Traveling around the world and seeing amazing sights is special in itself. But believe it or not, experiences can be added to make it a trip not soon to be forgotten, creating a bonding experience for the family. While special does not often come free, it doesn’t have to break the bank either. It may be worth cutting expenses elsewhere. Here are five special vacation experiences that just might be worth your time and money.
5 Special Vacation Experiences Worth Your Time And Money
When you’ve traveled as much and as long as we have, you start to find things you can do to make the vacation something different and out of the ordinary. Just getting on a plane and visiting Venice, Italy – as amazing as that is – isn’t always enough. And if you’re like us, stuff is getting old.
Creating memories is what our vacations are all about. While your kids may love taking home Mickey Mouse ears, getting a behind the scenes tour of the Smithsonian will last a lifetime. It will also be a memory you’ll always have to share as a family.
Throughout all of our trips, we’ve either stumbled upon ways that have given our vacation a kick or had wise travel agents who shared their tips with us. We’re more than happy to pass our knowledge along to you. Most will cost you, some more than others. But, there will be ways to do it cheaper – or you can cut back in other areas, like food or transportation or just don’t buy that “stuff”.
Hire A Local Tour Guide
We started hiring a local tour guide for many of our trips at least 15 years ago, especially when traveling internationally. I think the first time was in Rome and we were so impressed that we rarely visit a foreign city without a guide. I seriously can’t encourage you enough to do this, especially if you have kids. Here’s why.
If you’re like me, you’ve forgotten a bit – okay, a lot – from your high school history class. I’m also guessing you don’t have a lot of time to read up before your trip. Hiring a local guide solves this problem and gets you off the hook when the kids start asking questions. You can tell the guide what you want to see and what you’d like to learn, but the best part is to tell them to take you places you wouldn’t know about from travel guides. We love best-kept local secrets and have never been disappointed.
Not only are the people educated about the city you’re visiting and its history – our Rome guide taught us all about the Roman gods and ruins – but you also get to visit places known to the locals, go behind the scenes, and not have to wait in lines. On our way back from Versailles and Giverny in France, our guide took us to an amazing restaurant in this quaint French village. He ordered one of the best lunches we’ve ever had.
You have several options in terms of cost. You can hire a tour guide and driver, a tour guide/driver, or do a walking tour. We have done all and which way we choose depends on where we are and what we want to see. You can also opt for say a half day tour versus a full day or two. The cost depends on the area you are visiting, but it seems to average around $50 per hour. We have usually given a tip based on the quality of service. Walking tours, of course, are much less and usually charge a flat fee.
A travel agent or the hotel can help you choose a tour guide, or you can search on line for companies like ToursByLocals or LocalGuiding, but word of mouth is always best. Word of advice – steer clear of offers to provide this service from someone who approaches you on the street.
Hire A Local Photographer
While many of us just use our phones for vacation pictures these days, there are still plenty of us who use an actual camera. I happen to be a hybrid and pick and choose depending on the importance and use of the shot. But no matter the method, we all want to capture those memories and take nice shots, even though our skill levels may not be up to the task.
We took a trip to Jackson Hole and Yellowstone Park a few years ago and the scenery was simply stunning. While I did my best to replicate the splendor I was seeing in real life, I was definitely having difficulty capturing it with my camera. We were talking about our dismay with one of the hotel staff whose husband just happened to be a photographer. He also owned a gallery in town. She said we could hire him for an onsite photography lesson and we thought this was the best idea ever. We hired him for the next day.
He took us out at sunrise on the hunt for a mama grizzly and her cubs. We spent the day not only getting hands-on photography tips, but seeing parts of the area we never would have known to see on our own. We learned so much and had so much fun we even bought one of his photos for our home.
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It was such an amazing experience we have continued to do it on other vacations – not every one, but those with scenery that warrants it or with a landscape that proves very interesting. While I may not hire a photographer for a beach vacation to the Caribbean, I will definitely think about it in New York City.
It’s not an inexpensive endeavor. We paid around $700 for the day, plus tip, but remember, we had a photographer who had his own gallery. I’m sure you could pay less and do a half day lesson instead. It’s another great way to get the kids to learn a new skill and see the sights at the same time.
Go Outside Your Comfort Zone
Vacations present the ideal opportunity to try something you normally would never do or have the chance to do where you live. They’re also a great opportunity to step outside your comfort zone. We’ve gone ballooning over the Burgundy region of France, bungee jumped in New Zealand, and scuba dived in Hawaii. We would have little to no opportunity to do these in Connecticut, and most of which scare the heck out of one of us! We took lessons for some of the activities, but, hey, why not challenge yourself on that vacation and really get your money’s worth so to speak.
Do The Unique In Vacation Experiences
There are some places you will travel to that offer unique experiences, activities you can only do there. One thing that comes to mind is a gondola ride down the canals of Venice, Italy – the Venetian at Las Vegas doesn’t count. Another is seeing a professional game from a sport you or your kids are into, say a soccer game in Barcelona. There’s an endless number of ideas and it could already be one of the reasons you chose the vacation spot. Just don’t miss the opportunity to do something you may never get the chance to do again.
Do Some Good
You don’t have to turn your whole vacation into a volunteer event, but you could spend a day or even a few hours doing some good for the local people. Trust me, it will not take away from your vacation and can be an invaluable lesson for the family. All it takes is doing a little due diligence before you go or asking say the concierge for some advice before or even when you arrive. But, it’s probably good to try and plan this in advance as you may not just be able to show up and volunteer.
Pick a cause the family can get behind and find a way to help. The choices are endless. Whether it’s physically getting involved in the community or bringing donation items that local people need like school supplies, a little effort on your part can make a huge difference for them.
What have you done on a vacation that was definitely worth the investment of either your time or money?