Berkeley, California (EastBayDaily) — For most Americans, time and money are precious resources. The average American worker is entitled to sixteen days of paid leave, but her average vacation lasts just over four days! International travel advocate Rick Steves is staging an intervention. In the new edition of Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door 2015: The Travel Skills Handbook, Steves urges Americans to venture afar in the new year. To help travelers engage with other cultures in meaningful ways while saving time and money, he is equipping readers with expert advice gleaned from his thirty years of experience exploring Europe and the wider world. Here are Rick’s top travel tips for 2015.
1. Study ahead to design a smart itinerary. One-night stays are inefficient. Minimize them even if it means having longer sightseeing days between multi-night stops.
2. Don’t fly round-trip. Returning to your starting point to fly home is rarely worth the extra time and money. For a wide-ranging trip, start on one side of Europe and finish on the other.
3. Think ahead to avoid lines. Almost all lines are avoidable if you plan ahead (except security lines). Many attractions offer (or require) reservations—a blessing to those who plan in advance. Don't wait to buy tickets—get yours ahead of time.
4. Be smart with shoes. Choose shoes long before your trip and be sure they’re broken in. And for off-season travel, you’ll want shoes that are good in the rain and cold.
5. Know your camera. Study the manual and practice taking pictures before your trip. Even a smartphone camera can take great shots—especially if you understand its more advanced features.
6. Pack light. Limit yourself to a carry-on-the-plane-sized bag. Don’t pack for the worst scenario; pack for the best scenario. If you need something, buy it in Europe.
7. Leave well-rested. Many travelers are in a chaotic frenzy the night before they fly. Avoid this by putting a fake departure date on your calendar long in advance. Everything related to your trip must be taken care of 48 hours before you fly.
8. Get a credit card with a chip. Magnetic-stripe-only credit cards work for general expenses, but for automated convenience purchases (like filling up the tank at a gas station or getting a Coke from a vending machine) you’ll probably need the new credit cards with a chip.
9. Use a mobile phone. A mobile phone empowers travelers. Know how yours works in Europe and consider getting an international plan. Or buy a cheap phone (“unlocked” so you can use SIM cards in different countries) once you arrive.
10. Don’t follow the crowds. TripAdvisor and other travel websites can be helpful, but too many people let these uncurated, casual reports shape their trips. Take advantage of them, but assume many of the listings are fakes.
11. Eat with locals. My favorite restaurant is a mom-and-pop place on a low-rent street that's packed with happy locals and has a small, handwritten menu in one language. That means it’s economical, serving what’s fresh, and focusing on locals rather than tourists.
12. Be a cultural chameleon. I strive to “do as the locals do.” I drink tea in England, Guinness in Ireland, and Vinho Verde in Portugal. The price is better, the locals respect me for it, and it just feels right.
13. Be an extrovert. Talk to everyone from the cabbie to the cheese guy in the market. Find ways to connect with people who are just happy to have a new friend from far away.
14. Have a positive attitude. If it’s not to your liking, change your liking. Make an art out of adapting, giving people the benefit of the doubt. And smile—your trip will go much better.
15. Use a good guidebook. Consider your guidebook as a $25 tool for a $3,000 experience. It can minimize costs while maximizing the experience. Choose a good, up-to-date guidebook that fits your style and use it.
Rick Steves has collected a lifetime of travel lessons into the newly updated edition of his book, Europe Through the Back Door 2015: The Travel Skills Handbook. For more information, or to request a review copy, please contact Eva Zimmerman at 510.809.3834 or at eva.zimmerman(at)perseusbooks(dot)com.
# # # About Avalon Travel Avalon Travel is the largest independent travel publisher based in the United States. Major series include Rick Steves, the top-selling European guidebook series in the US; Moon, with guides to more than 200 destinations around the world; and Road Trip USA. Based in Berkeley, California, Avalon is a member of the Perseus Books Group. For more information, visit http://www.avalontravelbooks.com.
About Rick Steves Rick Steves is on a mission: to help make European travel accessible and meaningful for Americans. Since 1973, Steves has spent four months every year exploring Europe. He’s researched and written more than 50 travel guidebooks, writes and hosts the public television series Rick Steves’ Europe, and also produces and hosts the weekly public radio show Travel with Rick Steves. With the help of his hardworking staff at Rick Steves’ Europe, Inc., Steves organizes and leads tours of Europe and offers an information-packed website, http://www.ricksteves.com. When not traveling through Europe, Steves lives in Edmonds, Washington.