I see the highlights from the travels of others and think, “that looks awesome.” Then I go off on my own travels and realize, indeed, traveling to new lands is awesome. But it’s also hard.

Generalizing this: Travel is hard because you have to make many decisions about your experience in a land you’ve never been before. Making the wrong decisions while traveling is bad news. Because you’re in a strange place these decisions can be more expensive to correct than they otherwise would be. Like most things in life I’ve realized that the act of traveling well is a balance between science and art.

When traveling there is the logical use of tools to plan a trip and then the intuitive art of “going by feel.” You must remain open to this intuitive side in full recognition that you’re visiting a new place and all your logical planning may break down when you’re actually in the thick of it.

With all this said: below is my first stab at a running list–which I’ll update over time–of “science-based” and “art-based” tips to maximize value and minimize inefficiency while traveling.

Notes on format: These are structured as positive directives in the form of “do this” instead of “do not do this.” Trying to determine and write out what you should do instead of what you shouldn’t do is more useful.

Art: mix in local blogs from travelers not on tripadvisor.com and deciding when these recommendations overrule TripAdvisor

Science: Use an atm to get money instead of money exchange for lower fees.

Science: Tell your bank in advance you’re going away.

Science: Research ahead of time convenient locations using Google Maps, identifying historical sites and looking up the location of the nicest hotels and then back out for other available hotel options in price range

Science: Still consider using a lonely planet guidebook. Human curation from a few people, some with much deeper area knowledge, can really help augment or simplify the mess that endless user reviews on TripAdvisor can become. And books don’t run out of batteries. 

Art: know when to email friends for recomendations

Science: Use tripadvisor.com filters to get a quick lay of the land and idea of top spots.

Art: Serendipitous running.

Art: Know when to strike up a conversation and when not to.

Art: Know when to live in the moment and when to take a pic for family and friends.

Science: Don’t eat spicy food if you’re not used to eating spicy food. I know you’re on vacation and want to be adventurous but

Science: Pack light and breathable clothes you can wash.

Art: Know when to breath.

Art: know when to just be quiet and alone.

Art: Know when to make friends. Share their knowledge.

Art: Know people and salesmanship when on a trip — when to trust a tourism operation and when not to.