Here are Mapplr’s updated top 10 travel tips.
(1) In Italy (and other countries with a rich history, food culture and tradition of hospitality, like Japan) go off the beaten track. You will avoid the crowds, pay much less for hotels and restaurants and still see unique sites.
(2) Don’t waste your money on renting a GPS (like those Garmin devices) with your car rental. Get a SIM card and use Waze on your smart phone. It is much more accurate and alerts you to speed traps, road accidents and traffic jams. You can still use Waze on your smartphone with your mobile data turned off (for example if you have an Italian SIM card but are going to Croatia or Slovenia for a couple of days and you don’t want to get SIM cards from those countries). But before you leave your hotel, make sure you turn on Waze while you have a Wi-Fi signal, type in your destination and press GO to download the map. The GPS function on your smartphone will work (without however connecting to the Waze server and getting real-time alerts since your mobile data roaming is off) and you will still get directions to your destination.
(3) Europe and Japan are cheaper than one would expect. The Japanese yen has been losing value against the dollar and after several years of deflation, prices in Japan have decreased as well. In Europe, hotel prices usually include all taxes, and restaurants usually include tip and tax (which add at least 25% in NYC and California). Car rental prices in Europe are now more in line with US rates.
(4) Throw away the paper-based travel guide. It is outdated the moment it comes out and sends you to the most crowded tourist sites. Is it that important to see all top 5 recommended sites in a place? Travel should be more than just checkmarking the top spots, taking a few photos and dragging yourself away exhausted by the shoving and pushing and the long queues. Liberate yourself and explore places the package tour crowds don’t care to see.
(5) Avoid chain hotels because they feel the same. You will pay less and get more by staying in small boutique hotels or family-run establishments.
(6) In countries with a food culture like France or Italy, try to avoid Michelin star restaurants. They are meant for tourists and charge much higher prices than is necessary. Buy local restaurant guides which list local gems like the excellent Osterie d’Italia published by Slow Food Italy (you can buy it online; they sell it on their Ebay store, with delivery anywhere in the world). You can also read local food blogs. You may have less to brag about when you get back home, but you will eat as well and pay less.
(7) In countries with terror alerts, stay in small boutique hotels and avoid the landmark hotels (like the Taj in India) or US chain hotels, which tend to be terrorist targets. Even if they are secure, going through metal detectors is no fun.
(8) Don’t plan a trip by country, plan it by region: for example, the Basque Country runs through Spain and France and on both sides of the border you will find great food and wine. Visit northern India together with Nepal and north Thailand with Laos. Yes, travel guides go by country, but your visit should be to a region regardless of current political borders.
(9) Don’t fly United Airlines or most US airlines. They are truly terrible and have sunken to new lows. On our last 3 flights with United, one toilet was always broken and the flight attendants were quite nasty. Your miles are almost worthless anyway these days. Look for new discount airlines that offer attractive rates. Many of the discount airlines like Norwegian Air have newer planes (in fact Norwegian Airlines flies the 787 Dreamliner between Oakland, CA airport and Oslo). You can always buy extra legroom or speedy boarding privileges. Some of our most recent enjoyable flights with discount airlines were with Norwegian Air and Easyjet; with traditional carriers, we enjoyed Air New Zealand, Qatar and Sri Lankan Air.
(10) Remember that there will always be good moments and bad ones when traveling. Strike a balance between revisiting old favorites and exploring new places.