First, let me preface this by saying that I don't really hate anything. I prefer to say "dislike". Traveling and travel adventures are excellent fodder for the mind, as it forces you to think outside the box, and solve problems analytically. You may not always know the local language or have the needed information at your fingertips, but if you think it through logically, and remain calm, any problem can flow to a reasonable resolution.
1. Too Many Tourists
“When there is noise and crowds, there is trouble,
When everything is silent and perfect,
There is just perfection and nothing
To fill the air.”
― Dejan Stojanovic
Problem: Peak seasons, which are typically the summer months, can pose the largest threat to your serene travel plans. If you have ever been to Venice during August, you will understand. The locals there hide to escape the throngs, or they photo bomb your best shots in spite. It is body-to-body on the streets and the temps are often sweltering. The pleasures of the environment are shrouded by cloying, impassable crowds, large groups of tourists following a guide with an umbrella that has a flower attached to the tip, or children en masse from far-away schools on field trips with intent to explore the most beautiful destinations on earth, places which make you wish you had avoided. Every person strives for a citadel where he or she can seek refuge from crowds and the masses. Using some key strategies can ensure that it is still achievable.
Solution: Book a trip off or slightly off season. The temperatures can be quite mild, and all those annoying gaggles of students are doing what they should be doing...studying in a school somewhere far away from where you are. If there are still too many souls circulating your destination, walk off the beaten path to explore the roads less travelled, and find those bends and hidden views that reveal the indigenous culture that the tour buses omit. Carrying the "off the beaten path" tip even further, select a destination in the first place that is not the most popular, but still fascinating and affordable. For example, choose Lisbon over Paris. While on your trip, be an early riser and fall out of bed just before dawn to capture the real city as the sun rises over the river, and the pinkish hues of morning gently drape the rooftops. Seeing a city at dawn, while others are still in bed with the Sandman will ensure a far more private viewing. To avoid a six mile queue of a famous museum, book a visit and entry time online for the day of your choice before you ever leave the comfort of your computer chair at home. This gives you immediate entry on the day of your visit, leaving all those unorganized, inexperienced tourists in the dust.
2. Trip Packages Cost an Arm and an Armed Robbery
Problem: Let's face it. Trips abroad are expensive. Even a trip planned well in advance can put a large dent in the pocket.
Solution: I scan the news on a weekly basis for those terrifying and horrible events, such as plane crashes or cruise ship tragedies. While it may sound morbid, these things are regular occurrences in our contemporary world. Who can forget the ship that left its passengers stranded for over a week with stopped up toilets and a food supply consisting of only onion sandwiches? Some of these events are non-life threatening, but still yield spoils to the alert and flexible traveler. As soon as you read of an unfortunate event, be it with an airline, cruise line, or train, keep your fingers close to your Ipad or smart phone. Load your devices with several of the best travel apps. You will soon see a drastic reduction in online prices for airline tickets, or cruise packages. Some occur the very same day of the tragedy. The affected companies will do everything it can to spare their profits, or worse, closing their companies down due to one unfortunate incident. I call these travel opportunities "Crash Sales". Don't be afraid to capitalize on them for your vacation plans. Even something as simple as a passenger falling off a ship into the ocean unharmed can drive down luxury cruise prices for a good week or two!
3. Annoying Passengers Seated Next to You
Problem: Your socially challenged seat mate wants to begin a conversation with you the moment you are seated and continues to attempt conversation during the entire 8 hour trip.
Solution: I take magazines with me when I travel. My magazines, just like former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's infamous brooches, send a message to those around me which I hope discourages unwanted friendly exchanges. I have been known to break open a copy of Bitch Magazine as soon as I strap in, or another long-time favorite of mine, Guns R Us. In addition, I avoid smiling at anyone (if I am feeling reclusive, and my seat mate isn't cute), and sport a look on my face akin to the one worn if I had just seen a roach on my shoe. If all else fails, wait until your wannabe paramour utters a few words to determine his or her native language. Then, pretend not to speak that language.
4. Jet Lag
Problem: Arriving at your destination too exhausted to enjoy your first couple of days is a hassle . What I strive to avoid is becoming acclimated during the very final days of my trip, and then returning home to another several days of adjustment.
Solution: Take Benadryl on board, just after eating that "fabulous" dinner served by the airline. Benadryl has an amazing ability to cause drowsiness on command while skipping the drool phase. In addition. book an evening flight out of your home city to assist with natural body cycles of sleeping overnight. Upon arrival, just as soon as your hotel admits you into that oasis of soft sheets, and overstuffed and overfluffed pillows in your room, take a long nap. Rest yourself and get up just in time to fortify yourself with a large, delicious ethnic dinner, before hitting the hay once again to sleep through till morning. This tactic has worked well for me, and I have felt energized and charged for the next day at full speed.
5. No Public Toilets and Diarrhea
Problem: Unusual foods in foreign places can cause a gastrointestinal upset. The most common problem is that there is no public restroom nearby when you need one. The operative word here is "need". The second issue is that the condition of these so-called restrooms can be so deteriorated and abominable that they offend all of our senses. Often, there is no toilet seat, no toilet paper, and at times, there is no real toilet. There may only be a mere hole in the ground, on top of which one must squat. This does have some benefits. It increases muscle tone in thighs and can be better than some advanced yoga positions, developing a balancing ability that rivals the skills taught in the classes at your gym.
Solution: Never leave home, or even your hotel room, without loperamide and a packet or two of tissues in your backpack. As a backup, remember to take extra napkins to stuff in your pockets while eating at local restaurants. These can come in quite handy. When entering a foreign "water closet", as they are so often termed, have tissues ready in hand as maneuvering inside can be tricky in small spaces.
6. Tenacious Solicitors and Beggars
Problem: Solicitors and/or beggars who follow you around and pester you to purchase something or give them money. These individuals are often quite skilled in individual and collective persistence. They see you reject the advances of their sales associates, and still they badger, beg, or annoy.
Solution: Avoid any and all eye contact with these sales predators. If you see them at a distance, cross the street or change your route to avoid them. If all else fails, try to sell them stuff, or ask them for money to help finance your own trip.
7. Delayed Flights and Missed Connections
Problem: One of my most memorable delays occurred in Atlanta, which is now an airport I avoid like SARS or a doctor's waiting room during flu season. I boarded my plane on time, and we all sat, seat belted into our chairs for an hour until we were told to disembark as there was a "mechanical problem" with the airplane. We impatiently waited in the gate area for an additional hour until we were informed that the crew never arrived for our aircraft. At that point we were all directed to rearrange our itineraries and reserve a hotel in Atlanta for the night. The next morning's flight was again delayed due to an unexpected Presidential motorcade blocking the entrance to the airport. These unexpected delays changed all my plans for arrival in Italy, and shortened my carefully planned and meticulously organized stay. My flight was ultimately delayed for an entire day.
Solution: I asked the airline in Atlanta if it was possible to change my return date in order to allow me one more day in Florence. They said "of course, for an additional $1500." Very frustrated I went on with the next leg of my trip, arriving in Paris before my connecting flight to Florence. I waited in line at the Air France ticket counter and explained my situation once again. The attendant behind the counter accommodated my request without the blink of an eye, and with absolutely no additional charges, extended my trip an additional day. My tip here is don't give up. Ask more than one person in charge at the airline to extend your trip an additional day if your delay has cost you valuable time at your destination. Another tip here is to always be pleasant and courteous when dealing with airline personnel.
8. Puking Children on Airplanes
Problem: Many passengers get airsick. A large number of passengers are children who tend to experience projectile vomiting. These children do not appear to understand common social courtesies of turning their disengorging heads the opposite direction of an adjacently seated or standing person. I have been an inadvertent target for more than three episodes of exorcist vomiting on an overseas flight.
Solution: Be sure to use that in-flight blanket strategically. As soon as the flight begins, open that cellophane prison that contains your courtesy blanket, and carefully lay it about your lap, being sure to cover the tips of your shoes. This is particularly effective if you are so unfortunate to be next to a mother holding an infant. In my experience, the feeding process generally goes smoothly. However, it is during the burping phase that infants regurgitate the contents of their stomach randomly in my direction. Having this protective blanket around your lap, legs and shoes will give you the added protection that you need. Another all-important tip: warily observe those around you. If you see a child, or even a teenager run for the bathroom gulping for air, rest assured that a vomit session is eminent. Avoid that person at all costs. Change lines for the restroom or go to the opposite end of the plane. Even if you use the same restroom after the vomiter has purged his partially digested score of fast-food, the restroom will be in no condition for a pleasant visit.
9. Drawbacks of Flying Coach
Problem: Airplane cabins can be noisy and those around us often discuss the most intimate details about their lives as if they are on stage. Food choices are limited and movies and shows may be things you have already seen, or things you never wanted to see in a million years.
Solution: Bring your own eye mask, ear plugs and slippers. Make your little area a flying first class spa. Pamper yourself with either Bose noise canceling headphones, or ear buds connected to your Ipad or other device equipped with 16 episodes of Sex and the City. Do whatever it takes to sweep yourself away into a mental dreamland. I also like to pack my own snacks so I am not dependent on two Danish butter cookies from the flight attendant or 12 honey roasted peanuts with a half glass of Sprite. Bring your own gourmet meal if you want, and your fave beverage. Surrounding yourself with the comforts of home, such as movies of your choice, fleece lined bunny slippers and Toblerone bars are my recommendations.
10. Lost Luggage Nightmares
Problem: You lose your luggage and it never appears on your vacation. You end up purchasing emergency underwear at your destination and buying essential clothing from designer stores. Grand total spent replenishing your necessary items: $2,000. After six months, you believe you have surmounted the pain of being deprived of your cherished items inside your Louis Vuitton rolling suitcase. Months later, while watching the Travel Channel's Baggage Battles, you are stunned to see a Louis Vuitton rolling suitcase in hotrod red, exactly like the one you lost, gracing the screen. After it is purchased in an auction, garnering a price tag of $5,000, it is opened to reveal your leopard skin thong given to you as a Valentine present from your husband, or a bottle of a prescription sex-aid medication with your name on the label.
Solution: Only take carry-on items. Never. Check. Your. Luggage. Enough said.
Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! `I wonder how many miles I've fallen by this time?' she said aloud. `I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth. Let me see: that would be four thousand miles down, I think--' (for, you see, Alice had learnt several things of this sort in her lessons in the schoolroom, and though this was not a very good opportunity for showing off her knowledge, as there was no one to listen to her, still it was good practice to say it over) `--yes, that's about the right distance--but then I wonder what Latitude or Longitude I've got to?' (Alice had no idea what Latitude was, or Longitude either, but thought they were nice grand words to say.)