It goes without saying ( and I am saying it anyway!) that a successful garden trip takes some planning. You could of course set out and make it up as you go along, trusting that all will be fine and well and that you will see all the gardens on your list – yes I am assuming you do have a list of the places you want to see! But experience has shown that unless you are very flexible with your time, it´s best to plan to make the most of your trip.
Travel is about the experience, not so much about ticking destinations off your list. It´s about making each visit one in which you are full engaged and relaxed so that you can marvel and enjoy to the utmost. That´s how the best memories are created and after all, isn´t that why we travel?
Here I share seven mistakes to avoid when planning the itinerary of your dream garden trip.
Mistake 1: Too many gardens
In the excitement of planning your tour you have researched all the gardens you want to see. The list of is long. The map tells you they are not so far apart. So you go for it an decide on four gardens per day, at least.
In the case of England, remember that the roads are small and that it can take much longer to get from one garden to the other than what Google maps tells you. Add 20% to be on the safe side. If you´re late, you´ll be chasing those minutes all day. If you´re early, that´ll give you more time to enjoy the garden.
My advice: less is more. Don´t pack too much in. You´ll want to remember what was special about each garden. If you see too many in one day, all you´ll remember is a blur.
Mistake 2: Too many hotels
To visit all the gardens on your list, you´ll need to change hotels often. If not every night, then every other night. That means packing and unpacking or living out of your suitcase the entire trip, spending time checking out in the morning and checking back in to a new hotel in the evening. Chances are what you´ll remember is how stressful it was to get your bag down the stairs on time each morning, rather than the beauty of the gardens you saw.
My advice: try and spend no less than three nights in each hotel. This gives you time to unpack and have at least two relaxed evenings without having to worry about repacking your suitcase. For a seven day trip, try and limit your hotels to two. Pick locations which are central from which you can radiate out to visit your chosen gardens.
Mistake 3: Too much time on the bus in the car
There were so many gardens to get to each day that all you remember are the endless hours on the bus and rushing through each garden, more worried about getting to the next one on time than enjoying the one you were visiting. In some cases you even had to forgo lunch so that you could get to the next garden on time and stay on schedule.
My advice: try and set up your itinerary so that you have a maximum of one hour drive between each garden. Start with the farthest one from where you are staying and work your way back.
Mistake 4: Too crowded
You visited all those great historic gardens that have been on your bucket list for years. But each time, you had to contend with crowds and lines
(there´s a reason these places are on your bucket list: they are popular and you are not alone in wanting to visit them). It´s likely you´ll have at least a couple such visits
on your itinerary and that´s fine – these are usually iconic historical places you have to have visited at least once in your life
My advice: time your visit so that you arrive when most of the crowds have left or not arrived yet. The end of the day, about one hour before closing time is usually a good time. Sometimes early morning is a good bet too. I recommend avoiding late morning or early afternoon because that is typically peak time for buses and their hordes.
Mistake 5: Too much of the same
Variety is the spice of life, as the saying goes. On garden tours, that means striking a balance between small and large gardens, historical and contemporary, gardens open to the public and private gardens. Having a mix each and every day makes for a richer experience. Each visit is different and you don´t know what to expect each time so you stay fully engaged all day. That makes for a varied experience and a more memorable one too.
My advice: make sure you mix it up and that your days are varied.
Mistake 6: Too impersonal
If all you see are gardens normally open to the public, you´re likely to satisfy your curiosity for history and to verify in person what you have read in the literature. You´ll be able to knowingly say “it was better than I thought” or “it was awful, how disasppointing”. That´s wonderful but hink how much better it would be if you could actually meet the owner or the head gardener, the person intimately involved with the layout of the garden and responsible for solving the day-to-day challenges caring for a garden invariably brings. You can ask questions and the visit takes on a personal dimension making the experience more intense and therefore more memorable.
My advice: try and include a visit with the owner, or in the case of public gardens, hire a knowledgeable, experienced local guide.
Mistake 7: Too strict
Traveling is about being open to new experiences, discovering new places, meeting new people, and making room for the unfamiliar. If your itinerary is too packed with all those places you´ve always wanted to see, with no wiggle room, then you might short- change yourself of those spontaneous discoveries traveling in a new place invariably offers. Not to mention allowing time in the evening, or in the middle of the day, to savour the moment and take stock of the day and all the places you´ve experienced so far.
My advice: make sure you leave some wiggle room to have the time to and energy to follow those spontaneous discoveries. These can be the best moments of a trip.
So in a nutshell: think carefully about your destination, what you want to see, the pace you´d like to keep, and how you want to visit. Remember that less is more. Think about how you´ll feel after having skipped lunch and rushed through the gardens you were planning to see that day. Will you remember the garden? or how annoyed and frustrated you felt? Surely you´ll want to remember the beauty, engage with the spirit of place by sitting for a while and taking it all in, sharing the experience with your like-minded friends.
After all, there is nothing quite like sharing the joy of new discoveries with your friends – joy is the only thing you`ll have more of even after sharing.
Ready to start planning your dream trip?
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