In college, I saw a film that started an obsession with a place I had to visit. The film was “Mindwalk,” and the place was the film’s setting – the mystical islet of Mont Saint-Michel off the coast of Normandy. Years later, when I was planning a trip around France it only made sense that I would include a day trip to Mont Saint-Michel from Paris.
It seemed like such a simple idea. In retrospect, this should have been my first clue that it wasn’t going to work out.
The day was one long series of complications, and although it ended on a positive note, it remains one of my biggest travel regrets that I wasn’t able to get to Mont Saint-Michel. Travel SNAFUs happen – even to travel pros – but you can learn from our mistakes.
Photo Credit: LoboStudio
This is the most obvious remedy to most travel complications, but it’s also easy to ignore. We so often hear that spontaneity is where the fun is – especially when it comes to travel – but there are some things that require advance planning.
The main reasons you would need to plan ahead for a day trip or a particular attraction are:
- Attractions Aren’t Open Every Day – Many tourist attractions have one day a week that they’re closed. It’s easy to forget what day it is when you’re on vacation, but it sucks to find out that the one day you’ve got set aside to visit the Uffizi (for instance) happens to be the day it’s closed. Look up the open days/hours of the attractions you want to visit in each city you’ve got on your itinerary, and then you can shift your plans by a day if something is closed.
- Tickets Sell Out – Some attractions sell a limited number of tickets per day, so if you plan on waiting until you get into town you could miss out. In some cases – such as the main museums in Florence – there’s a ticket window re-selling last-minute cancellations, but you won’t have your pick of entry times. In other cases – such as the Last Supper in Milan – tickets sell out months in advance and your only alternative is to book a whole city tour that includes the painting.
- Public Transportation Isn’t 24/7 – Most of us are accustomed to public transportation being round the clock, but in many places that’s not the case. Trains and buses don’t run 24 hours a day, and their Sunday/holiday schedules are even more limited. If your day trip is planned for a Sunday or a holiday when buses and trains won’t be as useful, that’s when booking an organized tour or renting a car for the day might be your only option.
Have a Plan B
After unexpectedly bursting into tears in a French train station upon realizing I wouldn’t be able to get to Mont Saint-Michel, my day was rescued by my quick-thinking travel companions who said, “Hey, we’re close to the D-Day beaches, right?” I was too emotional to see any other options, so I remain thankful that I was with friends who led the way. These days, I’m better able to get past frustrations and think on my feet – an invaluable skill for a traveler.
The key in most travel situations, of course, is that you may not know what your Plan B is until you realize Plan A won’t work – but being open to the possibility of a Plan B will get you a very long way, indeed.
About the Author: Jessica Spiegel writes for indie travel guide BootsnAll. She still thinks of Mont Saint-Michel. She really hopes she can get there someday…
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