We’ve all gotten bad advice from other seemingly well-meaning people. People just love giving out advice, which can be a good thing when things turn out well, but when it’s bad advice, of course we all wish we never would have followed the advice. Over the years I’ve either personally gotten bad travel advice or heard others giving it out, including everywhere from in person to podcasts to blogs to social media. It seems like everyone likes to give out advice on all things travel-related. Here are some of the most memorable pieces of bad advice I’ve either received or heard given to others.
“You should leave your child at home when you travel. They’re too young to appreciate it anyway.” When I asked my daughter in an interview for my blog, “What would you say to parents who say their child is too young to appreciate a place?” She replied, “That’s not true. Even if they don’t remember it later, they’ll still enjoy it in their own way when they visit it.” Appreciation is an extremely personal and difficult to define abstract thing anyway. Who’s to say that a 2 year old boy doesn’t appreciate an art museum just because he can’t properly vocalize his feelings. Just because he’s cranky doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy what’s before him. Perhaps it’s simply that he’s hungry or tired. Even an adult may not appreciate something that another would find beauty in but you don’t hear anyone tell another adult not to travel or go somewhere because they won’t appreciate it. I once heard someone say about Yosemite, “What’s the big deal anyway? It’s just a bunch of rocks and trees.” Let that one sink in for a moment.
“Bring the two biggest suitcases you can check with the airline without paying extra for weight so you can bring more stuff.” There are so many things wrong with that statement to me, but I’ll just refer you to my blog post on packing light, which you can read here: Never Check a Bag with an Airline Again.
“Wait until you retire to go to places outside the United States.” My thinking on this is the following, what if something happens to my health between now and when I retire and I’m not able to get around as easily as now or I can’t physically fly for long distances? It’s far and away easier to travel when you’re younger for many reasons like jet lag is harder to deal with the older you get, many people have mobility issues when they get older, some rental car agencies won’t rent cars to people 70 years of age or older, many people have health issues that require them to see their multitude of doctors sometimes as often as every week, and the list goes on. Travel when you’re young, people. Don’t wait or it might never happen.
“Just fly with your infant in your lap as long as she’s under 2 years old since it’s free.” I’ve flown both with my daughter in my lap and I’ve paid for a seat for her before she was two years old and technically I wouldn’t have had to if I would have had her in my lap for the flight. My rule of thumb for this is if it’s a short flight (say 2 hours or less), it should be fine to hold them but for a long flight and certainly for an international flight, you and your baby will be more comfortable with their own seat. That’s not to say you can’t still hold your baby at times but when you need a break, like to eat or drink, go to the restroom, or just to give yourself a break, if your child doesn’t have their own seat, either you or your companion (if you’re traveling with one) will have to hold your child for the entire duration of the flight. Just know that most airlines recommend always purchasing a seat for your child primarily because of turbulence.
“Why travel to Japan (insert other countries here as well like Germany, Norway, etc.) when you can just go to Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center and experience the country there? In place of Epcot, I’ve also heard this about Las Vegas in regard to some of the themed casinos like Paris, in other words, Why go to Paris when you can just go to the Paris casino and hotel in Las Vegas.” This is obviously spoken by people who don’t travel much. Seriously, anyone who thinks going to the Italian section of Epcot Center in Florida is like visiting the country of Italy is sorely mistaken. Yes, you’ll find “Italian” food and “Italian” scenery, but it’s all Walt Disney’s version of what Italy should look like and the food should taste like. I’m sorry but I would take some food from a street vendor in Italy over the over-priced Americanized food in the Italian section of Epcot Center any day!
“You should let a travel agent plan everything for you. That’s what I always do.” When I started planning my vacation to Peru, I thought of this and how I’ve heard it before. I’ve been planning vacations for my family completely by myself for about 15 years so this is nothing new for me, but Peru is one of the most difficult vacations I’ve planned for my family simply because of logistics in the country. For example, the conditions of the roads and the amount of crime in certain areas make it not so easy or even recommended to rent a car, so I’ve had to figure out alternate ways to get around. Of course people in their twenties just take buses all over Peru but I’m a bit older than that and honestly don’t really want to be crammed in a bus on someone else’s schedule for hours on end. Long story short, I’ve figured it out on my own but it did take some time. With all of the resources available online (some good, some bad information so read it all thoroughly) there’s really no reason why anyone can’t plan their own vacations. My advice is to start small and work your way up from there so don’t go and plan a three week trip to the Amazon rainforest if it’s the first trip you’ve ever planned by yourself. It’s like everything else, the more you do it, the easier it gets.
“It’s better to try to go to multiple countries instead of just one or two when you travel internationally. In fact, I always try to squeeze in as many places as I can.” I know many people, all Americans, who do this all the time. They don’t just go to Italy, but they go to Italy, France, and England. In one week. Maybe that sounds great to some people but that sounds a bit frenetic to me. When I travel, I prefer to spend more time in a country to get more of a feel for it and to be able to relax, rather than just hitting the “hot spots” like Paris, Rome, and London on a whirlwind tour. Of course that means I have less countries to brag about where I’ve been, but I’m OK with that. Sometimes it’s easy to cross the border and combine countries but in general, for me, slow travel is the way to go.
“An hour will be plenty of time for a layover in Madrid coming from the United States.” I was told this one by an Iberian airline agent over the phone when I called about changing my flight after I was notified of a change in flight times by the airline a couple of months before departure. Of course I highly doubted this was true and should have trusted my gut instinct, but I listened to the agent and of course I missed the next flight. There’s no way you can get through customs and get to your next gate in one hour at a big airport like Aeropuerto Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas and probably not for any airport in the world unless your gate is right next to where you come out of customs and you get extremely lucky!
What about you guys? What bad travel advice have you received?