Why go traveling if you’re not going to demand the best experience for yourself? This chapter details everything you need to know about getting the biggest bang for your hard-earned bucks while you’re overseas or in an unfamiliar part of the USA. Don’t let tourists who are insensitive to your needs get in the way of a good time! Let’s dive right in.
Always push to the front of the line–Face it, if you’re not in front, you’ll spend all of your transit time not seeing what’s coming. It may just be a series of Peruvian traffic lights, but hey, you paid to take in all of the ambiance and foreign environments that are out there, right? Moving from one destination to another during your travels accounts for a good chunk of your sightseeing time, so if you’re in queue–for a tour bus, a passenger cruise, a gondola trip on the aromatic waters of Venice–you should make sure you are one of the first people in line. Remember, if you don’t treat yourself like a VIP, nobody else will.
To get to the front, try these suggestions:
- Pushing–especially if you are overseas, you can pretend you come from a place where it’s normal to shove one’s way to the front (Note: does not work in the United Kingdom)
- Bring an elderly parent/grandparent with you, or someone who is obviously infirm–vendors and venues often cater to seniors or folks who need extra assistance, and as you will be acting as their companion aide, you’ll need to be with them. Bonus points for doing a good deed!
- The haughty approach–if the queue is very long, chances are the people at the end of the line (where you currently are) cannot see the front of the line. Simply insist that you are here with the people at the front, and walk past them. You must be convincing, and really sell the story. You belong at the front, so make it happen.
- Learn from previous experience–on a cruise? Observe how the crew manage disembarking from the ship so that you can optimize your ability to move through a crowd. If people begin assembling half an hour before a meeting time, show up 25 minutes beforehand instead, and talk your way to the first spot. Because there’s nothing like earning that position with your own cunning instead of common manners.
This is your vacation, so make it about you–Buckingham Palace is full of gorgeous panoplies revealing the history of England; why not sneak in a flash photo of you with your favorite coat of arms? Yellowstone National Park’s paint pots are brilliant in color and supposedly dangerous, with signs warning of harm or death if tourists step off of the raised walkways, as shown in this sign:
Come on, now. If it were really that dangerous do you think the government would let people over there? Just because the bright orange or blue water might be infested with bacteria, or steaming, or sulfuric, if you want to dip your fingers into it or stand next to it as you pose for a photo, go ahead. If elk and bears can wander around there, it can’t be all that deadly. This man here has a great souvenir of his trip:
Obviously, he survived. Park rangers are so friendly, they’ll just ask you to come back to the walkway, so you might as well venture where you want. Want to munch on that half a Subway chicken teriyaki sandwich in the Alaskan rainforest? Just bring your bear bell with you and nosh away!
Make sure your quarters are perfect before you bunk down for the night–hotels try to get away with all kinds of things to save money. They launder the outer bed linens only weekly, or rinse out the short tumblers instead of sterilizing them in their kitchen’s dishwasher. You shouldn’t trust the cleanliness of any hotel room or cruise ship stateroom, even at a 4-star hotel. When you head up to your room, go over everything with a magnifying glass, and expect to be disappointed. It’s not unreasonable for you to call to the front desk or passenger manager to demand a new room. Don’t like the flickering light in the bathroom? Or the loud bar across the alleyway from you? Maybe you’re too close to the laundry facility or the noisy ice machine. Speak up and don’t take no for an answer, even if you have to move two or three times to be satisfied. Because afterward you will sleep like a baby.
Offer advice to the staff of every service you encounter–many tourist operations are too busy to ask customers what’s working well and what isn’t, so make sure to give them your opinions as you travel. And remember that negative comments are retained more than positive ones; besides, telling people everything is great doesn’t help them know where to improve. As a traveler, you’re automatically in the tourism company’s target group–who better to offer suggestions? Was the Broadway medley show to short, too simple, too David Hasselhoff-y? Did the ferry ride provide comfortable enough seating, or could it have slowed down so it wasn’t so windy? Was the fence surrounding your resort in Nicaragua too obvious or depressing? The manta rays not numerous enough when you went out for your snorkeling extravaganza? Tour leaders need to know.
Find ways to cut costs–why pack shampoo and soap when your hotel or cruise line has complimentary supplies? Truth be told, many hotels also have free toothbrushes and other sundry items for travelers who have “forgotten” theirs. Shower caps can be used for many other purposes around the home, and all of those free packets of coffee and tea add up if you collect them every time you travel away from home. (Note: This does not go for mini bar items or the small pile of candy on the hotel nightstand.)
Make your souvenir a part of your travel experience–don’t waste money on substandard souvenirs from street vendors that are really made in China or Taiwan, when you can have the real thing. Pebbles from Stonehenge, feathers or beads from Native American history displays, shells from protected beach fronts–these all make great keepsakes and are easy to get across borders without paying a duty. Since so many others will refrain from taking home a piece of the places they visit due to some misguided sense of “respect,” know that you are one of only a few who will walk away with an authentic souvenir, so it’s not like Stonehenge is going to fall over just because you took a little something something.