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Travel Tips 2: Tricks of the Travel Trade

1. Look Silly, Learn Much

This one is self-explanatory. Another obvious pedagogy and yet difficult to execute, especially for me. I love to learn but despise looking ridiculous. Unfortunately, the Stoic Philosopher Epictetus was right, “if you want to improve, feel content to be thought foolish and stupid.” It would require a novel to relate all of my miscues over the years. The biggest one you want to avoid is wasting money. Remember, money tends to be finite, redemption is eternal.

When stupidity strikes, accept what happens as a challenge or opportunity. Enjoy the experience!

2. Don’t Panic, Problem Solve

Sometimes things go wrong, sometimes plans change and you must adjust. You might lose your luggage, your reservation may be cancelled, and sometimes your entire itinerary may change abruptly. Try to roll with the punches and ponder the next step. That is not always possible because you are dependent on customer service or wait staff to help.

Recently in Paris my luggage was shipped to the wrong city (2 stop flight). I was told repeatedly by airport personnel that the bags were found and would be delivered, which never happened. Eventually, I went back to the scene of the crime. It turns out, the luggage was found but never delivered for whatever reason (human error of course). Do not rely on others whenever possible, especially outside the US, to resolve an issue.

3. Groceries

A big expense can be food. Sampling the local cuisine is always important but generally one or two big meals out do the trick, especially in more expensive countries. A good trick is to buy some fruit, yogurt, and bread for sandwiches from a local grocery store, which can cover most breakfasts and lunches. Also, if you travel via AirBnB (Some other AirBnB saving tips are here) you can often get a kitchen with cooking materials for basic meals.

Groceries are lifesavers in pricey cities like Montreal, Hong Kong, and Paris!

4. Ask for Help!

This runs slightly counter to other advice I have given (My Top 10 Tips to Travel Smarter). As a rule, keeping a low profile is a good idea. While true, it is important when you travel to speak up if you get lost, need assistance from wait staff, or something does not seem right. Not speaking up can worsen a problem if you are not exactly sure where you are or how to pay a bill? Just ask how to pay a bill or navigate ahead of time if you can.

It happened to me on a train from Berlin to Prague. Unfortunately, I got off at the wrong station because I did not ask anyone for confirmation even though I was unsure. If you ask for help or directions people will generally help guide you (even in Paris), so when in doubt ask.

5. YouTube / Travel Blogs

Watch videos or read blogs to help guide you ahead of visiting a location. Here are some useful references: Topjaw, Attache, and Ryan Shirley are some of my favorite YouTube channels. For Blogs, I recommend jumping on Substack. Here is a good place to start. Pay keen attention to transportation and tourist trap tips and no-go areas.

At times you forget to follow your own advice. In a flagrant rookie mistake, I neglected to rewatch a short video on Lisbon and a taxicab driver ripped me off. It happens, but it was avoidable. Lesson learned, again!

6. Follow your Niche, or Wander

Focus less on hitting tourist spots (except in Paris :). Instead, do what excites you! Remember, it is impossible to see everything, so let go of the bucket list mentality. For me, I am passionate about three key things: art and architecture, good coffee and cafés, and a fancy nightspot, usually a speakeasy.

Do what excites you! Remember, it is impossible to see everything, so let go of the bucket list mentality.

If you have a short-list of things that matter, you will feel far more enriched than waking up at dawn and rushing from point-to-point. Some people are happy to go with the flow. For them, I recommend wandering; after all, exploration is the purpose of travel.

7. Buy Quality Luggage

Travel tends to cost more than you think. However, if you buy cheap luggage, risk of wear and tear is high. If you check luggage, wheel it on the street or stash it in the overhead compartment on the plane, it will be tossed about. Spend a little more up front so your personals survive the journey, and you can keep going.

For luggage, I recommend Tumi – it has served me well. (No affiliation just a recommendation.) Also – another pro-tip is to itemize and photograph your belongings in the event that your things are lost. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen but plan accordingly.

8. Avoid Airport Services

Airport services are often expensive and nearly always unnecessary. Avoid getting taxis from the airport, avoid baggage storage at the airport, and I do not recommend exchanging money there either. Remember, airports are businesses and - like airlines - tend to operate with small margins. They will nickel and dime you however they can. Some basic homework on the destination city is usually enough to avoid paying extra at the airport.

Thats all for now. Safe travels and stay tuned for more!


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