It is actually 8/28/07 - one month until we leave for Greece! Now the excitement is really starting to build. And the concerns REAL people start asking when the countdown begins. The biggest question: what size luggage? (which relates to.....how much to bring).
I've read almost every maker of travel books, and have researched all different types of trips. And very few represent REAL people travelling. I often like Rick Steve's books, because he cuts through all the stuff and gives you an idea of what is really worth your time, including a few places that get you to a more geniune experience of the country or region you are heading to. But his suggestions on how to travel, often contribute just as much of the "ugly American" travel stereotype as the actions he is trying to counter. This is how I think real people should travel:
1) Check your luggage in. You cannot bring many liquids in the cabin of the plane anymore, so for women this will most likely force this direction anyway. But you are going to be travelling for a week, you are going to need more than a few outfits and 1 pair of shoes. Also, letting someone else do all the heavy work starts you relaxing for your trip. Running with 50 lbs of luggage is not relaxing. A rolling 25" bag does not make you a bad person.
2) Washing a few things out in the sink is fine, but don't walk around in damp/wrinkly/worn clothing. I think someone walking around Mykonos looking a mess is going to draw more attention than a guy with a baseball hat on to block the sun. Ask at the desk, they can usually tell you a drop off laundry service. I have done it several times, and it works great and is worth the 20 Euros.
3) If you are planning on a nice dinner, theater, etc...bring a dress and nice pair of shoes. Yeah, you'll be carrying them around with you; but if you don't feel comfortable and put together for your nice events, then who is standing out now? At the theater you are with more locals looking appropriate, than when wearing casual sandals at the main tourist destination. And it gives you a good reason to have more special nights, so you can use what you brought.
4) If you are in a tourist attraction and need direciton, pull out your map. Most of the people around you are tourists, they won't mind. (It is the ones who look like they know exactly what they are doing you should be wary of, they may be the pickpockets.)
5) Most people want to enjoy a mix of things. Yeah you can go to Rome and be a "real" traveler and not hit tourist spots. But then you miss the Colloseum, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain - all icons of that town. Mix up some tourism, with some "travel". Your whole trip doesn't have to be adventure, wine, or hiking, or scuba, or beach. Mix up events, historic sites, new art, traditional taverns, new cafes.
6) Eat where you want to. All this hype about not eating where there is an english translation of the menu....please. If you aren't comfortable with odd things showing up on your plate, then eat at the place with the tranlated menu. There really is no "best": in Ireland I had three different Irish stews and soda breads - every one of them fantastic. Even better, don't search out the place in your guide book, but wander from your hotel and stop some place that looks pleasant and/or full. Hotel desk people can give great suggestions. If you are always stressing about your meals, that isn't very fun.
7) Don't let people you aren't traveling with pressure you. Just because someone or some book says so, isn't a reason to. I know Mykonos and Santorini might seem a Greek travel cliche, but for the people in this trip it is perfect. One wanted good jewelry shopping and had asked specifically for Mykonos. Another wanted snorkling. A third wanted things beyond just ancient sites. A fourth pointed too many places would mean more transportation and less travel time. These two islands, give us a good mix of what WE wanted to do.
One month and counting............and I am still not sure what size luggage I am going to bring!