13. Buy your own fruit. It sounds simple. It is simple. Just do it. You’ll love it. And I don’t mean, if there happens to be a fruit stand outside your hotel door you should buy some, because you need to have 9 servings a day. What I mean is, find fruit and buy it. Make it a daily task that you’re going to track down a fruit stand, a farmers’ market (they’re not just in San Francisco) and get some good fresh fruit. The entire process will expose you to elements of daily life you would have otherwise ignored. Trust me: You’ll have memories from your trips to buy fresh fruit.
It’s not just about buying fruit. You can learn a lot about a city and its neighborhoods by visiting a local market. In Paris, a visit to a neighborhood market had us stumble into one of the neatest little lunch places around. We found a line of ten people waiting for crepes at one particular stand. Where there’s a line, there’s something good. And oh, how right that was. Take some time, find a market or two and explore.
11. Do what you want to do. Don’t let someone else — or a guide book — decide. If you don’t want to see the Louvre then don’t see it. Do Paris or London or Rome the way you want to do it. I went through Cairo and didn’t see the pyramids. And while this isn’t a great example, seeing as I’ve regretted that egg-headed decision every day since it occurred — I can live with it. It makes it my trip and my memories and my damn stupid decision.
I think this one bears repeating. Do what you want to do. Not interested in spending sixteen hours in the Louvre? Don’t. Want to spend half a day at outdoor cafes enjoying the weather? Do it. I think people get way too caught up going through a guide book and trying to shove tons of things into everyday rather than focusing on what they want to do and see. Vacation should not be as stressful as work and part of that requires you taking the work mentality out of planning it.
Of all of the tips, the one I did not particularly agree with was:
7. Err on the side of inexpensive hotels. This goes against most travelers’ natural inclinations. We talk a good game above traveling frugally, but once we get on the road we tend to spend up a bit, and treat ourselves. And that’s fine. This rule isn’t about saving money. It’s about having an interesting trip and the more expensive a place is, the more likely it will have package tourists and people traveling on 7 or 14 day tickets. Nothing against these people but if you want to swap stories about taking a boat through the backwaters of Kerala, go with the cheap place. If you want to talk about who’s going to win the Superbowl this year then go with the package tourists.
I know plenty of people who stay at hostels and cheap hotels. That’s their prerogative. Just because I stay at a place that’s a little more expensive does not mean I want to talk about the Superbowl, it means I could possibly want a bigger bed or some amenity that that particular hotel has available. For me, hotels are about sleeping and being refreshed after a day exploring a city. I have found some cheaper hotels to be popular with college aged tourists who have no problem staying out until 3 or 4 in the morning and then bringing the party back to their room. I prefer to avoid that.
A few tips that I would add:
- Walk – Taxis, buses, and trains are necessary wherever you go, but when you can, try walking as many places as possible. You will be surprised what you come across that you would have otherwise missed in a cab.
- Travel Light – Carrying tons of stuff around a city is no fun for anyone. Manageable pieces of luggage for each traveler is a must. If you cannot pick up your luggage and carry it down a flight of stairs, you may want to reconsider what you are bringing on the trip.
- Keep Your Important Items Safe – You do not need your passport as you walk the streets of London. If the hotel has an in-room safe, use it. The goal is that if someone steals your purse or bag, you still have a way of getting home or getting cash. I lock up my laptop, my passport, and my debit card.
Those are my quick tips. Have any of your own? Feel free to leave them in the comments.