A Random Q&A

I was recently asked these questions, and thought you might enjoy the answers:

We’ll be traveling abroad with our kids in 2013. Is there one must-have item for an international family vacation?
I believe kids should have their own money belt, an expanded “vacation allowance,” and the responsibility to manage their funds and understand the foreign currency. They should also keep (as a precondition for getting the expanded allowance) a trip journal with meaningful thoughts and observations. That will end up being their favorite souvenir.

I’ve noticed that on your PBS show, you often carry a day bag. What’s inside?
In my day bag, I carry a camera, a sweater, an extra pencil, travel notes, my script (when making TV), a small water bottle…and, very often, a small ham-and-cheese sandwich swiped from the breakfast buffet.

When traveling to a foreign country, how important is knowing the native language? Are there any apps or books that you recommend for translation?
While I wish I spoke a foreign language (and Ireland is one of my favorite countries partly because, when hanging out with locals there, I have the sensation that I’m understanding a foreign language), I find that speaking the local language is not important for the basic needs of a traveler. For the same reason, I personally haven’t used a phrase book much, and I don’t think I’d bother with an app. A bold spirit of adventure, a dollop of common sense, and a big smile are all I need to communicate in my travels. These days, you’ll find anyone who’s young, well-educated, and/or working in tourism very likely to speak English.

What new places will you be visiting in 2013?
The West Bank (Palestinian Territories), Alexandria in Egypt, and Reykjavik. This summer, I’ll be taking a Rick Steves’ Scotland tour and expect to learn plenty as I visit some exciting new places with our Scottish guide. I’ll cap my travel year by taking a cruise on the Baltic Sea (working on our new Northern European Cruise Ports guidebook — coming out in its first edition this July). I’ll jump ship in St. Petersburg, Russia, where I’ll spend about five days, then stop by Iceland on my way home for my first-ever visit there.