Hello everyone. We all want a perfect holiday but sometimes you have to be quite careful in terms of knowing what to avoid when creating the perfect holiday. Sometimes, we are tempted by cheap offers on the internet on package holidays or flights and we think we have snagged ourselves a bargain, only to realize that these were cheap for a reason when we get there. So today, allow me to share with you some of the mistakes I have made in the past and the pitfalls to avoid.
1. Too hot
This is the one mistakes I keep making and I dread: I would consider anything over 25 degrees as too hot for a holiday. You see, I like to go sightseeing when on holiday, that means a lot of walking around during daylight hours and if it is over 25 degrees, you get hot, tired and thirsty very quickly. We have really long summer holidays here in the UK, so that tends to be when I am most free to travel but that is when most of the northern hemisphere is having summer. Short of flying to New Zealand or South Africa in July, I usually have little choice but to put up with the heat if I want to travel in that period.
Places to avoid: Anywhere in the tropics, anywhere in the Middle East (apart from in winter), Europe, North Asia, Australia and North America in the summer. Oh yes, Europe can get ridiculously hot in the summer, temperatures can exceed 40 degrees in the months of July and August – not all of these places are equipped with air-conditioning like Singapore, that makes the problem ten times worse!
Suggestions: New Zealand never really gets too hot even in summer because of its geographical location, you can also try the UK, Ireland, Tasmania and Iceland for the same reason – these are all island in the far north or south surrounded by oceans and seas to keep them quite cool in the summer. Place like the far north of Scandinavia, northern Canada and Alaska also stays relatively cool in the summer. Ironically, in terms of the countries with the highest temperature ever recorded,
In Oman where it hit 45 degrees.
Cool fact: Singapore ranks 6th from the bottom as the highest ever recorded temperature in Singapore is 36 degrees (and that’s the record, on average the daily highs in Singapore reach about 33 or 34 degrees) and most countries experience temperatures much higher than 36 degrees in their summers. So if you are a Singapore who thinks, oh yeah I’m used to hot temperatures, I can put up with the heat – you may be in for quite a shock when you find yourself in a place like Oman or Tunisia where the temperature hits 45 degrees. There is in fact a huge difference between 35 and 45 degrees, so by that token, Singapore should actually be on the list of suggestions for destinations one should pick if one wants to avoid the extremes of hot summers. Besides, a lot of places in Singapore have great air-conditioning.
2. Too cold
I always say that it is much easier to cope with extreme cold than extreme heat – as long as you dress appropriately for the very cold weather, you can still function and do many of your daily activities. However, a lot of this depends on whether the place you’re visiting is equipped to deal with the winter weather – cities like St Petersburg, Toronto, Chicago, Stockholm and Warsaw are very used to having a lot of snow in the winter and hence life goes on as normal even if they get half a meter of snow overnight. However, the problem is not just snow or low temperatures – ice and fog can be a problem as well as high winds creating blizzard conditions: it can get to the point where public transport is severely disrupted because of these conditions. Flights can be cancelled, airports can be shut as runways are covered with snow, trains can be delayed because of ice on the tracks and buses can only run when the roads are cleared of the snow and ice. The knock on effects that everything from restaurants to shopping malls to tourist attractions cannot open and function because people cannot get to work and goods cannot be delivered in the transport network is paralyzed by the winter weather.
Embracing the winter weather in Austria!
Suggestions: Well such extremes of low temperatures only occur in the winter months – most places do not feel the effects of winter to such an extent where it becomes disruptive. Ironically, the places with the harshest winter are the places where they are most well prepared to deal with winter weather. Hence a blizzard in Toronto will barely be noticed, but all it takes is perhaps 10 cm of snow in a place like London and it could well and truly paralyze the entire London transport network. Otherwise, wrap up warm and go well prepared – winter holidays can be magical and wonderful: have a read of my friend Jeraldine’s very well written post on her time in Harbin, China.
Cool fact: We normally think of Thailand as quite a hot country, but did you know that the lowest temperature ever recorded in Thailand is -1.4 degrees in the North-Eastern province of Sakon Nakhon? Oh and it can drop below zero at the peak of Mt Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia – but you will have to climb to the top of that 4,101m high mountain to experience that kinda of weather!
I visited Warsaw in the middle of a snowstorm – it was magical!
3. Too crowded
Oh the bane of every holiday: say you are visiting Rome and you want to see the famous Colosseum – you turn up quite early only to see the queue snaking around the corner. You are then warned that you would have to queue for at least two hours if you want to get in and your heart just sinks. Your dream holiday to Italy just had to be during the peak of the tourist season and you have spent more time in queues than actually seeing the delights of Italy. I went to Adventure Cove and Universal Studios in Sentosa when I was last in Singapore – the rides were amazing but I ended up spending far more time queuing than actually enjoying myself on the rides. Overall, it was a very disappointing experience and a crap way to spend a day, mostly just waiting around in line. Yeah, that was no fun at all.
Suggestions: Do your homework and find out when the local school children are on holidays – always avoid such places on during school holidays and weekends. Weekday mornings are probably the best as the children are in school and the adults are at work: you only have to queue with the other tourists. As far as possible, avoid visiting such places during the weekend.
Do crowded cities freak you out?
Cool fact: Some attractions do allow you to purchase a ‘queue jump’ ticket which will allow you to save a lot of precious time. If you’re not prepared to crawl out of bed at 6 am to be first in line, I suggest that you cough up and buy the ‘queue jump’ ticket, it will be well worth the money. Your time on holiday is limited, so make the most of holiday by getting this ticket!
4. Too expensive
There are some places in the world which are notoriously expensive for tourists (and the exchange rate is a huge factor): Japan, most of northern Europe, South Korea, most of the Gulf Arab states and even Australia have been cited as expensive destinations. Now I live in London and I often hear tourists complaining about just how expensive London is and I’m like, yeah it is expensive, what did you expect? Perhaps the pragmatic thing to do is just to ignore how much money you’re spending and just have a good time – you are on holiday after all. Try to forget the fact that you’re hemorrhaging money and just have fun. Why ruin your holiday even further by worrying about money?
How much are you willing to spend on your holidays?
Suggestions: But if you’re too sensible to do that, then you should be heading cheaper destinations within the same geographical area instead: try Romania instead of Switzerland, try Malaysia instead of Singapore, Jordan instead of the UAE. That way you will still get the same kinds of experience but your money will go a lot further.
Cool fact: If you have the time, look for ways to save money online – many travel writers who do offer some very practical tips on how you can save money whilst on holidays and that useful information is free.
5. Too dark
I went to Iceland in late December because I wanted to see the Northern Lights but I wasn’t prepared for just how grim it was going to be. The sun rose at about 11 am and set at about 2:30 pm – that mean that I had just about 3.5 hours of sunlight a day to do my sightseeing and the rest of the time, I saw Iceland in the dark. And on one of the days, it was very cloudy and rained, so it felt like I had gone a whole day without seeing any sunlight. Boy it got very depressing and I really didn’t see enough of Iceland on that trip because it was just so freaking dark all the time.
Exploring Reykjavik in the dark
Suggestions: Avoid destinations at very high latitudes during their winter months. Yes you get to see the Northern Lights, but it is really not that much fun doing sightseeing in the dark. Thank goodness for the malls, galleries and museums!
Cool fact: On the flip side, you can get nearly 24-hour daylight in their summer months. I remember being in St Petersburg during early July when the night was barely two hours long. That was awesome!
6. Too unsafe
Unfortunately, not all tourist destinations are safe enough for you to wander around on your own: tourists are often easy targets because they carry a lot of cash on them (not to mention cameras, phones) and they are unfamiliar with the town they are in. Most people worry about scary terrorist attacks, but we’re not just talking about pickpockets and robberies here, sometimes you can be tricked the local conman as well. Even in seemingly safe cities, you still have to watch out for pickpockets. The most unsafe destinations are where you are obviously a lot wealthier than the locals and you would stand out from the crowd as a foreigner: I would be extra careful in South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.
In Tunis – not a particularly safe city
Suggestions: A bit of common sense goes a very long way. Never ever display your wealth (eg. put your camera away, never ever wear it around your neck under any circumstances – and I mean it!) and never walk around alone after dark. Some of the safest cities I have visited include Tokyo, Paris, Vienna, Stockholm, Muscat, Helsinki, Copenhagen and Dubai.
Cool fact: When visiting a place like South Africa, always join a guided tour – your local tour guide is experienced and will take good care of you, ensuring that you are never in harm’s way. It is money well worth spending – you can then relax and enjoy your holiday.
7. Too polluted
Think about Singapore during the worst of the haze – is this what you want greeting you when you step off the plane on the first day of your holidays? The most polluted cities in the world are found in India and China, though there are parts of Russia and Africa which can be severely polluted as well. Somewhere like China is best avoided if you have asthma – breathing in the severely polluted air in Beijing is likely to cause you much discomfort. If you are traveling with children or elderly relatives, the affects of the pollution on them is likely to be far more severe. Would you prefer to breathe fresh air when you are on holiday or are you happy to put up with the pollution found in big cities?
Do you prefer fresh air on your holidays, like I did in rural Sweden?
Suggestions: Avoid such cities – choose somewhere far cleaner for your holidays. So if you wish to experience China, try exploring the rural landscapes of Yunnan province, far from the crowded, congested and severely polluted big cities. The worst of the pollution in China tends to be in big cities and areas with heavy industry – the countryside is far less polluted.
Cool fact: China’s air pollution is far more severe than you think – China uses their own system which is totally different from the ones used in Europe and America. Hence a sample of air from China with a PM 2.5 concentration of 65 could be graded as “good” in the Chinese system, but it will be classified as “unhealthy” in America and “very high” in Europe.
8. Too boring
Just when you think you’ve got it all right – you’ve eliminated all the extremes listed above and you end up with a city you think you will feel most comfortable in and guess what? You’ve landed in a place which is just too bloody familiar because you’ve chosen a city just like home. I feel this whenever I visit another city in the UK – when I was in Manchester recently, I visited the Arndale Centre which is Manchester’s biggest mall. Within a few minutes of arriving there I realized, actually I can get all of these shops back down in London on my local high street – there are the same chains here, offering the same goods at the same prices, what did I expect? Mind you, I find Ireland very boring for the same reason.
I find other British cities (such as Exeter in the photo) boring.
Suggestions: Do your research before deciding on your holiday destination – are there enough things to keep you amused? What kind of activities are you after and will you be bored after a day or two? If in doubt, feel free to write to some travel bloggers and ask them for their opinions and suggestions.
Cool fact: There are a total of 196 countries in the world – how many have you visited?
In Zagreb, Croatia