Friday, October 25, 2013

Consider an off-season holiday, and eat off the beaten path

It was late November when Keller and
Cookie toured Lisbon last.





It's a lovely feeling to arrive in a foreign destination and not feel crushed, crowded or surrounded by other tourists.

The harbor in Toulon, France, off season in early December.

HERE ARE more tips on making the most of your time and money, thinking outside the box, being creative on the road!
* THINK "Off-season."  Late spring and late autumn are wonderful times to travel, whether it's to one of our country's splendid national parks, an Atlantic crossing or a couple weeks in Australia or Europe.  Schools are in session so you won't be surrounded by kids in hotels or planes.  Hotel rates are lower and the beauty of the countryside in changing seasons  matches the attractive prices.
* BAG IT UP.  We always teased my mother for packing empty plastic bags whenever we traveled. But she knew what she was doing.
Friends Misha and David Minesinger enjoy off-season time in Key Largo.
 I bring a half-dozen variously sized plastic bags.  They take no space and are great for soiled or damp cloths, odd toiletries, extra batteries, laptop and phone chargers and other stuff that gets scattered throughout the luggage. Thanks, mums.
You can shop economically at a city market -- this large one is in Sao Paulo.
* EATING OUT. Surrounded by foreign snacks, bakery delights and all the treats we indulge in when traveling, it is not necessary to eat three full meals out every day. In the morning, we do fine with coffee and a sparse breakfast, often included in the room price.  Full American breakfasts are expensive overseas. We often picnic for lunch -- a stop at a market for a hunk of cheese, a baguette, an apple or pear, wedge of salami, a couple beers or split of wine -- and thou! Under $15. Keep fruit in your room and take a banana or apple with you on a walk.  Then we have a nice supper, often composed of three or four appetizers or a large salad and a shared main course.  House wines are usually excellent in Europe, sometimes served in a carafe or pitcher and half the price of bottles.
*AVOID PRICEY hotel shops and gourmet food places and shop instead at the local supermarkets.  We  always pick up tins of tea and bags of coffee for reasonable prices.  (Save room when you're packing.) Fun memories to sip a cuppa with a French or Italian label
Be up for a mountain trek or hike, as this one in
Santorini, the Greek Isles, with Cookie and Corby Skinner.
when you're back home.  A $3 package of cookies with the foreign label, or jar of local jam are nice presents. No need to spend $25 at duty free or the airport. You can also find cheap gifts such as t-shirts by shopping around.
* IF YOU'RE visiting only major European cities, take the train.  Eurailpass is time honored. European trains are clean and punctual.
A Labor Day march in Athens, viewed from the Grande Bretagne Hotel. 
 If you're concentrating on villages within a small area -- say, Tuscany, Costa del Sol or Provence --  rural locales trains don't regularly service -- you're better off to rent a car.  Buses are also an inexpensive way to augment travel and save money. But driving yourself on a big
European "Tuesday it must be Belgium" loop is not a good idea for the time, expense and pace. Overnight trains save you hotel money, too.  We traveled once from Venice to Paris, leaving in the evening in a shared, four-bed sleeper car, arriving rested the next morning with new friends and a shared midnight supper!
HAVE YOUR camera and sense of adventure and discovery ready for the unexpected! Sometimes the most memorable photos come from a spontaneous moment, an surprise event or scene upon which you stumble! Jugglers in Barcelona, marchers in Athens, the Queen's Brigade with horses and riders, enroute to Buckingham Palace on a sunny London morning.

COMING NEXT:  We take a look at  travel technology, from apps for reading, to maps, to money-saving phone tips. Then on to the art of learning to fully enjoy vacation.  Then our grand travel tips take an in-depth look at packing and preparation! On to eating wisely, looking for nature and combating jet lag.  Catch us Wednesdays and Saturdays at

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