As the author of over 30 guidebooks (among other travel pursuits), Rick Steves spends his summers racing across the Continent, befriending locals and inspecting up to 20 hotels and 15 restaurants a day.
How has your job changed the way you travel?
I do what ever is necessary at whatever cost to maximize the value of my time, like hiring taxis and local guides.
What's the one thing you won't leave home without?
My laptop and Ambien.
What do you wear on the plane?
I wear a sweater and I bring my noise-reduction headphones. I'd rather fly coach with noise-reduction headphones than business class without them.
How do you deal with jet lag?
I leave home well rested and then use a quarter tab of Ambien when I wake too early, to finish the first night's sleep.
What's the first thing you do to get your bearings when you first arrive somewhere?
Read my guidebook chapter on the place.
How do you find non-touristy spots?
I love talking with locals about their favorites.
How do you approach local cuisine?
Places near markets, places without English menus, and places with fast turnover are good signs. Doner kebabs are my new fast, cheap, lunch option with a nice refreshing glass of ayran [a Turkish yogurt drink].
What sorts of things have you learned to do when traveling solo?
I use my evenings to check restaurants, and eat a late dinner in my favorite restaurant find of the night. Then I go home and input into my laptop what I learned that day.
How do you record and take notes on your trip while traveling?
I love my Moleskine notebooks. Like a lint brush, I collect scraps of news, tips, and new ideas and then design them into existing or new chapters as I work on my laptop.
How do you keep in touch with others while traveling?
I deal with my e-mail nearly every night, but only once a day. I haven't sent a postcard for ages.
What sorts of tourist etiquette tips have you picked up?
I don't worry about what kind of flowers to bring and how to cross my legs. I am just genuinely respectful, curious, and positive with the people I encounter on the road.