The Consummate Traveler: Balancing Endurance and Itineraries

By Michele Goncalves
Michele Goncalves
Michele Goncalves
August 8, 2013 Updated: August 8, 2013

I admit that it is hard to accept getting older. There are obvious physical changes that remind us of this inevitability each day when we look in the mirror. Yet, surprisingly enough, age may also be reflected in our travels too. At least this was the case for me on my last mini-holiday in Paris.

When I arrived in the “City of Light,” I could not wait to hit the pavement on a grand walking tour to revisit all of my favorite spots. I spent about 3 hours walking, non-stop, and found myself completely wiped out—sitting in the Tuileries Gardens resting my aching feet and legs. It was really hard for me to get up. This is when it hit me that my typical itineraries of the past may need to be revamped.

The funny thing was that a good friend of mine who flew in for a few days to spend time with me had the same thing happen. We had done a grand walk all the way from the left bank Luxembourg Garden area to the Opera/Madeleine area when my friend began to complain of badly aching feet. We laughed, sat at a café for three hours, and knew that our all-day shopping excursions of the past were going to need to be cut down in the years ahead.

In fact, my older sister jokes that her days of being the vacation warden (our nickname for her) are over. She was always the one who was dressed and ready to go for a 12-mile hike at 7 a.m. while the rest of us cringed. Although she is 53 and in excellent physical shape, my sister’s routine now involves more lounging on beaches than intense walking.

If you are currently planning a vacation to a destination that will involve lots of sightseeing on foot, my advice is to be realistic in setting your daily agenda goals. This is especially true if you are not accustomed to significant amounts of walking. Here are some tips to consider when planning the perfect itinerary:

1. Discuss endurance levels with your travel partners: If you are going away with friends or family, it is important to ask everyone what their endurance levels are. A good rule of thumb is to plan for 2-hour bursts of walking, followed by 2 hours of sitting in a park, restaurant, or café to rest. This may need to be revised once you try it out to meet everyone’s abilities, but it is a good formula to try.

2. Make a list of your top ten sightseeing goals: After you have a prioritized list of what you want to see, the truth is that you may in fact only accomplish half of them. This happened to me in Paris. I had intentions of going to shop in Galleries Lafayette and doing my favorite walk around Sacré Coeur and Montmartre, but it just didn’t happen. I opted to just hang out at cafés instead.

3. Consider adding days to your stay or take an open-air bus tour: If you have a real desire to hit all of your sightseeing goals during your stay, you may need to add a day or two to your vacation in order to give yourself enough time to visit them properly. Or, an alternative is to settle for a quick outside scan of your “must sees” by taking the open-air bus tours so you can at least say you have seen them.

As always, I wish you all the happiest of travels!

Michele Goncalves
Michele Goncalves