Last August, my then-boyfriend Mason and I took an excursion to Memphis to celebrate summer's end. We were anticipating a carefree day trip, but expectation quickly turned to distress as our whole day was plagued with disappointing fiascos.
We look back on that day now and laugh that we learned some important lessons with our relationship still intact. Although I've taken plenty of trips in my life, our Memphis disaster was a reminder of the worst possible mistakes to make when traveling.
Don't assume museums and attractions are open every day. I was looking forward to a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 assassination. It presently houses many exhibits about the Civil Rights Movement. Upon arrival, I hopped out of the car and ran to the door, only to find that the Museum was open every day except for Tuesday. And it was Tuesday.
Don't rely entirely on technology to get you there. Seriously, take a map and a printed guidebook. A bizarre glitch in the Google Maps app on Mason's iPod told us that Memphis had two Urban Outfitters stores. We followed the directions but were dead-ended both times, once in an alcove of offices, and another time between the river and a cluster of government buildings. I finally went into a hotel to ask the concierge and he informed me sadly: "We don't have anything like that here, ma'am. The closest thing we have would be a Gap." Had I brought a guidebook, I would have known.
Don't wear skinny jeans on the hottest day of the year. On our trip to Memphis, I wore skinny jeans with a bright blue tunic top—stylish, perhaps, but a veritable oven on a day that hovered around 100 degrees even in the morning. We spent almost the whole day outside, which made matters worse. Intense heat only increases the pressure of being lost and confused, and weather-appropriate clothing eases stress.
Don't leave home without insider information. If you know someone who has lived or traveled in your intended destination, get the scoop. Find out about local restaurants, museum hours, tucked-away shops, public transportation and parking. Usually insiders have the best advice when it comes to travel logistics and recommendations. We found out from insiders about some great restaurants in Memphis only after we had returned.
Don't take yourself too seriously. I made the mistake of trying too hard to make the Memphis trip happen in just the way I wanted it to, instead of letting it unfold as it would. No trip is perfect, and even this particular day was not without its joys. We ate delicious barbecue at the Rendezvous, were given a fascinating tour of Earnestine and Hazel's, and at least took a picture of the Lorraine Motel. We made it through the day, and we still loved each other. So it wasn't all bad.
When planning a trip, don't forget to do your research. These resources will help you create a fantastic travel experience.
If you are interested in design, home décor, crafts, interesting bakeries or even stationery, visit http://www.designspongeonline.com/category/city to see if your destination is on the list of city guides. Each guide will direct you to some of most unique shops and restaurants in town.
For the best possible overnight stay, visit http://www.bedandbreakfast.com. This website will guide you to distinctive inns all over the country. B&Bs may cost a bit more than the average hotel, but they are worth the extra expense. Your stay will be quiet and comfortable, and hosts pride themselves on their terrific breakfasts.
If you find yourself wondering which restaurants are best or how much museum admission costs, guidebooks are great resources. I prefer Rough Guides (http://www.roughguides.com), but any one will do. Not For Tourists (http://www.notfortourists.com) also publishes interesting travel guides containing insider details not typically found in traditional guidebooks.