Oh, sure. You could carefully plan every detail of the picture-perfect vacation—leave nothing to chance, check and double-check every part of your upcoming trip.
But where’s the fun in that?
OR you could try my approach. It’s not that I don’t plan my trips—I just don’t plan them very well. But unless you’ve enjoyed hearing about how my holidays tend to go “tits-up” (as they say here in Glasgow) and want to share in the fun, you will need the following top ten tips for making sure you have the trip of your dreams.
10. Don’t bring your dog. “Dog Friendly” travel with Fifi generally means you sleep or eat in establishments where the other clientele look like extras from Deliverance. (The exceptions to these rules are the city of Paris and the entire UK, where dogs as accessories are de rigueur.) Of course, a dog is almost as useful a people-meeting tool as a baby, with the added benefit that your dog will be a much more cheerful traveling partner than your offspring, will probably not expect you to pay for a university degree, and will also not spend his entire adolescence refusing to be seen in public with you, resenting your very existence, and/or living in fear that you will embarrass him by… well, your very existence. Plus—with the exception of a lady in Edinburgh who told me I was a bad dog-Mom because my large, long-haired herding dog didn’t have a (plaid) coat and matching boots—the people you and Fifi meet won’t correct the way you dress, discipline, or feed your dog.
9. Don’t bring a car with double-digit age. Or anything remotely resembling a warranty. This is very important. Otherwise you’ll be forced to mention your alleged-vehicle in reverent tones, using words like “classic”. This guarantees that not only will you get a chance to exercise your dramatic skills by re-enacting various suspicious engine noises that you don’t even know the English words for, but you will learn several interesting new phrases such as “¿Este garaje tiene un inodoro que limpia?” (Does this garage have a toilet that flushes?)
8. Don’t speak the language. Despite this, try to speak it anyway by adding “o” and “a” to the end of most words. If you’re an American, you’ve already got this nailed.
7. Don’t pack carefully and sparingly. Bringing large suitcases containing everything you own gives you the opportunity to meet the exciting extroverts who staff airlines’ lost-luggage desks.
6. Don’t book anything in advance. You are a free spirit, not a slave to online services that show bathrooms and guest ratings. That guy at the Lost Luggage desk at the airport probably has some excellent hotel and restaurant tips he’ll be delighted to share because he’s charmed by how friendly your dog has gotten with his leg, and is probably so impressed with the way you worked into the conversation that one sentence about the pen of my aunt that you remember from high school language classes.
5. Don’t eavesdrop. Not only do people in foreign countries not have anything interesting to say, but they probably wish they were you. You can help them by talking about all the things that could be improved if they did them like you do at home. Just in case, you should probably raise your voice. That helps foreign people understand you better.
4. Don’t bring a mobile phone with a battery life of less than a half hour. If you can’t check your messages regularly (we recommend every thirty-seconds minimum), the world will probably end.
3. Don’t bring the local currency. Most foreigners want American money. Really. They get up each morning hoping against hope that someone will offer to pay in dollars they can use when they achieve their life dream of a trip to Orlando.
1. Don’t eat the food. Life’s too short to waste your time trying weird local specialties that are probably made with questionable hygenic standards, even if that is a great way to meet exotic foreign medical personnel.
Follow the above steps religiously, and all you’ll have is the trip you wanted. Ignore them like I do (okay, maybe I’m still working on #4) and you’ll take the trip of a lifetime. You might even live to tell about it.