EXPERT ADVICE

They Learned the Hard Way

We gathered travel tips--such as never take a nap when you have jet lag--from some of the experts quoted in our article, "2007 Scouting Report." Read on for more of their advice.

By , Tuesday, Aug 21, 2007, 5:16 PM

HOW MUCH TO PLAN IN ADVANCE

I pretty much book everything in advance so that I can enjoy my trip without the added task of making other arrangements. Especially in Europe, where comfortable accommodations need to be booked well in advance. One exception might be train tickets. I find it is very easy to arrive at a train station, purchase my ticket at the desk, and go, without any hassles. —Anne Wood

I generally have an agenda of things I need to accomplish, but I've learned that too much planning isn't that useful. Being flexible is absolutely critical—I can be a lot more efficient if I let the schedule form around the realities on the ground, rather than try to force reality into a schedule. —Geoff Watts

I always book hotels for business travel, though you can catch me arriving sans reservation on vacations. —Mo Frechette

I am a planner. I book my air and hotels in advance. I take planning to the extreme, sometimes booking lunch and dinner reservations in advance. This is particularly true when I am traveling for pleasure and want to make sure that we are able to dine in special places (for example, Michelin-starred restaurants) or restaurants that we know and love from prior trips. —Walter Lowry

PACKING TIPS

Underpack. If the angler has too many lures, he spends more time fishing in the tackle box than in the water. As a rule don't bring a 100 percent solution for something with a 10 percent likelihood. I use mesh or nylon stuff sacks to organize socks, shirts, slacks, etc. It prevents contents from shifting and getting even more wrinkled, plus you can use the stuff sacks as bolsters on an inadequate sleep surface. —Pancho Doll

Absolutely underpack. Nothing is worse than being burdened with a heavy bag and having to rely on somebody else to help you out all of the time. I only bring what I can wear on my back and carry in one hand. Besides, if you don't have that perfect pair of shoes, it's an excellent excuse to buy some new ones! —Anne Wood

Underpack: You can always hand wash items like socks and underwear and, if necessary, send other items, such as shirts, out to be laundered. —Walter Lowry

I have a simple MS Word list of things to pack and to think about before leaving. People laugh at it, but it saves me lots of stress. I'd rather clutter paper instead of my head with everything I need to remember. I print it when I pack and scratch off things when they're stowed, and then, if I'm feeling extra productive, I'll carry it with me on the trip and add notes. If I didn't use something or needed something extra, I take a note. I'll modify the file at home and then print it again the next time I travel. —Mo Frechette

WHAT TO WEAR ON THE PLANE

I wear wrinkle-resistant clothing, which is comfortable to wear for hours (black yoga pants are great—never jeans!), and a sweater I can slip on easily when the temperature cools off. I usually wear flip-flops, because they are easy to get through the airport checkpoints, but I always bring warm, comfortable socks to slip on while on the plane. Sometimes I will bring my down jacket, which keeps me warm and doubles as a big fluffy pillow. I also always make sure I have a pen (it's annoying when you don't have a pen when the flight attendants hand the customs documents out), a good book, a comb and hair clip, lip balm, a toothbrush, and skin astringent to freshen up with just before landing. —Anne Wood

I always wear sport jackets. You can stuff so much in them, and they still look snazzy. I bring a pair of nice warm socks (shoes come off), a sleeping mask, my iPod, eyeglasses and contacts case, lip balm, lotion, back issues of The New Yorker magazine, and anything I'm afraid of missing if the airline loses my checked luggage. I also carry an empty Nalgene bottle and fill it up at a drinking fountain after security. —Mo Frechette

I never fly without my Bose noise-reducing headphones. —Claus Sendlinger

I wear comfortable layers to make it easy to adjust to different temperatures, and then I bring a good book and as little else as possible! —Bruce Haxton

HOW TO DEAL WITH JET LAG

Make sure you change to the local time immediately. Never get tempted to go to sleep just because you would be in bed at home. You just have to tough it out! —Bruce Haxton

I try to adjust my sleep cycle while in transit. And I drink lots of water—hydration is a beautiful thing, and helps a lot in combating fatigue. —Geoff Watts

I have always found it best to just jump right into local time. I switch my watch to local time right away and try to stay awake until the local bedtime, and I get up in time for breakfast. Taking an evening stroll the first night wherever I am is always a nice way to ease into the new time zone. —Anne Wood

I ignore jet lag completely and just carry on doing whatever I have to do in the time zone of the country I arrive in. —Henry Madden

I use melatonin. The day I depart, I take 1 mg of melatonin at the bedtime of my destination's time zone, so if I am flying from L.A. to Paris and plan to go bed there at midnight, I will take the melatonin at 3 P.M. L.A. time on the day I fly out. Then I take another 1 mg dose of melatonin at bedtime when I have reached my destination. I also drink lots of water and get as much natural light as possible. —Walter Lowry

Going westbound: hot sake and good sushi. Eastbound: a long walk and a Weizenbier (wheat beer). —Claus Sendlinger

GETTING YOUR BEARINGS

Usually, I study a map prior to arrival-and the combination of having studied a map and taking a walk makes a new neighborhood seem familiar. —Walter Lowry

I like to have a drink in a local pub. —Geoff Watts

I buy local papers and read the obituaries. I go for a run. I get the free weekly and see what bands are playing.— Mo Frechette

I avoid taxis as much as possible, and opt to walk or take the public transit wherever I go: I see more of the neighborhoods and feel less like a tourist. Perhaps my favorite way is to visit the local farmers market. It tells you so much about a place, not only about the food and local agriculture, but also the timing of people's days. —Anne Wood

The best thing to get a feel for a country is to get in touch with locals. —Claus Sendlinger

HOW TO FIND NON-TOURISTY SPOTS

If I am returning to a city that I have visited many times, such as Paris, I try to stay in a different neighborhood. By doing this, I can return to places that are old and familiar and also discover a new neighborhood. At other times, I will simply pick an area from a city map that is outside the tourist area and, working with a red Michelin guide, select one or more possible places for dinner in a "neighborhood" restaurant. —Walter Lowry

I try to ask people I trust before I go. I don't ask for a long list, just one or two places, tops. Then I play like Alice and follow the rabbit. When I eat at a good place, I ask the people where they like to eat. And so on. —Mo Frechette

In general, I try to avoid the restaurants that have the American menu, especially those with the very aggressive guy standing out front yelling at you to come in. Most of my favorite places are on side streets, or several blocks or kilometers from the nearest tourist highlights. However, recently I was desperately hungry, and caved into one of those tourist-looking places in Turkey, and had a fantastic meal. So, I always tell people simply to walk around and pick what looks good to you. Part of the magical experience of traveling is stumbling across a gem by accident, and keeping it in your own memory. You can't get that from a recommendation or a guidebook. —Anne Wood

Books aren't reliable; I recommend looking for people who seem to have something in common with you (age, style, etc.) and asking if they could give you some recommendations. —Geoff Watts

Never be afraid to ask locals, but also never be afraid to disbelieve them, as they will often recommend things they think you would like rather than what they like, which is always a disaster. Hotel owners tend to be very good sources of secrets, but you need to earn their trust as Brazil especially is full of little gems for closed little networks. —Henry Madden

One option is to read a guidebook and then intentionally go nowhere that it suggests (this usually ensures you miss out on crowds of people). Another is to just explore, explore, explore. I love walking/cycling/driving around and taking random turns to see where I end up. —Bruce Haxton

STREET FOOD

Being completely and utterly open to trying anything and everything is part of the beauty of travel and learning about other cultures. The most recent delicacy I tried was goat's head in Tanzania with a Masai tribe. There's no failsafe way to gauge if the food is OK, but if food is hot and cooked in front of you it will usually be OK—busy stalls are also usually a sign of OK food. Failing that, keeping some Imodium in reserve can help you out of tricky situations! —Bruce Haxton

If it isn't a matter of health but rather an ingredient I am not accustomed to eating, I have always thought it rude to not try something once. What is good enough for the locals certainly isn't going to kill you to try, and often you will be very surprised by just how delicious something is when prepared by those who know what to do with it. Some of the best local dishes I have tried, despite my initial surprise, include snails in nettle sauce, sheep brain, and lizards—yes, from head to tail! —Anne Wood

Avoid seafood in the countryside unless it is locally fished. Refrigeration can be an issue. —Geoff Watts

So as long as it looks like people are eating and leaving alive, I'll probably try it. —Mo Frechette

TIPS FOR SOLO TRAVELERS

I used to love traveling on my own and would suggest to others not to worry too much about being lonely: you will often find that local people will come and chat if you are on your own, and it can be a great way to make friends. —Bruce Haxton

In a restaurant, don't isolate yourself in a booth or in a corner. Sit at the bar when possible, or at a centrally located table. Buy the local newspaper; it's a good way to start a conversation. —Pancho Doll

I enjoy going out to dinner alone (with or without a book). View it as a special treat—having time to yourself and treating yourself to a nice dinner. —Walter Lowry

Eating alone is fun because going for dinner is often a special occasion, especially outside of big cities, so there is a lot of awkwardness and etiquette, and that makes for very amusing people-watching. Instead of feeling self-conscious, I enjoy observing the behavior of those around me without the interruption of having to talk to someone else. —Henry Madden

Afterward, I take an evening stroll, if it feels safe to walk alone outside. I remember one evening on my own when it was my only night in Barcelona. I didn't want to go out on the town by myself, so I paid a taxi driver to just drive me around and show me Barcelona at night-just for an half hour. It actually didn't cost that much, and I really enjoyed seeing all the people dressed up for their night on the town walking about, and hearing the sounds of the city alive at night. —Anne Wood

RECORDING YOUR TRIP

I use my digital camera to record new products—or new product ideas. I also have a notebook with me at all times, in which I record all sorts of things in chronological order. When traveling on business, I not only take notes about products, vendors, etc., but I also staple business cards onto pages in the notebook. Months later, when I need information, I know exactly where to find it. —Walter Lowry

I always take a digital camera with me. Digital is wonderful, because you don't have to worry about film going through the X-ray machines, and you don't have to spend a lot of money on terrible shots. When I return, I can sort through my images, e-mail them to friends, crop them, or even order an album of photos online. —Anne Wood

I record my trips in my mind. I don't even take many photos, because I don't like the immediate barrier this can put up between me and locals. —Bruce Haxton

KEEPING IN TOUCH

Being accessible 24/7 for my 8-year-old daughter is very important to me, so I take advantage of modern advances in telephone technology while on the road. With a GSM quad-band, PDA-phone, I can travel to Europe without needing a new phone number. Plus, it allows me to take pictures or even short videos and e-mail them to friends and family so they know I am still alive. Text messaging is a quick and easy way to connect with people I am rendezvousing with abroad. I get a lot of the same benefits of carrying a laptop when I take a PDA, without having to actually carry my laptop. —Anne Wood

I rely heavily on e-mail. I have a mobile phone with me at all times in case my business or my family needs to reach me urgently. And I use a landline, accessing it with a telephone credit card that bills to one of my numbers, which saves me a fortune as compared to using a mobile phone internationally. —Walter Lowry

I primarily use a cell phone. I hit Wi-Fi once every two or three days to e-mail, and I text my current itinerary to a couple of contacts, so my general whereabouts are known. —Pancho Doll

Postcards. They're really cheap! —Mo Frechette

TOURIST ETIQUETTE

I never wear shorts and sneakers when I travel. I like to fit in (as much as possible) and nothing sticks out more than a white guy in shorts and bright shoes. Don't make assumptions-ask someone if you are uncertain what to do. Realize that you are on someone else's turf, and always be humble. Most of all, be patient: Other cultures operate on a different time frame then we are used to in the States, and things take longer to get done...just expect and accept that, and don't get stressed or be rude about service. —Geoff Watts

If I am going to an area I know has a certain sensitivity to certain clothing, I will respect that. I'll bring a scarf to Turkey if I want to go into the Blue Mosque (or wear their loaner scarf), because I'm a guest. However, no matter where I go, I'm still me, so I bring what I would normally wear, except possibly more wrinkle-resistant fabrics. And then I always try to pick up some common phrases in the local language, such as hello and good-bye, please and thank you. I attempt to speak as much of the local tongue as possible, even if I make an idiot out of myself in the process. Any effort is better than none. —Anne Wood

I never overtip. If foreigners tip too much, it breeds a lack of respect among locals and tourists. For example, in an area where two pesos should be a good tip, if some tourist gives 50 pesos, the local will start to think this is normal and will get angry and pushy with other tourists when they don't do the same. This irritates the tourist, and you can have a spiral of disrespect. —Henry Madden

I'm loud. So are most Americans, relative to the volume in other countries. Lower your voice. —Pancho Doll

DON'T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT...

A little flashlight in case the electricity goes out. We forget how much of the world still doesn't have reliable electricity. Also bring a universal power adapter. —Geoff Watts

If I'm traveling to meet someone, I bring pictures of my business and home area to show what they are like. Gifts for unexpected occasions are nice, too. —Mo Frechette

Purell liquid sanitizer and wipes so that I can "wash" my hands wherever I may be and can wipe down the telephone, TV remote control, etc. in hotel rooms. —Walter Lowry