Are you planning a vacation or a marathon?

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Is there any time more valuable than vacation time?  We scrimp and save all year for that week or two when we escape everyday life.  When that time is used to travel and particularly when traveling overseas, it seems that the time becomes even more valuable.  In this short period of time we want to see and do as much as possible.

At the end of a busy trip, a vacation to recuperate from our vacation is often needed.  Tired is just one result.  Upon return , many report the sensation that one day blurred into the next, they are unable to recall when/where they saw or did something, and feelings of agitation and irritability.  Is that how you want to return from vacation?

When thinking about your next vacation, consider the following:

  • Plan daily activities in advance to better pace your overall vacation. This will allow you to use time more effectively because you are no longer debating activities for the day.
  • Plan each day visiting sites close to each other to maximize your time. This sounds so elementary, but is so easy to forget.
  • Acquire tickets in advance to reduce the time in line and/or waiting for entrance times.
  • Schedule no more than one sightseeing tour or activity a day. This allows you some free time and reduces stress associated with tight schedules.
  • Incorporate free time so that you can wander down an interesting street, sit in a sidewalk café and people watch or check out a recommendation from a tour guide.
  • Occasionally, you must schedule multiple activities. If possible, schedule morning and evening to allow time to relax in between.
  • When scheduling full day tours or activities, schedule a slower day for the next day. Schedule no more than 2 full day tours or activities in a row, if necessary.
  • If at all possible, allow for a good portion of the day free on the day prior to your return home to pack, shop for last minute items and perhaps do/see a must that you were unable to get in earlier.
  • For major trips across multiple time zones, try to return on a Friday or Saturday to allow you time to adjust, decompress and prepare for your return to daily life.

I know the desire to take spend as much time in destination to do as possible is hard to resist, but in the long run, you will enjoy the time away so much more.

Pat Ogle-CollinsAre you planning a vacation or a marathon?
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How To Get Locals to Love You!

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When traveling, those that speak English are lucky, since English is so widely spoken around the world.  In hotels, restaurants, and at attractions in most major cities, you will find someone that speaks English.  In rural areas it may be harder, but even then, increasingly you will find people who speak at least some English.

Do we, as Americans and English speakers, take this for granted?  Do we expect others in destinations where we travel to speak English?  And do we also expect those that speak other languages to speak English when they visit the US?  Hmmm.

The adage “a little goes a long way” often applies to language when traveling.  Outside a train station in Lyon, I made the mistake of approaching a taxi driver and saying “Do you speak English?”  The response I got was a scowl as he turned away.

My first mistake was that I did not first greet him.  (Travel advisors commit cultural gaffes too. Being in a hurry is no excuse.)  Better would have been to say “Bonjour” followed by “Parlez vous Anglaise?”  More than likely he would have responded in English and offered to help me.  Addressing him first in his language would have shown I was trying.

I have found in my travels that speaking even simple phrases in the local language results in friendlier interactions and better service.  I also have found that locals will forgive my mistakes and will often respond in English (probably because they feel sorry for me).  Some will even try to help me improve my language skills.

A few basics that will help you win over those that assist you in everyday transactions include:

  • Hello and goodbye
  • Please, thank you and you’re welcome
  • Numbers 1-5, if possible and 1-3 at least
  • Do you speak English?
  • Excuse me
  • Where is the bathroom?
  • I would like…
  • Where is…
  • How much is…

For any language you can Google the name of the language and the words “travel phrases”.  There are travel phrase apps available, but I suggest using them to hear how to say the words/phrases, so you speak rather than letting the app speak for you.

Take 5-10 min every day for a week before you depart and then a couple of times on the plane and you’ll be set.  Just watch the locals smile and respond positively as you interact with them.

NOTE:  For those with food allergies, I recommend having a card with the foods to which you are allergic and the word allergy in the local language to show waiters in the event that you have a waiter whose English is limited.

Pat Ogle-CollinsHow To Get Locals to Love You!
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