We just returned from a ten day trip and so now I am a travel expert. I could write a book and charge you money for my expertise but heck, I’m a generous sort of gal so you’re getting my top five or so tips free of charge.
Tip Number One: After checking in to your hotel, Airbub, VRBO or friend’s couch, locate the nearest liquor store. This is not as easy as it sounds. In Canada, where where we spent most of our vacation, liquor and wine are sold in well-guarded holes in the wall that are often hard to find. However, these shops only sell alcoholic beverages so if your nightly poison is a gin and tonic, you will have to find a separate grocery to purchase the tonic. Oddly, beer and hard cider are not considered alcoholic so they’re sold just about anywhere food is.
I’m not saying you should avoid the local bars and hole yourself up in your room to get sloshed. God no. Good bartenders are true artistes and it’s always fun to see what regional spin they’ll invent to liven up a standard. But, if you consume more than one Hop, Skip and Go Naked, you might just hop, skip and go naked. So, it’s best to wait until you’re back in your room to get wobbly sloshy (the only way to watch the evening news in a country where the citizens think your president is a sick and perverted joke.)
Tip Number Two: If you can, splurge on a centrally located hotel so you can walk everywhere you want to go. Do not assume ride sharing services such as Lyft or Uber will be there for you. The two cities where we stayed, Montreal and Halifax, have outlawed them. Of course, there’s the Metro and bus service which I’m sure are absolutely wonderful but I’d rather march the old goat I’m married to all over town and listen him to complain for the next three days (another reason why locating the liquor store first is smart thinking). Besides, a wrong turn every now and then can lead to new and fun adventures. Here is Joel on an overlook that overlooks nothing. Now, that’s not in the guidebooks!
Tip Number Three: If your hotel has one of those obnoxious turn down services, put the Do Not Disturb sign on your door and leave it there for the duration of your stay. I don’t know about y’all but once I return from marching the old goat all over town, there ain’t no one gonna pry me from bed for a chocolate mint. A chocolate martini perhaps. Heck, if we’re staying at a hotel for more than one night, we put out the Down Not Disturb sign and never take it down. I’m one of those women who can’t stand to have people see my mess and so I will scour and scrub a hotel room if I think a maid might be coming in while I’m gone which kind of negates the idea of a vacation.
Tip Number Four: If you’re staying at a popular tourist destination, such as Halifax Nova Scotia, and you look out your hotel window in the morning and see five super gigantic cruise ships docked in the harbor, adjust your plans to visit all the must-see places. I can assure you that the mile long line of buses parked at the wharf are waiting to shuttle three hundred thousand retirees out for a delicious lobster feast at Peggy’s Cove. Getting that perfect shot of the most iconic lighthouse in the world, well, is it worth trailing a line of tour buses for thirty five miles? Nay. Trust me, there are other picturesque lighthouses in Nova Scotia. (Below Baddeck’s lighthouse)
Tip Number Five: If you’re planning to take the famous Adirondack train from Montreal to Manhattan and are worried about passing through customs at the US border, keep two things in mind. First, you will be leaving from Gare Centrale which is a cavernous station filled with shops, cafes, and the most heavenly bakeries in the world. For crying out loud, unless you prefer microwaved hamburgers and three dollar bottles of water, purchase food and drink at the station. It’s an eight hour trip and the tiny snack bar on the train runs out of everything by the time you reach Albany.
The second thing to keep in mind is to rehearse your story. You will be questioned at least three times by armed customs agents who stop the train out in the middle of nowhere. They stand over you and, after asking the usual “Are you carrying explosive devices?” will ask gotcha questions such as: “When did you have your wisdom teeth removed?” “Are there any left-handed people in your family?” “Are you currently or have you ever eaten a rutabaga?”
And you better give the same answer every time they ask or they’ll pull you from the train and you’ll never be seen again.
Last tip: Always make room in your take on bag for a lobster. I didn’t and so we had to leave Halifax lobster-less. Ah well, live and learn.
What are your favorite travel tips?