15 Travel Tips to Learn From Designers
We followed them as they explored far and wide with a keen eye and an adventurous spirit.
Published Mar 1, 2017 5:00 AM
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After poring through the Instagram feeds of some of our favorite designers, we came to this conclusion about travel: It should be fun. These creative women and men play as hard as they work, and they have documented their getaways, both decadent and doable, to catalogue their explorations and inspire us along the way. While it’s tempting to get lost in their far-flung escapes, don’t forget to put down your phone and have some travel adventures of your own. But then pick up your phone again to use your camera.
Make New Friends
Hands down, one of the best takeaways from travel is the growing circle of friends that you make—both human and otherwise. Even if you are long past the stage where you meet a gaggle of new buds every time you stop at a hostel for the night, travel has a strange and wonderful way of bringing you into contact with like-minded adventurers as well as people with entirely different perspectives and backgrounds. Yet another reason to take your eyes off your phone and to look at the world around you…and the people in it.
Get The Lay of the Land on Foot
The best way to explore cities, the countryside, the mountains, beaches, and anywhere else you could possibly imagine is on foot. Walking allows you to take in the sights, sounds, and smells that you would miss if you were whizzing by in a taxi, and it also offers more opportunities to ask local people (instead of your smart phone) about the area and their recommendations…and how to actually get where you are going if you happen to be lost. Another bonus: Being outside in natural light can help your body adjust to jetlag.
Seek Out Authentic Goods
Kelly Wearstler combined work and pleasure effortlessly when she traveled to Indonesia with her family. She relaxed on the beach and carved out plenty of time for visiting with local artisans to peruse their textiles. While fine fabrics can be ordered with the click of a button these days, actually traveling to the source makes your décor more personal and authentic.
Find Inspiration in the Details
Celerie Kemble’s Instagram feed is dotted with small moments: a green, leafy-looking column with a design that would look great either in wallpaper or skirt form; a living tree carved with a dreamy, damask design. While you are basking in the big picture of your surroundings, don’t forget to take notice and to document the little details that capture your eye. In the end, these little glimpses of beauty and intrigue may be the images that stay with you long after your suitcase has been unpacked.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
There’s something about being in a new place that encourages you to break free from your routine and try something new. If you’re a gym rat or cycle studio- obsessed at home, use your new surroundings as an invitation to try beachside yoga, skiing, waterskiing, SUP paddleboarding, scuba, or any other workout activity that is typically overlooked. Breaking free from your comfort zone can take a variety of forms so try a new cuisine, go to a traditional performing arts performance even if you typically find them stuffy, and be free to the idea of discovering a new passion.
Have Realistic Expectations
Go somewhere! It doesn’t have to be fancy; it doesn’t have to be far. And it’s almost always worth it, even if you have to modify your travel expectations because you have young children or are on a lean budget. Asemily henderson
herself addressed on IG, “don’t worry, we’ll eventually leave the country without them but we aren’t ready yet. So today’s post is addressed to my 20-year-old self: Travel OFTEN, and travel CHEAP.”
Squeeze the Most Out of Every Minute
Joanna Gaines and her crew only had five hours in San Francisco last year, but they make the most of their trip, including the obligatory Golden Gate Bridge photo op. The lesson: Even the shortest stopover can include some highlights. Plan ahead to maximize your time and to figure out the best route to hit all of the places on your must list.
It’s OK to Go to the Tourist-y Spots
Somewhere along the way, it became cool to bypass all the typical tourist highlights and focus on finding insider secrets. While we absolutely love stumbling across those little tourist-free treasures that make you feel like you have found the “real” Paris, for example, there’s no shame in visiting and revisiting some of the most popular spots. (Eiffel Tower and Louvre, we’re looking at you.) Bottom line: See what you want to see, not what someone else thinks is cool.
Fuel Yourself With Local Fare
For many of us, trying authentic food from a particular culture is reason enough for taking a trip. Whether you head just a few towns over or across the globe, be sure to sample some of food that the area you are visiting is known for. Not only will it inspire you in the kitchen when you return home, but you will get a hands-on and delicious intro to that place’s cultural history and influences.
Show Your Gratitude
Being able to travel is a gift, and even those of us lucky enough to have millions of frequent flier miles know that exploring new territory or revisiting a favorite locale is a thrill. So feel free to freak out (quietly) when you have your first lick of green tea soft serve in Tokyo or when you get thisclose to a piece of artwork you’ve long loved.
Expect the Unexpected
Timothy Corrigan has offices in Paris and LA, so his IG contains plenty of examples of French countryside chic and poolside Cali views. He still makes time for travel around the world with surprising architectural finds nearly everywhere he goes including a Beaux-Arts building in downtown Pittsburgh that looks well-suited for a European locale and the modern, evolving skyline of Qatar juxtaposed with a traditional fishing boat. Keep your eyes and mind open wherever you go; you never know what you might stumble across.
Consider Your Company
If you’re child-free, flying by the seat of your pants and taking each day as it comes can be a thrilling respite from the typical scheduled workweek. If the kiddos are along for the ride, some planning is in order: Being stuck in an unfamiliar place with a crankypants toddler who needs a nap/lunch/free space to run around is no fun for anyone. Keeping their usual schedule in mind is never a bad idea and will keep meltdowns to a minimum so that the whole family can make the most of their vacation days. Kid-friendly spots like splash pads, playgrounds, or age-appropriate museums are scattered nearly everywhere now, so you can take turns alternating between activities that will be a winner for adults and children.
Take a Staycation
If a staycation is the only trip in the cards, fear not. Explore your own surroundings with the perspective of a visitor. New Yorkers like Thom Felicia might be tempted to stay put in their own neighborhoods during their precious downtime, but sights like the Oculus Mall with its cathedral-like dome and airy interior await in the ever-changing downtown Financial District. Wherever you live, seek out new spots instead of your typical hangouts. After a weekend of shopping, museum-going, farm-visiting, or whatever suits your hometown (and dining out instead of cooking for yourself), you’ll feel like you adventured to a new place—no long car trips or plane tickets required.
Think Beyond Your Style
A slide might not be the most practical architectural element to bring back for your home’s dreamboard, but it inspired this designer to think a little more playfully. When you’re on vacation, feel free to throw away your design rulebook: If you find a piece of art or furniture or a trinket you adore—even if it doesn’t “fit” your home’s décor—think about ways you can make it work. You might surprise yourself: If you’ve got a bunch of high-energy little ones at home, the slide, for example, quickly goes from “who would do this?” to “absolute genius.”
Savor the Memories
After all is said and done: There’s no place like home. When your trip is over, upload your photos to your computer and actually print them out or order them to go in an album, display your new purchases, and luxuriate in the simple pleasure of being back in your own bed. Another pro travel tip: If possible, give yourself a buffer of a day after coming back from a trip to get laundry done, restock the fridge, and recover from any taxing travel before heading back to work.