I recently went to Texas to look at real estate and visit family, as many of you may know. What you don’t know is that I made up most of my ambitious itinerary as I went along, which had me zigzagging across the state with little time to breathe, let alone properly relax.
My aunt has a saying, “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” My travel plans were cobbled together at the last minute, and while my spontaneity prevented me from seeing and doing everything I wanted to, I would not say that my trip was a complete failure.
I ate heartily, took hundreds of mouth-watering photos, had the pleasure of watching the Democratic convention with two of my favorite Democrats—my grandma and my mom—and managed to both make and see good friends. That said, I’ve made a list of guidelines to follow next time I travel, just to make the trip a little less stressful.
1. Buy your plane ticket well enough in advance so you’re not forced to fly into a city that you don’t plan to spend any time visiting. This will not only save on travel time but you’ll also be less road-weary when you finally do reach your destination.
2. When you go to a place where you don’t know anyone, it’s best to book a room before you get there so you’re not driving around dodgy parts of town late at night looking for a place to sleep. And you’ll probably find a better deal than $200 a night at the local flea-bag motel.
3. If you’re going to travel 500 miles out of your way to look at one building and you decide that you don’t like it, next time ask the real estate agent to show you other properties that you might like to see instead of just saying to her, “Kay. Thanks. Bye!” This will make better use of your time and energy.
4. Yes, it’s very fortunate that your new friend, the lovely owner of the local winery, not only introduced you to a woman selling a house that you did like, but also invited you to a harvest party at her vineyard. However, next time you go somewhere where you don’t know anyone, bring a book just in case you don’t make new friends and the hotel doesn’t have a TV. You can only squint at your iPhone for so long.
5. If your plan is to eat six meals daily of all the foods you can’t get in New York City, make sure that there is something open on a Monday besides the local pizza joint. Yes, the slices at the Pizza Foundation are indeed awesome, but a homesick Texan doesn’t go to Texas to eat Italian. Plus, this will save you from having to eat half your meals at the gas station, as addictive as deep-fried jalapenos and burritos may be.
6. Listen to your grandmother. When she says it’s time to hit the road so you won’t hit traffic, don’t dilly dally by eating two more slices of her homemade chocolate pie; there’s nothing more stressful then being lost on strange suburban roads during the evening rush hour. Especially when your rental car has a scary warning light flashing at you, which, according to the nice gas station man, means you’ve been driving with the emergency break up since Huntsville. (Note to self: Mom is right, one should never buy a used rental car because fools like me have spent time behind the wheel.)
7. Always ask before taking photos in a restaurant. Some restaurant managers get upset when you’re taking pictures of their food, and you don’t want a repeat of what happened to you two years ago in Alabama, especially when you’re dining with your mother. You want her to be proud of you, not emabarrassed to be seen with you.
8. When you only have half a day in a town, and you really want to see certain people, please make sure you contact them at least three days before you travel. Otherwise they might not get your message until after you’ve returned home, which will be disappointing.
9. If a beloved restaurant has been rumored to be closing and you have the opportunity to eat there one last time, don’t get upset and leave in a huff if they fail to acknowledge your presence after half an hour. Yes, it’s shoddy service but clearly they had more important things on their mind besides selling you a plate of migas and bacon-laced refried beans.
10. And last but not least—if it’s Hatch green chile season, be sure and buy at least three pounds to bring back to New York City, that one pound you brought back just wasn’t enough.