Guest Post by Michael Shaw
Nothing fully prepares you for your first taste of Virginian countryside, whether you’re an American with reasonable exposure to its legends & realities, or you’re flying in from Europe with nothing but guidebooks & an active imagination. If your daily life is hectic or career-focused, you could take a while to come alive in the fresh air.
But time off is truly precious – it’s a shame to waste it. These tips should help you slip straight into a relaxing, reinvigorating holiday with minimum resistance.
Give every family-member a holiday-planning quest.
Arranging a holiday for your family is a lovely gesture. Making decisions yourself can also avoid conflict; the kids are desperate for Disneyworld, Grandad thinks everyone should experience the joys of scuba-diving. Grandma secretly wants to visit the casino.
However, involving everyone at the planning stage makes them more likely to engage in & enjoy the holiday. That means you all have a more relaxing time once you’re there.
So how about giving everyone a pre-travel quest: to research the destination & pick one attraction or activity that they’d love to experience. Each choice goes on your itinerary, & when the time comes, everyone gives it a go. Some people may have to leave their comfort zones a little, but it won’t last long. They may end up loving it – at the very least, they should feel good for trying something new.
Factor down-time into your schedule. Hiking in the forest on Tuesday, driving round the mountains on Wednesday, Jefferson’s estate on Thursday… but don’t forget that you’re staying right in the middle of epically gorgeous countryside. Try not to schedule a mission for every waking moment. Spend at least one day puttering near your home-away-from-home, firing up the barbecue, catching up with one another (or your favourite book) & exploring nearby.
If you’re flying into the area, book your rental vehicle in advance. Leaving it until you land adds one more obstacle between arriving on holiday – & actually relaxing. There are plenty of cheap car hire companies online – just find one that’s at the airport or can deliver your car there.
Remember: this is mountain country. A low-slung sporty vehicle car may not be ideal. You might enjoy those cinematic Italian road scenes, but it won’t feel that exhilarating with your family squealing in terror from the back seat.
Anyway, the speed limit on Shenandoah’s Skyline Drive is 35mph, so there isn’t much chance to show off. Animals may dart in front of you, so good brakes & careful driving are your top priority. There’ll be an overlook wherever there’s a fantastic view, so pull in before you get distracted.
Tip: if you’re driving a recreational vehicle, research tunnel heights when you plan scenic driving tours like the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Turn off your smartphone. Even if you run your own business, you must unwind regularly to prevent burn-out. Don’t lose your ability to stay on top – for your own (& your family’s) sake, disconnect & let yourself relax, even if it’s just for a few hours.