Monday, February 21, 2011

Advice For Travel Disappointments

This weekend was like a comedy of travel errors.  It took three attempts at the local market to get the Belgian waffle my nephew was craving.  Parking issues, crowds and shop closings all stood in the way - yet we tried and tried again (and again).  The Jurassic Journey exhibit at the fair grounds was a complete bust.  The exhibit was amateur and the playground was riddled with sick kids so my nephews couldn't play.  Forty minutes in and 50 bucks in the hole we cut our losses and bolted.  And then the airplane movie at the science museum was a total disappointment.  Yet with all of the errors, I had a great weekend spending time with my family.

That got me thinking about the times where my travels didn't go exactly as planned or even worse, did go as planned but were utter disappointments.  For starters:

  1. The Mona Lisa.  You go to Paris, you need to go to The Louvre.  You go to the Louvre, you need to see the Mona Lisa.  And the Mona Lisa, well.... it was... OK.  Yeah, just OK.
  2. The Washington Monument.  Truth be told, I've never been to the top so can't judge it. But that's just it.  I lived in Washington, DC for 4 years and never went to the top.  And then this past Fall I made a trip to DC - mostly to take a peek from the top of that mysterious obelisk.  But when I arrived tickets were sold out all weekend.  (Who knew there were tickets?)
  3. Las Vegas.  Yeah, pretty much all of it.  I'm not a gambler.  I'm not big on 'cheese'.  And as far as Vegas goes, the bang for the buck is small.  So other than some great restaurants (and my friend Tara), I'm not a fan.

Despite these disappointments, I still managed to enjoy myself on each of these trips.  That's because disappointments don't have to mean travel disaster.  And I don't know about you, but I'd rather be disappointed from seeing something than regret never seeing it at all.  (That's talking to you Mona Lisa.)

So here's my best advice when travels go awry:

Bring your guidebook for backup.  Turn lemons in to lemonade and find another nearby site to visit.  There are lots of small museums and attractions that often get overlooked by the big ones.  Or use the maps to wander the streets and take in the architecture of the city.

When all else fails, eat.  Find the nearest cafe, bar or restaurant.   Grab a drink or bite to eat and regroup.  Devour a local temptation and people watch.

Justify, justify, justify.  I must say I'm pretty brilliant at this one.  I have a closet full of shoes and handbags all of which I can justify ten times over.  So if something goes bust, find one good, simple thing to focus on and make you feel better.

Keep positive.  A sense of humor goes a long way.  And being angry and annoyed takes more energy than putting on a smile, having a laugh and moving on to the next thing.

Remember nothing beats planning.  If something is so special and important that it will ruin your trip if you don't see it, make sure you do your homework.  Research hours of operation, how to get tickets and dress code to avoid being turned away or finding yourself face-to-face with a closed sign.

How do you turn disappointing travel experiences around?

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