5 ways to get more from your holiday

Posted on July 19, 2016 by Eleanor McKenzie
Woman sitting on a mountain peak at sunset

They say that a change is as good as a rest and a holiday, whether it is a weekend break or a month-long adventure, is a popular ‘go to’ solution when the body and mind is in need of a wind down. Every holiday is an opportunity to relax and for some that means spending a good bit of it on a sunbed. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a great beach or poolside vacation, but, if you want to use your holiday time for more than getting a tan, here are five ideas for things you can do that will create memories and experience that will last long after that tan has faded.

1. Choose an activity holiday

Walking holidays are just one of the activity-centred vacations you can choose from and there are plenty of fabulous locations in the UK as well as abroad where you can enjoy burning off the calories at the same time as indulging in the gastronomic delights of your chosen destination. Sailing, scuba diving, ballroom dancing and yoga are other examples of activity holidays that have the potential to experience a place in a different way and leave you feeling fit as well as relaxed and revived.

2. Chasing history

You don’t need to leave the UK to reap the benefits of a cultural break. For example, Pembroke in Wales is just the place for historic castle enthusiasts. It is also a short hop from the UK to Europe’s culturally rich cities, but the question is, how to get the most out of them? A weekend city break is an ideal way to dip your toe into any city and will probably inspire you to return for more. Multi-city vacations can be a slog to organise but there is a solution: a cruise.

Woman taking up travel photography

3. Try a new hobby

Holidays where you learn a new skill, or improve on an existing one, are all the rage and it’s an excellent way to enhance your personal development. Most of these holidays incorporate relaxation and exploration time into the schedule so don’t think that you’ll be ‘in class’ all day, every day. Learning a regional cooking style in its home country –Italy or France are naturally good choices for this – attracts many people, as does wine tasting. Art holidays have a growing following and you don’t need to be gifted to enjoy this kind of relaxation.

4. Get snapping!

I know a person who became a professional photographer after a friend pointed out that his holiday snaps were rather good. They were mostly of Rajasthan, probably India’s most colourful region, and although the then amateur photographer pointed out that it would almost be impossible to take an uninteresting photograph there, it did spark a new hobby that then became a career. It is much more fun to take on the challenge of an SLR camera than rely on a smartphone camera, although you can also practice improving your smartphone photography and discover all the accessories that can turn your phone’s camera into a truly professional lens. Deciding on themes for your holiday photographs can also help expand your skills; capturing the ultimate Caribbean sunset, café society in Rome, murals in Havana or the exquisite colours of the sea around the Greek islands are just some of the multitude you could choose from.

5. Go local

Getting to know the locals and familiarising yourself with their lifestyle is pretty much guaranteed to enrich your holiday experience in a way that sticking to the traditional tourist spots never really can, although, there’s no reason to avoid them completely. Either do your research beforehand at specialist guide sites, such as Spotted by Locals that provides insider tips written by locals, or ask someone when you arrive about the restaurants, cafes and bars the locals go to. The opportunity to mingle with people who spend their lives in your destination is a priceless way to really engage with it and create friendships that last well beyond your holiday. It will also cut your holiday budget because the prices are inevitably much lower in the neighbourhood eateries than in the tourist spots.

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by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.