Yes, that is our motto and how we aim to travel for the rest of our lives, but a "trip of a lifetime" has many definitions. There is no one size fits all when it comes to luxury; you must do what you can to make it a trip of a lifetime for you.
Let's take a step back. Travelling has been a passion of ours from the very start, but the first "trip of a lifetime" was our vacation to the Galapagos Islands. It was the first trip where research was necessary on a deep level, where an itinerary was required to stay organized, and where we intentionally investigated every possible opportunity to make the trip special. It being a milestone birthday, we pulled out all the stops, but upon our return, we ask ourselves why we couldn't make all future trips just as fantastic.
It was that same Galapagos & Quito trip that sparked the idea of a travel blog. There is an abundance of information on the Galapagos Islands readily available online, but there was little to no information available on the specific cruise we chose on that trip. Nothing. I was able to find one itinerary online that linked to the boat, but it did not match what we actually experienced. We found it shocking that in this digital age where everything can be accessed within seconds online, this crucial information was lacking. It was from this gap that Make Them All Trips of a LIfetime, the website and the motto, was first conceived.
How do you make them all trips of a lifetime, you ask? There are three simple secrets to making this happen. The definition of each is entirely up to you.
1. Help the necessities go smoother. There are things that can't be avoided when it comes to travel, so do your best to make those experiences smooth and stress-free.
Chances are you will need to be on a plane for an extended period of time, which can be exhausting and uncomfortable. The more we travelled, the more we found ways to make the flying experience better. One of the first thing we invested in was over the ear noise-cancelling headphones. After a bad experience on the way home from Jamaica (three young children in the row behind us and a talkative neighbour) we opted for sanity. Having the ability to listen to calming music, or watch a movie without the disruption of screaming children and talkative adults was and is a lifesaver.
There was a time when airlines provided blankets and pillows for free, but most now only give you the option to purchase comfort packages. If you are generally cold and restless, bring your own thin travel blanket, foldable neck pillow or soft and/or scented eye mask. If you hate airplane food, make sure you bring your own snacks. When I was younger, it was tradition to make a white focaccia-style pizza and bring it in my carry on bag for each flight.
If you're willing to spend a little money, look into upgrading your seats. Every airline has a different definition (and price point) for their different classes of seat, which depends highly on the size of the plane and the destination. If the price point at purchase is too high, check to see if the airline accepts bidding. Most airlines offer the option of offering a bid for an upgrade. If the seat remains unbooked 24 hours before the flight, your offer may be accepted and only then would you be charged. Another option is to pay or select the exit row on any given flight. No matter how small the plane, the exit row will provide you extra leg room. All that is required is that you help open the door in case of an emergency.
NB: On foreign airlines, you may be required to speak the language of the country where the airline is based in order to sit in the exit row. This is so that you can understand instructions provided by the staff and crew in case of an emergency.
Business Class has become a luxury that we can't live without, but even if you can't afford to splurge on lay-flat bed seats and freebies, you can make the airport experience a little more comfortable. All airports have a variety of lounge options. Some are exclusive, but most are available for purchase. If you will be spending hours at an airport before a flight or during a stopover, look into the lounge offerings at your airport. Most provide food, alcohol, WIFI and comfortable seating, but some have beds, showers and even spa amenities. One of the best tension massages we ever received was in the Sri Lankan Business Class Lounge at the airport. Airports are chaotic and the noise can be deafening, so finding a space that you can relax before you even board the plane is wonderful and usually a minimal cost.
No matter how you choose to spend the time before boarding, everyone will need to pass through security. Many airports offer VIP lines, where for a small fee, you can bypass the long lines and go straight through security. You will still be screened, but you avoid the long lines. Many pre-packaged AI resorts also offer a skip the line option as an add on to your vacation package, you just need to ask.
We consider ourselves on vacation the moment we leave our house and head to the airport. Though we've opted for taxi cabs, public transportation, and driving ourselves in the past, we now pre-order an airport limo. We were able to find a reliable company that offers a flat rate (less expensive than a taxi) in a comfortable town car. They arrive at the time we specify, and we call them to pick us up when we return home, so to avoid all the chaos of drivers looking for fares and extending our vacation time a little bit further.
2. Make the good things better. There is no shortage of options available for sightseeing, for adventure-seekers, for relaxation; the key is to tweak those good things and make them even better.
No matter where you go, you need somewhere to sleep. This is where a little research can be your friend. When selecting a hotel, even within a budget, compare the size of the room and the offered amenities. Even within the same price point, many hotels offer a wide variety of options, look for what is important to you (i.e. coffee, snacks, alcohol, pillow menu etc.). When researching, look specifically for luxury or boutique hotels; these tend to offer more options to pamper yourself.
Whether you have booked your stay as part of a package or individually, it's always good practice to contact the hotel directly to confirm your reservation and provide any details you requested. They may not be able to guarantee you your requests (bed, floor, view) but if you give a hotel the opportunity to make things better for you from the start, most will jump at the chance.
If you will be celebrating a birthday or anniversary (either on vacation or in the vicinity) let the hotel know and ask if there is anything they can do to make it special. Vacation resorts and many hotels have a celebration department that will decorate your room and provide you with free desserts, fruit or champagne upon arrival.
Never assume, wherever you are travelling, no matter how high end the location, that they will have what you need. If there are little luxuries that you can't live without, bring them. This includes small tension balls to help relax tired muscles, sun care products, slippers, bubble bath or whatever you find luxurious. Even packing your luggage can be made easier with the help of packing cubes, laundry bags, shoe bags or a portable luggage scale.
If you plan on sight-seeing while on vacation and opt for excursions or tours, look into the possibility of private options. Even if you like to be social and meet new people on tours, private guides will provide you with the opportunity to tweak your tour to your preferences. No matter what you choose, opt for local tour guides and companies. This ensures the money stays in the country and for the most part, local guides are more knowledgeable and enthusiastic about showing you their country. In Greece, we booked a private sightseeing tour of Santorini with a local. She brought us to locations that we were interested in and a few spots we never would have thought to visit.
3. Do something new and exciting. Push your limits and take a step outside of your comfort zone to experience something different; no matter the outcome, it will make the trip that much more memorable.
The world if full of places to see and things to do. Chances are, you will not return to the destination you are visiting, so if there is an opportunity to try something new, take it. You may like taking risks and opt for zip lining into the clouds in Costa Rica, or you may simply opt to try a local dish that you're unfamiliar with. No matter the outcome, having tried something new will make that trip more memorable and you may even discover a new passion.
We love animals and nature and will always gravitate towards opportunities to be closer to them. The boat ride to find whale sharks in Mexico was choppy and left us both very nauseous, but the experience to snorkel with the gentle giants was indescribable. We may have forgotten our water, but the four hour trek through the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica will forever stay with us as a spiritual experience. "Once in a Lifetime" excursions and events are whatever they mean to you. Be open to new tastes and experiences and you will leave more enriched and with a pocketful of interesting stories.
No matter where, when or how, spend a little time and make them all trips of a lifetime.