Major birthdays must be celebrated in grand style, preferably in a magnificent location and what better place for this Francophile to do so than in Paris? I know right? Plans have been hatched, a few additional countries attached, itinerary matched, tickets stashed and Jen ‘n Jane are now on count-down. Interestingly, I was recently asked if traveling with a bestie for extended periods of time might be a recipe for disaster? ‘Au contraire’ I retorted, we’re the perfect travel companions! Why? Well firstly let’s compare our (traveling) personalities.
Jane: Dodgy sense of direction, trips over carpet patterns, struggles with foreign languages, techno-queen, obsesses over connectivity, cries at random moments, panics over missing flights, has public toilet, thunderstorm and tripe phobia, packs like a minimalist pro, can talk under water.
Jenny: Reads maps upside down, falls off her heels, has a modicum of grasp on foreign languages, technophobic, slaps Jane when she cries, panics over missing flights, has public toilet, steak tartare and steep climb phobia, packs like a celebrity, can talk under water.
See? Perfect! And a good plan doesn’t go astray either.
Over a few too many Sangrias in the back streets of Barcelona, French Martinis on the Champs-Elysees, Beers in Belgium, Negronis in Florence, we’ve cemented a friendship that remains rock solid for we recognise our foibles and plan accordingly. Thanks to my beautiful traveling buddy’s careful research, project planning and our joint execution Jen and I have so far managed to avoid excessive public humiliation and Australian Embassy intervention.
How? Well before kissing off the fam at the departure gate, there’s a few basics one should always take care of. Some you might consider ‘suck egg’ while others might just save your marriage, bank balance, reputation, sanity or, as in our case, a dear friendship:
1) To avoid ‘Ignorant tourist, I spit on you!’ attitude from locals, we research our destinations in advance, gathering intelligence on:
- History and culture – oh so that’s why the Frogs dislike the Poms!
- Tourist high season – you want me to queue for two hours? Er, ain’t gonna happen!
- Low season – why is everything we’ve travelled 24 hrs to see closed?
- Seasonal weather – should I pack the puffer jacket as well as the bikini?
- Dress code – what do I wear in sacred places?
- Rules of behavior – so it’s illegal to photograph an Emirati then?
- Transportation – seven train transfers to get from there to there? Nope!
- Emergency numbers – you mean triple zero isn’t global?
- Security status – angry people sporting guns, machetes and attitude? Steer clear!
For high risk countries of course you’ll check the Govt’s smarttraveller.gov.au web site for up to date status on high risk countries.
Utilising Word Lens, Google Translate and iSpeak (insert language) we’ve also managed to communicate without completely bastardising the local language.
2) To avoid ‘damn we ran out of time’ sobbing, we develop a rough list of places we’d like to go, foods to try and experiences in which to indulge through Like A Local, Viator and Townske apps, then check opening hours, accessibility and advance ticketing options to avoid queuing. We also categorize our list into ‘Must See’, ‘Nice to See’ and ‘If Time Permits’
3) Lists built, we lock our attractions in on CityMaps2Go, including accommodation address, determine proximity to other list items, check transportation options with apps like AllSubway then hit the streets. But not before jumping on the big red (or green, or yellow) open tourist bus to conduct an advance recon.
Happy traveling folk! Hints of your own? Please share.