Based on years of travelling to row, here are my top 10 travel tips – a slightly contrarian approach to planning and enjoying your next trip, whether it includes rowing or not.
- Buy a guidebook. Could be the physical copy or downloaded onto your phone or laptop. You could download just a few chapters. Get to know which brand matches your travel preferences. I like Lonely Planet or Rough Guide, but can be pleasantly surprised by Fodor’s. A guidebook is a trusted source – who are all these people on Trip Advisor anyway, do they like the same things that you do? The other great advantage of a guidebook is the background information on a destination and details about particular sites. Flipping through the book will expose you to things to do that you had never thought of.
- When booking flights and transportation, value ease and convenience at least as much as cost. Yes, it might be a very cheap flight, but if you have to be at the airport at 4 am what will you feel like for the rest of the day when you arrive? Ensure adequate transit times when changing flights or train stations – why create unneeded stress? Our fixation on the best deal diminishes the value of travel.
- Consider using a travel agent. For a straight-forward flight, I book it myself. However, many of my trips are complicated. For the time saving and chance to easily review different options, I gladly pay the agency fee.
- Have dependable travel apps at hand. Here are a few of my favourites: Rome2Rio provides multiple suggestions of how to travel between two locations. Loco2 is an excellent site for booking train travel in Europe. TripIt keeps all my details of flights, trains, hotels, car rental, etc. in one place – perfect. Google Maps is essential, and many public transportation apps are excellent. The RATP app in Paris is amazing. When looking for accommodation, I check aggregate sites like Booking.com, but always look at the destination websites such as the city, region or province/state/county. There are always ideas and businesses not found elsewhere. Make sure that you can keep your phone charged. I have a travel power bank and also a car phone charger cord always with me.
- Use both conventional and sharing travel providers. The rise of AirBnB ,Lyft, Uber and other share services has expanded the range of travel experiences in a wonderful way. There are downsides, however, for example when locals cannot find apartments to live because most suites are being rented out on a short term basis. Hotels, taxis and other conventional travel companies hire people, and contribute to the economy in a way that share services do not necessarily do. And sometimes what they offer exactly suits your circumstances.
- Just start walking to go off the beaten track. Even before “over-tourism”, people gravitated to the famous destinations and once there, congregated on the most popular boulevards or lined up for the must-see sights. Explore beyond the throngs – two streets over can be just as fascinating. Just head out the door and start walking. Let yourself wander. Walking lets you see and appreciate more closely, whether in a city or out in nature. Ultimately Google Maps will tell you where you are, you might call Lyft for a ride back or jump on public transportation.
- Know your travel essentials. Mine are a bamboo cutlery set for meals on the go, a foldable backpack for day excursions, a warm but lightweight shawl plus down sweater and laundry soap.
- Pack lightly. Everyone says this but it bears repeating. Hard when you need to also pack rowing gear like water shoes, dry bags, water bottles, and sports clothing. That is where the laundry soap comes in. Most people really won’t notice if you wear the same thing every evening.
- Have local currency before you leave home and multiple ways to pay. Don’t carry it all in one place either.
- When requesting a guest row, wait until close to the date. Think of it from the perspective of the host club volunteers and not your own travel planning schedule. When was the last time that you knew what you were doing and whether you could row or not on a specific day six months from now?
Be brave open your mind and heart. Have fun.