Learn how to make your travels worry-free.
How do we make the most of our vacation destination? It’s all in our attitude.
I’m getting married this July after an eight-year engagement—he proposed on the Great Wall of China, but that, of course, is a story for another article. My fiancé, Roberto, and I have taken many trips throughout our relationship: Hong Kong, Beijing, Toishan and Futsan (China),Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Fajardo, La Isla Verde, San Juan, San Diego, Nassau (Bahamas), Tarrytown, Woodstock, Cape Cod and, our latest, Toronto. We aren’t what I’d call world travelers exactly, but I’ve learned an important trick to enjoying our time abroad: it starts by relaxing before we go anywhere.
I remember when Roberto and I booked our all-inclusive trip to Sandals Royal Bahamian a couple years ago. We researched online reviews and watched YouTube videos, but I still felt uneasy about the trip. I was nervous about spending $7,000 in one place without really knowing what to expect. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised. We had a great time. Royal Bahamian is an older resort, and it could use a facelift here and there. But it was impeccably clean and luxuriously comfortable. It offered snorkeling and scuba excursions, sunset cruises, and day-trips around Nassau. We loved the snorkeling, the food was delicious, and the B-list brand alcohol did not deter from the pure relaxation we experienced. Every day, we took a five-minute ferry ride to Sandals’ Island and stayed for lunch. We snorkeled all day, took a nap in the afternoon, ate dinner, played chess in the lounge with a cocktail, and went for a night swim. It was incredible.
When I couple that experience with our latest travel, I realize that the art of successful travel starts with the decision to enjoy ourselves. We flew to Toronto this Memorial Day weekend, and we had a fantastic time from beginning to end. We booked a Porter Airlines Q400 turboprop airplane from Newark Liberty International Airport to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. I love getting my passport stamped. Though, I could do without the shoe removal at baggage check. We arrived at Newark’s Terminal B two hours before the flight. It was Thursday evening before a major holiday, and the terminal was practically empty. Still, baggage check took some time. I would have to say our system is not the most efficient. The TSA agents we dealt with were stressed and irritable, which made an already unpleasant atmosphere unduly tense. But Roberto countered our agent’s bad mood with his relaxed, respectful demeanor, and he diffused the tension with his excellent attitude. The agent, who initially complained about our moving too slowly, even smiled. She became polite and helpful because we kept calm and cool. In other words, we did not join her in her bad attitude. Instead, we invited her into our positive outlook.
That positivity carried throughout my travels. We stayed with family, which made it very affordable, and we got to see a lot of what Toronto has to offer. We visited Queen Street shops and restaurants in the eclectic downtown area. We also took a trip an hour out to historic Kleinburg, whose quaint shops and heritage homes reminded me of Martha’s Vineyard. Roberto is a martial artist, and the real purpose of the trip was for him to study Gracie Jiu Jitsu with his uncle in the city of Vaughn, a 50-minute drive from Toronto. Until only a few years ago, Vaughn consisted entirely of family farms. Housing developments—private homes and condominiums—are being built everywhere you look. Vaughn now has a spectacular amusement park, Canada’s Wonderland, and several large shopping malls. Roberto’s aunt says Hot Topic arrived last year, and she is happy to have some fun fashion alternatives.
The most recognizable building in the metropolitan center is Toronto’s CN Tower. The tower’s latest feature is Edge Walk. Visitors suit up and get strapped in a harness so they can lean over the edge of the tower, 1168 ft. in the air. Roberto is not interested, but I am determined to experience this at some point. Toronto loves tourists! What struck me most about our trip was the warmth of the Canadian people. They were genuinely friendly, helpful, and patient, everywhere we went.
The flight was an hour and a half there and a little over an hour back. Round trip for two passengers was $500. Snacks and drinks, including red or white wine, are free on all Porter Airlines flights. Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport provides its customers with free refreshments at the gate, which include coffee, tea, canned soda, bottled water, chocolate-chip cookies, and roasted salted almonds. The airport is on an island, but a convenient and free 90-second ferry ride takes you to shore. It leaves every 15 minutes. Billy Bishop security was friendly and efficient. We did not have to remove our shoes on the return trip. As with our flight out of the US, smart phones and tablets can remain in bags; laptops get their own tray at baggage check. On our return, US Customs was quick and easy. The officers were relaxed and inviting, and, although the trip was terrific, I was thankful to be home.
Instead of waiting to arrive at your destination before you unwind, get yourself in a good mood before you go. React to everything you can by relaxing instead of tensing. By the time you arrive and unpack, you’ll feel more tranquil and free than you knew you possibly could. Your travels will feel twice as long!