Read the fine print for a better trip

Charlie_VeniceCharlie Leocha probably needs no introduction, but here it goes anyway: He’s been traveling since the tender age of two, lived in Europe for 22 years, and has covered travel as a journalist since 1976, and wrote one of the earliest books on travel rights. Since he’s run the Washington-based travel advocacy group now called Travelers United. It’s dedicated to making travel better, no matter the mode of transportation. In that capacity, Leocha works in Washington with Congress, the White House, executive departments and industry associations to strike a better deal for passengers. And, by way of full disclosure, I am the other co-founder of Travelers United, serving as its volunteer ombudsman.
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How smart travelers find their balance on a cruise

Carolyn Spencer Brown photoNo one I know spends more time on a cruise ship than Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of the popular cruise site Cruise Critic. And I know a lot of people. She’s been on more than 300 cruises, from the 6,100-passenger biggest ship ever to an 8-passenger barge that was only half-full. “These trips have included visits to a range of ports from the marquee places of St. Maarten and Barcelona to seriously off-the-grid Iquitos, in Peru, and Komodo, in Indonesia,” she say. In other words, if it floats, chances are she’s tried it. Brown started covering the cruise industry as a staff writer at The Washington Post and has freelanced for numerous publications in the U.S. and U.K., from Conde Nast Traveler to The Times.
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How to hashtag your way to a smarter trip

KJ-Mauritius-heli-tourKeith Jenkins started traveling internationally as a boy, often with his father, who worked for an airline. And like so many of the smart travelers I’ve profiled in this series, he just never stopped. He’s been to over 70 countries across six continents. “My travel experiences have undeniably shaped my perspectives of the world, and have kept me safe during my travels,” he says. He edits the popular Velvet Escape blog and is the founder and CEO of iambassador, a network organization that creates digital marketing campaigns for tourism boards and brands.
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Why running toward adversity can make you a smarter traveler

Lynn O'Rourke Hayes kids NamibiaLynn Hayes is one of the few travel experts I know who specialize in covering family travel, which can be an endless cycle of theme-park stories, summer vacation tips articles and roundups of specials. Yet she manages to make it interesting by getting off the beaten path to “explore fresh ideas and to immerse myself in new experiences.” Hayes is the editor and owner of and, and writes a weekly, syndicated travel column that originates with the Dallas Morning News.

What makes her the world’s smartest traveler? Other experts try to help you avoid trouble when you’re on the road. Hayes often runs toward it. I’ve personally seen her face down an oncoming tsunami in Hawaii. Once, she got lost in China and stumbled into a small town having a colorful parade “This happy accident remains one of my favorite travel memories,” she says. Encouraging her readers to embrace the good and bad parts of travel seems to be her mission. “By leaving our self-imposed or cultural constraints behind, we become open to adventure and are better able to see the world — and sometimes ourselves — in a shimmering new light,” she says. Maybe we should all be running toward our problems a little more. There’s something to be said for meeting adversity head-on, and learning from it.

The World’s Smartest Traveler is a weekly series about the visionaries who inspire us to travel smarter. Its curator, Christopher Elliott, is the author of the upcoming book, How to Be The World’s Smartest Traveler (National Geographic Books).

How not to miss out on the “magical” things that happen on a trip

P1010764Pam Mandel has a lifetime of travel experiences that I find inspiring. She’s slept in bomb shelters – “for protection, not for fun,” she says — hitchhiked over the Himalayas, been stuck in a vehicle surrounded by a cattle drive in the Australian outback, watched elephants transit her campground in the Serengeti, “and once, on a tour of Angkor Wat, I got separated from my group and found I was wandering the ruins of Ta Prohm all alone.” Mandel, whose blog can be found at Nerd’s Eye View, has been publishing her stories for the last 15 years online and in guidebooks and other periodicals. Her story Seven, about that seventh continent won, a Solas Best American Travel Writing Award.
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