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(How To) Make Them All Trips of a Lifetime

Updated: Oct 15, 2023

Yes, that is our motto, words we live by and how we aim to travel for the rest of our lives, but a "trip of a lifetime" has many definitions and many meanings. There is no one size fits all when it comes to luxury or the ideal trip; you must do what you can to make it a trip of a lifetime for you. You must dig deep and discover what the trip of a lifetime means to you.


Rotonda Restaurant, Naxos, Greece
Rotonda Restaurant, Naxos, Greece

Let's take a step back. Travelling has been a passion of ours from the very start. The very first "trip of a lifetime" was our adventure 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.


Why can't we make them ALL trips of a lifetime?


It was that same Galapagos & Quito trip that sparked the idea of a travel blog and a website to share our tips, experiences and our photos. 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 we were on (with only a few words describing what to expect each day), 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. Even before that trip, we had started making each trip special, in the ways that were meaningful and special to us.

 

Note: We only link to products and services that we have either used or would use, all opinions expressed are our own. Some may be affiliate links, with which we may receive a small commission for purchases made.

 

Dinghies heading back to the yacht, Galapagos Islands
Dinghies heading back to the yacht, Galapagos Islands

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 continues to be) 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 (called cocodrillo) and bring it in my carry on bag for each flight. Do whatever makes you happy, however small, to make it a trip of a lifetime.


Business Class Lay Flat Bed/Seat on Air Canada
Business Class Lay Flat Bed/Seat on Air Canada

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.


This is how we first fell in love with business class and added it to our trip of a lifetime bucket list of items and services we can't live without. On that first trip of a lifetime to the Galapagos Islands, we bid for an upgrade on our seats on Copa Airlines and won two of the four legs. We saw how relaxed we were during the flight and how much it impacted our state of mind during the trip, and never looked back.


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.


 

TIP: 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 that airport (and specific terminal). Most provide food, alcohol, WIFI and comfortable seating as a bare minimum, but some have beds, showers and even spa amenities.


 

TIP: Check out the amenities each lounge offers: 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, especially if you already planned on purchasing food.


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 having to stand in the long lines. Many pre-packaged all inclusive resorts also offer a skip the line option as an add on to your vacation package, you just need to ask.



Transportation in main square in Granada, Nicaragua
Transportation in main square in Granada, Nicaragua

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. It is the little things that can make or break your trip of a lifetime.




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. Remember this is Your Trip of a Lifetime.


No matter where you go, you need somewhere to sleep. This is where a little research can be your best 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, overall size, bathtub, etc.). When researching, look specifically for luxury or boutique hotels; these tend to offer more options to pamper yourself. Waking up in what you consider luxury accommodations, from five star resorts to private hostels, is a great way to make it a trip of a lifetime.


If it's not necessarily luxury that you're after but a unique experience, look for different types of places to stay, including glamping sites, treehouses, cabins, castles, domes, yurts (or practically anything your imagination can muster). If location is priority, perhaps consider renting a house or apartment so that you're close to the city, beach or site you are most interested in. Often, home rental services on will include daily cleaning, special meals and amenities, but be sure to research whether they are at an extra cost. These types of accommodation will definitely help make the trip memorable and special.





Glamping Tent in Potrero, Costa Rica
Glamping Tent in Potrero, Costa Rica



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. Hotels are in the business of making your stay special, especially if it translates into good reviews or return customers, so tell them how before you get there.


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, free of charge. We contact the hotel or resort every time we travel and have received countless free amenities.


Once we were even able to contact the resort where our friends were travelling to and have their room decorated as a surprise. We were not booked at the hotel and they offered to leave a gift of chocolate strawberries and champagne with a note from us, all free of charge.



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. Reducing the stress of having to search for something you didn't bring, or easily find something you did, can make all the difference in planning your trip of a lifetime.


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 sommelier. She brought us to locations that we were interested in and a few spots we never would have thought to visit. These spontaneous and surprise visits can sometimes make your trip of a lifetime even more special.



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 your trip of a lifetime that much more memorable (and exciting).


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.


Zip-lining into clouds in Monteverde, Costa Rica
Zip-lining into clouds in Monteverde, Costa Rica

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 bottles, 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 and travel tales to entertain your friends and family when you return. Chances are, on the next trip of a lifetime, you'll go a little bit further outside your comfort zone.


No matter where, when or how, take a little time to plan and Make Them All Trips of a Lifetime.


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5 Comments


Thanks for the tip on bidding for first class seats. We will have to do that more often in the future. I'm a big wildlife fan, too!

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D Marino
D Marino
May 23, 2020

Thanks! Life and travel will certainly change moving forward, but we will find ways to make it the best possible.

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You guys go all out on a trip. Well done. An airport limo is something I never thought of. I usually try to save money till I get where I’m going, then splurge. Well done.

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D Marino
D Marino
Feb 26, 2020

Great minds Karen!

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Karen Smedley
Karen Smedley
Feb 26, 2020

Great post. I always treat the minute I close my front door as the start of my adventure too.

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