Tuesday, June 2, 2009

International Travel Tips for the Summer Vacation Season

Bonjour! Ca va? When traveling through domestic or foreign lands this summer, remember to be a good traveler. The following tips will help you and your family travel well, travel safely and get the maximum benefit out of all your planning.
  • Do go to the local library or book store and check out or purchase a simple paperback book on your travel destination. Research it on the Internet. Do your homework. Learn a bit about the local population, religion, language, customs, cuisine, lay out of the land, hotels, restaurants, museums and historic points of interest.
  • Do dress up just a bit when traveling. Some people today look as if they are cleaning out their garage. Comfort is nice, but not that comfortable. One never knows where one will end up. My husband and I happened upon the 21 Club while walking through New York City with another couple. We all decided to go in for lunch. My husband had on jeans, thus denied entry. The only item on the 21 Club's dress code was "No Jeans." Embarrassing. If only my husband had worn khaki pants. He wears khaki pants now and forever more. Comfortable enough.
  • If in Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America or the Middle East, Do not wear jeans, shorts, sweat clothes or tennis shoes. Also, gentlemen: do not wear shorts to dinner. Traditionally, gentlemen wear long pants to dinner. Europeans dislike the American casual "look" of jeans, shorts, sweat clothes and tennis shoes. Also, you will stand out as an "Ugly American" tourist. A great way to get ripped-off or robbed.
  • Do immerse yourself in the local culture. Local cuisine, local haunts. You can eat at Fast Food restaurants when you get home. Safely walk or drive around. Check out the side streets, not just the main tourist traffic areas.
  • Do think of traveling as a fun discovery adventure. Your visited foreign land is not and will not be like America. Do Not expect a foreign country to be like home.
  • If in a foreign land, Do learn your magic words in the local language. Please, Thank You, May I, No Sir, Yes Mam, and a few phrases regarding restrooms, transportation, hotels, Hospital and menus in English, etc, will be useful and appreciated by the locals.
  • Do learn the local customs regarding tipping and tip well (20%). My husband and I were on the Island of St. Barth's at a very fine French restaurant and heard a couple from Texas ask the waiter if the tip was included. The waiter answered "No." At the bottom of the menu, it clearly stated in French: "Service Compris." This means the tip IS included. That waiter was very dishonest and that poor couple was probably broke the next day after paying for an expensive meal and then leaving a tip on top of their "Service Compris." If only one of them had known a few phrases in French.
  • Do speak softly. Americans are known for being too loud.
  • Do walk like you know where you are going. Wandering around with a map in your hands looking up will target you as a tourist. Sit down at a cafe and have a cup of coffee, enjoy your surroundings and look at your map.
  • Do try to blend in with the local citizens.
  • Do put your wallet into your front pants pocket or pinned to your unmentionables, or inside your shoe. My husband puts 2 rubber bands around his wallet and puts his wallet inside his front pocket.
  • Use an inexpensive travel wallet. Only put in your travel wallet the documents you need for travel. Take only 1 credit card. Leave at home all your wallet photos and documents you do not need. Thus, if you do have your wallet stolen, you will not loose everything.
  • Do Not wear a fanny pack. You may as well just put a sign on yourself saying: "I am a tourist. Rip me off and rob me."
  • Only pack for 6 days wherever you are going and for ever how long you are gone. You can always hand wash items yourself, or send out for laundry/dry cleaning.
  • Do pick either a brown/cream OR black/jewel tone wardrobe and stick with it. Two pair of shoes will do. Ladies: one kitten heel and one loafer. One sweater or Jacket. One medium all purpose purse will do for travel items only (maps, comb, pen, first aid). Remember, keep your money separately from your purse and "on your person."
  • Only travel with jewelry you can afford emotionally and fiscally to loose. Always keep any jewelry on your person.
  • Check out the opening counter hours of the local airport. My husband and I usually check in and check our luggage in after Breakfast on our return travel day. Then we have the rest of the day to relax before our flight and do not have to lug around and worry about our heavy luggage.

Be aware, do your due diligence and enjoy your travels. Bon Voyage, a bientot et Au Revoir, y'all!!

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