Minimalist Travel

Clothing:

If you’ve read the clothing post you already know how I pack for travel. Obviously, I don’t bring all my clothes because we never stay away that long except for when we were living full time in the RV so brought all we owned.

The first time we went to London we packed only carry-on bags. When a gentleman met us at the plane to give me a ride into the airport itself, he suggested we wanted to go to baggage claim first. We said, “No we only have what we are carrying so we just need to go to the train station.” He immediately asked, “You are American?” “Yes.” “How long do you plan to stay?” “Two weeks.” And that’s all you brought?!” With mix and match clothes, we felt we had all we needed. In fact that’s all we brought for all our travels except when we went on a cruise ship so wanted a wider variety of clothing types.

Lodging:

We have a favorite motel chain so when traveling by car in the USA that’s where we stay unless there simply isn’t one where we are going. If that happen we stay at our second choice. We rarely venture into a different type because there’s so much else that changes when traveling that we like knowing we’ll sleep in beds we find comfortable at one of our two choices. And we like the breakfast included with each of those choices.

The same happens when traveling by Amtrak train. We have a favorite room and we get it whenever possible. And we like the first dinner seating since they sometimes run out of our favorite foods by the end of the second seating.

On ocean cruises we know we want an outside room without a lot of expense so we don’t have to make a lot of choices there, either.

Of course none of that works when we go to Europe on our own. For those trips we use Rick Steves guidebooks and get second class hotels with a lift—again the comfort we like without extra expense.

Researching:

It’s possible to do so much research you crash from having too many decisions to make. Since we know we like the same types of places Rick Steves does we use his guidebooks when traveling on our own in Europe. When traveling in the USA we pick a route then research only what is along it. On river cruises we take most shore excursions but on major cruise ships we choose carefully which tours to take and none of them include ones where you transfer from the cruise ship to shore by small boat since I tend to get seasick on small boats.

Eating and Sightseeing:

That first trip to London we stayed in a small hotel recommended by Rick Steves and soon learned we like the food served at the pub next door so that’s where we ate most of our evening meals. It’s kind of fun to have your own neighborhood pub.

We also carry sturdy plastic silverware so we can eat grocery food while traveling. That came in handy when we took a tour that included a bus ride at lunch time. That ride started in Paris headed to Brussels so we just hit a couple shops for bread, meat, and pastries before boarding the bus. Other travelers bought pre-made, huge and expensive sandwiches and one of them borrowed my knife so she could cut her sandwich down to manageable size. Minimalist travel doesn’t mean going without; it means only bringing what you are likely to use. And being sure to pack items you might need while on board a bus in your day bag.

We also like Rick Steves’ museum guidebook since we know we can’t see everything in one trip and he helps us decide which things to do this trip. On one trip I was reading the guidebook’s commentary to Dave at the various stops in a museum and was surprised when I realized I had gathered a group of people listening to me read. It seems everyone likes Rick Steves’ commentary.

If our destination is a large city we spend the first day taking a city tour. If it is a hop-on hop-off bus (or boat in Amsterdam) we just note where things are but stay on the bus for the entire trip. Then Dave studies the metro/underground/subway system so he can get us to the right stop for the places we’ve decided to explore.

We pick only one or two sights to see per day. If driving we only allow 4 hours of driving time spread out before and after lunch—sometimes after dinner if we spent time between lunch and dinner at a sight along the way but we always plan to arrive at our next overnight destination while it is still daylight. Using that method of travel it took us more than a month to drive our small motorhome from Chicago to Santa Monica along Historic US Route 66. And when we traveled south from Maine when the leaves were changing color we traveled slow enough to stay in peak color south along the coast then inland to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Natchez Trace.

If we’re planning a day at a big museum, we decide in advance where we are going to have lunch so we can just do that when the time comes. We got caught out once by going someplace we where we didn’t care for the type of food they served so now we don’t pay for that type of mistake anymore.

Even if you decide to hit a familiar place for a taste of home you might be surprised. In the Netherlands, McDonald’s fries don’t come with ketchup—they come with fry sauce. And in Hawaii, McDonald’s sells Spam sandwiches.

Travel is fun but exhausting. By making minimalist decisions according to your own tastes you increase the fun without increasing the exhaustion. That’s the way I like to travel.

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