We love to travel. I’m no expert but over the years I’ve learned a few tricks for getting the most out of my vacations and how not to end up in tourist traps. I know not everyone has the same priorities, but here are some lessons I’ve learned:
1. Always involve bikes, boats, or even scooters.
You see things in a different way when you use different modes of transportation, especially renting bikes for the day. I’ve never regretted it. Also boats! Once we were on a trip to Mexico and it was going so-so until we rented a catamaran and skipper for the day. They took us everywhere and showed us the best snorkeling spots–it was fantastic.
2. Look for “awesome” touristy and avoid “bad” touristy.
For example riding the Cable Car in San Francisco is touristy but its awesome touristy, it feels authentic. An example of “bad touristy” is Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. There are three “authentic” things to do there and everything else is contrived and a tourist trap. I always recommend that people get their crab/clam chowder from a street vendor, see the sea lions, play the penny arcade then get out.
3. Be strategic when planning your visit to popular sites.
I really enjoy doing some touristy things but I try to do them when crowds are low. Getting sucked into waiting in line all day can really ruin your trip (or at least that day.) One solution is to limit your time. For example I always tell people to go to the Louvre first thing in the morning (buy tickets in advance). See the biggies: Mona Lisa, Winged Victory etc. spend a little time strolling so you see just how big it is then get out–2 hours tops.
4. At museums ALWAYS get the headphones.
It’s easy to start feeling like a thrifty person if you just paid the entrance fee and now they are trying to gouge you with a headphone fee. Just pay it. The commentary gives you context for the art and for me, changes my museum experience 100%.
5. Err on the side of small
Travel is an industry. People are trying to make money off you, which isn’t a bad thing. But they are going to want to offer things to you on a large scale in order to make a profit. Most of the time the quality of things go down significantly when you get included with the masses. My friend Michelle recently compared a Royal Caribbean cruise she went on where she felt like “cattle” to a small cruise with 200 people around Tahiti. She felt connected to the people and the food was great. When traveling smaller usually means better quality.
6. Consider your Hobbies
If you aren’t a “museum person” don’t spend all day at museums just because thats what you feel you should do. A trip to a good ribbon store or party supply store leaves me so inspired. I always try to seek out stores that feed my interests. Its a great way to discover neighborhoods you wouldn’t normally go to and sometimes becomes my favorite part of the trip.
I’d love to hear if you have any tips on traveling. Any secret tips when you travel? Do you plan out every detail or do you like to be more flexible with your travel plans?
A Holga picture from our 2008 trip to Brazil.