DO your research before leaving.

Whenever you are going somewhere new, it will behoove you to have done some basic research before you head out for your adventure. Otherwise, you might end up having more of an adventure than you planned on. Read up on the local customs so that you can avoid being the tourist everyone remembers for their terrible manners. This is true whether you are traveling internationally or domestically. If you head to the South, for instance, you are going to get lots of glares for foul language or letting the door slam in the face of the person behind you.

Stopping in the middle of the sidewalk in New York City, on the other hand, is sure to earn you the locals’ ire. If you are not fluent in the language of your destination, learn a few basic phrases as well as how they look when they are written. Being able to ask for directions to the train station will be invaluable if you get lost in Paris, and knowing the common kanji for “exit” and “bathroom” will ensure you are not wandering around Tokyo’s subway stations in complete confusion.

Be aware of any local customs or habits that differ significantly from your own. Asian countries, for example, often use “squatty potties” set into the floor instead of Western style “thrones.” This can be a nasty surprise for someone with poor leg strength and a desperate need to relieve themselves. Similarly, do some background reading on the European beaches before taking your family lest you stumble upon a topless beach by accident.

DON’T stick to touristy locations.

Tourist traps are tourist traps for a reason. Everyone who goes to Paris, after all, is determined to see the Eiffel Tower, and no one who visits China will be content without walking the Great Wall. Do not, however, limit yourself only to those obvious locations. If you are in Israel, do not remain solely in Jerusalem. Climb Masada, hike the Banias Nature Reserve and shop at Beersheva’s Bedouin market as well. Do not stay only on the Strip if you are in Vegas. Visit some of the lesser known places as well.

The best way to find hidden gems is to ask the locals. Explain that you do not want to visit more touristy locations. You want to know where they take their families or friends. Do this when you are hunting both for attractions and for restaurants. The local places are likely to be less crowded, less expensive and every bit as beautiful or delicious as the tourist traps.

DO pack for all weather.

Obviously, you want to check the weather for your destination when you are packing and plan accordingly. No one visiting Israel in June needs a winter coat, and no person planning to head to New York in December requires a pair of sandals. You might, however, need either a raincoat for that Israel trip, or plan to bring a pair of pumps for that night on Broadway in New York City. Packing light is the mantra of many world travelers, but you do need to be prepared for changes in weather or accidents. Some things you might be able to buy at your location. A scarf or hat can be found just about anywhere in the world as can an umbrella. Others you may have to pack yourself. After all, Tokyo may have a thousand shoe stores, but finding a set of heels to fit an American woman with size 11 feet will be a serious challenge. They may take up some room, but packing an extra pair of sneakers and a waterproof jacket could make the difference between enjoying and loathing the last few days of your trip.

DON’T be a jerk during transit.

Everyone who has traveled has a horror story about that jerk who made the entire journey miserable. Do not be that jerk. If you are flying to your destination, do not lean your seat all the way back when there is someone sitting behind you. If you are on an overnight bus and people are trying to sleep, do not carry on loud cell phone conversations or insist on turning on every light above your seat so you can read. All you are doing is making everyone else miserable. The actual act of getting to the destination is not something most people enjoy. That is no reason to make it worse for everyone around you.

Almost everyone has caught the travel bug at one point or another. Indulging it is a great way to broaden your horizons, just be sure that you know what you are getting into before you leave. It is one thing to fly by the seat of your pants when you are driving an hour to another city. It is another to get to a completely new place and realize you have no idea what to do. Even worse is coming home with the sense that your trip was wasted or unfulfilling. Do your research before you leave so that you can make the absolute most of those days you get to dedicate to a new adventure.