These are the rules I always follow when planning my trips.
1. Travel as off season as possible to avoid crowds and inflated rates. I have had entire state parks to myself and the wildlife. Avoid the crowds and stay as long as you’d like in a cafe, a garden, a museum, etc., as if you owned the place. And when the tourists go home, the residents come out and then the party really starts!
2.Make your bucket list based on why you are taking the trip. What is the experience?
3. Budget the money to spend for the experience you gotta have. Allow for an extra expense if it will add to the total experience. Nothing is worse than regretting a missed opportunity–losing a fabulous opportunity to make the trip even better and add a fantastic memory of a great time that lasts forever–that is why I travel.
4. Connect with a few locals before leaving for some insider pointers. This is easy if you belong to a hiking organization, hobby group or professional association. If not, ask for info from accommodations or a restaurant or site that strikes your fancy. If you really dig a lodging or restaurant or site, chances are they like what you like and have great ideas.
5. Check out locals who open their homes and kitchens to travelers or run pop up kitchens. Check out Bookalokal, EatWith and VizEat to locate peer-to-peer dining, a long overdue idea! I love it! For pop up kitchens http://www.popuprestaurants.com has a good list, but in a few places, the REAL underground dinners may require more snooping.
6. DO NOT listen to anyone at the visitors center. They’ve lived there for so long and held that job since high school and are usually clueless about what is cool to check out. They’re good for general info on maps and such. My encounters have not been pretty ones.
Research like crazy and connect with what delights you. Only you know what that is. Find out how to find it!
7. Snag all opportunities and serendipitous moments (using good judgement of course) I have enjoyed walking tours, lunches, evenings out and dinner parties with interesting people I just met. I am often introduced to amazing individuals I’d never meet on my own and –a few of whom have actually CHANGED the world!
8. Travel a lot and like a homey touch? Consider joining an organization that offers rooms and a restaurant, like International House or a members club. Or rent an apartment, lake cottage or cabin. I used HomeAway twice with no problem. Next, I’d like to try out Airbnb.
B&Bs both home and abroad work very well and are reasonably priced. Small inns and boutique hotels are nice splurges to take when you can. The local connections can’t be beat.
Consider a similar home base if you want to travel in a particular area for more than two or three nights. Sometimes it’s better to stay put and get to know one place well, rather than go crazy spending a night here and there always on the go.
As with all business transactions and personal safety issues, be very clear with expectations, vigilant, research and *read* the contract.
9. Rent the proper car for your adventures. Emphasize to the car rental company what your needs are and that you are emphatic. Busting an axle on a rough road or having to fill the tank constantly won’t be fun.
10. Don’t over pack, even if you have a home base. It’s interesting to pick up a few things in the local shops when you travel. Don’t bring too much back either! Ship it or skip it. (I’m copyrighting that) Bought an extra umbrella or gear? See if the B&B or inn will keep it for the next guest. Travel cahuna Rick Steves has good tips on his travel site: https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/packing-light/ricks-packing-list
Start a collection of your travel memories using with these tips. These pointers are why MY travel rules!