The Biggest Vacation Mistake You're Making, According To Travel Personality Rick Steves

Rick Steves is a popular travel writer, public television host, and founder of Rick Steves' Europe, a travel company leading small-group tours around Europe annually. Known for his thoroughly researched guidebooks and enthusiastic encouragement to travel widely and immerse oneself in local culture, Steves is a beloved expert on European vacations. So, whenever he has something to say about travel, it's wise to listen.

Recently, Steves revealed the biggest vacation mistake travelers make in an interview with Travel + Leisure. The error is something most of us are prone to do, but the good news is that it's easy to fix. Essentially, as Steves pointed out, these days plenty of travelers rely on social media when picking vacation destinations and deciding what to do and tips for where to eat. While many social media recommendations are great, travelers often flock to the same places. As a result, these spots can get overly crowded pretty quickly. By strictly relying on social media, travelers may miss out on local gems, like smaller establishments that are only discovered via local knowledge, a thoroughly researched guidebook, or simply wandering around a new city and finding the best restaurants for yourself

Don't rely (completely) on social media

Social media is an excellent tool for tourism. It's free, and it has the power to create opportunities for hotels, restaurants, and the entire travel sector. It makes sense that people look to social media for travel recommendations since we generally trust the users we're connected to or whose opinions we value. But don't rely entirely on social media recommendations alone when traveling to new places. 

Rick Steves' travel philosophy encourages visitors to stay flexible and not simply check top attractions off from a long list. Steves believes that all cultures have much to share, and he encourages travelers to make meaningful contact with local people. In an interview with The New Yorker, Steves proposed travelers shift the way they think when traveling abroad: "The question is not, 'Where can I get my drink?' but, 'What do local people drink here?'" He further illustrated his point. "When I'm in Prague, I like a nice refreshing Pilsner. When I go to Tuscany, it's a full-bodied glass of vino rosso. I don't think I've ever made a pot of tea here in my house. It makes no sense to me. But when I'm in England, a spot of tea after a nice day of sightseeing feels just right." This mind shift is simple, and the reward of immersing oneself in another's culture is a valuable learning experience. Follow the locals' lead. After all, they are the real experts in their hometowns.