Tourists get a bad rap, stereotyped as shuffling sneaker-clad hordes flitting from sight to sight taking photos of statues. We choose instead to honor the wisdom of the masses. In honor of National Tourist Appreciation Day, here are eight lessons all travelers can learn from the tourist throngs.
Some places are popular for a reason
If someone asked you where they should visit on their first trip to your city or area, you’d likely name the most obvious choices. And you should. The Empire State Building is an architectural treasure with stellar views of one of the world’s great cities. The National Air and Space Museum in Washington has an unparalleled aviation collection from the country that gave powered flight to the world. There’s a good reason they’re always crowded (Fisherman’s Wharf, we can’t explain).
Wear comfortable shoes
If you’re going to walk several miles in a day, plus spend hours standing in lines and staring at museum display cases, you want comfortable footwear. From sneakers to hiking boots to slip-on moccasins, form should follow function for a heavy day of sightseeing. You can always put on something stylish for dinner. But if you give yourself blisters and foot pain, you’ll ruin the rest of your trip.
High season is the right season
Sure, you can get a much better deal on that Wisconsin lake house in October, and many popular Florida destinations are less crowded in August. But why are you going there anyway? You pay more and fight the crowds to get that perfect summer day that carries you through the year, or revel in warm southern sunshine when home is iced in.
Car travel is convenient and economical
Pack all you want. Bring gallons of beverages. Let every passenger have their own electronic entertainment. A road trip is, in almost every case, the cheapest and most comfortable way to get a group or family from here to there. Plus you can follow a random sign, or your eyes, and experience something memorable along the way. Even gas price fluctuations won’t add much more than $20 to a long road trip. The airfare to your destination may have gone up that amount in the time you spend reading this article.
Bus tours have their place
You try driving from Central Park to Carnegie Hall to Lower Manhattan — or anywhere in Boston — all while a passenger reads from a guidebook to describe what you’re passing. Bus tours, especially the kind where you can hop on and off at attractions along the way, can be a great way to see many sights for minimal hassle.
We’ve all seen those super parents spring into action: Baby crying? Out comes a bag of Cheerios. Toddler meltdown? A shiny toy. And everyone in the family has a water bottle and a snack. Pack well now and you can avert many crises later. If a fanny pack helps you stay prepared, so be it.
The cliché is true: There are no stupid questions. Don’t know if you can take your pepper spray through airport security? You’d rather find out now than be pulled aside later. Looking for the Liberty Bell? Better to ask a local and discover you’re standing directly in front of it than wander for blocks when you were already there. And never underestimate what your fellow travelers, or random citizens in strange cities, will do to help a stranger when asked.
Your kids will whine now, but …
It’s a safe bet that if you ask your children what they really want to do this weekend, they’ll say play video games or go to the pool. Put them in the car anyway. Even if they scowl every moment of your trip, 20 years later they’ll have vivid — and fond — memories of Colonial Williamsburg and the Grand Canyon.