By Al Duggan, VBT
Al Duggan from VBT, one of the leaders in walking and bike active adventure trips, gives us some tips for how to maximize your experience.
A little preparation can go a long way in assuring that you get the most out of your destination, wherever you decide to go. So our veteran travelers and our team of associates came to the rescue, offering up some great suggestions to help you really get in touch with local life and to feel comfortable while you’re doing it.
1. Learn a bit of the Language
One of the best ways to get to know local culture is through chatting with residents. Dick J. advises learning a few basic phrases in the local language before you arrive. Offering a pleasant “Hello” in the native tongue can be a great ice breaker, helping you interact with locals. And let’s face it; at some point in your journey, you’re likely to need to ask where the bathroom is.
2. Test Your Skills
If you happen to strike up a conversation, put your language skills to the test. VBT Owner, Caroline Marston, says she likes to try out a couple words or phrases with a local and asks them how she did. You won’t always pass with flying colors, but it will certainly be good for a laugh. And who knows? You might get a little history or a bit of information about the local dialect for your efforts.
3. Research Before you Leave to Experience as Much as You Can
Kate P. recommends doing a bit of exploring before you even leave for your vacation. Use your VBT info packets, browse our Blog or take a look at your favorite travel publication to get a sense for the culture and the land before you arrive. Your interactions are likely to be all the richer for the research.
4. Don’t Over-Pack
Resist the urge to try to pack your entire closet. Harold R. encourages us to pack light. “You will be in your bike gear most of the time, so you can bring less regular clothes… Don’t worry about making a fashion statement.” Save your energy for biking, walking and exploring; not lugging around your wardrobe.
5. Lighten Your Load
VBT Content Manager, Kyla, recommends dressing in layers through your whole vacation, from your flight to your ride along the Tuscan Coast. Sporting a few layers will keep your bags lighter at the airport and they’ll keep you comfy on your bike no matter what the weather’s like. And we provide a bike bag to hold your layers as you shed them!
6. Plastic Makes Perfect
Janet, in Document Services, always brings a couple plastic bags when she’s traveling. They hardly take up any room in your luggage, and by the end of your vacation when you’ve got some dirty clothes or maybe a couple of damp articles, you can pop them in a plastic bag and still stow them safely with the rest of your things.
7. Keep your Cash Flowing
Anne, from our Technical Operations team, advises that you get a little bit of cash in the local currency before you leave your own country. That way, if something comes up, from a souvenir to a sandwich, you’ll be ready right away. Marketing Assistant, Leila, suggests you call your bank before you travel to let them know that you’ll be outside of the country. When your local currency runs out, just use your bank card at an ATM to fill back up. You’ll pay a small fee, but it’s usually much less than you would pay at a currency exchange office.
8. Slow Down
One of the best reasons to Travel with VBT is that we’ll take care of all the arrangements so that you are free to explore, and our pacing allows you to do so. Sure, you’ll visit the Duomo in Florence or the Louvre in Paris, but Marketing Assistant, Al, recommends you leave some time open for a little spontaneous exploration. Do a little people-watching over an afternoon espresso, take a picnic to a public park, you never know what kind of discoveries you’ll make. After all, some of the greatest experiences abroad tend to happen by chance.
9. Make Your Own Adventure
If you’re a little short on serendipity, VBT Owner, Gregg Marston, has a great trick for prompting a little interaction with the locals. “I always try to get a haircut. I find it to be one of the best non-touristy cultural discoveries. I can always count on a great interaction when explaining that I only want a ‘little trim.’ Try saying that in Polish or Hungarian!”
10. Keep an Open Mind
Remember, wherever you may be traveling to, you’re there for the experience. Things will be different from home, and that’s a good thing. Try to take it all in. Watch how the locals interact, listen to how they speak, taste their local specialties, let your reservations go and really get into all of it. You’re likely to find your vacation more rewarding and your memories even richer.
What’s your secret to a successful vacation? Let us know in the comments section below.
Founded in 1971 by a Middlebury College professor, VBT offers deluxe, small group bicycling, walking and cross-country skiing tours worldwide, including destinations in Europe, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Vietnam, Thailand, Peru, Argentina, Canada and the U.S.A. Each trip includes all accommodations, many meals, two expert local Trip Leaders, unique sightseeing and cultural activities, and full vehicle support. Unlike other companies, VBT also includes international airfare in its trip cost. For reservations or more information, and to receive the most recent VBT catalog, call 1-800-245-3868 or visit the Request a Catalog page on our website www.vbt.com.
VBT was reviewed as Bike Tour Buzz Editor's Pick as one of the best cycling adventure tour operators.