Travel Folly to Travel Glory

National Lampoon's European Vacation travel advice.

“Look kids! Big Ben, Parliament.” ~ Clark Griswold

OK, time for a guilty pleasure confession. You know, how we all have these silly things in life that we enjoy, even though they might be considered lame or embarrassing by our peers, parents, or children? Like watching reality TV or reading trashy romance novels? Well, European Vacation was one of those movies that fits in that category for me. I can watch it over and over. Should National Lampoon have any real travel advice to offer? Should it be an inspiration for travel? I don’t know, but anything that gets us off our sofa and onto the computer or into the books planning the next vacation can’t be all bad. And whether we like it or not, Hollywood, Bollywood, Cannes, and Sundance have been influencing travel for decades.

One of the latest travel fads is exploring movie location trails. You can travel from setting to setting, experiencing the landscapes and sights of all of the on-location sets for Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or even Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code series. And why not? We see them in the movie, they are obliviously beautiful, often historically significant, and usually tourist friendly (sometimes too much so). I don’t usually choose to visit a place solely because I saw it in a movie, but many times seeing the sight on the big screen sparks an interest and other things about it draw me in. So what about European Vacation inspires our travel?

Quite a bit actually. Not so much the sites in the movie; although I must admit I have driven in the same roundabout that confounded Clark for an entire day and night. On another occasion, I was up on the stage being slapped, and slapping back, whilst dancing in lederhosen to a German oompah band. Instead, it’s the humor of the movie that gets me, as slapstick as most of it is. I can’t tell you how often this week’s travel quote gets used in our family. We’ve all been there, I think. On a trip to Peru we ended up taking several small hopper flights to various destinations. And each flight began, ended, or transited Lima airport. We must have walked through that small terminal ten times over the course of a three week period. “Look kids! Big Ben, Parliament.” It truly does happen more times than I can count. It even happens on road trips.

One time we were driving through Barcelona and we just couldn’t find our way out of the city and onto the highway (we were heading south towards Valencia). We must have driven through, in and around, and past the city center for an hour or more. Look kids! La Rambla, Christopher Columbus. No matter what, I just couldn’t find my way out of the center and we kept ending up at the port. Strange! Of course, this was in the days before GPS and smart phones. But still! I’ve always prided myself on my innate sense of direction. We finally caught a taxi driver at a red light and asked him how to get to the highway. It’s no use getting angry or distraught. Just go with the flow, look for the fun and be happy!

My travel advice for this week? Like Clark and his family, learn to have fun with whatever happens to you along the way. For me, that’s the message to take away from this otherwise second (or third) rate movie. When life gives you a roundabout, stay in it for a round or two, look out the windows, and enjoy the scenery-again and again and again!


Pin Big Ben for later!

Have you been to the iconic Big Ben? Have you driven around the roundabout like Clark Griswold?






























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33 thoughts on “Travel Folly to Travel Glory”

  1. I LOVED European vacation and love the them song: Loved the whole sequence when they were visiting family in Germany and got the wrong address. The old couple was too polite to tell them they were in the wrong place and the Griswalds still thought they had visited family when they left the next day…
    The British guy they kept running into, the French waiter who openly insulted them to their faces…lots of generalizations of different cultures but it was a silly movie and lots of fun. But I loved how Clark was so excited and also so oblivious to everything. One of those “best of travel movies” in my opinion.

    Frank (bbqboy)

  2. My oldest son is name Clark. We tell him that he’s named after the Griswold family patriarch. (He isn’t.) And yes, that quote came up many times when we were standing in front of Big Ben & Parliament this summer. The funny thing is that my mom and I had the same running gag more than 25 years ago when I was a teen visiting London with my own parents.

  3. It’s so true about remembering just to sit back and have fun and not loose your temper over the small stuff!!

  4. I visited a few places where movies were filmed, in Hawaii I found places where Lost was filmed. Also Lord of the Rings I saw places in New Zealand. I don’t generally try and find places from films I just seem to happen upon them!!

    1. Clare, I think that’s how we find them usually as well, although I have to admit I’m totally going to check out some GoT spots in Northern Ireland this summer.

  5. My kids love things like this – to be able to connect history culture and movies into their lives is awesome – and I think keeps them interested. Great read and fun thank you for sharing

  6. I’ve never seen this movie but now I want to! I would love to do a tour from the Da Vinci code series. I just watched Inferno recently and I recognized so many sites from the movie. The entire Da Vinci code series has had some amazing locations they’ve filmed in.

  7. We recently did a movie set tour in California. Driving out to the desert near Palmdale and Lancaster we stopped by Vasquez Rocks where Star Trek and many other movies were filmed. It was popular with lot of old time westerns. Then went further where they filmed scenes from Kill Bill and the Terminator. Sure looks a lot different in real life!

  8. Carol Colborn

    We don’t travel with kids anymore. So for us, it is simply, “Look, Bill, we’re back in Times Square!”

  9. We also love to be inspired by movies and T.V shows, and love to seek out some of the filming destinations! We’ve had a few Game of Thrones tours!

  10. I have to admit that we did the Harry Potter trail in the U.K. And, everytime we go around a roundabout and didn’t decide which street to exit, which refrain do you think hubby repeats?

  11. Like your Barcelona story, our family got lost in Brussels. We were spending Easter Sunday there quite a few years ago – before smart phones and GPS – and I wanted to visit The Grand Place. We drove around for quite some time and even stopped to ask for directions. I’m not sure how we never found it. But we just cut our losses and headed to a gas station to pick up snacks and sandwiches – because that was easiest. Someday I’ll make it there!

    1. Jill, Well the Grand Place is amazing, so I do hope you make it there…however, I believe that Belgium has the best gas station food in the world! So all good.

  12. I like visiting places where certain movies were filmed:) I don’t travel somewhere because of a movie, but if I’m already in a city and there’s one famous street/sight/shop from a movie I really like I’d visit it:) #wkendtravelinspiration .

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