En español | Sometimes your much-anticipated arrival in a new place — no matter how much planning you've done — begins with one question: Now what? Here's how I get the most out of those first few hours.

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At the Airport

It's easy to think that once you deplane, your only goal is to follow the signs to baggage claim and make a speedy exit. But I always like to spend a few extra minutes looking around the airport, as I'll most likely be returning there on my way home.

Are there some nice places to eat? Shops I might be interested in? Play areas for my kids? Is the airport really spread out? Do I have to hike or ride a tram between terminals? And I always take a look at the security area: chaos or calm? All this helps me decide whether I want to return with no time to spare or make that departure a more leisurely event with maybe a meal and some shopping.

At the Hotel: Check-in Time

I've made a reservation for a specific type of room in a particular category, but rooms aren't all exactly alike. So before the hotel clerk hands over the key card, I'll ask questions and try to get a room better suited to my preferences. How close to the elevator? What's the view? Where's the nearest ice machine?

And I always ask about Wi-Fi. If it's free, the front desk will have the password. If you're going to have to pay, compare the expense with the cost of turning your smartphone into a personal hot spot so you can use it to get Wi-Fi wherever you are.