At California's Cornerstone Gardens(Nina Willdorf)
In general, I'm not an uneasy traveler, but two things can make me highly anxious. One: letting someone else decide where I'm going to stay. Two: staying someplace without Internet access. I was forced to face both fears in trips this year.
Like most Budget Travel readers, I enjoy the planning process just about as much as the trip itself. Uncovering a gorgeous little gem of a hotel that hasn't been written up anywhere—yet!—becomes something to brag about. Our collection of "Stylish Steals", the world's best new boutique hotels under $150, is filled with spots like that—every single one of them gets my enthusiastic stamp of approval (which editors here will tell you is not all that easy).
I had to let go in a big way, however, when it came to this year's upcoming holiday week in Palm Springs, Calif., with my extended family. My mother beat me to the process of sifting through rental listings. She found a Spanish estate with five bedrooms, a pool, and an outdoor fireplace, within walking distance of downtown. (Nice work, Mom!) But I can't say giving up control was comfortable. And vacationing with parents, sisters, and in-laws? That might not be the easiest thing, either. I'm hoping that Marjorie Ingall's sharp advice from her multigenerational trip to Mexico transfers and that letting go just a little will lead to some lasting, good memories.
On a smaller scale, this past September I found myself pushing my own internal boundaries, not totally by choice. My friends had spearheaded a house rental on the coast of Maine, and it didn't have Internet access (double whammy!). I could barely get a sense from the photos as to what it was like. Plus, there was talk of dial-up. Dial-up! As it happens, the dial-up didn't even work, and my BlackBerry somehow erased all of my e-mails mid-trip. I was disconnected—in all the right ways. And after just one hour of sitting on a diving board with a good novel, it was hard to remember what I'd been scared of in the first place.