I love to sleep in, and when my husband and I were first married I really resisted getting up early on vacation. In my mind, vacations were for relaxing and not for setting an alarm in the morning!
My husband is the opposite of me. He rarely sleeps in, especially on vacation.
And I admit that over the years I’ve learned from him that early mornings and evenings are almost always the best time of day to be out and about on vacation.
Early Morning Memories
I can look back now and see that on our countless trips my best memories are very often from the early morning hours when most people are still in bed.
Early morning hours offer empty streets, untouched beaches, and cooler temperatures. It’s the time to see locals going about everyday life as children walk or take the bus to school and shopkeepers sweep their stairs or set out their wares.
Embrace the Afternoon Nap
And if you value your sleep on vacations like I do and don’t want to miss out on extra time to relax, I encourage you to embrace the afternoon nap.
This works great if you have young kids who need to nap anyway, but it also works with teenagers who are willing to spend some downtime in the middle of the day reading or watching T.V. or swimming at the hotel pool.
When our kids were younger and we brought them to Disneyland, we loved getting to the park before the gates opened. The early morning would be cool and full of excitement. Then after a fun morning, we’d go back to the hotel for a couple hours during the hottest part of the afternoon for lunch and a nap or a swim at the pool.
This fit well into our budget travel style since we could avoid the expensive food in the park!
When we’d get back to the park for the evening, we’d always see lots of exhausted, sunburned families with kids starting into meltdowns, but we would be fresh and ready to go again.
On our recent trip to Acadia National Park we got up at 4:00am one morning to watch the sunrise. Then we went on a hike while it was still cool. We were back to our hotel by mid morning, when many people were just getting up for the day. We took a nap (while the kids who didn’t want to sleep watched some T.V.) then were refreshed and ready for more fun in the evening, when beaches were emptying and the crowds were returning back to their hotel rooms or restaurants for dinner.
I don’t consider naptime to be time wasted on vacation; it’s what makes the early mornings and evenings really enjoyable!
Get Out in the Evening
Like early mornings, evenings are a great time to be out and about. Around dinner time, when most people are heading to restaurants or back to their hotels after a busy day, hiking trails and beaches and attractions are often less crowded and more pleasant.
In Acadia National Park we hiked the Beehive Trail in the evening, a hike which is usually really crowded, but we only passed a few other hikers on the trail. It was great!
Bonus: Get Better Pictures
When I was just starting the Trip Reporter website and learning all I could, I came across a post that I’ve always remembered by Monica Lucy entitled “How to photograph your travels and still be in the moment.”
At the time I was concerned that our family vacations would become more work than play, that I would spend the whole time trying to get good pictures for posts and drafting my thoughts in my head instead of experiencing the trip just for the joy of it.
Monica recommends taking most (if not all) of your pictures during the golden hours right after sunrise and just before sunset. Then you can spend the rest of your day enjoying the moment. Her advice is brilliant, and it has helped me stay more present during our vacations, while also getting great pictures!
Unless you really enjoy the hustle and bustle of crowds, consider joining the early-risers on vacation and start your day off right. Then head back out toward the end of the day for a few more golden hours before bed. You won’t regret it!