Today, I am putting on my travel coach hat. This is where I hear your lament – “I have always wanted to go there!” – and I turn it into, “I am so glad I went there.”
Eiffel Tower? You can go to Paris, you know. How about a soccer game, opera performance, art exhibition, concert? How many times do you have to miss something because you just can’t figure out how to get there and back without breaking the bank?
I call it it a “Bugout.”
I was working at Columbia University many years ago in the Department of International and Public Affairs. The woman whose office was just next door to mine was a professor in the department and her husband taught in the Business School. They were very comfortable, financially speaking, and took some nice trips. But it was one trip in particular that made me re-think bugout travel. They went to Barcelona for the weekend. They left on Thursday night, and came back the following Tuesday.
I was stunned. They were not super rich first class, jet set travelers, they were just a husband and wife wanting to go to the museums in Barcelona for a few days. My conversation with her went something like this: “How did you, where are you, when did…” I never considered a trip like this. I always figured you had to have ten days, two weeks. I have a friend now who is going to Spain, Portugal, and Morocco – but for three weeks of traveling.
So, what did I learn? Other than you can go someplace far and get back in just a few days? I learned that bravery was necessary. That timing was critical to a successful bugout. That planning was essential. But that all in all, it was completely doable.
First consideration: the best long distance bugouts involve nonstop, direct flights to your destination. If you want to go to Barcelona, don’t fly in and out of Madrid. You run the risk of missing a connection when time is of the essence. This means you can go best when you can get to your destination in one flight.
Next – plan to take next to nothing with you. This will reinforce the bugout nature of the trip and ensure you get in and out of airports with the least number of events. Meaning, don’t check a bag you have to retrieve, run the risk of losing, have to drag around. Get just what you need into a carry-on.
Then, get tickets to the place and to your thing. I bugged out a few years ago to Miami to see a ballet company perform that was not going to be in New York that season. I remember calling my daughter when she lived in Madrid to see if she wanted to go to Lisbon for the weekend. I bought the tickets on Wednesday and was on the plane Thursday night. We spent Friday, Saturday, Sunday in Portugal visiting Lisbon and Sintra. She went back to Madrid, I went back to New York. We did the same thing for Barcelona. And just this past June, I went to Italy for a long weekend to see the Palio in Siena.
Bottom line – life is so short. If you can just get out to the airport, get out and go. Maybe it’s just to North Dakota because you’ve never been there. Or DC because you want to protest in front of the White House. Get maps, get guidebooks, get online and get your tickets.
If you’d like to read more travel tips, try “Buen Camino!” Paperback and Kindle.