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IT—Inside Traveler
By Jessie Johnston and Emily King

July 13, 2006:

Ahead of the Pack

IT admits to frivolous packing. After all, who hasn't wound up in the Caribbean with a wool sweater and leather boots? But thanks to more restrictive baggage rules and Mass Transit Rule #6 in our manners post (don't carry huge bags on the subway), we feel the need to perfect our practice.

Good packing techniques
can make the night before your trip less stressful and the trip itself more enjoyable. Thus we share words of wisdom from travel writer John Flinn, a six-pack version of his original list as published in the San Francisco Chronicle:

* The amount of stuff you think you need is directly related to the size of your luggage. Get a smaller bag and you'll make do with fewer things. 

* If you or your travel partner require a lot of prescription medicine, split it up so you're each carrying half the supply of each drug. You'll avert disaster if one of you loses your luggage. (Don't pull a Limbaugh, though: Be sure all meds are in correctly labeled containers.)

* If you think something might come in handy, leave it at home. If you know you can't get along without it, bring it.

* Pay close attention to your "go-withs." Make sure every top can be worn with every bottom.

* Most blue jeans are too heavy and slow-drying for travel.

* As you unpack after each trip, examine each garment and piece of gear and ask yourself if you could have done without it. If so, leave it off your packing list next time.

IT's note to self: Henceforth, try not to pack a different pair of shoes for every day away.


Sojourn in Squagonna

Fresh from their recent flirtation with tropical storm Alberto, chief researcher Marilyn Terrell and her intrepid family took on another enemy of travel during their stay at a house they'd rented in central New York state last week:

"The owners of the house showed up to welcome us, and so did the mosquitoes. It's hard to shake hands and swat flying insects at the same time. Inside, the house swarmed with small, breakable objects displayed on every available surface—all for sale, the owners told us. It's a good thing we decided not to bring our dog Sully, although the owners would have welcomed him (for a fee). One swipe of his tail could have added considerably to the cost of our weeklong stay.

"The downside to a 'pets welcome' policy: It includes cats, as we found out when our kids' eyes itched and swelled up. So, we spent as much time outdoors as possible, sitting around the campfire, even in the rain. On the bright side, as my husband observed, the rain kept down the mosquitoes.

"I had found this house on craigslist: '4br—!!! Inexpensive cottage on the Seneca River/Finger Lakes sleeps 10!!!' It was actually about an hour north of any of the Finger Lakes, in an area that was rather economically depressed, though rich in history: The Erie Canal still runs through it, the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy hunted its forests, it was a major stop on the Underground Railroad, and the first suffragettes got together in nearby Seneca Falls.

"One advantage to a disappointing house rental is that it forces you to explore. We visited a lock on the Erie Canal, and my husband and I sang the Erie Canal Song for our bemused kids (we both grew up in New York and had to learn the song in fourth grade). We dipped our toes in the incomprehensibly huge Lake Ontario (I had to taste it to be convinced it wasn't ocean). In the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, we spotted a bald eagle nest with a chick inside on top of a telephone pole. At an organic winery along Seneca Lake we learned that no pesticides + no herbicides + no synthetic sulfites = no headaches! We checked out the Museum of the Earth where our kids searched for fossils and bought smash-your-own geodes, and hiked Watkins Glen, where the rain made the waterfalls even more impressive. We bought delicious mill-ground pancake mix from New Hope Mills, first opened 1823. In Auburn, an enthusiastic young curator gave us a private tour of a church whose interior was completely designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, from the hand-laid mosaic floor, bas-relief walls and hand-carved pews to the colorful chandeliers that dangled like ice pops and the multi-dimensional stained glass windows.

"To see if our kids' allergies would clear up (they did), we spent one night in Ithaca and explored the vast campus of Cornell. The Peony Garden is exquisite, the Dairy Bar offers ice cream from Cornell cows, and they grow common weeds in display gardens for identification purposes. (Tip: When making reservations at a hotel near a college, ask if they have a special rate for college visitors. It saved us 30 bucks at Ithaca's Hilton Garden Inn.)

"On the way back from one of our field trips, I half-read a historical marker along the road and urged my husband to go back so I could read the whole thing (I can't help it, it's the researcher in me). I'm glad we did. The New York State Department of Education erected the sign in 1935, and identified this area along the Seneca River not far from our cottage as 'Squagonna'—the aboriginal name for 'Paradise of Musquitoes.'"

Thankfully, this mozzie paradise is nowhere near Trumansburg, where IT is tempted to check out next week's Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance. Even if it were, we'd gladly brave a few itchy bites to hear Michael Franti live.


From July 11, 2006:

Manners Matter

New York Magazine recently published the Urban Etiquette Handbook, which lays the ground rules for public behavior in, well, New York. But with summer travelers crowding most places, from Jackson Hole to Savannah, IT thinks these tips apply everywhere. We've jotted down a few of our favorites.

On busy sidewalks, keep the following in mind:
1. Babies in strollers have the right-of-way.
2. Not everyone wants to pet your poodle.
3. Only little kids are allowed to bicycle on sidewalks.
4. Don't smoke. Secondhand smoke can kill pedestrians, too.

When packed into a mass transit vehicle…
1. Always offer your seat to a pregnant or elderly person.
2. Don't stare.
3. Don't hold the closing doors.
4. Don't groom, i.e. pluck eyebrows, apply makeup, floss teeth, or clip nails.
5. Don't eat greasy, sloppy, or messy food.
6. Don't ride with a giant backpack.

Employ cell phone courtesy:
1. It is permissible to chat in loud bars, cabs, hallways, lobbies, on sidewalks, or at your desk.
2. If you must (i.e. report to your mother that you made it safely to Chicago), you may conduct a quick conversation in very loud restaurants, moderately loud bars, moving motor vehicles of any kind, landed aircraft, and/or friend's homes or apartments.
3. You should NEVER talk on your cell phone in movie theaters, romantic restaurants, at dinner parties, on any date, in an elevator, on the treadmill, or in a public bathroom.


A Reader Writes


Way back when we launched IT, we promised to include tips from our staff, contributors, and savvy readers. Faithful followers may have noticed that we have yet to follow through on the savvy reader part of the bargain. We didn't forget about it though. We hope that today's posting from subscriber Patricia Tuck-Lee will be the first of many reader tips to grace this space:

"Your article about staying at monasteries in Spain ["Spain's Heavenly Retreats," Hotel Central, April 2006 print issue] was of particular interest because my husband and I stayed at a few during our 25th wedding anniversary trip in 2003. We stayed at the Abadía de Montserrat, and what a treat it was to listen to the boys' choir in the evening after all the tour buses had departed. The church was packed during the day when the choir sang and we were disappointed by the performance. However, the evening service was a treat with both the boys and monks singing. The early morning service, which is held behind the altar in a small chapel, was also very private. After, we were able to go behind the altar to touch the Madonna without any line-ups at all.

"The Leyre Monastery in Navarre had simple rooms and delicious dinners. The monastery itself was built in the 11th century, but the hotel part is modern with modern facilities.

"Another monastery of interest is about a 20-minute drive from Santiago de Compostela. The Santa María de Sobrado monastery in Galicia is run by Cistercian monks. The rooms were basic but clean with private bathrooms and wonderful meals. The old monastery is next to the residential building and the monks were very friendly. One of them could speak English, but it is best to know a few words in Spanish just in case. Another monk was an artist and we got a private tour of the chapel where he had painted all the icons. The monks chanted the 'office' in Galician a few times a day and the music was gorgeous. I will always remember the heavenly sounds that came from the chanting of just a dozen or so monks during evening vespers."

More tips like Patricia's are on their way with next week's first ever Reader Round-up. Be sure to check IT out, or, better yet, use the e-mail address below to contribute your own two cents.


E-mail your feedback and tips to InsideTraveler@ngs.org.

Bookmark IT!
www.nationalgeographic.com/traveler/extras/blog/blog.html

Emily King, Traveler's assistant to the editor, handles the D.C. heat well. She refuses to go outside and keeps her thermostat at 71. Researcher Jessie Johnston sniffs out local pools on the Internet and spends the oppressive summer days doing cannonballs off the high dive boards.



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