It probably won’t surprise you to know that we spend a lot of time researching travel. Like many of you, we read articles and blogs, daydream about the places we see on Pinterest and Instagram, and make plans to visit the corners of the globe that interest us the most. So when we found out the Travel & Adventure Show was going to be in Washington, DC a couple of weeks ago, we purchased tickets without thinking twice. Hoping it would be a great way to get inspired and do some research all at the same time, we joined thousands of fellow travelers with a similar purpose at the DC Convention Center.
After spending the day at the Travel & Adventure Show, we have 10 tips to share on how you can make the most of travel conventions—plus a few specific tips we learned from some of the professionals we met!
Taking Advantage of the Booths
► Tip #1: Go with an Open Mind
We bought our tickets at the last minute (literally the day before!), so to be honest we did exactly no research on the vendors and sessions available on the day we visited. That ended up working to our advantage; instead of arriving with a list of booths to visit and presentations to attend, we were content to somewhat aimlessly wander the aisles and check out anything of interest to us in that moment. That was great for fueling our imagination; we met representatives from as close by as Maryland and New Jersey and as far away as Uzbekistan and Nepal. We discussed local weekend trips with the same enthusiasm as longer adventures. I’m glad I didn’t have time to over-prepare; keeping an open mind about what we would see made the experience much more beneficial!
► Tip #2: Talk to the Vendors
The nice people sitting behind the tables or waving to you from their booths certainly hope to earn your business, but they are also a wealth of information about the destinations you might consider visiting. Strike up a conversation with them, and ask them about the places they are representing. We heard great stories about safaris, nights on beaches under the stars, and tropical resorts, all of which helped us to think about what kind of vacations we hope to take in the next couple of years.
We love learning about places from the people who have visited them (or called them home!), so don’t miss a chance to connect with someone who can answer your questions and provide you with information in a way the impersonal internet just can’t do.
Tips on Photography from Ralph Velasco of PhotoEnrichment Adventures
► Tip #3: Position Your Photos
When you’re trying to grab that perfect photo, be sure to utilize positioning to create a quality visual presentation- move around a bit to adjust your angle, especially when working with subjects that are immovable. Look for reflections, bright colors, or interesting backgrounds that contrast well with the subject of your photo. Don’t be afraid to try adjusting your angle- a little patience and creativity with the angle and composition of your shot can go a long way.
► Tip #4: Embrace the Human Element
Many of us strive to have nice, clean photos without strangers in the shot, but people can actually add a personal touch to your photos. Having a person walking or sitting in the background of your photo can add a human element that adds to the authenticity of the shot. It can also provide scale to emphasize the size of larger objects in your photos. Keep in mind that not everyone wants their photo taken, so you may want to ask their permission just in case—especially if the person is a focal point in your photo.
► Tip #5: Use a Shot List
Shot lists can help organize your photo strategy when you head out for a day of travel. It can be exciting—even overwhelming—when you finally get to a location you’ve dreamed of visiting, and sometimes that excitement can distract you from taking the pictures you specifically wanted to get. Keep track of the type of photos you want before you head out for the day. That way you can easily cross off your shots as you go. Shot lists can also spark new ideas for photos that you might not remember to get without having planned things out in advance.
Tips on Traveling from Samantha Brown
► Tip #6: Take a Walk
We are absolutely guilty of overly planning our vacations. Because we often have a limited amount of time for our vacations, we often have carefully choreographed itineraries to ensure we make the most of every second. While we’re not about to toss out our travel agendas, we do intend to take a page out of Samantha’s book and take more walks. We’re not talking about walks with our noses buried in guidebooks or focused on our phones; this is about exploring for the sake of exploring. It’s about veering away from the well-beaten tourist path and connecting with the sights and sounds tours don’t mention and websites don’t direct you to find. We also loved Samantha’s suggestion to seek out side streets that run parallel to the main roads. You’re more likely to find local, authentic experiences away from the streets where tourists are expected.
► Tip #7: Meet the People
Samantha shared a really powerful story with us about a day she had toward the end of a long month of filming. Tired and frustrated, she took a walk and stumbled upon a large group of people, among them two young girls who (with the help of a bilingual parent) asked her name and where she was from. As she left to return to filming, the girls tracked her down one last time to tell her she was their “friend.” This sweet declaration served to renew Samantha’s spirit and remind her of why traveling is so rewarding. Her story reminded me of a similar experience I had on my own in South Korea, where connecting with other people took me from feeling sad and disappointed to completely joyful. This all serves to teach a very valuable lesson: get to know the people in every destination you visit. The wonderful people we encounter enrich our travels, and the best part of any trip is truly the new friends we make and learn from each time.
Tips on Staying Safe (and Smart) from Peter Greenberg, the Travel Detective
► Tip #8: Stay Vigilant—But Don’t Panic
More than maybe any other time in our memories, the world feels unstable and uncertain. With so many warnings against travel to various countries and the (sometimes very real) threat of danger, should we bother leaving home anymore? We really enjoyed Peter’s reflections on the concept of safety; while bad things can happen to anyone anywhere at any time, realistically more people get injured in their own bathtubs each year than they do during overseas travel. It’s a funny illustration that resonated with us because there’s a risk in every action we take—from seemingly mundane tasks like hygiene to “adventurous” opportunities like visiting new countries. Do your homework, know the social and political climates of the places you plan to visit, but don’t let fear keep you home if you really want to see the world.
► Tip #9: Get Creative in Your Planning
Have you heard of repositioning flights? Out-of-order hotel rooms? We hadn’t either, but Peter’s words of wisdom encouraged us to look at incorporating them in the future. In this case, both repositioning flights (flights taken solely to move an aircraft from one place to another—no matter who is on board) and out-of-order hotel rooms (rooms that are clean and usable but might be missing a chair or a lamp to make it less than desirable) are available options to travelers who want to save some money, but you won’t find out about them on the internet. Peter’s advice is to pick up the phone and call a customer service agent to inquire about what options might be available to save you money or accommodate your needs. The internet isn’t able to remove your parking or resort fee, but a human being on the other end of a phone line might be able to do just that. And remember: you don’t get what you don’t ask for.
One Last Observation
► Tip #10: Be a Good Ambassador
If you’re noticing a theme in these tips, you’re right: remembering the role people play in your travels is so very important, and that includes your role as a representative of your country or hometown. When you travel—whether it’s one town over or a country half a world away—you may be the only person from your home that the people you meet will ever know. Use the opportunity to connect with them, learn from them, and share your own knowledge with them as you can.
Our world can always use more friendly faces, and opening yourself to new people can result in new knowledge, new friendships, and a more well rounded understanding of how connected our planet can be.
We went to the Washington, DC Travel and Adventure Show without much of an agenda, but we left with great ideas and a ton of inspiration to plan our 2017 travels. We hope these tips give you some ideas and inspiration as well! Let us know if these tips resonate with you—and feel free to share the travel tips you love as well!