Maybe 'regret' is the wrong word...but bearing in mind that we tend to learn more from our mistakes than our successes...what are the biggest 'lessons learned' from holidays you have been on?
1. Destination Regret
I was going to write that there aren't any places we regret going, and that may be true - certainly we are very fortunate to be able to visit the places we do. But there are certainly places we wouldn't go back to.
I love Vietnam with a passion but our visit to Hue was just miserable. Nothing went right. Our hotel was as soggy as the weather, the sightseeing didn't do it for us, we ordered inedible food at a couple of restaurants and a spa visit to set things right did anything but. I'm not saying most people won't enjoy Hue or have a good experience. And I don't blame the city - which is famously rainy. We probably just had two days of bad luck, but I won't be going back any time soon.
Likewise the stars didn't align for our visit to Langkawi - which for many people is a tropical paradise.
Keeping your sense of humour, traveling with people you like and good planning go a long way to helping everyone make the best travel experiences wherever they go....but sometimes those are just the breaks. Places, like people, don't always 'click' - but at least you'll have some good stories and maybe save a friend from that restaurant that gave you food poisoning or choosing the dodgy part of town to stay in.
2. Planning Regret
Readers of our itineraries will probably have guessed that one of the temptations we always fail to overcome is the tendency to cram too much into too little time. At best, this can mean honing your priorities...at worst you have traveled an awfully long way to a place you might never go again - and miss out on an important experience because you are too tired or it just becomes logistically impossible.
Sometimes this is the result of misunderstanding the time required at a particular destination. Our trip to Sikkim was a case in point. Many sights required considerably greater travel time than we had factored in...so we missed a lot of sights including the Rumtek Monastery and Changu Lake.
But it's something we do - time and time again. Why? Because time is always limited. And somehow I don't think the solution is thinking 'O drat we shouldn't go there because we only have three days instead of four'.
Rather, the best way I have found to mitigate the perennial problem of limited time at a particular destination is to maximise the time we have available with the best planning and research we can possibly do, and to have realistic expectations that not everything will turn out perfectly.
3. Food Regret
Ah, food regret - it's the worst isn't it. And it's often the destinations where we expect the most, that we are the most disappointed.
Despite our best research efforts to avoid the tourist traps in Italy - though almost unavoidable in major tourist centres - we have had some real shockers. Of course we have had great meals in Italy too, as well as bad meals in our home city - but somehow it hurts all the more thinking you have foregone some magical pleasure of one of the world's great food cultures for a plate of soggy pasta that you would have done better to knock up yourself at home.
What is the solution? It can be hard to plan your way to great food all the time - and as soon as a place cracks a mention in the guidebook, you can be almost sure said establishment is on the way down in the estimation of locals.
Speaking of locals - they are, of course, the best resource for everything. When stuck in a shop in Ho Chi Minh city due to rain, we began chatting to the shopkeeper for her best restaurant secrets - they were absolute gems. And our taxi driver in Penang took us to the best char kway teow place on the island. Makes sense of course, but these kind of chance encounters don't always happen when you are hungry.
The local versions of restaurant ratings like Urbanspoon can sometimes be helpful, but if there is a local online press and reviews dedicated to particular cities - like the wonderful Broadsheet for Melbourne and Sydney - then so much the better. In Japan I used Bento to find some amazing places to eat. It can take some time to hunt these types of online publications down, and we will pop them in the resources section when we find them, but if all else fails I usually go to Time Out for cities featured by those magazines.
And if when in Italy you are so unfortunate to suffer a bad meal, the solution is always - gelati.
Cara and Alok like planning travel itineraries. We like it a lot.