Arthur’s Blog: The Six Most Common Travel Questions

What are the queries most frequently posed to this blog by readers, or phoned in to the Travel Show? There are six of them repeated over and over most weeks, each reflecting a widespread travel concern.

1. Is it safe to travel to _____? It’s the most frequent query of all and the most difficult to answer. In a pinch, I direct them to the U.S. State Department’s list of nations to avoid (www.travel.state.gov) and also point out that a similar list maintained by the British Foreign Office (www.fco.gov.uk) is regarded, by some, as containing even better advice.

2. I am going on a cruise. Should I buy the cruise line’s shore excursions? The people who pose that question are apparently aware of the forbidding sums that cruise lines charge for the right to stuff themselves into a motorcoach with their fellow passengers and go whizzing about through a foreign area. I invariably advise that the decision be put off until you are actually on the cruise. You will then learn, from orientation sessions or your fellow passengers, that some port cities can easily be wandered on foot or in a taxi booked with two other passengers; that only a few foreign ports — Civitavecchia for visiting Rome, Livorno for visiting Florence, Kusadasi for visiting Ephesus in Turkey — are so distant from the places you wish to see that the cruise line’s motorcoach excursions are just about the only practical means to sightsee.

3. How do I find an apartment in _____? Increasingly, Americans are anxious to substitute a modestly-priced vacation apartment for a costly hotel room. I point out that a company called Homeaway.com has become a giant business for finding such apartments, and that it maintains subsidiaries in several foreign countries easily found on the internet. I also mention that Airbnb.com is an up-and-coming competitor to Homeaway, as is Rentalo.com.

4. Can I visit this many places in this amount of time? (For example, “I have ten days in Italy, can I visit these five cities: Rome, Naples, Florence, Venice, and Milan?”) I respond that they will ruin their trip by attempting to squeeze in too many destinations. I explain that traveling from one city to another occupies an entire day: checking out of one hotel, traveling to train station or airport; checking in to a second hotel and accustoming themselves to the new location. The necessary movements of travel make it extremely unwise to visit five or six cities (or countries) in their usually limited amount of time.

5. Should I buy travel insurance? I almost always answer Yes. Travel is an uncertain activity; things can and do go wrong. Almost 100% of all experienced Europeans buy travel insurance when they go on a trip; we should emulate their wise strategy.

6. What’s there to see and do in _____? This is the only question to which I respond with irritation (or less than courtesy). If they have to ask such a question, I say heatedly, then they have not done any advance reading at all. Travel brings to you only what you bring to it. Smart travelers spend an afternoon or two at a library reading about the places they plan to visit, or reading a guidebook at home, or they spend the equivalent time at their computers, doing the same. And thus equipped with substantial information, they enjoy a rewarding trip.

You can tune in to the Travel Show each Sunday to hear my daughter Pauline and I field these and other questions. Details are found at www.wor710.com. 

 

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