Sweet Shark and I just returned from an 8~day amazing road trip from Savannah, GA to Charleston SC and Asheville NC. We’ve been fortunate to travel to many amazing places in the USA and throughout the world, so I thought I would share our top 10 things to do when you travel.
These 3 destinations had been #1 on my bucket list for a long time. I had never been to North or South Carolina, so I also got to add 2 more states to my list ~ I think I now have 30. I feel confident sharing our top 10 things to do when you travel.
Travel is always on my mind, planning a trip, reviewing a trip, blogging about a trip.
Travel is one of the best educators. We love the excitement of new destinations, new cuisine, languages, history and culture. Regardless of whether the destination is a few states away or across the ocean, we’ve found that these tips are the same. Whether you are new to traveling or a seasoned traveler, reading about and learning tips from other travelers is always a good idea. These are our top 10 things to do when you travel, but I know there are many other suggestions for making your travel experience a great one.
Travel Tips: Top 10 Things to Do
First, let’s define travel and vacation.
VACATION ~ laying on the beach, relaxing at a resort, renting an oceanside house, or a house in the mountains or a doing nothing at all away from home.
TRAVEL ~ sightseeing, travel from city to city by plane, train or automobile, exploring, road trips to several destinations.
See the difference.
Long before you leave the house, Google, ask friends, read magazines (Southern Living and Garden and Gun are great resources for anything in the South.) and send away for brochures. This little step will help you plan, avoid “rocky roads” and keep you from making costly mistakes in time and money. I didn’t do that on this trip when making a dinner reservation at a particular restaurant. As a result, we went to a place whose menu wasn’t in keeping with our expectations and likes. We kind of wasted one dinner. Check out the menu! We make a folder and keep all our research in it; then we add maps and brochures to the folder in case we plan to return.
The only way to experience a new destination is to walk the streets of the city. We’ve walked New Orleans, New York, Chicago, Rome, Venice, Barcelona, Budapest, Prague, Paris, and Vienna, to name a few. And now Savannah, Charleston and Asheville.
You get a feel for a city, the people, and the history by walking. You can peek into a shop window, a restaurant window, and yes, even a residential window by walking. You can make a quick decision to pop in for a drink, a snack, see a church service, hear a song.
TIP: If you are going to walk, you have to have good walking shoes. More than one pair to rotate. And ladies, good walking shoes do not have to be white thick Nike’s.
I bought 3 new pairs of walking shoes a few days before our trip and they made life so much more comfortable ~ and I think they are cute. Especially my pink Pumas, but I love the tan and white check Keds. The Michael Kors flats are super comfortable and stylish. (I bought them all at Macy’s.)
Get a Map
If you are going to walk, you have to have a good city map. Don’t rely on someone telling you to go 2 blocks, turn left at the house with the red door, and it’s on your right. Much safer to have the streets clearly marked.
Many hotels have maps just for tourists with restaurants, shops and hotels designated. You are a tourist! You can write on the map, have people direct you from the map. Sweet Shark and I have been going to New Orleans for 20 years and I can finally find my way around the French Quarter by myself, but we still get a map.
Take a City Tour
Yes, I said you should walk, but it also helps when you arrive to take a tour of the city by bus, cab, trolley, or in the case of Charleston, by horse~drawn carriage. This helps acclimate you to the city, the history and culture, and where you want to go back to visit when you walk. We’ve always found the tour guides to be well~versed in a city’s history, suggestions for places to see, and most often are funny. Be sure to tip the tour guide $5 ~ $10.
Ask a Bartender
We have always found that bartenders are the best resources about where to eat. In Savannah, a bartender at The Olde Pink House told us a place to go in Charleston. In Charleston, our first stop for a meal netted us 3 restaurant and bar suggestions that were awesome. Another bartender ~ Scott Bailey at Anson’s ~ gave Sweet Shark a list of where he should go to find a seersucker suit. (I’ll share more about all these places in later posts.)
TIP: if you run into locals, ask them where they eat.
Eat Local, Eat Often
At home you may only eat burgers, but in another city or another country, try to eat the local cuisine. Cuisine is part of the culture and history of a place.
Sweet Shark and I love food, so this isn’t a problem for us, but I’ve known people who only eat at McDonald’s away from home because they’re “afraid” of “foreign” food. They are truly missing out on one of the joys of travel.
Sweet Shark and I eat “small” during the day. We may stop in 2 or 3 different restaurants during the day, share an appetizer, rest our feet, talk to the bartender or meet other people. We never get full and we don’t get tired of walking. And best of all we get to sample more food and restaurants.
Have a Plan, But Be Flexible
It’s good to have a general idea of what you are going to do each day, but if it rains (always take an umbrella) or you miss the 10:00 trolly tour (We did in Charleston, but I shopped for 30 minutes!), just take a breath and adjust.
If a tour does involve reservations, make them in plenty of time (We scheduled a tour to see The Last Supper in Milan 2 months ahead online and our tour guide was waiting for us with a smile on her face.) and be on time. Make a note of high~traffic times at popular destinations and adjust your schedule.
Buy a Book
When we travel, we all look for souvenirs, mementos of our trip and the places we visit.
One of our favorite purchases over the years has been books ~ books about the places we have visited. I usually look for coffee~table books with beautiful photography and descriptions of the city. I love sitting on the sofa when I have a spare moment and just flipping slowly through the pages, reminiscing about a trip we took.
Cookbooks (especially Junior League) are also great souvenirs and something that you can use at home. We also have collected Christmas ornaments from our travels; I use a marker to put the year on them.
Check the Local Weather Forecast
Let’s face it; we all use the Weather Channel on our phones. We checked the weather for a week before our trip and rain and cool weather was predicted for Savannah and Charleston.
I took a raincoat, long sleeve shirts, and lightweight sweaters. Instead, we had just gorgeous weather the entire trip (Lucky us!) ~ cool mornings and evenings, warm afternoons, and not a drop of rain passed Macon GA. I could have brought a few short sleeve tops and left the raincoat at home.
It’s more accurate to check the local weather stations than the Weather Channel App.
Find a bench, a bar, and get to bed early. Traveling is tiring, especially in a different time zone, and a good night’s rest is essential. The temptation to cram as much as possible into a day can backfire the next day when you run out of steam.
Flying and driving on a trip can be stressful. (Which highway do we take? Where’s the exit? Honey, I really need to use the bathroom.) Be patient with your travel partner. (If you’ve ever been on a road trip with your hubby, you know what I mean. Driving is like holding the remote!)
Well, those are our suggestions and I’m sure you could add a bunch more. I’d love to hear them. Tell me in the comments your top travel suggestions.
I’m already looking forward to our next trip.