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Published on June 26th, 2012 | by Mark Chesnut

Travel Tips from the Society of American Travel Writers

You may not be traveling in vintage DC-3 aircraft (like these at San Juan airport in Puerto Rico), but some travel tips stand the test of time. 

Ever wonder what tips professional travel writers have for novice and experienced travelers alike? With the summer travel season underway, the Society of American Travel Writers has presented its top 10 tips on how to be a smart traveler — in other words, how to get the most out of a trip, whether it’s a familiar or new tourism destination. From SATW’s collective membership of nearly 1,100 travel and tourism experts, here are the recommendations to enjoy the best of any adventure:

1) To get a feel for a destination, visit locations the locals go on a daily basis: supermarkets, salons, business districts, even libraries. These are the places to see how the residents live, and they’re great spots to interact with the locals. You’ll rarely see a better view of the true day-to-day culture outside the regular routines of your hosts.
2) Once you know where the markets and food locations are, no doubt you’ll start getting hungry. When you can’t get your favorite foods, be willing to try something new. Remember, you took the trip to experience how others live. 
3) Do some research before you go.  Learn the local customs and how to say the following in the language of your host country: “please … thank you … hello … goodbye … excuse me …” and use them frequently.  A friendly hola or gracias opens a lot of doors.
4) Speaking of speaking… pack your inside voice!  While enthusiasm is admired, loud voices make travelers stand out – in restaurants, at tourist sites, and on group excursions. It can be annoying to others, so best to lower the decibel level. 
5) Dress appropriately for the culture you’re visiting. If women customarily cover their legs and upper arms, follow suit. You’ll be much more welcome.
6) Ask permission before taking photos of the locals. You probably wouldn’t want a stranger to shove a camera in your face, so make sure to extend the same courtesy you’d expect from them.
7) Packing light is key overall, but definitely important for group travel. You shouldn’t expect fellow travelers to help you with your baggage.  If you can’t carry or pull it yourself, don’t bring it. 
8) Remember that packing light is also important for the trip back home, so don’t buy more than you can carry.  If you do find that one-of-a-kind yet oversized item, ship it home for the convenience. 
9) Probably one of the simplest ways to save money: If tipping isn’t expected in the culture, don’t do it, but if it is expected be as generous as you would be at home. Make sure to arrive with a small amount of local currency, just in case the US dollar isn’t used regularly.
10) Pace yourself. Better to savor a few special scenes than return with a blur of sites.  Many cultures prefer a relaxed lifestyle. Join them! Watch the parade of life around you at a cafe, select one or two works in a museum and really see them, and remember the roses smell just as nice in every country!

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About the Author

The founder and editor of, Mark has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and manager. He's worked with some of the biggest consumer, in-flight and travel trade publishers that cover Latin America.

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