Five nuggets of wisdom I learned from my parents about… travel

They’ve travelled the world and they know how to enjoy it. Anna Tobin admits that her parents really do know a thing or two about how to make the best of a holiday

The world is now more accessible than ever before. When my parent’s generation were children, a trip to the nearest seaside was as far away from home as they could ever expect to get. Yet they look back with as much fondness to the thrill of donkey rides on the beach and the giggles at the Punch and Judy shows on the pier, as their grandchildren do when they relive their experiences of swimming with dolphins and picking mangos from trees in Mauritius.

 Don’t worry, they can totally relate to the exotic holiday experiences too. They’ve spent the past ten years, since the youngest child went off to uni, seeing as much of the world as they possibly can. And the wisdom they’ve picked up rambling around the Scottish Highlands, squeezing through the Panama Canal and hobnobbing with Blue Footed in the Galapagos Islands isn’t found in any guidebook. Here are my favourite and most spot on of these pearls:

Always travel with a map of your destination
Not Google Maps or Waze or Citymapper, but a good old-fashioned, folded paper map, complete with a compass point, grid references, points of interest and street names. The battery won’t die on it and it won’t freeze as soon as you lose WiFi. Lost in a no-signal area, in a place where no one speaks your language? Simple.  Stop a friendly local, stab your finger at where you need to get to on your map and you will be back on track in no time.

Always be working to improve your GCSE Spanish
Being able to make yourself understood in at least one foreign language wherever you are in the world, makes travelling a million times easier. Whether you’re travelling solo and want to strike up a conversation with someone you meet on the Silk Route, or explain that you’re vegan in a restaurant in Sao Paulo, you’ll double your chances of achieving both these goals if you’ve kept up your school grade French, Spanish, Italian or German, and even worked on improving it. And, let’s face it, with fantastic language-learning apps such as Duolingo and Babbel, it’s easier now than ever before to get to grips with a new lingo.

Never travel in the school holidays unless you have to
It’s a myth that July and August, Christmas and Easter are the best times to travel. These packed out, overpriced dates are the only times to travel if you’re a parent with school-age children… they’re also the periods best spent at home if you’re not.

If your kids have flown the nest, take advantage of the half-price ‘low season’; the sun doesn’t stop shining in Barbados in January and the snow in the Alps is probably deeper in March than it is in April. Plus, outside of peak season you’ll find it much easier to get a table at the chicest restaurants, there won’t be a long queue for the Eiffel Tower and everybody you meet will be much calmer and more chilled out.

Savour your holiday don’t save it
Don’t put every pretty meal on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Pinterest. By the time you’ve found the correct angle and adjusted the filter, sharpness and brightness, your dinner will be cold and the ice in your gorgeous ombre-coloured cocktail will have melted. Relish every minute of your holiday, don’t spend the entire time saving bits of it and uploading it to social media.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t take any photos or videos. Three or four a day over a fortnight’s holiday will still result in about 50 snaps, which is all you need to make a lovely memory album when you get home.

Do digitally detox
You’re on holiday to relax and unwind so switch on your ‘out of office’ and don’t virtually return there. Don’t check your emails, answer phone calls or work on that presentation because it will mean that your workload will be so much less on your return. You might have to work a little later than usual on your first week back, but at least your mind and body will have really enjoyed and benefited from a well earned rest.

Switch off from social media too, you don’t need to keep up to date with the latest pictures of your bestie’s new puppy on Snapchat or be stressed out by the discovery that there has been a burglary in your street. Lie back on your lounger and enjoy a good book, preferably a paperback not an ebook. No screens remember?

There is, of course, only one exception to this rule, turn your phone on at least once a day to WhatsApp your parents!