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Monday, July 28, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 4/2/2006

Years of wandering lead to 'travel truths'

Over the course of many, many years of wandering the world, a certain number of travel truths have revealed themselves to us.

It's been a decade or so since we showed you our list, so here's an updated set of travel truisms, 2006 style.

  • Plan each trip with the idea that you'll go there again some day. Treating travel as a once-in-a-lifetime experience almost always results in back-breaking itineraries because you try to see too much and end up seeing very little. It's much better to concentrate on a smaller area.

    Do it thoroughly and assume that you'll be back for more. Even if it never happens, the trip you do take will be more memorable.

  • The more effort you put into planning a trip, the more you'll get out of it. What with the ubiquitous Internet and the proliferation of guide books, there's really no excuse anymore for not being thoroughly prepared for a trip. Learning as much as you can ahead of time means that you filter out those things you're not interested in, and you won't end up a passive traveler herded mindlessly from place to place.

    This applies to independent as well as organized tours.

  • Using a good travel agent can pay countless dividends. Picking prices and places solely from Internet sites may seem like a good idea to the electronically savvy but for airfares and the like, experienced travel agents are still worth the nominal fees they charge. After some 20 years of attrition, only the real pros are left, and they cannot only save you money but significantly reduce stress.

  • All guide books are not created equal. Each is written for its own niche audience. So it's well worth your time to study the options and look for basic facts over beauty, and recommendations that fit your pocket book and travel style.

  • Pack less. Live better. Those who take just one bag (22 inches maximum for a carry-on) enjoy a freedom of action and flexibility never dreamed of by fellow travelers lugging a multitude of giant cases filled with a superfluity of items. Make the commitment to downsize and you'll never regret it.

  • Never take anything you're not prepared to lose. The best offense is a good defense, whether you're fighting pickpockets or brain fade. If you take sensible precautions and carry nothing of any value - sentimental or otherwise - you'll always come home with your possessions and your pride intact.

  • Great experiences frequently occur in inverse proportion to money spent.

    Cocooning yourself in 5-star splendor means you'll never meet the locals on their turf. Or get invited to the party or the pig roast.

  • First impressions of a destination are frequently wrong. Take your time checking out a new city or area and avoid making rash judgments based solely on some bad encounter or unsatisfactory accommodations.

  • Keep a travel journal. Even those once-in-a-lifetime occurrences have a way of fading from memory. Capture the details of that favorite hotel, perfect dinner, or local encounter!

  • Don't call home. All you ever hear about are things you can't do anything about anyway. Keep your mind on your trip and worry about the rest when you get back. But leave phone numbers where you can be reached in emergencies.

  • Always make the Tourist Office your first stop. Pick up maps, brochures, lists of events, self-guided walking tours, transportation passes, and so on. And if you don't have a place to stay, the staffers will be able to find one for you.

  • Beat jet lag by changing your watch to local time immediately and then simply stay awake when you arrive at your destination. Get lots of sunshine, and then go to bed when the locals do. We find it more effective than pills or special diets.

  • Don't promise to bring back gifts. You can spend an inordinate amount of time and money buying all those gifts for friends and family. Train your loved ones not to expect anything and then if you occasionally happen upon something that's just right, the surprise will be all the greater.

  • Eat and drink with the people who live there. Watch when and where they go to dinner and follow them in. Not only will you save a bunch of money and have more fun, you'll also learn more about the local culture.

    Contact Roger Holliday and Claudia Fischer at: rogerholliday@wcnet.org



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