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April 22, 2008

Three Eco-Friendly Travel Tips for Earth Day

Carrefour_reusable_bags_2_2
I'm not the only traveler who carries reusable shopping bags from
Carrefour.
 
Photo: Culture Shock Happens, a blog from a couple living in France.

by Wendy Perrin

Why do we travel? To open our eyes to other cultures and the differences between them and us, hopefully with the result that we become better citizens of the world. In honor of Earth Day, here are three earth-friendly tips that I've gleaned from my travels in Europe. They also happen to save you money:

(1) Pack a lightweight, reusable shopping bag.
When you go to an outdoor market or a grocery store, instead of collecting your souvenirs or picnic provisions in disposable plastic bags, carry a reusable bag such as those from Carrefour or a lightweight duffel such as those from Le Sportsac. I started doing this years ago in Germany where, in many towns, when you purchase items in a grocery store, the only way you can get a disposable bag is to buy one.

(2) Wash clothes in the hotel sink.
Carry a small bottle of Woolite with you and, instead of spending an arm and a leg having the hotel do your laundry, wash whatever dirty clothes you can in the sink and hang them out to dry (there's often a clothesline in the bathroom or a railing on your balcony). Why so many people in the United States object to clotheslines is beyond me. In Italy we think the clotheslines strung from village windows add color and charm to the scene--especially when Mama has just laundered the entire soccer team's uniforms.

(3) Take the train from the airport to downtown.
People are freaking out that the price of gas in the U.S. just hit $3.50 a gallon, yet gas has been achingly expensive in Europe for many more years than it has been here. Taking the train is not only much cheaper than renting cars or riding in taxis but it's usually faster and more pleasant and interesting as well. So, next time you fly into a European city, take public transportation into town.

July 23, 2007

TRAVEL TIP OF THE WEEK

Wendys_tip_of_week Can't find a power outlet at the airport?  Join the club.  I'm forever seeking a power source where I can juice up my laptop for the long-haul flight ahead.  First, I ask myself, "If I were an industrial-strength vacuum cleaner, where in the concourse would I get plugged in?"  Second, I seek out a Starbucks. Third, I ask the clerk in the nearest electronics shop. Anybody else got any bright ideas (other than joining an expensive airline lounge club)?

July 16, 2007

TRAVEL TIP OF THE WEEK

Wendys_tip_of_week If you're headed to a particularly pricey European city -- Copenhagen, Geneva, London, Rome, Vienna, St. Petersburg, Zurich -- and are failing to find an affordable hotel, try the university neighborhoods. Usually the colorful areas around colleges have inexpensive lodgings and great cheap eateries.

July 09, 2007

TRAVEL TIP OF THE WEEK

Want a taste of local customs but scared of getting food poisoning? Wendy Perrin has a few suggestions.Street food:  To eat or not to eat?  In countries where you must peel your own fruit, avoid ice in drinks, and take other hygienic precautions, it often seems easiest to avoid street food entirely.  Yet, if you do, you can feel you're missing out on an important aspect of the local culture (especially at those colorful night markets in Asia).  Before giving in to temptation, here's how to reduce your risk of food poisoning:  Choose a vendor where a line of people is waiting; eat food that is piping hot (so you know it hasn't been sitting around); watch the food being cooked so you're confident it's been thoroughly grilled or boiled; and opt for veggies and noodles/rice/potato rather than meat or fish. Bon appetit!

June 18, 2007

TRAVEL TIP OF THE WEEK

Travel expert Wendy Perrin serves up another Tip of the Week: take pictures of your meals, remembering to include cutlery and glassware for a sense of scale Shoot food. Too many people come back from a trip raving about a restaurant or meal, but with no photos of what they ate.  When photographing food, shoot close-ups.  And include glasses or silverware in the frame to give a sense of scale.  To show you what I mean, here are a few pics I snapped last month at Esca, a Manhattan seafood restaurant:

Travel expert Wendy Perrin serves up another Tip of the Week: take pictures of your meals, remembering to include cutlery and glassware for a sense of scale
This photo captures the table but tells you little about the octopus salad, right?

A close-up of the octopus salad at Manhattan seafood restaurant Esca
NOW you get a sense of the octopus salad. Only a close-up adequately preserves the memory of a dish.

Continue reading "TRAVEL TIP OF THE WEEK" »

June 11, 2007

TRAVEL TIP OF THE WEEK

Wendys_tip_of_week_2 When you're visiting an ancient monument whose majesty will be diminished if you're there with crowds of tourists -- Cambodia's Angkor Wat or Jordan's Petra, for instance -- go at sunrise instead of sunset. Virtually nobody will be there except for a few interesting locals (say, the monks or bedouins who live there), and the light will be just as good for your photos.

June 04, 2007

Travel Tip Of The Week

Wendys_tip_of_week_2 When you're overseas and buying something handmade by a local craftsman, take a photo of the artisan--especially if he or she is putting the finishing touches on the object you're buying. Is the item a gift for someone back home?  Be sure to include the photo with your gift.



May 21, 2007

TRAVEL TIP OF THE WEEK

Wendys_tip_of_weekWhen you're in an off-the-beaten-path town in a less-than-sanitary part of the world (say, eastern Turkey or western China), how do you find a good restaurant where you know the food will be safe?  In my experience, there may be no decent hotel with a restaurant attached or whose concierge desk you can ask, nor can you trust your guidebook, since it hasn't been updated for years.  If that's the case, ask a successful local businessman where he takes his out-of-town clients.  Ask the owner of a large, clean store that sells modern appliances (say, washing machines) or, if you're walking past city hall, inquire where the mayor takes visiting dignitaries to lunch.

May 14, 2007

TRAVEL TIP OF THE WEEK

Wendys_tip_of_week When you're in a strange country and would benefit from a cheap, enthusiastic English-speaking guide to show you the hidden gems, go to the local university and find a student who'd like to practice his/her English on you for $10 an hour. Students are easy to befriend: Just stand outside the student center with a map and ask for directions.

May 07, 2007

TRAVEL TIP OF THE WEEK

Wendys_tip_of_week_2 In a foreign country, when you're trying to blend in, carry a local-language newspaper under your arm -- especially in situations where tourists are marked as easy prey (e.g., a Turkish bazaar or an Italian train station).  Similarly, when leaving a rental car parked in an area where you're worried about theft, place a local-language newspaper on the dashboard.

April 30, 2007

Travel Tip Of The Week

Wendys_tip_of_week Always carry a Mini Maglite flashlight.  I use it for everything from reading a map in the dark to finding something lost under the rental-car seat to checking out the artwork in a dark tomb or church.

April 23, 2007

TRAVEL TIP OF THE WEEK

Wendys_tip_of_week Flying with a spouse or friend?  Pack a couple of changes of clothing in each other's suitcases. That way, if the airline loses one of them -- and these days an unprecedented amount of luggage is getting lost -- you each avoid the worst-case scenario of arriving at your destination with no clothes.