"Talk to the locals! For information on everything from the best steak or seafood to the best fishing hole, the locals know. Ask taxi drivers, street vendors, hotel doormen, store clerks, or the people sitting on the bench in the park. You might even make a new friend."
Have you shared your best travel tip yet? You too can be in the running to win a weeklong trip to Charleston that's guaranteed to introduce you to plenty of locals: In addition to a two-hour immersion in Gullah-Geechee culture with Lowcountry guide Alphonso Brown (pictured here), the prize includes a number of other insider tours with locals, from museum curators to restaurant chefs to the cast of Charleston Stage's latest show. Click here for the prize details.
Today's featured tip, submitted to our Best Travel Tip Contest, comes from Jan Schroder of the Girl on the Go travel blog, in which "Travel Journalist Jan Schroder Explores the Planet, One Drink at a Time." Her advice:
"Find the best food and shopping in any airport with the amazing app GateGuru. I had a killer Reuben sandwich during a layover in Chicago, just by entering the airline code and terminal, then reading the reviews of different restaurants."
I'm a GateGuru fan too: I like knowing what's available to me pre-security vs. post-security vs. near my gate. And it's free. My only complaint? There aren't enough international airports. (I'll be able to use GateGuru on Monday during a layover at Heathrow, for instance, but not when I land in Marrakech.) Still, if you've got an iPhone or Android and you're frequently in airports, it's worth installing.
"When checking into a hotel, don't settle for the first room offered. Seasoned travelers know that there are often more spacious layouts, better views, or recently renovated options, even in the same category and price range. Also, if you don't love what you see in your category, ask about upgrading. If the nicer suites aren't sold out, a hotel might offer one to you for less than rack rate to fill the space. Don't underestimate the power of asking nicely but being persistent."
It's so true, folks. And it's particularly important when you're visiting a foreign country. Many hotels overseas--especially in Europe--tend to give their best rooms to regulars or those who live relatively nearby (since they're perceived as relatively likely to return) and pawn off their worst rooms on foreigners whom they assume don't know any better or will never be back.
And don't forget to make requests (say, for a particular view or floor) even earlier in the process too--at booking time. If you don't make any requests, you'll get whatever rooms are left over after everyone else's requests have been filled.
Whoever wins the 7-night vacation in Charleston that we're giving away will get to spend their first 4 nights at the Wentworth Mansion, in the historic heart of the city.
In Charleston's 21-room Wentworth Mansion, everyone's a V.I.P. But at enormous hotels in Vegas, Orlando, or New York City, you can easily get lost and ignored among thousands of other guests...unless you know the tricks for snagging priority treatment. Here's a strategy submitted to our Best Travel Tip Contest by reader Tiffanie Beecham of Just Task Me! Tiffanie's tip:
"Utilize the V.I.P. concierge in the hotel, even if you're not a V.I.P. They are usually happy to help you out, especially if you have a good reason to be calling! I was able to score the best seats in Las Vegas at a sold-out Cirque du Soleil show--a surprise to my husband, who had been trying for weeks to get tickets! Another successful call landed me four tickets to Hannah Montana's first concert--the greatest surprise for my daughter! Now, whenever I travel, the V.I.P. hotel concierge is my one-stop shop for getting to the good stuff."
If you too have a travel tip and would like a shot at winning a $15,000 vacation in Charleston for you and three travel companions, enter our contest here. You'll get two suites at the Wentworth Mansion that look like the one pictured here, with king-sized sleigh beds, working fireplaces, and whirlpool tubs. You'll each get a massage in the hotel's spa in addition to daily gourmet breakfast, afternoon tea and lemonade, evening wine and hors d'oeuvres, free wi-fi, and passes to a local health club. After four nights in the city, you'll move on to three nights by the ocean at The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island, a Condé Nast Traveler Gold List property that's part of the Kiawah Island Golf Resort. Check out all the other prize details here.
"One night every trip I try to lay out a pair of casual clothes and comfortable shoes so I can get up early without too much fuss and go for a walk. Before 8 a.m., you can get an entirely fresh, non-touristy look at a destination without the big crowds and commercial traffic, while enjoying coffee or breakfast and hanging with the locals. Some of my most perfect travel moments have been those early morning aimless walks in places like Amsterdam, Vancouver, Chicago, New Orleans, etc."
I couldn't agree more: Sunrise is the best time to see--and photograph--many of the world's great monuments too, from Petra in Jordan to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. To soak up places in the early morning and then use the midday hours to hop to the next city on your itinerary is, in fact, one of my 25 Golden Rules of Travel.
What's your best travel tip? Share it with us for a chance to win the $15,000 trip. You might even see your tip featured here on The Perrin Post!
For the next month I'll be sharing the cream of the crop of tips that readers are entering in our Best Travel Tip Contest. Today's tip comes from Pam Mandel, who writes the travel blog Nerd's Eye View, and they are words for a hardcore global nomad to live by:
"Spring for a shower. Nothing clears the cobwebs after a long-haul flight like a hot shower. Frequent fliers and business-class travelers know this and head straight for the lounges, but what about those of us on coach fares with no perks?
Good news. Munich has showers, and Sydney, and Singapore....More and more international terminals offer showers for cattle-class travelers. Four times this year I've stumbled into the immaculate shower cabinets in Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, and gladly paid my 15 euros. I emerge 20 minutes later feeling refreshed, clean, and perfectly content to use the rest of my layover time for window shopping, coffee, hitching on free wi-fi, and people watching. The relaxed folks with wet hair? They're the ones who know where the showers are. Check the airport directory or have a look at Sleeping in Airports. All of the airports on their "Best Airports" list have showers. Prices vary, of course, but I find the overall improvement in my well-being is worth every cent."
Have you entered your tip in our contest yet? You're just as likely as anyone else to win the $15,000 vacation, no matter how good or bad your tip, so it's well worth the 10 seconds to enter. Those of you who submit a stellar tip, however, may well find it featured here, as well as on Condé Nast Traveler's new Web site launching next month. Good luck!
Check out Stephen Colbert's hilarious remarks about his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, at Condé Nast Traveler's Readers' Choice Awards ceremony, October 10, 2011. (You'll also see Christine Baranski and Chris Noth introducing him.)
I've spent years sharing my best travel tips with you, so now I want to know: What's your best travel tip? Enter it in our Best Travel Tip Contest and you could win a $15,000, weeklong, 5-star, V.I.P. vacation extravaganza for up to four people in the city that Condé Nast Traveler readers just rated best in the U.S.: Charleston, South Carolina. The prize includes four nights in the historic heart of Charleston, three nights by the sea, meals in the city's hottest restaurants, and a lineup of extraordinary insider-access activities and tours. You'll find all the mouthwatering prize details below, but first things first:
* Your travel tip can be anything from a practical strategy to advice about a destination to a must-pack item never to leave home without. For inspiration, check out my own personal 25 best travel tips--the ones that have saved me and the readers of Condé Nast Traveler the most money, time, and aggravation over the years. I compiled these tips for my special 15th anniversary Perrin Report column in the magazine's November issue.
* Everyone has an equal chance of winning the grand prize, but those of you who send in the very best tips will be featured here on The Perrin Post, as well as in the pages of the magazine and on Condé Nast Traveler's brand-new, built-from-scratch Web site when it launches next month. If you'd like to see your tip featured and you've got your own site or blog, enter your site's URL (so I can link to it) when you enter your tip.
* You have until November 21 at 5 p.m. Eastern to enter. You'll find the rest of the contest rules here.
And now, back to that awesome prize we've pulled together for you. In case you didn't know, Charleston has in the past few years become a world-class culinary mecca. It's got 340 years of colorful history too, of course--including America's first museum, its oldest gardens, the Civil War's opening battleground, and antebellum mansions galore--but it's also got more than 90 miles of coastline, pristine beaches, barrier islands, nature trails, and all manner of water sports and beach activities--even surfing! I'm a big fan myself--I've been to Charleston three times in the past seven years--so I've brought together many of my favorite Charleston experiences to create what I consider to be the quintessential trip to the Lowcountry.
Today marks the launch of a new site called Mightybell that offers step-by-step advice for how to accomplish all manner of things--from losing weight to reducing your carbon footprint to traveling better. What's cool is that anyone can create a Mightybell "Experience," including you.
Perhaps you have a step-by-step plan you'd like to share for how to spend the perfect 3 days museum-hopping in Paris. Or how to pack everything you need for a trip in just one carry-on. Or how to rent an apartment in Shanghai. Just plug your steps into Mightybell, invite friends to join you, and pretty soon you may find a small army of "Fellow Travelers" (that's the Mightybell lingo) journeying together through your Experience, sharing their stories.
The Azamara Quest and yours truly in Trieste, Italy, last Friday.
Does your idea of a good cruise involve:
* staying late in ports of call so you can experience them at night?
* not being nickeled and dimed?
* not having to dress up?
* a charismatic senior staff with a sense of humor--the type of people you'd actually want at a cocktail party you're throwing?
If so, you should know about the Adriatic cruise I just got back from--my 18th cruise, but my first onboard Azamara Club Cruises.
The Azamara Quest in the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, last Tuesday.
Our week-long itinerary, roundtrip out of Venice on the 694-passenger Azamara Quest, included four Croatian ports--Hvar, Dubrovnik, Split, and Korcula--as well as Kotor in Montenegro and Trieste in Italy.
It was an unusual cruise for me. First, there were no "days at sea"; we were off the ship exploring a different port every day. Second, I was an invited guest speaker, as opposed to an anonymous paying passenger (I'm typically the latter, of course). Third, it was my husband's and my first trip without the kids in six years. All of which meant we were predestined to have a great time.
The view from my cabin balcony when I awoke in Split, Croatia, last Monday.
Despite the unusual circumstances of the cruise, though, I do believe that my main takeaways about Azamara Club Cruises would hold true for other people. I say this because most of the passengers I spoke with--and as an "enrichment lecturer," I spoke with plenty--felt the same way I did about the cruise line. Here are the four things we liked most:
Got miles but they're the wrong miles for the flights you need?
Many of us have collected enough frequent-flier miles for a trip we have in mind, but they're with an airline that doesn't fly where we want or doesn't have seats available in the cabin we want. When that's the case, is there anything you can do, besides seeking help from Gary Leff? As I learned this past weekend, there is indeed: Swap miles with a friend.
Here’s what I mean: Some good friends of mine need to fly from New York to London in August for a wedding. They have a ton of United miles, but they also have an inflexible schedule, and they can't get what they need on United. The airline that has the flight schedule and seats they want? American. So I offered them my American miles in exchange for an equal number of their United miles. They were thrilled (as was I, since United miles work better for me). So yesterday I logged into my account on AA.com and booked my friends on the flights they need, in the cabin they want. They gave me their United.com account number and password so that in future, when I want to book tickets using their United miles, I can do so.
But here's what's most interesting about this story: Of the 250K miles that I gave my friends (they're flying in first class roundtrip!), 225K of them I got without spending a dime. Here's how: