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I’m going to Madrid in a few weeks for vacation, and you’ve been to Spain. Do you have any tips for traveling there?
Dear Spanish Explorer,
I do! First, stay in an area that is historic, but feels local. Usually, this can be found a few blocks away from the historic area. I recommend AirBnB or HomeAway, as you have a host who will give you a lot of local recommendations. Staying at a hotel, however, also can provide you with a concierge, and there are plenty near but not in tourist sites. Second, don’t worry about bringing tons of Euro with you. Almost everywhere in Europe now takes credit cards, and your bank debit card usually doubles as a credit card when paying most places, so don’t get hung up on making sure you have lots of cash on hand. Finally, I recommend learning some very basic words and phrases. Even saying “baño?” with a lift at the end indicated a question, while just really saying the word “toilet,” will likely solicit helpful pointing in the direction of the nearest bathroom. You don’t have to be fluent to be polite and able to get around. I recommend “Language Hacking Spanish” by Benny Lewis. By the end of the first chapter, you’ll be ready to give a lot of information about yourself! But even without attempting to spark conversations, which can be intimidating, make sure you know the basic words and phrases, and how to request the check. Have fun!
My schedule at work is pretty set and I want to travel on a budget. All the cheap ways of traveling online require flexible travel. Is there any way around this?
Good luck with an answer,
Cheap Travel Bummed
Dear Cheap Travel Bummed,
I have the same exact problem. My new favorite app, HitList, gives me so many cheap flight deals, but usually, these deals are for 8 days or travel or require taking off a Friday and Monday, which is very difficult to do with my job. So, if cheap flights are what you’re searching for, while HitList can be useful, I’d recommend SkyScanner, as you’re able to put in your own dates. Also, consider traveling nearby for weekend jaunts with your car and/or bus and train travel options depending on your city. I would take the train almost everywhere if I lived somewhere with a better train network, but alas. I recommend using something like AirBnB or HomeAway for cheap accommodations, especially if you’re willing to stay in someone else’s house or guest house, and scouring Booking.com, Hotels.com, or Priceline.com for good deals. Remember that if you are doing weekend trips nearby, you can travel any weekend and not just on holidays, so you’re likely to get a better hotel deal in addition to your reduced costs in transportation. Good luck traveling!
I live in Florida, too! There are so many cool places in Florida to travel, but I’m looking for a quick getaway that makes me feel like I’ve been somewhere exotic. Any thoughts?
Quick and Exciting
Dear Quick and Exciting,
The answer depends somewhat on your budget, but yes, Florida is near so many amazing places. Consider Central America: there are always great places to visit, ample accommodations and plenty of flights to Mexico, but you could also visit Costa Rica! There are also obvious choices like the Bahamas available, and while you’re at it, why not consider a cruise instead of the traditional flight-and-hotel? I see you mention a quick getaway. My newest pseudo-local interest is going to San Juan, Puerto Rico. No passport required, lots of short flights to get there, no need for a different currency, and a wide range of places to stay. For me, of course, I’m looking forward to learning the history, especially how it relates to the Spanish history of Florida. Bon voyage! (Oooo….Haiti!)
What was the nicest place you’ve traveled to? Also, do you have any advice for people who like to travel to different places?
Dear GlobeTrotting Hopeful,
The nicest place I’ve traveled to is a really difficult question to answer! I’ve stayed at the Biltmore Inn and other very nice hotels in lovely locations, and I’ve traveled to many places that emotionally affected me and will stay with me forever. Some trips had individual moments that I will always remember, like meeting an individual or have a special experience, and others were just overall excellent. Very few trips were ever bad! So I’m not sure how to say which is the nicest. I’m as happy at a fish camp as I am in luxury accommodations. I like to explore locally and internationally. My favorite city in the US is Washington, D.C. My only advice for people who like to travel to different places is to just go. Don’t spend your life wondering or waiting. Figure out how to get the money and go travel.
What is the best place to learn about Jacksonville FL’s history of the railroad system?
Dear Train Lover,
Wow! That is a really specific question! But yes, there are two great resources for the history of the railroad system in Jacksonville. Jacksonville was once a huge tourist destination (the biggest in Florida!), and so we had an excellent train system to bring the tourists in and out before the age of airplanes. If you live in town, I recommend checking out the Beaches Museum, which includes a history of train travel in Jacksonville. If not, however, then I recommend reading “Streetcars of Florida’s First Coast” by Robert Mann, as the details of the train networks are all linked with the streetcar history here, too, or checking out “A Journey Into Florida Railroad History” by Gregg Turner. While it isn’t specific to Jacksonville, there is plenty of information about Jacksonville to be found. The best solution, however, is to come to Jacksonville and do some exploring yourself!