There are very few things I tell people not to do when they ask for travel advice. Some are obvious to me, since I have done it so often. But whether you are a rookie or a veteran of travel, some simple rules are always necessary.
Never overbook yourself I know, it is tempting to make reservations for all of the top restaurants that your friends have suggested. We had reservations at Mexico City’s top places. But once I was toppled over by altitude sickness, I had to cancel all of them. The same goes for tours and excursions. I arranged a food tour and bike tour on successive days since I was by myself until Mr. Mike arrived. It worked out just fine. But I do see the problem with tour after tour, activities that interfere with your spontaneity.
2. Airports are not fun! Everyone knows this. So, it is important to make waiting and layovers more comfortable. So, I always have the option of using an airline lounge, either with a Business Class ticket, or a lounge pass from my United Mileage Plus card. Not many airports catch my eye for shopping, unless I am in Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, or London. Even fewer get my attention for eating, unless I am in Lima, Peru, Hong Kong, or San Francisco. So, why not relax in the lounge, drink and eat some free stuff, read their newspapers and periodicals, watch some CNN, and use their free Wi-Fi?
3. Try to stay at a hotel in the inner city. Getting stuck by an airport or a remote resort really limits your options. The only time I stay near an airport is 1)an early morning flight or 2)an outrageously inexpensive night. The city offers much, much more. First, I can walk most anywhere or catch cheap public transportation. I can walk the city, to eat, shop, or explore. This was particularly true on my last trip to eastern Europe. I was in the middle of Prague, Warsaw, Budapest, Vienna, and Munich, and could walk to most places, and take the bus or train anywhere else I needed to go. Food was just around every corner, and I could walk miles in each direction, safely. This is also true in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, or Hanoi, among others.
4. Too many places. It is tempting to see many different places on overseas trip, both to maximize your time and your investment in a big airfare. I bent this rule somewhat, when I am revisiting a city, since it is usually centered on a specific goal, such as seeing the remnant of the Berlin Wall, after having crossed Checkpoint Charlie in 1971 at the height of the Cold War. My next trip to SE Asia will be a whirlwind, of a maximum of two nights in each country. Why? The trip is designed mostly to visit dear friends, in three different locations, Cambodia, and two in Malaysia. But in general, it is best to lay down roots in a place like Hong Kong, Paris, Rome or Tokyo and just focus on that city.
5. Don’t overpack! I am still sometimes guilty of this, even after traveling extensively over the years. Weather often dictates the contents of my bag. Extremes in temperature are a challenge, even on short trips. My recent Amtrak trip from San Diego to Seattle had me packing both warm weather and cold weather clothing. Even traversing a small country like Vietnam will produce a 30 or 40 degree difference in temperature. Inside secret: take clothing you can donate or give away to someone.
You are now guilt-free. Enjoy yourself! Nothing ruins a potentially great trip than going wrong on some of the above mentioned rules.