Travel advice from the expert, my Q&A with Rick Steves

The annual Travel and Adventure Show will return to Chicago on January 26 & 27. One of the special guests of the event is travel expert Rick Steves. I have the opportunity to ask him some questions in preparation for the upcoming event.

Since our family has a big international trip planned for this year, I wanted to get his advice on some of our travel questions.

Our family will be traveling abroad for with our kids in 2013, is there one must have item that families should pack for an international family vacation?
Kids should have their own moneybelt, an expanded “vacation allowance” and the responsibility to manage their funds and understand the foreign currency. They should also have and keep (as a pre-condition for getting the expanded allowance) a trip journal with meaningful thoughts and observations. This will end up being their favorite souvenir.

· I've noticed that on your PBS show that you often carry a backpack. What are some of the items that you carry in your backpack?
In my day bag I carry a camera, sweater, extra pencil, travel notes, my script (when making TV), a small water bottle, and very often a small ham and/or cheese sandwich in a zip lock baggie swiped from the breakfast buffet.

· Many of travel suggestions include cities that are smaller in size or not the popular names, how does the novice travel feel confident traveling off the beaten track?
The novice traveler should understand that famous and popular places don’t need to work to make a visit efficient or welcoming while smaller and less famous destinations appreciate you more and work to help you have a great time. The infrastructure of travel and the language barrier are no different in either case.

· When traveling to a foreign country, how important is knowing the native language? Are there any apps or books that you recommend for translation?
While I wish I spoke a foreign language (and Ireland is one of my favorite countries in part because when hanging out with locals there I have the sensation that I’m understanding a foreign language), it is not important for the basic needs of a traveler. For the same reason I personally haven’t used a phrasebook much, I don’t think I’d mess with an app. A bold spirit of adventure, a dollop of common sense, and a big smile are all I need to communicate in my travels.

· Is there one country or locale that you haven't visited that you want to see in 2013?
The West Bank (Palestinian Territories) and Alexandria in Egypt.

Rick Steves is the author of  Rick Steves' European Guidebooks, Host, Writer & Producer, Public Television, Rick Steves' Europe. He will be appearing at the Travel and Adventure Show.

Want to learn more about travel opportunities in 2013? Come out to the Travel and Adventure show in Chicago on January 26 & 27 at the Donald E. Stevens Convention Center. Tickets are $15 for adults and children under 16 are free.

Disclosure: I received a pass to attend this expo.


  1. I love the tip about visiting the less famous places to get a more personable experience! I think that massively famous places are neat to visit and all, but there are so many other interesting attractions that get missed because we tend to focus on those huge landmarks.

  2. We did the Travel & Adventure Show in Dallas last year and it was pretty good. Love the bag always has a camera in it while traveling...a must!!

  3. I love that he references Ireland as a foreign speaking country because with the dialects it sure feels like it sometimes :)

  4. Great advice. I am with him, I would LOVE to visit Egypt. However, traveling that far with a 4 and 7 year old does not sound fun. lol

  5. I can't help but laugh about the sandwich!

    1. I agree. That's a great idea. I'm glad I went to Europe when I was child less and single. I can't imagine going there until my son is old enough to adjust to the time difference.

  6. Great interview, that sounds like an awesome show to go to! We love to travel. I love the idea of each kid having their own vacation allowance.

  7. I love the idea of kids having their own vacation allowance!

  8. Great advice! I've always wanted to travel internationally - hoping we get the chance when the kids are a bit older...