With summer travel season kicked into high gear, many of you may be thinking of planning an end-of-summer vacation. Having recently visited Canada (my home country), Italy, Germany, and Croatia, I have built up a collection of helpful travel tips to share. Whether you’re headed to the Adriatic Sea or simply planning a short weekend trip away to a neighboring country, these five tips can help you make the most of your future travels:
1. Live like a local
Rent a real apartment. As much as I love great hotels, there’s nothing better than coming home to your own flat after a long day of sight-seeing. You can shop at local grocery stores and markets, wine and dine where the locals drink and eat and observe what life is really like for local residents. An added bonus, you can almost always rent flats for a great price and get a lot more bang for your buck, especially in comparison to hotels situated in tourist hot spots.
2. Go on a food/wine/beer tour
While I don’t typically have the attention span to go on a sight-seeing tour, food and drink tend to add a little excitement into the mix. My fiancee and I are always looking for ways to meet new people during our travels and so far we’ve found these types of tours to be very interactive, while also offering a little something extra for the palate! Food and drink tours are not only great for couples, they are also fun for friends traveling together, or, perhaps even the solo traveler. Typically, these tours will take you to local eateries, bars, breweries, and neighborhoods where you can eat and drink like a local. Tours we’ve tried and enjoyed:
- Brussels Beer Tours: http://www.brusselsbeertours.com/index.htm
- The Roman Tour: http://foodtourrome.com/
3. Do your Homework
There’s no bigger let down than arriving at your hotel and/or apartment only to discover that it’s a total dump in a bad location. My advice, always check TripAdvisor (my cherished go-to travel guide) and see what the ratings and reviews say. TripAdvisor has also proven to be a helpful restaurant guide and can direct you to places with great service and food. Aside from using trusty TripAdvisor to look up restaurants and hotels, it’s worthwhile to research your travel destination prior to arriving as well. You definitely want to avoid the mistake of paying double the price for a tour ticket, or planning a shopping day in Brussels on a Sunday when everything is closed! Yes, guilty as charged for those two!
4. Sign up for a hotel rewards program
It’s well worth your while to compare and contrast between the different loyalty programs that hotel sites offer. We signed up for ‘Welcome Rewards’ with Hotels.com, where you can get one night free for every ten hotel bookings. You’d be surprised how fast 10 nights add up! So far, we’ve saved a great deal of money on our travels redeeming free hotel rooms.
5. Take notes Purchase a small notepad that you can bring with you on your journey and jot down notes about funny things that happen and restaurants that you would return to (or if you’re more tech-savvy, use your smartphone). Down the road, you’ll be happy that you can remember which trip you were on when something, perhaps, a little out of the ordinary happened..or if maybe, you’re trying to recall the name of the restaurant that served you the best pizza of your life!
Safe travels, – Jamie
″A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” – Moslih Eddin Saadi