If you are like many Brits, you have been struggling for the last few years just to get by. Between the bottom falling out of the financial markets and eroding retirees’ hard-earned savings while making the jobs picture frighteningly dim for the rest of us, it hasn’t been a particularly pleasant time. Now that things are looking better, however, it just might be time to think about going on holiday and letting go of some of those worries that have plagued you for such a long time. While things are still not completely back to whatever you considered normal, at least many of you might be in a position to let off a little steam. The key word here is “little”. It might not yet be time to summer in the South of France, but if you are sensible about it, a mini holiday might not be too great a stretch.
– Hit the beach – With the weather getting colder, it might not be the best time to get a tan, and the waters are likely a bit chilly for swimming, but there is something profoundly relaxing about just walking along a lovely beach, listening to the waves crashing down on themselves. Between England, Ireland, and Scotland, there is a plethora of beautiful beaches, most within relatively easy access by motorcar or train. And as we get deeper into the off season, lodging rates are dropping, and you’re not quite as likely to encounter much in the way of overcrowding you’d expect in warmer months. So close your eyes, smell that fresh salty air, and say, “Ahhh…”.
– Wander far from the madding crowd – For those of you who live in London or other large cities, escaping to a place where the pace is slower and a bit of blessed silence can still be found. Whether you choose to drive your own car or avail yourself of public transport, a wholly different world awaits you, barely a few hours away. Even the quaint lodgings, missing some of the “conveniences” and perks of large urban hotels, can help you set aside the pressures and find a bit of peace for a little while. And unlike those modern hotels, the smaller bed & breakfast establishments and hostels won’t drive you into apoplectic fits when you get the bill.
– Take a more modest journey, closer to home – Whether you are a Londoner seeking a brief escape from your daily routine or a Welsh farmer looking for a bit of excitement, there are pockets of “other worlds” that are a short jaunt away, some even reachable by walking. Be a bit creative and step out of your “comfort zone”, and you can sample the delights of a world beyond your own. You might enjoy a couple of days exploring museums, attending theaters you had not previously considered, or wandering among ethnic markets located a few blocks from your home, yet as alien to your experience as a never-before visited foreign land.
Even when taking a more modest holiday, you will need to use common sense, lest your frugal indulgence become anything but frugal. Being clear about what the costs of your holiday will be, as well as how you intend to pay for it, can make the difference between your little break being a restorative experience or yet another source of stress. No matter how much you enjoy the experience, if you go overboard on your spending, you could end up in worse emotional shape than you were before you went. So make a plan ahead of time, and stick to it.
– Set a budget and live within it – Can you afford to go hundreds of kilometers from home, paying for transportation, lodging, meals, and the inevitable sundry expenses that always follow such a journey? Or would a short jaunt to a new experience closer at hand be more within your reach? As tempting as it might be to splurge, you’ll want to take small steps and experience a brief reprieve from your normal routine. Save up and take those big, life-changing experiences a bit later, when doing so will not leave you stressed even more.
– Choose your destination – The big question you want to ask yourself is, Of all the choices I can afford, which will best serve to rejuvenate me? Will solitude and silence best slay your worry dragons, or will a stroll among street merchants be more to your liking?
– Decide how you will pay for additional unexpected costs – In his famous poem titled “To a Mouse”, Robert Burns wrote, The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry]. He could well have been speaking to travelers and their holiday budgets. Perhaps you had intended to stay at a specific hostel you had read about online, but spotted a charming but more expensive bed & breakfast once you arrived. Or the simple, inexpensive meal you intended to order at that quaint little pub was forgotten when you saw a particularly delicious looking repast being served to another table. The harsh truth is that unless you are obsessively frugal above all else, you will spend more on some (perhaps all) of the elements of your holiday than you had intended. If you have taken this into account when planning your excursion, you may be in great shape. If not, you might find yourself either scrambling for other ways to cover the added expenses, cutting expenses in other areas to the bone, or worrying incessantly about how you are going to cover the cost of an overdraft once you return home.
The trick to having a successful mini break without adding to the stresses you are trying to escape for a while is to be at the same time flexible and realistic in your planning. Be open to new experiences, but keep your common sense and wits about you, as well. Doing both might sound difficult, but will serve to make your mini holiday exactly what you need. You’ve waited long enough, so go forth and enjoy. Intelligently.