How to plan a trip, part 3

It’s the final installment of how I suggest planning a trip. This part is You want to see a handful of sights far apart but close enough together that you want to combine them all into one trip.

This type of trip is the hardest to plan. It involves the most options and the most planning. I took two of these trips while I was in Europe last year. The first one was a trip to the Netherlands, so that I could see Delft, the home of Johannes Vermeer, the painter of “Girl with a Pearl Earring“; Mauritshuis, a museum in The Hague, the home of “Girl with a Pearl Earring”; and Keukenhof, the world’s largest flower garden famous for its tulips, in Lisse. I had to make this trip in March, April or May so that I could see the tulips, because Keukenhof is open for only two months. Fortunately, the Netherlands isn’t that far from Salzburg and getting there wasn’t too costly or time consuming. They also have an exceptional train system, so getting around was exceedingly easy (and having a European bank card made it even easier). Since I would be flying in and out of Amsterdam, and a hostel there was cheaper than staying in The Hague, I opted to spend a week between the two cities, tacking on trips to Ann Frank’s house and the Rijksmuseum, the home of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch.

Maybe the thing that made this trip come together so nicely was that I really planned ahead. I had my flight and rooms booked in January. One of the hardest things for this trip was the guidebook that I had with me had only Amsterdam in it. That meant I had to do almost all of my travel research on the Internet without any sort of guide. I spent countless hours researching each potential component, weighing admission fees, travel length and time, and travel fees. I didn’t know much about the things I wanted to do, let alone their location. The more I read, the more I wanted to do. I found out I could rent a bike to ride through the bulb fields in Lisse. I read about Alkmaar and its cheese market. I found out that Stroopwafeln (caramel filled waffles) were first made in Gouda, and that Gouda is pronounced incorrectly here. Listen here: How to pronounce Gouda. As you can see, finding things to do in the Netherlands wasn’t difficult. I went from three things to do to a much longer list, having to pick and choose.

That is the problem with this kind of trip. Sites to visit can spiral out of control and at some point you just have to say, this is all I can possibly do. Even then, you can’t gauge how tired you’ll be or if you’ll get sick or if there will be weather problems or if you love something so much that you will spend many more hours than planned there. I didn’t go to Alkmaar, even though it was on my schedule, and I scrapped Gouda before I left Austria. Even without those components, I just remember that I accomplished the three things I set out to do on that trip, and everything else was just an added bonus. I cherished the time I spent seeing so many Vermeer paintings and surrounded by millions of tulips.

And that’s the point of traveling. It’s not how many countries you’ve been to or how many iconic things you’ve seen. Traveling should not be a checklist, and even I have a hard time remembering sometimes. You should take time to enjoy where you are and what you are seeing. That is what I want you to remember when planning any type of trip, but this kind especially. Don’t ever plan a trip thinking its your last. Remember that you can go back and if you do not, you will see something equally as amazing somewhere else on some other trip.

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