favorite memories is sitting on the couch watching Big Bang Theory in Amsterdam. :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahaha yes!

  41. I often fly to Paris and during the summer months, just taking a bottle of wine, a baguette, and cheese and sitting on the bank of the Seine is my happy place. I’ll join the impromptu dance classes or just watch the boats go by. Same with just sitting at a cafe, sipping a coffee, eating pastries, and reading a good book.

  42. Oneida says...

    Traveling with our kids forced us to slow down and see wonders in stuff we never would have! We took our first international trip to Ireland, our littles were 4 and 6. We had lots of ideas of what to see but realized that with public transportation and a limited budget, we couldn’t schlep hours through the countryside to see every site. We did go to a few museums, Blarney, and Cobh, but our goal was one planned thing a day. My favorite memories are ensconced in my kids wanting to stop and enjoy every. little. thing. Playing with a cat through a window. Riding on the top of the double decker bus. Asking what happened to sculpture’s legs. Trying new kinds of cookies. Going on a walk purely for puddle splashing (we’re from the desert). Searching for four-lead clover outside the museum. I even got a horrible UTI while I was there. We had to take a taxi and spend the entire day in the ER. My kids spent the whole time playing on the ramp and handrails in front and went for a walk to look for puddles and mushrooms. I was distraught because we only had a few days left in the trip and there was a boat festival going on but I was too sick…but my kids didn’t care, they were having the time of their lives! My husband was like, hey, we got to experience Irish health care! Ha. Such a cool reminder that travel isnt about seeing “everything,” but about being in a new place so you can see yourself, your family, and the world from a new vantage point. Which is why doing the normal every day things, like grocery shopping, eating dinner together, going for walks, were just as memorable as seeing the sites!

    • Monica says...

      Wonderfully put, Oneida! Hope to always remember this: being in a new place is also seeing you and your family, from a new vantage point.

  43. Colleen says...

    I’m going to Las Vegas for a conference in July and CANNOT WAIT to plunk myself in bed and watch Hallmark’s Christmas in July movies in my downtime!!!! That is the only thing I have planned and woe to anyone who tries to change my plans.

  44. Carol says...

    I have definitely had to learn to not feel guilty about doing this on trips. I love travelling and seeing new things, but sometimes you are just exhausted and need to remember it’s supposed to be a holiday!
    A few years ago I was alone in Bologna, Italy for a few days, and there was no hostel in the city centre so I’d booked a cheap pension. I had been travelling for a few months, staying in bunk beds in shared dorms at backpacker hostels, and I realised that I had the luxury of a double bed to myself in a quiet room! So I got McDonalds and ate it in bed while reading my book. It was just what I needed.

    • Katie says...

      Yes! I struggle with feeling guilty too–like I should be out spending every waking moment exploring and checking things off of my vacation to-do list.

  45. Jane says...

    Agree!! Even on work trips in new cities I savor the time I get to spend in my hotel room with no obligations, HBO, and my favorite food! It’s the little things :)

  46. Mischu says...

    Oh! Before in-room mini fridges were a thing my brother, sisters, and I would save up every coin we could get our hands on. Once our family checked into the hotel, we’d race to the vending machines and buy everything we could get our hands on…then gorge on all the goodies. When I see a can of Dr. Pepper I travel back in time some 30 years!

    • Marcie says...

      Same here…when I smell a newly opened can of Coke!

  47. Rachel says...

    Towards the end of our honeymoon in Hawaii everyone kept telling my husband and I how we just “had” go to to the volcano in Maui and watch the sunrise. Well…after being “go-go-go” the entire trip until that point, we basically looked at each other and decided it was absolutely not for us. Instead my amazing hubby ordered the most amazing breakfast room service and we just hung out on our lanai and enjoyed a lazy morning together. It was simply the best. I have no regrets not seeing the sunrise, and i’m sure when we go back to Hawaii we’ll put a little more effort into seeing the sunrise at the volcano. However, if we end up just getting pancakes and mimosas in bed again, i’m totally fine with that too.

    • Ariel says...

      Honestly, I’ve done both the Haleakala sunrise and sunset and attest the sunset is by FAR the better option. The sunset somehow lasts for an hour because it takes so long for the sun to actually disappear below the horizon from that height, and when it does, you get THE BEST stargazing I’ve ever had in my life. Bring a thermos of something hot and layer up because the temperature drops dramatically, but you don’t have to get up at 2am just to get there and you get to see the milky way with your bare eyes. Never doing the sunrise again.

  48. for me, it’s not just “do nothing” time – it’s “do my own nothing” time. I love my partner, and he is my travel buddy, but we have slightly different ideas of downtime. every vacation we make sure we have time to do our own things. he’ll go out and explore, while I’ll take a little time to, well…do nothing.

  49. Kim says...

    my boyfriend and i go to san francisco a few times a year (which from LA is quick and easy) and it’s one of my favorite trips for exactly this reason. we’ve been to the city enough times that we feel 0 pressure to go out and see everything. it’s so nice to just lounge in our hotel with beers from a local brewery and takeout from a local restaurant. feels like actual vacation time!

  50. Lisa says...

    Dear Joanna and CupofJo friends, we are planning a trip to Lake Como this summer and would like to stay at an Airbnb type place. I would love and appreciate any recommendations on places to stay! There are 6 of us and children friendly accommodations would be awesome!

  51. Abbey Leroux says...

    I love how so many people agree that these weird “nothing” moments of vacation are the best. Here’s one of mine…
    My best friend and I were traveling around all of Argentina for a month. After a full week of non-stop activity in Mendoza (horseback riding, vineyard tours by bike, drinking Malbec, restaurants, and socializing) we left town and stayed in an empty motel in the middle of nowhere. We had a backpack of pastries so we turned on the TV to find Nacho Libre dubbed in Spanish, which neither of us spoke. I couldn’t remember the plot or dialogue so my friend (who knew it very well) dubbed every moment back into English doing different voices for every character and fudging it when she couldn’t remember what was going on. I’ll never forget the belly-ache laughter of that blissful night of nothing.

    • Sylvia says...

      Sounds wonderful hilarious!

    • laura says...

      I love this story! That sounds awesomely hilarious

  52. jen says...

    Absolutely right. One of our first trips to NYC we had planned to see ‘starry night’ at the museum. When it turned out to be a beautiful day and there was a block long line, we went to central park instead and walked around, drinking coffee and sitting on benches. One of my faves. Still havent seen the painting.

    • Cathy says...

      Jen, I felt emotional reading your memory of Central Park . My husband and I went to New York City for the first time in (October 2016) and our absolute favourite day was walking (entirely around) and exploring Central Park. It was magical! We had an incredible week in the city but the standout memory will always be that breezy day in the park. :-)

  53. Lynn-Holly Wielenga says...

    love this! I and a friend recently planned an out of town bachelorette weekend and we agreed that the “do nothing time” we scheduled was paramount to the weekend’s success. recovering from a fun thing before the next fun thing is important! or else it kinda all turns into an exhausting blur.

  54. Guinevere says...

    My favorite two parts about vacations are (1) the wonder and joy of researching what amazing things there are to do/see/hear/eat, and then (2) the freedom to skip any “plan” in favor of more time reading in a new favorite spot.

  55. Amber says...

    I love this! My husband and I always make it a point to balance the ‘must-see’ locations with rest. We usually plan ONE, maybe two items for the day, but give ourselves the flexibility to saunter around. Those are always our favorite parts of the trips.

    On our honeymoon in Italy, every morning in Venice we slept in, found a local coffeeshop for breakfast, then sauntered around on our way to whatever was next, stopping along the way at whatever piqued our interest. We only had one day in Florence, and before and after seeing the David we just shopped around town, found food (the BEST gnocchi I’ve ever had and our FAVORITE gelato shop, Venchi), and wandered. It was such a relaxed trip — a real vacation. I love it!

  56. Stephanie says...

    I went to your old link for how you guys spend a day apart on vacay. It was an old story though, so I’m wondering if you still do this now that Anton and Toby are also in tow.Would love to hear logistics :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Thanks for your note! We do actually! On longer trips, we’ll split up one of the days — so, for example, I’ll take the boys to a children’s museum or a park, and Alex will have some time on his own to explore/relax/shop/sleep/whatever. And vice versa. When we were in Austin for a long weekend this spring, Alex took the boys to a playground one morning while I met a friend for brunch; and then I took the boys to the children’s museum for the afternoon, while he went on a bike ride and took a nap. It’s so nice to get a breather on a trip, especially a family one. :)

  57. By the time we reached Buenos Aires, my husband and I had been road tripping for 4 months with our daughter (who was only 9 months old when we set off on the trip). The whole experience was once-in-a-lifetime-amazing, but we were starting to feel a bit weary.

    And then it rained. For days. It was wonderful. We had an excuse not to leave our Airbnb, and we did nothing except cuddle on the sofa watching movies, play with our daughter, and refuel. After that we had the energy to keep traveling for another month!

    Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing in the world :-)

  58. Steph says...

    When my husband and I went on our honeymoon, we intentionally planned one big outing for one day and then spent the rest of the time walking the city, eating and napping. When we returned and everyone asked what we did, we had an answer but really spent most of the time doing nothing. Glorious.

    • jen says...

      Yes. A travel agent asked what we liked to do on vacation and we said, well, cafes, coffee, museums if there is no line and getting lost.

  59. Having “do nothing” time in a vacation is so hard for me! I always want to see all the things and squeeze every last drop out of the time I have. But it definitely does leave me feeling exhausted at the end. My husband and I are planning a 10-day trip to PA/DC this summer. I’m definitely going to have to keep this in mind!

  60. Yes yes yes! I naturally find myself planning down to the minute so I’ve started to “bake in” spontaneity into my itineraries. A couple hours of “planned spontaneity” each day to read from a balcony in Brussels or stumble upon a bread festival in Paris (both things that have actually happened to me).

    My sister also has a trick that I’ve come to love. Instead of making a list of must-see sights, she has a single must-do experience for each place she travels. For our trip to Paris, it was simply eating a baguette in a park!

  61. AJ says...

    Absolutely! I’m away on a work trip right now (which is more like a vacation to be fair) and I’ve had a really great day with more great days to come – BUUUUTTTT right now I’m lounging in my hotel room, winding down for an early night and feeling SO insanely thrilled at this fact!

  62. So true. I fondly remember watching Guardians of the Galaxy on our honeymoon to California. One night on our 7-day road trip, we both shed the pressure of seeing Every Possible Beautiful Thing and just watched a silly movie in our underwear. It was one of the best nights we spent!

  63. I’m a travel agent, and our company specializes in Travel to Brazil. Whenever we have clients who want to do a trip from North to South in 2-3 weeks (Brazil is larger than the continental US, so it’s a lot of ground to cover!), we’ll always propose a few days on the coast at the very end in one of the many tiny fishing villages with nothing to do, you can find here – so they can go home feeling relaxed, instead of like they ran a marathon on their vacation.

    I’m using the same philosophy for my own travels now. We’ll get a small rental home to ourselves on a desert-like beach or remote village near the big city visited, on the last few days of our trip, to just hang out and read, or enjoy supermarket tourism and buy everything we loved about the destination. It’s made transitioning from “being tourists” to “being home” so much smoother!

  64. Julie says...

    A stomach bug landed my husband and I firmly in our hotel room for our last 24 hours in Rome a few years ago. We ended up recuperating in bed all day the last day there, watching Italian infomercials and TV dramas, making up our own dialogue for most of it, and laughing until we cried. Silly but unforgettable.

  65. jaclyn says...

    My dad took me, his 30 year old daughter at the time, to Disneyland a few years ago. We hadn’t gone on a trip together since I was a teenager. If it wasn’t for the afternoon naps with air conditioning, snacks, and HGTV (in separate hotel rooms), I don’t think I would have made it. We would both emerge refreshed and in a good mood, ready for dinner.

  66. Laura says...

    YES! On our Alaskan cruise, it was getting room service and watching the NBA finals with my brother. In San Francisco, it was going to the movies (“Boyhood”). In Italy, just this past week, it was taking our daughter to the playground while the rest of the family trekked all over Venice.

    My rule of thumb for weekend trips is to do a day of sightseeing and a day of taking it slow. The second day often ends up being the most memorable.

  67. yesss, this! for my 30th birthday, my now-husband and i went to mexico for a week, and the little hotel we stayed at had a shelf of english-language books for guests, and gone girl was on there and i spent an entire day of our vacation just camped out on the beach in front of our hotel devouring it. didn’t look around, didn’t go for a walk, just stopped to eat and drink and then right back to reading. i felt guilty for not “making the most” of our time, but also it was such a relaxing day and i enjoyed myself so much, and isn’t that what vacations are for?

  68. I could not agree more! This is 100% my vacation style, and it is…not my in-law’s style, haha. It always works out fine, but inevitably one comment gets thrown in about how “well, guess there’s just different vacation styles, isn’t there?” I truly don’t mind, but it makes the trips with just myself or with my husband that much sweeter, when we can go out our own paces.

    My favorite travel memory was going to the little town of Orvieto in Italy for an immersion course experience, and my friend and I had the afternoon free. A lot of people decided to go out and see some sights, and we decided we wanted to take it easy, and just roamed around the entire perimeter of the town. We put on our cutest dresses to make it seem special. I remember it was *so* hot that day (Italy in late June, phew!), and because it was the middle of the day, so many places were closed for nap time, haha. We finally stumbled upon an open place that had the cutest patio under a huge tree. We sat down, and they brought us ice cold white wine and so. many. free little snacks. I still think of that afternoon as my happiest of the whole trip. Wandering, Italian heat, sundresses, white wine, and the sweetest, kindest people treating us to snacks.

    I can’t wait to create space for experiences like that with my husband when we go to Paris and London this year for our five year anniversary! Travel is truly the best.

    • What a lovely memory! Thank you for sharing. I am going to Italy (for the first time) in July for a yoga retreat, and I will have a day to myself in Rome before I make my way to Naples then onto Positano. I love the idea of letting the day be unplanned and wide open and filled with ice cold white wine. :)

    • Erica says...

      This has been a huuuuge adjustment for me traveling with my husband’s family – they always try to do way too much and everyone ends up exhausted and cranky. Having a kid, who is now two, has actually made it much easier for me to be assertive about my needs when we’re all together. If the toddler needs a break, chances are so do I. We’re going to Europe as a family this summer, with a group of 11 including aforementioned two-year-old, teenagers, 30somethings, 40somethings, and 70somethings, and this is a good reminder for me to carve out some time to chill.

  69. Holly says...

    Yes! I love strolling without a destination. When my husband and I went to Tokyo we would just get off at random train stops and poke around neighborhoods. We couldn’t get enough of the amazing vending machines! It was so lighthearted and fun! I remember it way more than the “must-sees” we felt obligated to visit.

  70. Libbynan says...

    My husband is an enrolled agent (look it up) and has to do a certain amount of continuing ed every year. I like going with him to these seminars to just ” hang out ” and chill. Depending on where the hotel is, I shop, sightsee, or find a coffee shop and people-watch. I usually nap or watch TV in the afternoon. Then we go out for a nice dinner in the evening. It’s so relaxing. We don’t generally travel too far and it’s fun to find new ways to enjoy nearby cities.

    • M says...

      My husband is also an enrolled agent & I just emailed him your idea as something maybe we could do! Thank you! : )

  71. Jen says...

    Agreed! Even when I was little, I wanted to just relax in the hotel room when we went on a family trip. But nope, they wanted to go and do! I was never able to convince my parents that it would be okay to leave me behind with my Narnia books while they went out sightseeing.

  72. Elizabeth says...

    Could not agree more! I went to Maui with my family and in-laws a few weeks ago. My sister-in-law is currently into exercising hard core, and she and my husband wanted me to work out with them. The best part about being an adult? Saying, “Nope, on vacation,” picking up my copy of Stephen King’s It, and reading it on the beach while my children were watched by their grandparents. It’s my vacation and I can read (in paradise) if I want to!

    PS I totally had a creepy clown nightmare on vacation, but that was my own damn fault, so…

    • Gen says...

      Giving up on working out while on vacay – YES.

  73. I couldn’t agree more. As one who just came back from a trip from Mexico City, where this did not happen. My friend travels the opposite of this way, and so we traveled his way this time. I love the nothings sort moments in a foreign place.

  74. Anne says...

    I wholeheartedly agree with this! A few years ago we took a trip to Positano with our (then) 2 year old and stayed in a room with the most magical balcony overlooking the city and the ocean. Every night except one we got takeout from a local restaurant, put the baby to bed and sat out on the balcony eating dinner. It was magical and we called it the best restaurant in Positano! The one night we went out to eat we spent the entire time baby wrangling and didn’t even enjoy our expensive dinner.

  75. Kristen says...

    I actually did the same thing when I was in Paris with an old bf. We had been sightseeing all day, and after dinner instead of going to the trendy cocktail spots we’d researched, we grabbed a bottle of champagne and drank it in bed snuggled up streaming a movie on his iPad. It was my favorite night there. Sometimes doing the same things you do at home seem so sweet and new when you change locations.

  76. Jessica says...

    My mom and I are very much against water parks–the soggy swim suits you sit in all day, the panic when kids dive into water and take too long to come back up, the terrible things that happen to your hair after being in that water all day–so we sent my dad and brother to Blizzard Beach by themselves and we decided to spend the afternoon in Epcot.

    We were leisurely walking around the world pavilion shopping/eating at all the countries when the sky opened up and it poured rain down like we’ve never seen. We took shelter in the Morocco Pavilion but when enough time passed and we accepted it wasn’t going to stop any time soon, we made a run for it. The puddles were REALLY deep and unavoidable so we just waddled through them, screaming, all the way to the bus station.

    Out of all the times I’ve been to Disney World (re: a lot), that’s my absolute favorite memory.

  77. Anna says...

    My husband and I recently traveled to Puerto Rico for a quick 3-day getaway, our first time without kids!! We did a snorkeling trip the first day and walked all around Old San Juan on our last day. But that second day? He played golf while I watched Season 2 of The Crown on the iPad by the pool. It was AWESOME! At first I felt guilty for not doing something to better enjoy the beach and the gorgeous location, but nah, what I wanted most out of this trip was warm weather and DOWN TIME!

  78. Bailey says...

    Joanna, we just returned from Italy where we enjoyed a whole lot of nothing at Terre di Nano. I booked it after reading about your trip. Thank you SO much for your recommendation, it was pure magic and we are already anxious to plan a return visit and stay even longer next time. xo, B

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      so glad, bailey!!!!!!

    • I am visiting Italy for the first time in July and re-reading Joanna’s Italy posts! I started following her when she and Alex were engaged so it takes me BACK to read her honeymoon posts!

  79. Stephanie says...

    Haha, yes. New Year’s Eve on our honeymoon in Rome: eating pickles from a jar and prosciutto from the market whilst polishing off a bottle of prosecco. Hellraisers …

  80. Betsy says...

    Ah…love reflecting on all the trips/vacations I have taken over the years. Best memory is from a trip to Europe with my mom. 3 nights pre-cruise in Barcelona(AMAZING city), 11 nights cruising through France, Italy, Spain, and ending up with 2 nights in Rome to conclude. First trip to Europe, so of course we wanted to pack in EVERYTHING. By the time we got to Rome, at the end of the cruise, we were toast. But, when in Rome……we checked into our hotel, and immediately headed out to find a suitcase for our treasures. Of course the prerequisite drink as well. Found the most amazing little restaurant, totally off the beaten path, Had a couple of Peroni’s, and lovely conversation with the darling owner. He has had the restaurant for 30 years. Anyways, finally left to explore, and get that suitcase. Walking out of the restaurant, I missed the itty bitty step and fell. Yes, I broke my foot. After an eternity at the ER, we went back to the hotel, and I had a nice pity party for ruining the rest of our time in Rome. We were supposed to meet friends for dinner, and of course missed it. But my genius mother had plans. NO pity parties allowed. Hauled my but down to the lobby of the hotel, and propped my foot up on a bunch of pillows from the room. She ordered “room service” to our spot in the lobby. Went to the bar for some beverages, and came back to join me. Playing cards in hand, food, drinks, and people watching. Of course I was a target for all sorts of questions. We had the most amazing evening of the entire trip. Met some wonderful people. Good adult beverages, mediocre burgers, and cards. We still talk about this as THE highlight of the trip. We were forced to step back, slow down, and really enjoy vacationing. Yes, a broken foot was the highlight of our trip! Sorry, so long winded!!

  81. Denise says...

    I agree wholeheartedly, unfortunately I have been unable to convince my family of this when we travel together. They can’t not start each day at dawn and pack in ALL THE THINGS until we hate each other and fall into bed in exhausted tears at night. (or at least I do.) When I’ve planned in some down time, my lovely type A sister asks every 5 minutes “what are we doing now?” HA!

  82. Anya says...

    Great suggestions.. this reminds me of when I was in Paris with my boyfriend for a weekend last Nov, and since I was recovering from a cold (and jet lag), we came back to the hotel for a few hours each afternoon to take a nap and relax before heading out to watch the sunset or get dinner. It was nice to have a break from walking around!

  83. Mariele says...

    I went to NOLA this year again for the marathon and made no other plans. I took shameless naps, wandered aimlessly and watched Jurassic Park on tv. It was magic.

  84. Heather says...

    My boyfriend and I traveled around Vietnam for two weeks. We had some things planned, but mostly just enjoyed each part of the cities we visited on our own terms. When we got back people asked us if we “went to this cool restaurant” or “made it to this hip hotel”, and when we answered “no” they seemed perplexed. We were happy to walk around with no plans, acting like we lived there…which in the end, we wished we did!

    xoxo

  85. Diana McNeill says...

    A year ago I was in Florence, Italy (for the 3rd time) and I had partied very hard one night–a dozen aperol spritzes, a gay dance club, the works–so the next day I was a complete waste of a human. My group was hitting all the sights, but I just couldn’t recover from an awful hang over. I succumbed to the pain and decided to lounge around our historical air b n b (an old brick oven that was used to make bread for the Medici family in the living room!). Eventually when I felt a bit better I hopped on my bike and leisurely rode around town. The wind on my face felt like the ultimate hangover cure and I was able to revisit the city in a peaceful and private way. It is something I will never forget.

    • Amber says...

      This sounds perfect! Florence was my favorite city on our Italian honeymoon. What a wonderful way to enjoy it!

  86. Amanda says...

    It’s a gift to be simple!

    • I really, really love this sentiment!! The way you’ve phrased it…wow. I couldn’t agree more. I’m going to hang that saying on my wall.

  87. That is the reason to stay someplace great. We restored some 17th century apartments in Carcassonne in the south of France (awesome–google it) and decorated them with vintage and antique finds so that (1) they are unique and not like every other Ikea-filled AirBnB and (2) they make guests really feel like they’re in France, even when they’re lounging in bed (you should see the carved moldings and the 14-foot ceilings). And, in fact, guests tell us they love just hanging out in the apartments.

    • Alice says...

      Link please!

  88. Meg says...

    This is so right-on. My boyfriend and I just got back from Italy where we skipped such awesome sights as the David & the Sistine Chapel. I had to remember that we live in NYC and there are still a million things here I haven’t seen yet. It’s so much more special to me that we carved out time to stroll the streets and to come home early with a bottle (or two!) of wine, to spend time just talking and being together.

  89. I took my then 10-year-old daughter to Beijing for week a few years ago. I knew from experience that China can be a rough place to travel if you’re not used to it, so I set some clear intentions: I just wanted her to have fun. I didn’t force food on her or require her to learn anything other than ‘hello’ and ‘thank you.’ One day we got lost in the old hutongs, the alleyways that run throughout the neighborhoods. We walked for hours. She never complained. We saw some crazy stuff – many homes still have no indoor bathrooms. We ate some crazy stuff. We chatted with a few people and finally, finally found a taxi back to the hotel. We talk about it still, that long walk, lost in Beijing. l find, as I look back on travel, that the hardest moments are often the best memories. The Great Wall was also pretty sweet. :)

    • katie says...

      aw, Amy. What a special memory for you two. Love it.

      my mom took me to DC when she had a work trip, and we saw all the sights when she wasn’t at her conference. but my favorite part was us getting lost on the freeway in Richmond. We still laugh about it.

  90. Livia Ikeda says...

    Agreed!!! After we had kids, ee travel in a much slower pace and it’s awesome. I always end up heading back to the hotel at the end of the day, while my husband goes wherever looking good restaurant is around to pick up food! We feel like locals, the kids relax… those are always my most heart warming memories of the trip.

  91. Anne says...

    Yes! Totally agree with this. I can definitely be an uber-planner when it comes to travel, so it is great to be reminded of this. It’s always nice to have those moments of relaxation and quiet among all the busyness of travel. One of my favorite travel memories was when my partner and I stayed at an Airbnb in Seattle a couple summers ago that had a old-school nintendo with Donkey Kong. We definitely took full advantage and stayed in taking turns to try to beat as many levels as we could. It reminded us of our childhoods and we bonded over that shared experience. We still talk about it to this day, haha.

  92. Cat says...

    Couldn’t agree more! As a graduation present from my mother (she did this for all my siblings), we got to go on really special trips one-on-one. My trip was to Scotland and every day we would walk ourselves into exhaustion, and at night we would get back to our little hotel room in Edinburgh, pour ourselves some authentic scotch whiskey, snuggle up in our pajamas and watch a truly bonkers UK show, “You Are What You Eat.” I can’t remember ever laughing that hard…but that may have been the whiskey.

    • Dee says...

      Haha Gillian McKeith (sp?) whatever happened to her???

  93. Cooper says...

    I really like bringing along books that are set in the country/place I’m visiting, and then finding a relaxing spot like a public garden or a quiet beach to read. It feels like relaxing and experiencing the location all at the same time. Sometimes I’ll even take photos of the book and location so that I can remember those special reading times alongside the bigger landmarks.

    • Me too! My favorite way to relax/see a new place. I’ll never forget the parks I read in in Paris. So much better than just quickly walking through. :)

  94. Lea says...

    In my early twenties I was traveling alone in Rome. One night I decided to stay in because it was pouring outside. I ate Nutella straight from the jar while listening to the rain pour in the tiny ally my window was facing and glancing at an old tennis match on the tv. Still remember it vividly!

    • Stephanie says...

      I wish I’d traveled in my 20s! I hope my daughters do…

    • Cass says...

      The nutella jar just sparked a memory for me! The summer I turned 24 I spent teaching English at Italian camps around Italy – so much fun but exhausting, and after a few months some fellow tutors and I were ready to ‘retire’ to a granny (nonna?) flat out the back of a Naples home belonging to one of our boss’ sisters – we’d crammed so much in to the past few months, working hard all day then exploring whatever town we were in on nights and weekends – once we arrived in our Naples sanctuary someone suggested a night in so we put on our PJs, slathered on face masks and ate Nutella from the jar in our new home – bliss!

  95. Jennifer says...

    My husband and I eloped in Las Vegas and stayed in a swanky hotel for four days after our wedding. The day of the wedding was super exciting and fun, with all kinds of energy put into getting ready and then actually getting married and celebrating. The day after, we woke up and had room service breakfast and then discovered that there was a marathon of American Chopper (a show neither of us had watched before or have watched since) on TV and we just lazed around in our gorgeous hotel room all day watching that. We still talk about it!

  96. Anne says...

    Love it! My total-vacation-indulgence is to bring a book or journal to a coffee shop, order a pot (not cup!) of tea, and just hang out for as long as I can. My new husband and I just had a short trip and I tried to suggest a partner-friendly variation – we could go hang out at a coffee shop and chat and people-watch. But he was NOT into it! He got so antsy after like 10 minutes. I’m a little sad that he’s not going to share this one with me!

    I remember CoJ had a post a long time ago about splitting up to do something alone on a vacation, and then meeting your travel buddies afterwards. That would be perfect! I think this is going to be a hard sell to my husband too, unfortunately. He’s a pretty big believer in doing things the way he’s ‘supposed to,’ which I think means spending every minute of vacation together. Maybe if I start planting the seeds for this one really early? What do you think?

    • Jessica says...

      That’s rough, Anne. I’ve had some fantasies like that, relaxing for hours after dinner, chatting about whatever as we slowly finish our bottle of wine. But my husband too gets antsy, and just wants to go sit on the couch and watch something. I don’t really have a solution to suggest, just know you’re not alone!

    • Tish says...

      My husband and I have started doing this and I totally recommend it! When we were in Granada last year, he took a day to rent a road bike and do a long ride, and I visited the arab baths and then wandered and read my book over tapas for as long as I wanted to. We had many lovely experiences together on that trip, but it was so restorative to have some time on our own doing things that we really love.

  97. Amanda says...

    On our honeymoon last year my husband and I did the same thing! We were usually back at the rental around 7-8pm since we spent all day on our feet doing the fun stuff. We caught Jamie Oliver’s cooking show each night in London, and in Paris we watched the French The Voice and ate pizza in the huge hotel bed (I must say watching competition shows in a language you barely understand is so fun). I wish my tired feet could have handled the nights out, too, but I was all too happy to tuck in and eat the snacks we bought on the way back in from our day.

  98. We had rented a house in Tuscany together with two friends. One late afternoon there was heavy thunderstorm and the power went off. We got hungry but there was not much in the fridge and we didn’t want to go out. Hubby turned on the gas stove and made pancakes for all of us. It was a very special candle light dinner which we still remember fondly almost 30 years later.

    • I love this, Julia!

  99. Marina says...

    Yes! When we were sans kids we used to take weekend trips to European cities (we were living in London at that time) and one thing we used to do every time was to decide on a few things we absolutely wanted to do/see and then wander around the rest of time. I remember spending one sat evening in our hotel spa in Berlin, best time ever!

  100. Erin says...

    On our second trip to Paris, my husband and I spent an entire afternoon sitting at a cafe in the Marais, drinking wine and watching a police officer try to direct traffic. We always say it was the most Parisian experience one could have – traffic was terribly backed up in all directions and almost every single driver argued with the officer when he tried to prevent them from going down the barricaded street. A lot of drivers just waited until he turned his back and drove exactly where he was trying to barricade. It was a lazy, hilarious afternoon.

    • Jessica says...

      Sounds perfect, Erin.

  101. Jemma says...

    Hell yes. Just returned from Belfast, where my travel buddy and I had the BEST time watching “Gogglebox”! Why can’t we watch a show with Brits watching telly in the US, I’ll never know.

  102. Alex says...

    Yes! My Australian husband taught me this years ago – stop being a tourist and take your time, live like the locals! When my best friend and I took a week-long ladies trip (NO KIDS or PARTNERS!) to Paris this March we planned exactly one activity per-day and the rest of the time we chilled out, played it by ear, and relaxed. It was glorious, definitely in the top three travel experiences of my adult life.

  103. Molly says...

    My sister planned a trip to Carmel with my mom and me for my 30th birthday. My mom wasn’t feeling well one night, so my sister and I visited a few wine shops, bought a bottle to take back to the room, and drank it on the patio of our hotel while eating some amazing cheese we had bought from a shop that afternoon. We laughed so hard we cried, then piled into bed together like we did when we were little kids, and giggled some more until we woke our mom up.

  104. Ro says...

    Yes to this. If there’s anything I hate more while traveling, it’s a tight schedule with too much to do. Everyone ends up cranky, and you never get that “settled” feeling in a new location, because your lives become about Ubers, and timing, and reservations. No fun at all.

    That’s why my favorite part of vacation is waking up naturally, finding cool local coffeeshops in the morning, maybe grocery shopping at a local market, and simply strolling around like a local. I’m also all about staying in and watching a movie at night, since part of vacation (at least to me) is having that downtime to recharge.

    • Andrea says...

      I am a major planner so I used to pack in so many things on our vacation days. To all you said – wake up at leisure, coffee, grocery store, wander around, and evening movies – are now my absolute favorite things to do in any new city.

  105. Amanda G says...

    Yes! While in Normandy a few years ago, my fiancee and I had an intense car tour planned of quite a few notable medieval villages. After visiting Mont Saint-Michel in the morning, we headed to Saint-Malo, a historic walled port city with waves that lap right up to the ramparts at high tide. The goal was to eat dinner, walk around a bit, and dash on to the next destination, but after a 2-hour meal at a creperie perched high on the walls, we realized that all we really wanted to do was take it easy and feel the sea breeze a bit more. So we walked atop the walls, spent some time down on the sand, and wandered around the twisty old streets of the designated old town. We discovered the city’s beautiful nautical-themed church and also tried, to no avail, to explain the pay-to-use, self-cleaning restroom to some Italian tourists (who ended up getting soaked after piggy-backing in!). Of all the great moments on our vacation, that day always stand out the most to both of us when recounting travel memories…

    Also, the best travel advice I ever got was to enjoy each destination with the understanding that you’ll eventually come back and do x,y,z “next time.” Even if you never do end up making a second trip, you enjoy the moment so much more if you slow things down a bit and tell yourself there’s always next time. After taking this theory to heart, I’ve enjoyed my leisurely vacations so much more :)

  106. Brooke says...

    Completely agree. What is it about watching bad TV in a hotel bed? It is so comforting and so different from watching TV at home!

    When my husband and I went backpacking through South America years ago it was always such a treat when there was 1. a TV and 2. one English channel (not always so). It forced us to watch something we wouldn’t normally consider and took away the decision making process (thank god!).

    We craved those cozy nights in. I will always remember watching Austin Powers in Buenos Aires because it was the only English program on. We were hesitant at first but then found ourselves laughing and feeling so relaxed after some stressful travel days. Ah the comforts of home!

  107. Megan says...

    I’m ususally a go-go-go kind of traveller because I don’t want to miss anything! BUT two years ago, I was on a month long trip in Europe, about 2 weeks in we arrived in Nice, France and it was pouring rain! Like torrential downpour, so we picked up junk food and wine and watched Netflix for the entire day. After 2 weeks of travelling, it was like a breath of fresh air, and very much needed! I can still remember how cozy it was all lined up on the bed watching a movie.

  108. When my now-fiancé/then-boyfriend and I went to France a few years ago, Paris was the last city of our trip. After a day doing touristy things, we picked up takeaway Indian food and watched French reality TV at our Airbnb. I remember a lot about that trip, but that’s one of my favorite memories from it!

  109. Julie says...

    Or you could simply save a heckuva lot of money and stay home and do nothing.

    • katie says...

      haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! amen, sister.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha true, however what makes these in-between moments so special are all the other magic/newness/etc around them. at least, that’s what does it for me!

    • Andrea says...

      Money spent on travel is the best money I spend all year. Even if I do nothing else than pretend I live in a foreign city, that money is worth a million times more than a car or a house (neither of which I have). Travel is really time travel. To get into a whole different reality (a whole different world really) that is happening while my life happens at home is mind-blowing.

  110. Agnes says...

    I remember being with my parents in Paris for the day when my dad was still alive, and my mom telling me in a Parisian public bathroom that I looked pale and needed makeup. We went to Sephora and I got some Bobbi Brown to put on. When we went out for dinner that night, we were the pretty much the only people in the restaurant. As a Canadian I spoke French to the waiter, who was loving it, and loving that I as an adult woman travelling with my parents, so he doted on us the whole meal. My mom ordered a cheese plate and that’s it. I had snails and my dad ordered fish pie, and he mashed the whole beautiful concoction into a flat mush pile before eating it. Smelling it first, as he weirdly used to do. It felt like quite a random trip, which it was, but there are lots of little moments that still stand out <3

    • Jessica says...

      <3

  111. We love doing nothing too. I grew up hustling about on vacations and my husband has taught me to slow down and take a minute. It creates such wonderful memories.
    xAllie

  112. Jackie says...

    Love this sentiment! My husband and I were on a lovely, activity-filled trip to Norway and had a very similar Seinfeld night! We also completely underestimated how fast we’d arrive at our airport hotel on the last day (our flight left at 5am the next day) so we napped, watched a movie in bed mid-afternoon and had a delicious meal (best of the trip actually, Norway isn’t known for it’s amazing food) at the hotel restaurant. We remember that day as fondly as all the others!

    PS, what is it about Cup of Jo that makes you want to comment! It feels like a virtual community of fun women I’d love in real life, talking about things that would almost never come up in real life.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      jackie, your postscript made my whole day :) thank you for saying so.

    • Neen says...

      I agree, Jackie! I always feel like Joanna/the girls start talking, and we’re all in the same room having this awesome conversation. I NEVER comment online, but I can’t help but jump in!

    • Agreed! I always think of Cup of Jo as the female Reddit (at night my partner will log on and read through Reddit while I sign on here and scroll through comments). This place is so much more than a blog. It’s where I go for insightful, informative, fun discussions and I’m constantly amazed such a wonderful space can exist online.

    • Astrid says...

      +1

    • Jackie, Agreed! I read many blogs and Cup of Jo is the only one that has hundreds of comments for most posts. It is a testament to Joannna and her team. I love it too! It is my morning ritual. xoxo

  113. YES! My boyfriend and I recently did a couples trip to Cali with his best friend and best friend’s girlfriend, and we found out that our vacation style is very different to theirs. Instead of sleeping in, we woke up at 6:30 every morning to tackle the city (my nightmare…honestly, I LOVE to sleep and wake up later than that even on weekdays). We saw all the sights, climbed all the mountains, retired late at night and by the end of the trip we were thoroughly exhausted. We arrived home on a Sunday and slept all day just to recuperate. I live for slow vacations.

  114. Paula says...

    Last year I took a 4-day solo trip to Montevideo, Uruguay (I’m from Buenos Aires, it’s a 3-hour boat ride away). There aren’t a lot of touristy things to do in the city, and the weather was terrible except for one sunny morning. Even though I did go out for walks, dinner, and shopping, my favorite time of the vacation was the staying in! I had booked a very cozy hotel room with a little kitchen where I could make tea or mate (Argentinean beverage), and snack on a giant chocolate bar I’d bought on the boat’s duty-free shop. I also watched Grey’s Anatomy form season 1, which I’d been wanting to do for a long time :) It felt exactly as you said: like I didn’t have a care in the world. I loved it so much!

  115. We just returned from a week away and the most relaxing part was when we came back to the room in the afternoons. I would take a shower and eventually feel asleep on the hotel bed while my daughter watched Daniel tiger episodes (with headphones). I was so tired from sharing a bed with her that I feel asleep every time my head hit the pillow. It felt luxurious to go out exploring and then return to nap.

  116. Jennie says...

    I’ve never got why people do not get this. Instead of just asking yourself what you want to do on vacation, also ask yourself how you want to feel when you come home! Not every second needs to be this insta’ worthy “moment”.

  117. Beth says...

    Heck. Yes. I am going to Paris at the end of the month for my first ever solo-trip and am planning on spending it like a dream weekend at home: reading/people-watching with a glass of wine at a sidewalk bistro, lying in the park with a picnic, and ambling the streets window shopping. My goal is to try a different baguette & cheese each day. Hoping I can soak up that je ne sais quoi!

  118. Kari says...

    YES! This is so true, and so often overlooked when planning or feeling the pressure to hit all the hot spots! I visited one of my best friends in Iceland a few summers back and saw such beautiful sights, but my favorite parts were our daily afternoon naps followed by cappuccinos and toast (with jam and cheese, a previously unknown to me delicious combo!) in her cute little kitchen. I still look back on those moments so fondly.

  119. Gilli says...

    Our recent trip to London one night we picked up ready made Indian food from the Waitrose market around the corner and a bottle of wine, went back to our AirBnB. We got so lucky” Four Weddings and A Funeral” had just started! great night in!

  120. Rosa says...

    Thank you for such a great reminder. I always feel bad for not being out and exploring every second of our trips, but lowkey hang-time not only gives me more energy to actually enjoy exploring – it often makes the best and most memorable moments. You need to carve out time to reset your senses when in a foreign place just as much or even more so than when at home. Love a faithful reader from Copenhagen

  121. Meg says...

    My favorite vacation strategy is to spend the morning + afternoon out and about, seeing the sights and walking forever. Then in the late afternoon, come back to my hotel or Airbnb and take a nap! Then we wake up refreshed and get ready to head out for dinner. I almost never nap at home so it’s funny that I always do this on trips, but I think it’s a perfect way to not end up totally exhausted at the end of a trip.

  122. rita says...

    i took a trip to paris alone recently. i spent 3 days doing what i liked – walking, some art, some food, architecture hunting. and every evening i did the exact same thing: made a bowl of pasta, poured a glass of wine, ate and read in bed. it was simple and low key and maybe a little boring but the routine and alone time was a good balm.

    • Anna says...

      That sounds like a dream vacation!

    • Amanda says...

      This sounds so lovely and makes me feel like perhaps I should be brave and travel alone :)

    • Jessica says...

      Yes, this sounds heavenly.

  123. Maggie says...

    Yes to this! On our Paris honeymoon, we recovered from strolling the Tuileries and Champs-Elysees with hours in bed watching Master of None on our iPad. Helped to not burn out and enjoy every excursion.

  124. Mary Catherine says...

    Whenever I travel somewhere new, I always plan time for exploring a neighborhood. I have an itinerary of some of the major landmarks to spot along the way, but usually, it is when I sit down to people-watch (cocktail optional) that I make the memories which last the longest. Sipping an Aperol Spritz at Sunset in Vienna before seeing an opera. Enjoying a Kir Royal at a corner cafe in Paris. Stopping for a bite to eat and a glass of wine after a tour of the Colosseum in Rome.

  125. Heather says...

    Totally! On a choir tour through NYC and NJ my senior year in college about 8 years ago, my best friend Ron and I somehow ended up staying in the hotel room during our one big free night our in NYC and watching what was randomly on TV that night – Key Largo with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The movie is great – a classic – but very melodramatic, and we had such giggles watching it. We couldn’t quite believe that THAT is what we did when carefree and 22 in Manhattan, but we still talk about it as probably our funniest/fondest memory from that trip!

  126. Sarah says...

    When on vacation, do as the locals do, right!? That way I have zero shame about it. There are probably plenty of other Parisians also loafing around the house on a Friday night. Also, the older I get, the more I realize how a dinner out can happen anywhere, but a weekday, two-hour (preferably outdoor) breakfast? Now THAT’S a sign you’re on vacation :)

    On a different note, a friend and her parents came into town a few weekends ago, and the first night we went out to dinner, as one does when family friends are in town. Realizing that wasn’t really our jam, we made plans the next night to order pizza delivery to their hotel, get extra blankets and pillows from room service, and had a 6pm slumber/pizza party and watched Call Me By Your Name on a Sunday night. As a grad student in a long-distance relationship with my fiancé and all my family on the opposite coast, a night in with my second family was exactly what I needed.

  127. Erin G. says...

    I love this and I really agree! On my first (and only) trip to Paris, I was alone and in my 20s and foaming at the mouth to do absolutely everything (which I just about did). But, in the end, the night I remember best is when I got a bottle of red wine and a fresh baguette from the corner store and sat on the sliver of a balcony I had and watched the activity on the street below all night. It was pure magic.

  128. Such a beautiful example of the importance of cultivating stillness in our lives! :)

    This might be a stretch, but it reminds me of one of my favorite Rainer Maria Rilke poems:

    “No, my life is not this precipitous hour
    through which you see me passing at a run.
    I stand before my background like a tree.
    Of all my many mouths I am but one,
    and that which soonest chooses to be dumb.

    I am the rest between two notes
    which, struck together, sound discordantly,
    because death’s note would claim a higher key.

    But in that dark pause, trembling, the notes meet,
    harmonious.
    And the song continues sweet.”

    • Laura says...

      Thank you for sharing this! I had never read this poem before, and it has slowed me down with its contradictions and truth. Beautiful!

  129. Gillian says...

    For our honeymoon, my husband and I spent 3 1/2 weeks in Australia. That means for all those weeks we ate out basically 3 meals a day. About 2 weeks in we decided to order room service and watch TV. It was our first night at home in sooooo long. We watched this crazy Australian TV show called Dancing with the Stars (it had not debuted on US TV yet). It was one of the most memorable nights we had in Australia.

  130. Cynthia says...

    Yes! I’ve accepted that I won’t see everything in any place I go to, so I aim to get a taste of it by picking a couple must do sights and restaurants, and then play it by ear for everything else. Some of the best memories are made by stumbling into a random bar, walking down a random street, or enjoying an afternoon bath in the gigantic hotel tub :)

  131. Katherine says...

    Yes to this! On our honeymoon to Big Sur, which was taken nearly a year after our wedding, I spent the first full day there asleep in bed, wrapped up in one of those fluffy white robes, windows open, listening to waves crashing on the rocky shore. Granted, I was recovering from a deep, dark depression and sleep was so needed, but I think it made the rest of our week so much easier since we started out with zero pressure. Sure we had a list of things we wanted to do and sights we wanted to see, but it was also about rest and rejuvenation and relaxing with each other. We ended that first day with room service and watching Doctor Strange on demand.

  132. My friends and I were just talking about how there is a difference between a “trip” and a “vacation,” the former being more jam-packed, or maybe a visit with an alternative purpose other than rest and relaxation. Whenever possible, I try to strike a balance between both.

    • Neen says...

      Joanna, I think of that trip vs. vacation post all the time! We are currently in southern Spain with our almost-3 year old (thanks for the encouragement with your travel+kids posts!) and made sure we prepared ourselves for a “trip”, most certainly *not* a vacation! But, my husband and I had a very similar trip to Paris 9 years ago…we were broke & so fondly remember our nights in with amazing French supermarket dinners on the bed. Ever since then we’ve tried to make our trips more about exploring and taking things at our own pace (even with kiddo in tow). Thanks for the great reminder that some of our favorite memories aren’t what the guide books tell you to see!

    • Oh my goodness, yes! Maybe I subconsciously remembered and wanted to pass along the Cup of Jo good reads :)

  133. Yes! My husband and I went to Scotland last fall and we spent a few days staying in a “bothy” on the Isle of Skye. We’d come home when it got dark (no streetlights on the Isle) and huddle under blankets (the bothy wasn’t well heated) reading books, drinking wine and eating snacks. Thinking of those cozy evenings really makes me smile! xo

  134. Emmie says...

    On our last trip before having children, my husband and I “wasted” an ENTIRE day in Melbourne finishing the Making A Murderer series that we had started the night before. We watched the beautiful sunny outside from the dungeon-couch-tv situation we created and snacked on coffee, water and chips. Glorious.

  135. mamabird says...

    My lovely late husband’s holiday rule was ‘one thing per day, or less’. I still follow this and we have had the best trips. Other things may happen and that’s great but they’re not planned or timetabled. This is even more essential for me now as I travel with only my kids, no other adults. It leaves space for exploring neighbourhoods, slow coffees, ice creams and discovering the best play parks. Slow travel is my favourite.

  136. Love this. My dad rented a beach condo 2 summers back and the most fun was the time we spent cooking, mixing fun fruity cocktails, and eating together. After dinner everyone went out to the beach with flashlights and ‘hunted’ for crabs. So simple and fun.

  137. Oh, goodness. I couldn’t agree with this more. I think there is something to be said for experiencing a new place like just like the locals do- i.e. staying in, ordering pizza, lying in bed, and watching local cable TV. What is that saying? When in Rome… :)

  138. katie says...

    i used to travel for a work a lot. one of my favorite memories? one night in texas, instead of joining everyone for (yet another) work dinner or working late into the night (again), i walked to a minor league baseball stadium i’d noticed from my hotel room. I figured i had to cut across a big field in order to catch the last few innings – something i hadn’t done since i was a kid. between my dirty feet, the cold can of beer & the air so soft, I felt about 20 years old. Back in my room after the game, I washed my feet, ate a $7 can of pringles & watched old episodes of law and order till i feel asleep. SO GOOD!

    • A says...

      I love this so much!

  139. Heidi says...

    This totally reminds me of a vacation in Florida (I‘m from Germany) when my (former) boyfriend and I watched CSI Miami and ate KFC chicken wings on our 5 star hotel bed… ? This was 12 years ago and I still love thinking about it.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      awwwwwww

  140. Emma says...

    I couldn’t say this better than that.
    I know a good vacation when I have slept in, ate, drank and discovered new food and drinks. But more importantly, have managed to sit at countless cafe’s reading a book, watching passer-by’s, writing on a notepad bought a few minutes ago at a random corner-store down the street, because I just had to write something down RIGHT THIS MINUTE. It isn’t the sights, its the simple moments.

    • Leah says...

      Yes to a notebook! I love looking at photos from past trips, but writing something down seems to capture the immediacy of what I was feeling in the moment in a way that photos don’t.

  141. Cynthia says...

    For me , the point of a vacation is to have time to relax. Running from place to place is not relaxing. Last weekend, we set up our little travel trailer at the campground, and once we were set up, we had a great time. We went into town to buy the things we forgot, namely a broom, dish detergent, and some toiletries. We had homemade guacamole we brought with us and drank screwdrivers for lunch. My husband and the dog relaxed at the trailer while I explored the beach. We went to a cocktail party, had a picnic supper, then walked on the pier while we enjoyed a full moon over the water. It was wonderful. A few years ago, we were at a Harley-Davidson Rally and my husband went on a ride while I went into town to the antiques mall. I found two serving pieces that went with my flatware and then I had ice cream for lunch at an ice cream shoppe where it is made on the premises. It was so much fun.

  142. Brittney says...

    My mom and I went to visit my sister who lives in Norway a few years ago. There was so much “going” but every day we made it a point to watch an episode or two of Gilmore Girls (just happened to be what my sister was watching on Netflix at that time) and it turned into this totally relaxing, fun ritual. It made us just sit and relax, which was much needed after all the site seeing and walking we were doing. It was such a special trip, and now whenever I watch Gilmore Girls, I’m mentally transported back to Oslo with my sissy and momma!

  143. Lizzie says...

    Amen to this. Watching music videos in our hostel room was one of the most relaxing parts of a trip I took to Vietnam with my cousin. We would flee the afternoon heat, buy fresh fruit on the way to our hostel, and spend the next few hours munching on the most delicious pineapple in the world while puzzling over music videos inexplicably set in warehouses with plastic sheeting draped everywhere. What I wouldn’t give for just one of those lazy, guilt-free afternoons now!

  144. Rachel says...

    Rick Steves advises to plan like you’re going to come back, which follows a similar thought to taking it slow :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that! then you don’t have to feel pressured to see everything on your list.

  145. M. says...

    Many years ago I took a trip to Barcelona with my then boyfriend. One night we also decided to stay in, had dinner on the living room floor next to the balcony (it was a warm summer night) and talked and sipped white wine all night long. We broke up shortly after but that is one of the fondest memories of our relationship.

  146. Allison says...

    My husband and I discovered Peaky Blinders on our honeymoon in Florence. Post pasta dinners we’d come home and binge watch a couple episodes in our huge hotel bed. Now we always try and a find a good show for evenings in on vacation.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, that literally sounds like a perfect vacation.

    • JB says...

      We did this on our honeymoon in Sayulita too! We rented a villa with a pool and every night after being in the pool/at the beach/eating our weight in tacos all day, we snuggled up to the PEAKY BLINDAHHHHS.

  147. Yes! On a trip to Paris and London, my husband and I stayed in one drizzly London afternoon and watched Moana in bed since neither of us had seen it yet. It was so relaxing and indulgent to be in bed half-dozing in the middle of the afternoon — and usually I am such a planner!

  148. Mara says...

    I couldn’t agree with this more! I’ll never forget how, in 2010, I went to St. Petersburg, Russia, to visit my sister. Since she worked, I spent all day, every day, navigating the bus system and an unknown language to find dozens of museums, sites, parks, churches, and shops. But what really stands out is relaxing with my sister in the evenings, having egg sandwiches in the cozy kitchen or binge-watching Revenge with her. Now, whenever I’m around those things — even the Williams Sonoma dish soap my sister used — I’m reminded of that overall wonderful, special trip to see my sister :-) And relaxing while away is SO underrated!

  149. Alli says...

    Yes! Our vacation motto is always “more time in fewer places” and it applies to sightseeing and planning activities as well. We’re going on a mini-vacation with the in-laws this summer and they’re already talking about doing SO.MUCH.STUFF. and I’m already dreading it (for a number of reasons, ha!).

  150. I totally agree! I had this realization when my boyfriend and I went to Savannah. We were given so many great recommendations and wanted to hit them all, but by the end of the second day, we were so overwhelmed. During the day, I discovered he had never seen “Sleepless in Seattle”, so that became our evening plan (plus some excellent ice cream from Leopold’s)! Now when we plan trips, we make sure to build in that low-key time.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes!! oh my gosh, i love that.

      your sweet story made me remember a time when my mom and i were visiting my sister in california. the last night, we went back to our hotel, ordered pizza (to eat on the beds) and watched 13 Going on 30. it was such a fun, low-key night, the best.