46 Comments
May 16Liked by Samantha Childress

Only two pairs of shoes???!! Sam, you’re a better woman than I.

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May 16Liked by Samantha Childress

(almost left this as a comment in our google doc but I guess I’m opting to publicly out myself as a frivolous packer 😂)

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😂😂 my two pairs worked out perfectly in Rome and I was honestly so smug about it

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Thank you so much for the mention! And, thank you for talking about being ok with being a tourist. I get a fair amount of pushback when I tell people to do the Venice things like take a gondola and have a drink in Piazza San Marco. I understand wanting to feel like you have discovered something, but Venice has been a tourist town for literally more than a 1,000 years. I have a pal that jokes if you want a real Venetian experience, go to the McDonalds in Mestre. (on the mainland) You won't find a single tourist there.

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You are so welcome ❤️ and hahah, I am dying at your McDonald's suggestion--too right! Locals' experiences aren't all magical.

I didn't know people had been visiting Venice for so long! I often think about going to Luxor and seeing graffiti left behind by tourists from Rome circa 300 BC. Tourism is as old as time...so in a way, by participating in it, you're actually doing something very "authentic."

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I like "stop pretending you're not a tourist" very much. I mean, you went there for a reason, and that was to be someplace and see someplace that interests you. Why pretend that it's the place where you go to the dentist and have to deal with the internet installer? Does being too cool for school in that way really mean you have a better experience, or does it just mean you don't get to express your joy and enthusiasm much?

One of my travel musts is to find a public park or pedestrian zone that has a decent amount of foot traffic and just hang out in it. It's astonishing what you can observe, and what you can learn about a place. The street snacks one encounters in such places also tend to be well worth your while.

Also: if you eat where the cabbies eat, you'll rarely get a bad or an overpriced meal. I've had great luck asking cabbies in places as different as Washington, D.C. (amazing Eritrean takeout) and Seoul (mind-altering soondubu jigae) to take me to the place they like to go grab lunch between fares. This requires a certain level of intrepid trust but it's always worked for me.

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Yes, exactly! You're going to the place specifically to do and see cool things and experience something different. Locals don't get to go to museums and hang out in parks and eat several desserts every day, but you do BECAUSE YOU'RE A TOURIST!

And eating where the cabbies eat is an inspired move. I'll have to try that on my next trip. Even if the meal somehow doesn't end up being great, it would still be an interesting window into people's every day lives (and probably a funny story).

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The cabbie lunch tip is terrific. Thanks!

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May 24Liked by Samantha Childress

Arriving late here but I loved these tips, thank you! I save all the places I want to see to Google Maps before I travel (sometimes with separate lists for restaurants and sights etc) and then dowload it before I arrive so that I can use the map online. Then I can easily find my way to all the places - especially on foot - without having to faff about and either delete or move them to a favourites list to keep for future visits. I also love visiting supermarkets when I'm somewhere new - I think it's so fascinating to see how much they vary from what I'm used to and it's a nice glimpse of the day to day in each place.

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Yes! There is something so fun about stopping into a market or corner store and checking out local products.

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Thank you so much for including me, Samantha - I feel very lucky to be included with writers I admire so much, yourself especially!

I think your advice is spot on. I am 100% a carry-on girl - I traveled Europe for seven months last year out of a carry-on, and I would do it again! I just pack a lightweight tote into my suitcase and fill it with toiletries once I arrive. I think sometimes people associate being "touristy" with being disrespectful...so if you're mindful of where you are and the people around you, embrace being a tourist. You're there to see things, after all. Don't let anything diminish the joy of that!

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You're so welcome, Jodi! I was happy to include your beautiful newsletter :) Haha, I had a feeling my 3 weeks with a carry-on would prove to be a rookie number in comparison with some of my readers...super impressive that you made it seven months! And

I think you’re 100% right that a lot of people have come to think of “touristy” as meaning “disrespectful,” or perhaps “obnoxious”—and I suppose there will always be the handful that are jerks and give the rest of us a bad name. All we can do is try to be extra nice and contentious to counteract it.

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May 16Liked by Samantha Childress

Thanks so much for featuring me in this Sam, which is fantastic! I completely relate to the last tip: do it NOW!

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You are so welcome, Tom!!

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Playing catchup on my Substacks after my own period travelling, and I loved reading this as we have very similar ways of planning trips. Also: you managed to find the perfect words for choosing restaurants based on vibes. Walking around Pisa with my school friends and their baby last September we had the most amazing lunch based on 'Rachel's spidey senses'!

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It doesn't surprise me that you'd have a knack for choosing excellent restaurants, Rachel! It's so fun and satisfying to tap into those spidey senses to find great spots no one told you about. :)

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Jun 1Liked by Samantha Childress

What a fantastic and informative how-to post! You covered it all. Continue on and continue to enjoy the heck out of every destination you’re in. Good stuff here. And so practical!

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Thank you, Jeanine! So glad you found it useful!

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It really is. Thanks.

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What an elaborate and detailed post packed with tips . Thanks for sharing

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Thanks for reading, Lakshmi!

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May 19Liked by Samantha Childress

So many gems here. I agree! I use the google maps rating when looking for the best coffee, there's always many of them and you want one as nearby as possible when the coffee craving hit :) else, best tips are either from fellow local if you can find them, else fellow traveler/backpacker who's been around few days prior to your arrival - they would have the most current experience! And yes yes yes to carry on if you can get away with it, try minimalist packing. You can always hand wash when needed.

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Oh good point on seeking out people whose experience in the place is recent! Recs from 10 years ago might be of very little use, lol

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Just catching up on my reading while winding up (or down?) our trip to Sicily and Barcelona. SO wish I’d read it before we left as your excellent tips might have saved us some grief. Storing some ideas away for the next trip. It would definitely be good to plan smarter and pack lighter!

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So glad you found these useful Ruth! And I can't wait to hear more about your trip! :)

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May 17Liked by Samantha Childress

On the "Squeeze every last minute of goodness out of your trip" note about organizing things that are closer to each other, when my family and I were on a European tour the summer of my last year in college we sort of stumbled into a rule that I've followed since and works out really well:

Choose two things per day to do, one for the morning and one for the afternoon.

Now what those 'things' are is dependent on context of where you're traveling, what you're into, etc. but a basic example was in Paris we would visit a museum in the morning, have our bread cheese and wine picnics to power up and then we'd do something like walking along the Seine and visiting the bouquinistes. Then it was time for dinner and heading back to where we were staying.

It wasn't like that ended the day, not really. In the evening you have time to wander around and discover other things, but it's more for unplanned / inspo stuff -- OR you can just rest and prepare for the next day. But choosing only two things, morning and afternoon, really kept the energy going and helped balance planned vs. spontaneous travel in any given locality.

(Also generally speaking museums are better for earlier in the day because there's less people and most other cultural attractions are closed, whereas in the afternoon the museums are crowded and everything else is open to explore.)

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Yes! One morning thing, one afternoon thing is a great rule of thumb. This is kind of what Nick and I end up defaulting to as well...it helps ensure we aren't rushing from appointment to appointment, but also leaves room to add in more stuff from our B list (or just wander) if we finish things earlier than expected. It also allows time for much needed coffee and snacks in between, haha. And totally agree about doing museums early.

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May 17Liked by Samantha Childress

Thanks for the mention Sam 😊

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You're very welcome!

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May 17Liked by Samantha Childress

"No day is promised"

in 2014, my best friend passed away thanks to the flu.

In 2018 I became the same age as he did, and decided that I needed to not wait any longer, and went on a photographic trip to Nepal in 2019. I actually broke my foot in February of that year and strived hard to recuperate so I wound not miss my October 2019 trip, because indeed, no day is promised and when would I get to go again?

Given that the photographer doing the tours hasn't done once since thanks to the Covid pandemic...I made the right choice.

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I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend…I went through a similar thought process when my dad passed away in 2022, still relatively young. And good for you for making your trip to Nepal happen! What an opportunity. I imagine you got some incredible photos.

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This one stays in the save pile. Lots of good stuff here.

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:) glad you found it useful!

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May 16Liked by Samantha Childress

All very great advice!

"Moreover, tourists are everywhere; we can’t avoid each other, and frankly, I don’t see why we should, because we’re not going to experience life like locals no matter what. You are a tourist and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, so feel free to act like it, as long as you’re doing so with sensitivity and respect."

And I couldn't agree with the above statements more!

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It's funny, I kind of expected my pro-tourist stance to be controversial, but it seems to be the point that resonated the most from this essay! Thanks for reading, Christine :)

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