We’ve explored dozens of cities, domestic and abroad, and while our friends and family think we do it flawlessly (we lead them down this garden path), truth be told, we’ve made mistakes along the way. Nothing so dramatic as to ruin a holiday, but enough of an annoyance for us to think: “man, if only someone told us.”
10. Buy that souvenir now. You think you’ll shop around and if you don’t find a better souvenir of the trip, you’ll go back and find that shop again. Well you won’t. You won’t find something better and you won’t want to use your last day traipsing around to places you’ve already been and seen. Buy it when you see it.
9. Ask the hotel for dining recommendations and have them reserve a spot. In small towns on the weekends, just like at home, the best restos fill up quickly. Instead of walking around being shut out of options, a good hotel can always get you in someplace. Don’t be afraid to ask to dine where the locals do and be honest with a comfortable price point. Once we embraced this tip, we discovered neat places we’d go back to again. We also stopped stressing with “where are we going for dinner?” The decision was made for us.
8. Plan two itineraries. There might be unexpected rain and you want to be inside. Or, it ends up being sunny and you want to be outside. Have a contingency plan in place to give maximum flexibility, but always be mindful of point number 2 below and plan accordingly.
7. But don’t over-plan. If you’re in a place for a few days, enjoy that place. There’s no reason to believe that you won’t be back someday. So you don’t need to fit every single thing into your weekend away. Do a select few items and don’t harass yourself. If you loved it, you’ll go back. The place you wanted to see will still be there when you return. Unless it’s a glacier. If it’s a glacier, go see that.
6. Use your first class splurge to get a good nights sleep. Definitely take advantage of a moderately priced upgrade on a red eye to avoid economy class. But instead of gorging on the food and drink, arrive at your destination refreshed with a good nights sleep. To still get your perks, why not arrive at the airport a little earlier instead and take advantage of the lounge access. You get food, drink, and a relaxing pre-flight atmosphere. Have enough food to tide you over and you can rest in peace lying flat.
5. Once you’re there, don’t be stingy. We all travel with a budget in mind and that’s important. But. You traveled all the way there and spent the money to get there, so why are you not going to the one museum you are supposed to go to?! It’s 20 or 40 bucks. But so what? You’re on holiday. Do it. You won’t regret it when looking back months or years later.
4. Be mindful of the destination’s seasonal limitations. We love finding that awesome deal that gets us to a destination for a fantastic price point. But, it’s a nice price point for a reason. Adjust the travel and experience to the time of year. Don’t go to see the Norweigen fjords in late fall using the same tour that exists during the summer. By the time you get to the fjords, it’s dusk and their majesty is lost.
3. Pack a jacket. The weather forecast says it will be sunny and 60 degrees. That will feel much different on the Hungarian plains with a stiff breeze than it does at home. If it means losing an extra pair of shoes to make room, that’s a good trade off. Being warm when wondering makes for a more enjoyable meander.
2. Be aware of bank and religious holidays. We were in a former Soviet republic on Pentecost and everything was closed. Had we paid attention and not limited our Google search to bank holidays, we would have found out that the museum we wanted to explore would be closed and we should alter our itinerary.
1. Shop tax free and make sure you get your tax contribution back. Those Global Blue shops in Europe are a great way to purchase souvenirs and clothes to take home and they make it look easy to get your VAT refund. Two pitfalls to avoid:
a) have your passport with you (it’s needed for the form to be filled out at the shop) and
b) don’t pack away your purchases in a checked bag unless and until you get the Customs stamp at the airport.
The latter point has tripped us up on multiple occasions and we’ve given our hard earned money to the EC to do with it as they will. Other destinations have similar tax free shipping opportunities and similar rules apply.
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We hope that this list reminds us what to avoid in the future and helps in your holiday.