Learning the hard way: Scribbler’s Travel Tips

Got any travel tips?  We’re on the road a fair amount, and it would be good to reduce the odds of having to kick myself.  Here are some things learned the hard way:

Photo source: Jade

1. If you’re at a nice restaurant, and the host or hostess spreads a black napkin on your lap, and a white napkin on your husband/friend/date’s lap, don’t be offended. It doesn’t mean the staff anticipates you spilling red wine on the linen. It’s to prevent the white napkins from getting lint on your black outfit. It’s also grubbing for tips, but don’t be offended by that either. They really are underpaid.

2. Do not pretend to take a picture of your spouse when you’re really taking a picture of a famous actor and his wife sitting behind your spouse. The celebrity couple will not be fooled. The looks they give you, which will show up in your photo, will make you ashamed of yourself. (No picture here. Enough said.)

3. What about purses? Do you carry one? What kind?

For me anyway, it turns out purses aren’t necessary.  Pockets work great. If you don’t believe me, ask any guy. Purses are one more thing to remember, and make you a target for pickpockets. Also, no matter how big your purse is, things still get lost in it. Of course, if you want a purse, that’s fine. Just remember — unless you have a medical condition or a baby, you probably don’t need one.

Photo source: jdurham

4. Your feet are important.  If you pretend they aren’t, they will punish you.

5. If you wouldn’t wear it at home, you won’t want to wear it somewhere else.

On second thought, go for it. No one knows you anyway.

Photo source: Alvimann via Morguefile

Are you a traveler? What’s your favorite place to visit? What’s on your traveling wish list?


  • Travel tips? There are many, but I will only share one. When in Italy, do not ask for wine other than those grown in a local vineyard. Don’t ask why. All I will tell you is it will prevent you from crawling under the table. 🙂


  • I probably shouldn’t eat in fancy restaurants. Never heard of the black napkin, either, until we visited New Orleans (where we are now). Maybe it’s a southern tradition. The black napkin can happen in any restaurant, actually, if the waiter sees you as a potentially generous tipper.


  • For international travel forget the luggage. Use backpacks. Backpacks free you to go anywhere. Luggage confines you to the tourist trail. You cannot have an adventure hauling a suitcase with you.


    • By adventure I don’t mean hiking mountain trails or wading through jungle swamps with your all your travel stuff on your back. I mean urban or rural adventures. It is just that with a backpack you don’t have to rely on a taxi to get around. Backpacks make it easy to use local trains, busses, or even rental bikes. Sure, you can haul your luggage on a light rail or bus, but if you see something cool out the window it is easy to hop off and go with your backpack. No way are you going to get off the bus with your wheelie suitcase and go walk on the beach.


      • True. We’ve been going places where we leave our stuff for a week and basically lay around while Jim recoups from work, but as he moves toward retirement, this is the way to go.


  • Favorite overseas place? I really love Istanbul, and Turkey in general. Been there 4 times I think, about 6 weeks total.


    • Another great spot we only had a week to explore was Croatia. Thanks to their horrendous civil war they are 20 years behind the rest of the region in prostituting themselves at the alter of industrial tourism and economic development. I always thought Europe would be hideously crowded, and it may be in the peak season, but the peak season is really short, say from mid-June to the end of August. We worked our way south to north in a rental car in early June 2012, and for the most part the tourist areas were ghost towns. Outside the big fancy hotels (not our scene) we sometimes had a hard time finding places to stay. Language was a problem: not a lot of English spoken in the little out of the way places. But even in June the Mediterranean was warm enough to swim (September would be better), and having white sandy beaches to ourselves right out the door of our sobe (private rental rooms) was awesome. And dirt cheap.


      • Is that where Dubrovnik is? Saw a photo of it, and have wanted to visit ever since. Dirt cheap and sandy beaches sounds ideal.


        • Yes, we started out in Dubrovnik before working our way north and eventually to Italy. Dubrovnik is definitely a victim of industrial tourism, full of big tour busses hauling around hordes of people who got of the cruise ships for their few hours in port. But it is an incredibly beautiful city, worth a visit despite the crowds. Even if you go to cruise ship-plagued places just avoid the middle of the day and the crowds are usually way down.

          Want some good tips on how to get to Dubrovnik from Sarajevo? Sorry, but I can only tell you how not to do it, which is the way we ended up making it there. Long story.


    • Not a language problem for the most part. The Brits, and English speaking Germans, have been vacationing in Turkey for decades, so lots of English is spoken by the Turks. And the Turks are the best hosts I’ve even seen. It is like the whole country has been to hospitality school. A cynic might think the Turks are just good at making you feel they actually like you, but in reality they just want to make money off you. Who knows, this may be true most of the time. But so often we were helped out by folks who in no way had any commercial interests.


      • Hospitality school. That’s pretty funny. I think you’re right though, that it’s not just about money. Middle Easterners are famed for their kindnesses to guests.


  • Good tips, thanks. I want to add something that was a life saver on my last trip to Rome. I lost my passport during the day and had no idea it was missing. Fortunately, I had a tracer tag on it. A waiter where I ate lunch found it and entered my tracker number on the website. I was automatically sent a text message (and an email) with a pickup location before I ever even knew my passport was missing. Lucky for me, I was leaving in the morning for Germany and getting a new passport would have been impossible. Tags are available through mystufflostandfound.com That tag saved my trip from total disaster and I put them on my phone, laptop and almost everything that travels with me now.


  • Julia – You have a firm grasp on the travel list and it’s easy to understand you’ve been at this for a good bit of time. All the years I traveled for my career (20) I never actually knew where I was going to be from one week to the next and at times just minutes before the next flight. I learned to keep luggage with identical (well almost) items of the basic needs I had between 5 to 7 airport secured lockers in private lay-over lounges. I often didn’t get home for months on end and this saved me endless hassle of coming up with ‘that look’ needed for corporate travel you needed in the late 70s coming up thru the late 90s.
    As with you, when we are able to travel now, it definitely destination focused travel as all arrangements are dependent on Tom’s health. We find a nice destination point and try to do at least 10 days to 2 weeks but have stretched a location to 6 weeks when possible. We’ve discovered the fun of River Boat traveling throughout Europe and it suits our needs well.
    I’m of the old school when it comes to travel, I want to spent a minimum of 2 weeks to get the real flavor and local customs felt into my bones.
    BTW – never pick grapes through the fence in Germany – it’s not a nice reception.
    We still have many places we’d like to explore but it’s a catch as catch can with Tom’s illness. I’d also love a return trip to Russia along with the other 35 countries I had the privilege to explore while I worked. Tom hasn’t visited some of the countries and there’s places I’d love to take him.
    If I had one recommendation, it would be to carry an over-the-shoulder leather bag by Travel Smith (I happen to believe they are the best) and I’ve used mine a good 12 years while traveling. The straps cannot be cut due to special reinforcement and nothing in any of the marvelous designs of the bag can be copied by someone walking by. They can steel all your data just be walking past an unprotected purse, briefcase, etc. They are well worth the investment. Okay – time for me to head back to the dark side. I didn’t mean to go on and on. Your fabulous post always give me ‘great food to think about.’ Sheri


    • Thirty five countries! What a treasure trove of memories you must have. Storage lockers that you could maintain for months? Are there still such things or has 9/11 changed that? Oh yeah — that look from the 1970’s through the ’90’s. Wouldn’t include a bow blouse would it? I confess, my work wardrobe did. That’s pretty funny about the grapes through the fence. Those Germans, planting forests in rows. I can imagine they don’t approve of gleaning. I will definitely check out the Travel Smith bag.


  • Ha ha! Under Sheri there are several x-rated definitions, entered, let me use a better word, WRITTEN by people who don’t spell very well, as if they were pretty excited. I had no idea! Cheers!


  • I agree about the lack of need to carry a purse when travelling. Instead I have a very light foldable knapsack. When cycling lots or even around town, I don’t carry a purse. Just extra weight inside my pannier.

    Women should aim to pack everything in a carry-on suitcase for 2-3 wk. vacation. It can be done. I’ve done it.


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