After spending years on the road, The Traveling Professor is happy to pass on his tips for becoming an experienced traveler.
The Experienced Traveler:
Packs Light: This is probably the #1 quality of the experienced traveler that comes to mind. Good travelers can travel an indefinite period of time with just a carry on.
Books Directly with Airline: Probably the worst part of traveling these days is flying. A good traveler will book with the airline in case there are any types of issues with cancellations or changes. Booking with intermediary sites like Orbitz and Expedia only add another level of bureaucracy when trying to resolve an issue.
Know How to Work Airlines: In other words, experienced travelers are good at booking flights to get the best value flights, know the right (and wrong) airports to fly from, know how to get through security and passport control quickly. Experience travelers also know how to book multi-city (open-jaw) flights to save money and time.
Carries the Right Travel Insurance: Experienced travelers will tell you that health and emergency evacuation insurance is a MUST, especially if flying overseas. They also know that an annual policy is the best value. Click for good information on travel insurance.
Knows How to Avoid Delays, Crowds and Long Lines: Avoid car rental lines, museum and attraction lines, hotel lines, airport lines, etc. For instance, I recently saw people waiting 90 minutes to rent a car. But if they simply enrolled in the company's loyalty program, it would have taken them about 5 minutes to get the car. By having Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check, travelers can save lots of time going into and leaving the airport. Another way to avoid lines and delays is to get the city pass, like the Paris Museum Pass, that allow VIP no-wait-in-line access to the most popular attractions.
Uses Local Transportation: Use the bus, the metro, the tram. Not only is it so much more inexpensive than taking a taxi or by sitting in a 40-person tour bus, it exposes the traveler to how the locals live. You might even make a few new friends.
Understands "Stuff" Happens: This is the one characteristic that truly defines the experienced traveler. When you think of all of the moving parts of a trip (hotels, schedules, trains, planes, cars, other people, etc.) and all of the things that can possibly happen on a trip, a good traveler rolls with the punches and makes do with what he/she has. Flights get cancelled, trains are late, weather screws things up, there are labor actions, accidents, people get sick, etc. Lots of stuff can happen. The experienced traveler doesn't get angry, he/she adjusts. Sometimes a twist and turn in a trip may lead the traveler to a new experience or adventure.
Asks Questions: An experienced traveler is not afraid to ask questions of others, especially in a place where she/he does not understand the language. Most people are happy to help. For instance, I was on a train from Germany to France. An announcement was made (in French) on board. I don't understand French that well so I asked another passenger sitting across from me what was said. Good thing I did because I needed to change at the next station to get where I needed to go.
Is Cautious: As an experienced traveler, never put yourself in jeopardy or danger. Remember, nothing good ever happens after midnight unless you are sleeping in bed. Travel with someone else or let someone know where you will be. Never take a taxi from someone who solicits you in an airport. Be careful of pickpockets and others who might want to take advantage of you. Ask what things will cost before you buy them.
Tries Different Foods: I always say, "If you wanted to eat at Applebee's, you should have stayed home". Each culture has its own unique foods. To eat only what you are familiar with is a mistake only the inexperienced traveler makes. Enjoy everything a travel destination has to offer - that includes the food. I will admit, it can be daunting to read and understand a menu in French, Italian, or German, so I always carry along a guide like Andy Herbach's Eating and Drinking in Paris.
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