concept - dull

Ferne Arfin  January 21, 2019

How to fight the travel blahs:

10 dos and don’ts

Let’s be honest. Sooner or later you’ll probably get bored, cold and tired of sightseeing while traveling in the UK and Europe. It doesn’t have to be your guilty secret.

Most travelers don’t like to admit they’ve had enough after saving up for that dream trip to the Scottish lochs, the vacation of a lifetime in Rome, the chance to visit the great cathedrals of France, the stately homes of England or the latest modern art museum in Spain.

But there comes a moment when you just can’t face admiring another Chippendale chair or another slog across the hard floors of a gallery full of madonnas with fat babies (me at the Ufizzi ) , another room full of “really important” but faded and dull tapestries; that moment when every ruined castle becomes just another pile of rocks and you’d rather have a pizza than another plate of fancy food scattered with micro herbs and drops of pear and beetroot reduction.

It happens to the best of us. Just remember:

  • This is your holiday or vacation. It’s not a homework assignment. When it starts feeling like a chore, find something else to do.
  • Europe will still be there when you come back. And if you are really interested, you will find a way to come back for another visit. So there’s no need to turn this one into a marathon.

These ten tips will fight the travel blahs and help you stay interested and engaged:

1. Do visit a realistic number of attractions per day – or week

Your trip is probably a major expense and it’s tempting to try to squeeze in lots of attractions to get your vacation money’s worth. But the law of diminishing returns will very quickly set in. Maybe that first historic attraction you visit just blows you away. The second one is kind of interesting. Midway through the third one you’d kill for a coffee and when the guide at the fourth one in a week opens her mouth you’re sure she says yada yada yada blah blah yada. In the end all the words sort of blend together into a well-intentioned cultural mush. Spend more time in fewer places and everything becomes more meaningful.

2. Don’t be a slave to a sightseeing pass

Some of them appear to be good value because the number of attractions they cover cost much more individually than they do with the pass. But how many can you actually see in the allotted time? To get the most out of passes such as the National Trust Touring Pass or the English Heritage Overseas Visitors Pass, compare the admission charges for the attractions within your touring area and time limit to the total cost of the pass. Go for a pass that achieves savings with just a few of the hundreds of available attractions. City passes with dozens of attractions that must be visited in a 24 or 48-hour period can be especially exhausting. And consider joining organizations like English Heritage. That way you pay a relatively reasonable annual membership fee and have free admission to all their properties and attractions.

Join English Heritage to get your summer staycations off to a good start with a 15% discount on Gift and Annual Memberships purchased before 31 July 2021 using code “EH2021”

3. Do vary your days

Add some variety to the activities and attractions you plan to visit. Alternate museums, prehistoric ruins and historic houses with outdoor activities, theme parks, shopping, a concert or play. Go after a broad spectrum of what’s available in the country or area you’re visiting.

4. Don’t skip advance preparation

If you are planning a visit to a particular attraction, see what you can find out about it before you go and try to zero in on the features that especially interest you. Do visitors to that theme park recommend a particular ride? Is that museum known for its collection of Egyptian artefacts? Which rooms in that stately home you are visiting have things that excite you and which can you whip through? Often the websites of chateaux, museums and galleries will give you a good idea of what they have and where it is located so that you can focus your visit.

5. Do join the free guided tours

Lots of attractions offer free or low cost guided tours. They can be entertaining enough to lift the spirits of the most jaded sightseers. On the other hand, if the attraction you’re visiting is staffed with docents or volunteer interpreters, be careful about asking too many questions. You could get stuck  for ages listening to some old dear showing off his or her expertise – or worse, a memorized spiel that goes on forever.

6. Do have fun creating your own treasure hunt

Some family oriented attractions create “treasure hunt” leaflets or maps for children to use during school holidays. Children who find all the things listed on the map get a little prize – a certificate, perhaps, or some sweets. But why should kids have all the fun? Make yourself a little list of things to find at the attractions you’re visiting, put it in your pocket and if you start getting bored or jaded, whip it out and start hunting.

Your list can be serious – based on things you know about the site: find the oldest antique clock in the house; spot the Parisian designers you’ve heard of in the doll wardrobes at Windsor Castle; guess who painted the ancestor portraits without reading the labels. Or it can be completely silly (who’s to know. It’s your list): which chair looks the most/least uncomfortable; how big/small was the man who wore those shoes; which paintings cost extra because of the ugliness of the sitters. When you’ve completed your list, reward yourself with a little prize – a glass of wine in the café, an extra £5 to spend in the gift shop.

7. Do join an activity

Some historic sites schedule activities, often free, that you can join to make your visit more meaningful. These might include walks with curators or head gardeners, museum tours and talks, opportunities to handle rare objects, or seasonal craft workshops to make holiday ornaments. Check the “What’s On” or “Events” page of the attraction’s website to see what’s scheduled during your visit.

8. Do go your own way

Visiting a museum with my mother used to be a kind of torture. She had to read every single label, every single curators card, every single written word in every single room. The longueurs of sticking by her side were unbearable. If you’ve got traveling companions like that, ditch them for a few hours and do your own thing. You don’t have to be joined at the hip. Plan separate activities for yourselves and arrange to meet up afterwards to share your experiences over a coffee or dinner.

9. Do plan visits to attractions that are relatively close together

It’s easy to over schedule and find yourself trying to cover greater distances than are practical within your available time. Instead try to select a cluster of attractions within the same limited area – a chateau, an open-air market and a winery where you can taste and buy within a few miles of each other, for example. Or a Roman amphitheater near an interesting museum, some good shopping and a woodland walk. Having a choice of several nearby attractions also gives you options if travel tedium sets in.

10. Do try something completely new

If you’ve always visited museums and historic houses, try something completely off the wall. Take a spin around a Formula 1 racetrack in a sports car or don a face mask and some flippers and go bog snorkelling (yes, it’s a real thing in Wales). Look for sights and activities unique to the place you’re visiting that you’ve never tried before and shake things up a bit.

5 replies
  1. Kathryn Burrington
    Kathryn Burrington says:

    Some great points here Ferne, especially 8 (that brings back memories of my Mum). I’d also say factor in some downtime just to simply relax. If my hotel has a spa, I always make sure I spend some time in there doing as a little as possible, before heading back out again to see the sights.

    • Ferne Arfin
      Ferne Arfin says:

      Good idea. I almost never have time to visit the spa or the pool and I really should factor in more time for those myself.

  2. Teresa
    Teresa says:

    Lots of great tips here. I’ve had a period of time when I felt a bit meh about my travels and mixing it up and doing something totally different really helped. Great post!


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