Vacation time secured? Money or miles acquired for flights? Hotel points or money at the ready? With those things in hand, travelers start to plan their trips. The planning may adjust a bit based on weather, award availability, etc. But, they finally book it – and many travelers make a big mistake because they didn’t add one simple step to their planning.
One Mistake Many Travelers Make When Planning Their Trip
We will just jump right into and not bury it – this one mistake many travelers make is that they don’t check the local calendar of the place they are visiting!
I have seen this more times than I can remember and have read many complaints by travelers about this as well. I will hear things like, “I can’t believe this city is shut down today!” or “This is so stupid that we have to sit in traffic for 4 hours because of some marathon.” These complaints, and many, many like them, could have been solved if the travelers had simply taken a few minutes to check a calendar for the place they are visiting.
In America, we are used to most stores being closed just two full days a year – Easter and Christmas. All other times, stores are open. During the work week, museums and others attractions are open as well. This is what we are familiar with.
However, it is not like this in many parts of the world! For instance, consider Israel. I love visiting Israel and it is an absolutely beautiful country but you need to know ahead of visiting about the different holidays on their calendar – otherwise, you will be left wandering the streets to find someplace that you can just buy something to eat at! 🙂
The same is true for big city-wide activities like marathons. The citizens of those cities have been hearing for days before a marathon about what streets will be closed. Yet, there are still some of them that get to an intersection that is closed and they get really upset about that! The people that tend to get more upset (that I have noticed) are the tourists who’s valuable vacation time is now slipping away while sitting at an intersection because they don’t know any other way to get where they are going.
Consider someplace like Greece as well. Most tourists visit in the summer but if you go to a city like Thessaloniki in northern Greece, you will find that the city is very quiet and many shops and cafes are closed for the better part of July and August. That is because the city gets so hot that many dwellers head to the beaches of Halkidiki and others for their annual vacations (and many have cafes there to open as well).
So, if you are planning on visiting in August, you may want to know ahead of time that the middle of the day will be very quiet with many places closed. On Sundays, everything is closed so that is something to be aware of as well (not cafes and restaurants, though).
How to Plan Your Trip According to the Local Calendar
Link: Office Holidays Calendar
So, first thing you should do after picking your destination is to search for something like “holidays and festivals in _________ in 2020“. That will give you a good starting point.
You can also search for the city’s website and look at their calendar of events (do it in Google Chrome to let it translate for you). Another thing you could do is to e-mail the hotel you are planning on staying at and give them your dates to inquire if there are any events or holidays going on in town then that would limit your activities.
But, Don’t Just Change Because of the Holidays!
While you need to know about these holidays and such, because there happens to be one when you were planning on going does not mean you should avoid that timeframe! I have been in some cities when there were celebrations or festivals going on that had the public sector and many shops closed. They were some really great places to be at and the locals love to include you in what is going on and to explain things when asked.
You may also find that there is some activity going on that is of interest to you and you could always take part in it while you are there! For example, I was in Marrakech a few years ago and we were only planning on being there for 3 days so I had not looked at what was going on. I found out the day we arrived that they had their Marrakech Marathon the day before – I would have loved to have participated in that!
What Happens if There Is Something During Your Stay?
Remember, just because there is something going on that closes down the city doesn’t mean that you need to avoid that city. Instead, consider getting a rental car and using that opportunity to visit another place. If the whole country is on holiday or vacation, you could always head to some natural destination and enjoy that.
For example, a number of years ago I was in Jerusalem and they were having one of their religious holidays while I was going to be there. I took the opportunity to drive down to Makhtesh Ramon in the Negev Desert. It was a beautiful place to be and one that I would not have visited had there not been a holiday that day.
You could also use such a day as a time to wonder the city while it is completely quiet. You may also find something special that you would have missed otherwise as well. Again, in Israel one time, it was the Sabbath and all the restaurants in the Jewish part of the city were closed. So, we were wondering around and found this amazing burger restaurant that remains my favorite burger place in the world to this day. In fact, I make it a point to go there (no matter where I am in the country!) every time I am in Israel – it is that good. (by the way, in case you want to try it out – Iwo’s Meatburger).
So, there are ways to use holidays to your advantage but it can really be a big help to know what holidays will be going on while you are in the country! Trust me – take this extra few minutes to search for the calendar of the country you are visiting. It will make your overall trip a much better one and you may even be able to plan to attend some truly amazing local events as a result!