Frequent travelers already know the most important tips for traveling during the holiday season: Don’t wrap gifts that you’re going put in your checked luggage; the TSA will just tear into them. Buy air tickets well in advance, at least, well, a long time ago. Planes will be jammed; the single most important item in your carry-on luggage will be your noise-canceling headphones.
Now, Anthony Bourdain, chef, author and host of Travel Channel’s No Reservations, offers travel tips. Usually I’d caution to take these with a grain of salt, preferably sea salt. This is the man who reveled in learning how to suck out the tasty bits of the uncooked snout of a just-butchered seal in Hudson Bay. But as a foodie, albeit one not quite as eager to eat seal snout, I can recommend the wisdom behind Bourdain’s tips. Why go all the way to Punta Cana or Dubrovnik or Christchurch just to eat in a chain restaurant where you can eat back home? Be bold; try something new.
1. Eat like a local. Wherever you are, eat what the locals are good at or famous for, and eat where those locals like to eat it. Do not rely on your concierge for dining tips. He’s in the business of making tourists happy. You want the places that make locals happy. Seek out places crowded with locals. Avoid places where others of your kind are present.
2. Show appreciation. People everywhere like it when you are appreciative of their food. I cannot stress enough how important your initial reactions to offerings of local specialties are to any possible relationships you might make abroad. Smile and try to look happy, even if you don’t like it. If you do like it, let them know through word or gesture of appreciation.
3. Visit local markets. Get up early and check out the central food market. It’s a fast way into a culture, where you’ll see the basics of the cuisine. You’ll often find local prepared foods at stands or stalls serving markets’ workers.
4. Travel prepared. Be prepared to be stuck in an airport for indeterminate periods of time. Load your mobile device with as many games, songs, apps, and e-books as possible to keep busy during long waits. Also, make sure to pack a battery charger to power up.
5. Get comfortable. Remember to bring something scrunchy and long-sleeved, like a sweatshirt. You might need it as a pillow.
BTW, Monday night’s episode of Bourdain’s new Travel Channel series, The Layover, from which the above photo is taken, is set in Miami. Who knew that you could get a hot dog with pineapple jam and whipped cream at La Perrada de Edgar on Miami Beach? Maybe you don't have to go abroad to have a food adventure.