We’ve had the pleasure of writing about our travels for The Independent for more than two years now, and we thought we’d share some of what we’ve learned about traveling from here to there — wherever there may be. Some lessons are easy, some comical, some frustrating, but we learn to travel better as we go along. So here are some of our recommendations.
Enjoy the planning. Discover which aids you prefer for booking travel, be it Expedia, TripAdvisor, booking.com, Kayak — way too many to mention. Since most of them offer pretty much the same in prices and support, find the ones you feel the most comfortable working with. If you’re traveling with others, one of you may end up being the primary planner, but it’s important to confirm choices with travel partners before solidifying them. Planning is perhaps the most important part of the traveling process. But not always.
Getting there can be half the fun. The journey itself can be as satisfying as the destination at its end. We often rent a car and drive nearly 1000 miles on a two-week trip, and the scenery along the roads often inspires us as much as the places to which we’re heading. So, we’ve learned not to hurry the journey from here to there, but to allow ourselves plenty of time to experience the in-betweens. On so many of our trips, the sights we thought we’d most enjoy often turn out to take second place to accidental discoveries. We found a great overlook just because we needed to stretch our legs in the Southwest. And we’ve explored many castles we’ve come across when we were just out meandering.
Simplify. Going to fewer places for longer stretches of time makes everything easier. That’s especially important if you’re traveling with children, because packing and repacking several times for several people can make a trip seem more like work than play. Simplifying also means time saved in the planning process, with fewer transportation issues and fewer rooms to book.
Pack less. Repeat — PACK LESS. Resist the temptation to fill that suitcase to the brim. It may seem like the biggest travel cliché, but it’s absolutely true, especially if you’re going more than one place. It’s amazing how often everything that fit in the suitcases when we left home refuses to fit in the suitcases on the next leg of our journey. Or how heavy that suitcase can feel if you are hoisting it onto yet another train. Rule of thumb: If you’re traveling for two weeks, pack for one. There are always laundromats.
Take advantage of shortcuts. If you travel a lot, consider investing in Global Entry or TSA Pre. Both allow you to bypass some security issues, but only in the U.S. So, don’t forget those quart plastic bags for any liquids that must go through security when you are flying back from another country.
Embrace technology. Computers, cell phones, tablets — they’re a huge help for travelers. Our phones don’t have international service, but WhatsApp and Wi-Fi calling work just as well wherever Wi-Fi is available. And by loading offline maps on our cell phones, we enjoy satellite directions anywhere, even if we’re out walking with no Wi-Fi connection.
Where to stay is a matter of preference. We’re divided on the advantages of hotels over Airbnb. Hotels mean more amenities, while Airbnb means more privacy, homier amenities, and often lower costs. Whichever one we choose, we carefully study reviews for the places we book — what you see online may not be what you get. We’ve learned that photos can be misleading. Actually, we now start with the bad reviews first because, while we’re always open to new experiences, we do know what we don’t like. And because of our constant use of the internet, Wi-Fi is a must wherever we stay.
Eat the local cuisine. You’ll get a much better sense of the place you’re visiting, and you’re likely to save a lot of money. Great examples — a crowded local restaurant in Prague, with HUGE inexpensive helpings; nearly every meal we’ve had in Croatia, where the prices were so low we couldn’t believe them; and the wonderful meat pies we fell in love with in Great Britain.
Be ready to improvise . . . and have fun!