This week I got my St. Louis Science Center membership as preparation for upcoming visits to other museums and science centers. In the spirit of planning and preparing for trips, I thought I would share some of my tips for successful museum and park visits.
Before you go
-Do some research: If at all possible, do a little research before you go to find out the top things you want to do on your trip. Whether it’s a hike or an exhibit, plan for your “must do” items ahead of time. This can also be helpful if you are planning on going on more than one trip. I bought a National Park Service annual membership for $80 up front, but so far it has saved me far more money in the long run.
-Know your interests: Just because something is a popular attraction, doesn’t mean you will enjoy it if it’s not your thing. I am not a big water person, so I didn’t put Schlitterbahn on my list even though it showed up time and time again as a top attraction. You can still try new things, but don’t box yourself in to something that you know you won’t enjoy.
-Be flexible: Leave some flexibility in your time and what you want to do. I know I said to plan, but leave enough flexibility to change things around if they aren’t what you expect when you get there.
-Don’t overbook yourself: It can be tempting to pack as much in to a trip as possible, but don’t overdo it. If you are too exhausted, you won’t enjoy any of the attractions you visit even if you were really looking forward to it. You can still pack a lot into a day or a weekend. I can usually do museums in 1-2 hours and parks in 2-3, but hikes or special exhibits can change that. Even with that I still try not to plan more than 2-3 attractions a day so that I make sure to enjoy them all.
Once you’re there
-Ask the experts: Whether it’s a ranger, museums staffer, or just a local, you can often get really good information on what attractions are worth it and what can be skipped by asking the experts. They can also generally tell you if you have squeezed too much into a schedule or if your plans are reasonable. I’ve added and taken away several attractions along the way based on expert advice, and it has lead to some really awesome experiences.
-Plan for success: Schedule your day to make the most of it. I like to do hikes before visitors’ centers or overlooks so that I can cool off while still enjoying my day. Make your “must do” stops first so that everything else is just a bonus and you don’t miss out on anything you really wanted to do.
-Go with the flow: Not everything will be what you planned or expected, and that’s ok. Weather can affect outdoor trips, and exhibits may not be all you had in mind. If you keep an open mind and are open to whatever comes your way, you can still have a great time even if your original plans are a bust.
I know that none of these tips are exactly rocket science, but they’ve helped me to make the most of my adventures. It can be stressful trying to plan for and make the most of trips, but if you relax you can find the fun on any trip.