There are few things in life that get me all giddy inside more than designing the perfect vacation itinerary #nerdalert. I love every. single. thing. about. it. I love all the planning. I love all the researching. I also love discovering an unusual and unexpected place or activity. Don’t even get me started on the amount of time I have spent in my life pouring over restaurant reviews and pictures of perfectly plated local favorites. I know plenty of folks who like to figure it all out when they arrive to their destination and of course that is always an option. However, I find that just a little preplanning drastically cuts down on the “What are we going to do?” and the “Where should we eat dinner?” conversations that suck up soooooo much time. Especially, if you and your friends are suffering from a major case of decision fatigue that probably caused you to need the vacation in the first place.
To me, the perfect itinerary has a little bit of something for everyone. If you are the resident activities coordinator of your group or even if you have hesitantly accepted the responsibility, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Plan for down time or free time- The thing that turns people off the most is that sinking feeling that the fantasy they had all week of drinking margaritas by the pool is being foiled. Pack in enough space for people to do their own thing their own way.
- Be flexible – If there is something amazing happening in the city that you did not know about, scratch the list and seize the moment.
- It’s not just about you – It is hard to make everyone happy, but you should try your best to incorporate a variety of activities: a farmer’s market visit or cooking demo for your foodie friend or a behind the scenes tour of a stadium for a sports fan. Then throw in a hike, a museum visit, and a little live music and dancing and you have got just about everyone covered.
- Include various price points- First of all, know your audience. Extravagant dinners are fun to indulge in but taco trucks can be just as delicious. Include activities and dining experiences that are the best of both worlds. Besides, sometimes you just want to wear flip-flops and a sarong to dinner.
- Check with the hotel – When you check-in (or call ahead), inquire about any entertainment or special events on the property. It’s probably free and it’s definitely within walking distance.
- Let people opt out – Your friend is skipping dinner to order room service and read a book. Praise her for nourishing her soul and don’t be a jerk about it.
As a special treat, I have put together a little list of the things I enjoyed from a recent weekend I spent in San Clemente. It’s laid back vibe served as a perfect backdrop for a little low-pressure leisurely relaxation. Pick a few or add them all to your completely customized itinerary. Enjoy!
- Grab a perfect cup of coffee and a pastry from Bear Coast Coffee. They brew Sweet Bloom which is absolutely delicious. If you get there early enough you can grab a window seat and watch with envy as all the folks who seemingly don’t appear to have day jobs pass you by. You will love the beachy relaxed character of this place and their baristas have the brightest smiles you have ever seen. Don’t forget to grab a bag of beans for your coffee loving friend (read: me).
- Right across from Bear Coast Coffee is the San Clemente Pier. It’s a perfect place to take a little stroll. There you will get the opportunity to get lost in the power and strength of the surfers as they tackle and ride the waves. If you have some gear, you can fish off the pier and enjoy the company of your fellow fishermen who are often donning eccentric fishing hats.
- Explore the shops on Avenida Del Mar. This strip of quaint little stores gives off a serious small town vibe. There are plenty of restaurants, gift shops, and boutiques to enjoy. Two must sees for me:
- The Warehouse on Del Mar is a store specializing in home décor. It is overflowing with unique items and eye candy for your little abode. You might even find a few signature pieces for your wardrobe.
- The San Clemente Florist is more than a flower shop. It has specialty gifts and goodies for foodies and Zen seekers alike. From their selection of inspirational books to homemade gin kits you will definitely find something special here.
- Lunch at Nick’s is not optional. You must do this. The service is amazing and every bit of the food was delicious. Are you a fan of the butter cake at Mastro’s? Yeah, me too, but this one is better (I know, I know it’s hard to believe).
- Get a foot massage at Massage Florid. First of all, it’s a steal and it is the perfect pick me up after a morning of strolling or just what you need to prep you for your afternoon activities.
- Remember that free time I was telling you about? Just stick it in your plan right now, so you won’t forget.
- Vine is one of those dark and moody restaurant and bars I love. Everyone in there just seems to be living their best life, so it makes you feel like maybe you are living yours too. The cocktails taste as intentional as the cuisine. I highly recommend that you make reservations and try the Crispy Meyer Lemon & Honey Duck Wings.
- South Swell Hand Dipped Ice Cream is a place where memories are made. I don’t know about you, but I love watching the behind the scenes action of anything. In this place, you get to experience the simple joy of watching a creamy and seamlessly constructed ice cream bar become fully submerged in a sweet coating of your choice. After the dip comes the toppings, of which there are few limitations.
Special note: There is also a farmer’s market at North Beach on Wednesdays from 4p.m.-8p.m. that we missed due to the weather.
Have a perfect day to share? Share your “must sees” in the comment box.