Travel advice is everywhere, and digesting it all at once can be like trying to eat an elephant: it’s possible, but you need to take it one bite at a time. So here are a few travel bites to whet your appetite for one or more of these 10 destinations. I like to think of them as my ‘if-you-only-had-one-thing-to-share’ type of tip. So here is one Top Tip for each of the following places:
1. Ireland: Go in the summer.
Green is great, but green and dry is better than green and gloomy. And while Ireland offers no weather guarantee at any time of the year, your enjoyment of that spectacular scenery will be greatly enhanced if you’re not there in the colder, wetter months – save those months for the cozy pub crawls!
2. Rome: Don’t go in the summer.
The city is packed with tourists, half the locals decamp for the beaches or the countryside, and lineups for everything are longer and hotter. If you want a more local experience, go in the early spring or fall. The weather is moderate enough so that you can still enjoy that glass of wine ‘al fresco’, and getting a seat is a lot easier.
3. Venice: Stay overnight at least one night.
You’ll see an entirely different Venice once the day-trippers and cruisers leave. Sure, there are still tourists around, but it feels a lot less like the circus it can become during the day, especially in Piazza San Marco.
4. Santorini, Greece: Bring your best camera.
There is a quality to the light in this part of the Mediterranean that makes the Cyclades islands’ blue and white architecture incredibly photogenic, beyond the limits of your iPhone. Of course that means also bringing plenty of batteries, chargers, memory cards and a polarizer, and your shoulder may suffer from the additional weight in your bag or daypack. But trust me, it will be worth it.
5. Costa Rica: Consider a private tour.
There is such geographic diversity in this country, that a private tour gives you the means to move around it very efficiently, meaning you can see more of it in less time (without feeling rushed or stressed). Someone else looks after all the transportation from place to place, and you can decide what type of accommodation you prefer, whether that is high and low, boutique or unique – or any mixture of them – and someone else does all the legwork coordinating it for you. That’s what I call Pura Vida!
6. Tanzania/Safari: Definitely do a private tour.
Here’s why: You’ve flown 6,000 miles to get that perfect photograph, and are willing to wait for as long as it takes for that family of cheetahs to finish their siesta. But half the people in your jeep want to go back to camp for a siesta of their own. With your own driver and vehicle, you do what you want to, when you want to. After all, how often are you going to go on a safari?
7. The Grand Canyon: Stay on the rim.
You can get up in the middle of the night and see the stars filling the sky over the chasm below you. You might even have a visit from an elk or two.
8. Peru: Plan to shop.
Whether it’s textiles, ceramics or art objects, Peru offers locally-made treasures that will tempt even the most non-materialistic of travellers. And if you are planning on visiting the Pisac Market in the Sacred Valley, allow at least 2-3 hours. There are stalls upon stalls of interesting, artisanal goods and if you are a wee bit obsessive about seeing it all like I am, you’ll need at least this much time just to walk the aisles.
9. Barcelona: Visit anything built by Gaudi.
In fact, take a “more is more’ cue from him, and visit more than just one. The man was a mad genius.
10. Buenos Aires: Eat the beef.
Argentinians know how to raise beef, and they know how to cook it (which is important because without the latter, the former is wasted.) This is a country meatetarians will love.
Obviously if you’re planning on visiting any of these places, you’ll want to do a lot more research, and learn as much as you can before you go to help enhance your experience. But no matter where you get your inspiration or information, being open to learning about that destination is the best piece of advice I would give any traveller, going anywhere.