Taking a summer vacation? Don’t forget sunscreen and your swimsuit. (Do I sound like your mom?) And leave room in your suitcase for great souvenirs for the folks you left behind. (Hint: I collect hankies of the states.)
While on the road, you’re likely to encounter high gas prices, overbooked airplanes, short tempers and long lines. So try to stay cool with these 10 do’s and don’ts for the well-mannered summertime traveler.
Summer don’ts: Barely there and definitely distracted
1. At the airport: Don’t go bare
It’s tempting to head to the airport in flip-flops, a tank top and shorty-shorts. But there are plenty of reasons not to: you can freeze your bum if on-board temperatures dip and you may give your seatmates an unintended eyeful when reaching up to store your stuff or bending over to retrieve it. Worse, sitting on an airplane in a skimpy outfit might make you sick: airplane cabins don’t get cleaned very often and more than once I’ve seen parents using seat cushions as diaper changing tables. So cover up.
2. Out on the highway: Don’t get distracted
If you commute, you’ve probably seen folks shaving, applying make-up, reading, eating or text-messaging (or some combination of them all) on their way to work. Highways get even more dangerous in the summer as vacationers try to maneuver through unfamiliar interchanges in rental cars or unwieldy RVs.
So don’t wait until you’re going 70 mph to unfold the roadmap or start searching through paperwork for the directions to the motel. And don’t forget to take a headcount before heading out on the road after a highway rest stop. Especially if you’re traveling with kids, pets or slow-moving in-laws.
3. In the streets: Don’t be an ‘ugly American’
In this country or overseas, many people say they dream of visiting new places and seeing new things. Yet, once they’re out there, they complain that things aren’t “just like home.” Well, only back home is “just like home,” so if you’ve finally ventured beyond your front door, don’t insist or expect that everyone will speak English, put ketchup on their French fries, or do things the way they do it back in Missouri.
4. On a tour: Don’t be the distraction
OK, maybe you wanted to join that behind-the-scenes tour of the sports dome. But you lost the coin toss and now you’re trailing your spouse and her aunt on a three-hour guided tour of the Dear and Dainty Dollhouse Museum. Some people are actually there to hear the tour guide’s information — and all those corny jokes — so don’t ruin it for everyone else by whining, talking on your cell phone, or cracking wise from the back row.
5. Out in the woods: Don’t make assumptions
Imagine a walk in the woods on a sunny summer day, with the birds sweetly chirping and a brook gently babbling. But beware: a wrong turn on a poorly marked trail or the arrival of a fast-moving thunderstorm can turn an afternoon hike deadly. Don’t start your hike too late in the day and don’t forget to bring water, snacks, a sweater, cell phone and stuff that might just save your life. And don’t ignore signs that say: “Python Crossing,” “Beware: Falling Boulders” or “Turn Back Now.”
Summer do’s: Dress right and carry a big tip
1. Dress appropriately
Pay special attention to formal and informal dress codes at your destination. They may have let you on the airplane with those shorty shorts, Missy, but at European churches, visitors are expected to cover their shoulders and knees and folks wearing low-cut or sleeveless shirts, shorts or mini-skirts often get turned away.
2. Tip generously
Remember your first summer job? Mine was at an A&W Root Beer drive-in and I still remember the guy who gave me a $5 tip for my first, very poorly-made, float. A lot of young people will be out there this summer busting their behinds on their first (low-) paying jobs at the restaurants, hotels and attractions you visit on your vacation. So tip generously; you’ll make a big impression.
3. Be a great guest and a gracious host
Staying at a friend’s home is a great way to stretch your travel budget and get an insider’s view of a new city. And opening your home to travelers can give you a new appreciation of your own home town. The dividends can be lasting: low-maintenance guests often get welcomed back; gracious hosts get invites to guest rooms in far-off lands.
4. Travel light
Traveling offers a chance to leave your worries — and your stuff — behind. Pack just the essentials and skip worrying about toting heavy suitcases in and out of hotel rooms, keeping watch over your valuables or packing and unpacking outfits you probably won’t wear anyway.
5. Be cool. Be loose. Become a well-adjusted, well-mannered traveler
Summer is for kicking back and relaxing; not just your dress code, but your attitude. So at the airport, smile at the TSA person patting you down and pawing through your carry-on. Out on the highway, let that driver yakking on his cell phone speed on by. At the amusement park, let that family with the obnoxious, whiny kid step in front of you in line. Your sanity and your good humor may end up being the best souvenir of your summer vacation.