Monday, February 3, 2014

5 Classic Travel Mistakes

As I get ready for my latest adventure to Europe this week, I took some time to think of a few travel lessons I’ve been forced to learn, through experience, over the years. Whether it was wasting a precious day away at an airport connection, or grabbing a subpar meal at a cleverly disguised tourist trap, it’s never easy to admit you made a bad call or just simply weren’t prepared. Going into this trip I’m sure I’ll make a few more mistakes, but here are five that I think I got a handle on moving forward:

1. Over-packing

A classic rookie travel blunder. Unless your trip is entirely filled with trade shows and cocktail parties, you don’t need a new outfit each and every day. If you are touring Europe, bring comfortable (yet presentable) clothes that you can wear multiple times throughout the trip. Might hit up a fancy restaurant once or twice? Bring a nice dress shirt and a decent pair of pants. Over-packing is even more of a waste down south where you will probably be wearing the same two to three swim trunks all week and the same pair of khakis at dinner. Those three pairs of jeans and four sweaters you brought “in case it gets cold at night” are gonna stay folded up at the bottom of your suitcase.

2. Your eyes can see far better than any camera lens

I noticed on a recent trip to DC that I was looking at the sights through my SLR’s digital screen more than through my own retinas. I remember standing out in front of the White House, trying to get the best possible shot to throw up on Twitter, and neglecting to just enjoy the moment. Photos make for fantastic memories, but so do actual memories. With that being said, here is a rather witty comic that totally contradicts this point.

3. Pay the extra $100 and fly direct

Now I understand this isn’t always possible. From here in Toronto, it’s difficult to get to many US destinations without a connection. But when flying eight hours to Europe do yourself a huge favor and fly direct, instead of saving 10-15% and adding on three hours and significant hassle and stress to your journey. On my last Euro trip we flew from Toronto to Vienna, then a few days later from Vienna to Rome, and finally from Rome back to Toronto. All three of these flights connected in Paris. On one of the connections we had to clear customs and our stopover was only an hour! I would not wish these types of headaches on my enemy. Pay a little more and fly direct. 

4. Research your restaurants

My favorite website TripAdvisor isn’t just for hotels! They also have an extensive collection of restaurant reviews. You won’t feel more cheated than sitting down at a nice Italian restaurant in Rome, only to discover that meal is less authentic than the Olive Garden. (I mean no disrespect to the Olive Garden, it’s a must-stop for me when I’m in Buffalo, …but not Italy.) The food in Italy is outstanding if you know where to go, and a little research goes a long way.

5. This is (probably) not your last trip, you don’t have to do everything

I’m guilty of this on every trip, and probably will be again in Europe this time around. It’s common traveler’s nature to want to see as much as possible. For the majority of us who are not full-time travelers and have a limited number of vacation days, it’s so tempting to plan jam-packed itineraries in one place, or try and ‘day trip’ to one location while staying in another. While this is good for simply checking items off of a bucket list, it will only take away from the enjoyment of your trip. The cliché “stop and smell the roses” works quite well in this scenario. Come away from the city you visited knowing that you walked the streets, explored the neighborhoods, tasted the food and appreciated the culture. That last show or monument you missed, or side trip to the countryside can wait for next time, just enjoy that hour killed at the local café, and relax knowing you're on vacation and the rush hour bustle will be waiting for you back home.

Thanks for reading. Looking forward to my last pre-trip post on Thursday before I board the plane to Munich. Bis Später!

Mike @ Palms & Pints

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