I find that the questions posed to this column deal, generally, with 15 repeated and familiar inquiries that trouble the traveling public. Here they are, along with our responses to them – answers with which you might disagree.
▪ Should parents travel with their very young children? My answer is “no.” The children will derive very little benefit from those journeys, while your enjoyment of adult attractions and institutions will be severely limited.
▪ Should I travel independently or as part of a group? Almost always independently, in my view; group travel is, with some exceptions, anathema to learning or intellectual growth.
▪ A relative of mine is physically handicapped; how can I learn of travel facilities for him? Contact the Society for the Advancement of Travel by the Handicapped, which studies such solutions.
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▪ Where can I find short-duration stays at apartments or vacation homes? From AirBnB.com, VRBO.com, Homeaway.com, Rentalo.com or EVRentals.com, among many others.
▪ How much credence should I give to user-generated recommendations on websites? Very little; such websites are subject to massive manipulation by the hotels and restaurants listed in them, and even when composed legitimately, the people penning comments on them are frequently sheer amateurs whose opinions are not well-grounded.
▪ How important is it to pack lightly? Exceedingly important; taking too much makes you a prisoner of porters and taxicabs, and much of your time on vacation is spent laboriously packing and unpacking.
▪ Shall I scrimp on accommodations or splurge? Scrimp. The difference between various categories of hotels is usually psychological only; there’s very little difference between the actual comfort of beds in budget hotels as opposed to elegant hotels.
▪ On a cruise making port stops, shall I book the land tours offered by the cruise line or simply sightsee on my own two feet? Do it on your own. In the overwhelming number of instances and with some exceptions, you can sightsee on your own much better.
▪ Are hostels suitable, comfortable and safe? Most are, and they can now be used by people of all ages.
▪ Should I change my money from home before departing on an international trip? No, you make yourself a target for pickpockets if you do. Obtain foreign currency periodically from ATMs at the destination, always in small quantities that you can afford to lose.
▪ I demand to stay at hotels. Where can I find the best rates? At Booking.com, GetARoom.com, Hotels.com and numerous other hotel search engines.
▪ What is the best way to eat cheaply? Share courses with your travel companion. Order one appetizer for the two of you and one main course for the two of you, and you’ll still send uneaten food back to the kitchen.
▪ Is Egypt safe? Is Thailand currently safe? Is India safe? Egypt very definitely – in my view – isn’t yet safe to visit. Thailand currently is iffy because of a much-disputed military takeover. And women traveling alone might well want to avoid India, where attacks on unaccompanied female travelers are worrisome.
▪ How can I best rent a villa overseas for a family reunion of as many as 20 people? The decision is so important that you should send one member of your group several months in advance to the proposed location to make the choice. You wouldn’t rent such a vacation home sight unseen in the United States, and you surely wouldn’t want to do so for one overseas.
▪ Where can I find an inexpensive hotel in New York City? Rent one in the outer boroughs or suburbs (Brooklyn, Queens, New Jersey), or rent a room without private bath at hotels containing many such lodgings, or consider low-cost religious homes such as Leo House or House of the Redeemer.
Arthur Frommer is the founder of the Frommer’s Travel Guide book series. Find more destinations online and read his blog at frommers.com.