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Vacationing Manners

Text by: Jennifer Hunsaker

We all have those stories — traveling nightmares we muddle through only to arrive home needing a vacation from our vacation. Whether it's getting stuck in Hawaii for an extra week while everyone in your group is sick, flying coach next to a very large man who hasn't showered in a few days, or arriving at your destination only to discover the hotel has lost your reservation, everyone has experienced bumps and hitches in the road to relaxation. The trick while traveling this summer is to either keep your cool or keep quiet.
© Bill Lindsay Photography

Space is neither infinite nor expansive in coach: I'm nearly six feet tall. There are certain airlines on which having the passenger in front of me recline his or her seat to its limit does not present a problem. But recently I had a woman recline her seat for a five-hour flight while my 18-month-old son was on my lap. She then proceeded to passive-aggressively complain for the entirety of the flight about how he kept kicking her seat. On behalf of tall people and mothers everywhere, please, for the love of all that is good and holy, do not recline your seat into the lap of someone whose lap is already occupied.

Be Generous: Or at the very least, be mindful of what is customary. Do not stiff the bellhop, valet, waitress, or baggage handler in an effort to save a few bucks. If these service providers enhance your experience, show your appreciation with more than just a smile and a high five.

© Bill Lindsay Photography

Learn the Language: When my husband and I traveled to Mexico shortly after we were married, I was amazed at how quickly people let us in on the "good stuff," because we both spoke Spanish. Everyone from the wait staff to the concierge greeted us as old friends, and they were all quick to tell us ways to avoid tolls and save some money, like on our rental car. Even if you are not traveling abroad, you may want to pick up on terminology for the area you will be visiting. Chances are if you order Coke in the south, they will ask you what kind (Coke, Sprite, Root beer), and if you hear the word "fetch" in the inter-mountain west, they're not talking about a game played by dogs.

© Bill Lindsay Photography

Don't be a sore thumb: Even if it's impossible to blend in (I have a four-year-old with hair the color of carrot juice — we don't blend anywhere) you don't need to stick out like a sore thumb. Know the customs and manners for the area you will be visiting. Don't be "that" tourist who wears a barely-there bathing suit in the lobby of a family-oriented hotel, or short shorts and a halter top to a cathedral tour. And on behalf of travelers everywhere, please don't go around loudly proclaiming how much better things are where you came from. If we really wanted to hear about how much better the food is in Yourtown, USA we'd visit it.

Remember, you're not the only one in the hotel: I recently had a lovely weekend with my husband, children, and 200 of my husband's coworkers and their families at a mountain resort near our home. Surprisingly, even with all of those families, there was an absence of running in the halls, pounding on the walls, and yelling in the elevators. At another time in my life, I stayed at the same hotel as several college crew teams. It was much less quiet. Be mindful of other people and avoid slamming doors, yelling or throwing ice in the hallway, or having a "kegger" in your room.

© Bill Lindsay Photography

Go with the flow: There will inevitably be bumps on the road to vacation bliss, but of all the bumps to pay no attention to, it's most important not to allow other people's rudeness affect your experience. While waiting to check baggage for a flight, I watched the ticket agent and a passenger berate each other about how rude the other was. When all was said and done, the ticket agent turned to me and complained about how people don't understand that she is just trying to do her job. I smiled politely, nodded when appropriate, took my ticket and got the heck out of there. Remember, whether it's the hotel, the airline, or the taxi or the car service, everyone wants to give you a positive experience so you will spend your money with them again. So, if you really feel as though you are not getting the service you expected to receive, ask to speak to a supervisor and focus on what needs to be done, rather than so much on how the specific person is handling it. If you are still struggling with a situation after the fact, e-mail the corporate headquarters, and then let it go. There is no sense in letting one glitch ruin a perfectly wonderful holiday.

Traveling can be stressful, but don't allow the stress of travel to keep you from visiting new places, seeing new things, or experiencing new cultures. With the right attitude and a few helpful hints, you'll have far more stories to make your friends jealous than making them glad they didn't go with you.