Holiday brochures may well be wall-to-wall advertisements for pristine white beaches and the delightfully indulgent cocktails served at the adjacent bars, but there is so much more to explore in the world than just quiet spots to soak up the sun and work on a tan (which will fade within a fortnight of returning home anyway).
Whilst plopping ourselves on a sun lounger a few hundred miles from the stresses of work and everyday life may be tempting, shouldn’t we be using our precious few weeks of holiday to collect new experiences and immerse ourselves in unique cultures?
If you’ve ever come back from a beach holiday feeling a little underwhelmed, wishing your time off had been better invested – we’ve compiled a few tips to help you get more from your holidays than just a tan.
Eradicate that horrible guilt and bloated feeling which often welcomes you as soon as you return home by staying active during your holiday. Whilst we’re not ordering you to enter a triathlon or run with the bulls in Pamplona, simply walking everywhere on your jollies offers a couple of great benefits. Not only will the exercise justify the extra carafe of wine with your evening meal, but you’ll also be given the chance to explore some of the lesser trodden paths.
We’d recommend checking whether your mobile network offers a decent data roaming package so you can use your phone’s internet and map services whilst on your travels. This will help you navigate new cities and towns without running up a horrifying mobile phone bill, waiting on your welcome mat when you get home.
City Hop the Continent
The European mainland is absolutely packed with culturally rich and historically significant cities which still echo centuries-old civilisations. Exploring these cities one-by-one can take a lifetime (and that’s if you manage to resist the temptation to return to Vienna and Hamburg every year), so the wise choice is to visit a large number in one fell swoop.
Booking transport to and accommodation in a selection of different countries may seem a stressful, headache-inducing task better suited to a student Interrailing on their gap year. So we’d recommend a river cruise atop the Danube which dissects a large number of beautiful capitals including Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava and Belgrade.
River cruise operator, Emerald Waterways, offers regular cruises up and down this ancient waterway – taking you right into the heart of the historic cities. A wealth of culture is just waiting to be sampled throughout the cities, as you map Europe’s turbulent history. From the Roman thermal baths of Budapest to the Renaissance-era music halls of Vienna; an incredible range of experiences are navigable atop this wonderful river.
Learn Something New
Return home from your holiday with something less tangible, but ultimately more valuable, than airport-bought souvenirs. Acquiring knowledge and skills from expert locals can be an interesting and ultimately rewarding experience – utilising these far beyond the end of your holiday. Developing your personal skills is a wonderful way to use a holiday to grow as a person.
From wine-tasting to crafting; practical and envy-inducing skills can be picked up anywhere in the world. Returning home with the skills to cook an authentic Provençal feast for friends and family will make you a highly-sought after host. Paired with the local knowledge which will be inevitably acquired if you’ve followed the first tip of this guide, and your understanding of the world’s cultures and civilisations will suddenly become far more robust.
Improve Your Photography
Have you ever returned from your holiday with a bumper reel of photographs all ruined by terrible exposure, rogue thumbs entering the corner of the image or members of the family pulling gormless expressions? This can be hugely frustrating, especially if you’d been looking forward to sharing your travels with loved ones or displaying the captured memories around your home.
Preparing yourself for a little holiday photography can help alleviate such risks, and ensure that all travel snaps come back beautiful, reflecting the wonderful time you’ve had on your jollies. This guide from B&H offers 44 tips to help improve your photography skills, from learning how to use all of your camera’s functions to correctly framing the desired shot.
Furthermore, to reduce the risk you spend the entire holiday behind the lens
, give yourself themed photography projects throughout the holiday. Mapping sunsets or capturing architectural anomalies can give you a fun project for the holiday, and ensure that the majority of your holiday is spent actually experiencing your destination rather than recording every second in a snap-happy fashion.
Follow the Locals
Following the lead of the locals rather than other holidaymakers can lead you to the most delightful hidden gems of your temporary home. Whilst out-of-towners will be drawn to obvious and central locations, the locals undoubtedly know the best restaurants, bars and cafes to while away a few wonderful hours and sample a few of the region’s delicacies.
Whilst we don’t suggest you stalk out the locals and trace their steps, just engage them in conversation and ask for suggestions. And don’t be put off by queues for restaurants; if the locals are willing to wait for the fare to be served up, you should be too. Equally, a less-than-attractive façade should not be a deterrent, all-too-often these will be housing a wonderful interior and spectacular menu.
This can also be a great tip to help cut the holiday budget, as tourist trap restaurants are more likely to hike up their prices than the eateries and drinking holes aimed at the loyal local market. And if you’re saving money, then your budget for next year’s trip will be even larger – affording even more wonderful experiences.
Emerald Waterways are currently launching a series of travel guides….and are running a competition to win a fitbit….just so you can keep track of all those steps you are taking while sightseeing!