Meeting Disney World characters and seeing how amazing interactions can be is one of the greatest things I have enjoyed from spending a lot of time at the Walt Disney World resort! The characters love interaction as much as we guests do so, make the most of them!
If you have a favorite character that you know does a meet and greet at the park that you are attending that day, be sure to head to their character spot early. Lines are closed by the attendant when there are as many guests in line as the character will be able to meet in their current time set. They do need a lot of breaks, they need to check up on their gardens or grab a cheesecake bite once in a while! Depending on the season, their set times may be shorter, so be sure to adhere to the schedule in the times guide at the front of the park.
Now that you know the basics of meeting the characters, how do you make the most of your short time with them? Well, definitely think about what you want to say to them and how how you want to pose with them for the photo before hand, have your photo pass and camera ready as well as your autograph books. If they are your favorite character, tell them! It makes them so happy! Definitely relate to their movie, tell Mickey how awesome it was to meet Minnie earlier, ask Gaston how his quest for Belle is going, ask Cinderella how the mice or fairy godmother are doing, or ask the stepsisters how living in the kingdom is since Cinderella moved to the palace. This gives the characters a starting point for conversation.
I also always try to wear something that relates to the character that I am meeting. I wore black pants, brown boots, and a red shirt when I met Gaston. He was highly flattered. I always try to connect with the characters on a level of their story. They love sharing their stories with us and helping us create new ones to tell! Some of the most fun characters to meet are the ones with the biggest personalities- of course the classics like Mickey and Minnie are just wonderful. Some of the funniest interactions I have had have been with Frozone, Vanelope, Gaston and the Stepsisters. The other ones are always heart warming and magical but to get to the down right hilarious, the comedic or the villains are the way to go!
Characters are a great way to get kids of come out of their shell a little bit or to make adults feel like a kid again! So get out there and meet as many characters as you can! If you are a pass holder or a very frequent visitor, why not make a whole day out of it? I have and it was incredibly fun!!
Planning an anniversary getaway (particularly for one of the big anniversaries like a 10th or 25th) can be stressful. Taking time off work, making extravagant plans and then spending money on something often billed as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to rekindle the flame of romance can certainly be nerve-racking. But for seasoned travelers, perhaps the most difficult part is choosing where to go! Here are some tips for making an anniversary celebration unforgettable, memorable, but most of all, enjoyable.
Don’t try to be something you’re not
An elaborate anniversary trip seems like the perfect time to do something out of the ordinary or even a little bit crazy – but don’t let yourself get carried away. If you know you’re really the kind of person who wants to lie on a beach for two weeks with your significant other, reading books, drinking cocktails, and talking for hours while watching the sunset, don’t guilt yourself into a trek to Machu Picchu just because you feel like you should. The true purpose of an anniversary trip is to celebrate that special union – something you can’t really do if you’re regretting your surroundings. Likewise, if you and your partner are true adventurers, then planning two weeks lying around on a beach doing nothing is going to be a challenge, too. Make sure you plan a vacation around something you can both enjoy doing together. That alone will make it something you’ll remember fondly.
Choose a destination that allows you to stand out or blend in
Are you the kind of people who want to be recognized and given a little bit of special attention for your anniversary? Granted, you can’t expect to be doused with free champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries wherever you go, but there are some perks to letting hospitality staff know you’re celebrating a special occasion. Popular anniversary locales like Hawaii and California are teeming with hotels that go out of their way to welcome anniversary travelers since they make up such a big part of their business. On the other hand, taking a vacation to a more remote or less popular location could give you the benefit of being a bit of a novelty and could mean a little extra attention from staff. It could also mean you could just disappear from the radar altogether, which is another romantic notion.
Don’t forget to plan for extras
Most of your budget will likely go towards accommodations and airfare, but don’t forget to leave a little bit of wiggle room for extras! Budget about 10 percent over what you think you’ll spend; it will give you the extra room to splurge on a nicer bottle of wine at dinner, or leave an extra generous tip for the hotel staff who gave you an upgraded room or a free bottle of champagne. If you don’t use that extra cash? Great! Save it for the next vacation. And if you do? You’ll know you were ready to, and you won’t stress about the credit card bill when you get home.
KAABOO, Del Mar Eiffel Tower Paris 2018
September seemed to fly by and October has now arrived with some cooler temperatures. One of my September highlights was attending my first music festival in Del Mar.... KAABOO. The music lineups were amazing and the event also featured comedians, food demos and art. We chose to pay extra for admission to BASK, an MGM Wet Republic sponsored area with sand, chairs, pool and optional cabanas. We enjoyed the private bathrooms in BASK, a dedicated bar, and showers as well. I would highly recommend this venue and early bird pricing is already available for 2019. Call me and I can set you up for the same experience next year.
Paris is ALWAYS a good idea!
Paris in September is beautiful! I enjoyed a quick 4-night girls’ trip to celebrate a 50th birthday and happened to be there during Fashion Week AND the Ryder Cup golf event. While Paris was very busy, it was still much quieter than summer months. We managed to see most of the sites including the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Musee D’Orsay, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Arc de Triomphe, took an evening Seine river boat tour to see the lights, walked the Champs Elysee (and made purchases at Longchamp---very big savings from buying in the US) We took a macaron making class, ate at too many bistros to count, and spent an entire day in Versailles on a bicycle tour which I would highly recommend. I also got to meet up with friends also in Paris for drinks and breakfast. I will be taking a trip of 12 people back to Paris in November as well. While weather will be slightly chillier, I’m looking forward to trying the famous Angelina Hot Chocolate and doing some more holiday shopping for gifts. Whatever the occasion, Paris is always a good idea. If you’d like tips and tricks for a remarkable trip that won’t break the bank, give me a call. I’d be happy to share my list of favorites. Let me help make your dreams and bucket lists come true.
Want to pack like a PRO?
See my packing video that I used for my Paris trip last month: Packaging Video
Cruising continues to be one of the most popular vacation pastimes, with an average of more than 10 million Americans enjoying a cruise every year. One of the concerns that many people voice regards cruise safety. Cruises are generally quite safe, but since they are effectively a small town at sea, there are always things that beginners and cruise veterans can do to keep themselves safe.
Pay close attention to your safety briefing. Most cruise lines give a mandatory safety orientation on the first day, often before the ship leaves. Do not view this as an inconvenience, but rather as an important introduction to the ship. You will be instructed what to do in case of an emergency. Become familiar with the path you must take from your cabin to your emergency grouping area so that you can follow it when necessary.
Take care of your health. Use your own restroom facilities instead of public ones as much as possible to avoid exposure to contagious illnesses. Carry antibacterial wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Begin a multivitamin regimen before you begin your cruise.
Wear appropriate shoes. Cruise ships are generally quite stable, but it is important to wear shoes with rubber grip soles, particularly when walking on the deck. Women should wear low heels if they wear heels at all. Do not go about barefoot, even when going to and from the pool.
Leave valuables at home. Every cruise has at least one dress-up night when guests are encouraged to come to dinner in formal attire. It is tempting to bring jewelry from home to celebrate this event. However, it is wiser simply to dress up and leave jewelry and other expensive items at home. Wearing and displaying valuables on a cruise can make you an obvious target for theft or assault. Your cabin will have a small safe, but many crew members will have the codes to override it for passengers who forget their own safe codes. If you must bring valuables with you, visit the boat’s administration desk for information on using the boat safe.
Keep your money out of sight. Unless you do a lot of gambling on board, this is easy on the ship, where most transactions are done with your room key as a debit card. However, when you leave the ship, be sure to keep your money in a traveler’s money belt, under your clothes. Keep a small amount of cash in a pocket for convenience, but if you decide to make a purchase, go somewhere out of sight to access your money or credit cards.
Do not travel alone. This applies to both the cruise experience itself, and traveling anywhere while on the cruise. Single travelers are most likely to be the victims of violent crime, sexual assault and theft. The buddy system is your first and best line of defense.
Drink in moderation. Alcohol is freely available on a cruise ship, at meals, at bars and at the casino. However, the most common crime on a cruise ship is sexual assault, and it most commonly happens when the victim is intoxicated. Drinking in your cabin is allowed, so if you plan to have more than a few drinks, it is best to do so in the safety of your room.
1. Convenient One-Stop Shopping Travel agents can handle every aspect of your trip from airline tickets to lodging, ground transportation, activities, tours and more.
2. Consumer Advocate If you should have a problem during your trip, travel agents can act on your behalf to see that proper restitution is made.
3. Expert Guidance Travel agents are experts in helping travelers get where they need to go and in helping to create possibilities most people never would have dreamed were possible.
4. Save Time Avoid the headaches and let the travel agents call around and do all the time consuming work of planning a complex itinerary
5. Choice Travel agents offer you an array of options and price quotes from a variety of travel suppliers, giving you the upper hand when making your final travel decisions.
6. Less Stress Planning a trip can be stressful. There are so many options and details to worry about. Travel agents do the work, resulting in less stress for you
7. Updated Information Travel agents are constantly communicating with the travel community, thus giving you the most up to date info on airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, travel visas, and other travel services to consider as you plan your trip
8. Customer Service Travel agents offer that “personal touch” to your travel planning experience- Offering help and advice that a website cannot provide.
9. Travel Documentation Travel agents can help you to prepare and organize any necessary documents that you may need in order to travel outside of the country. They can direct you to your local passport office, and they know where you need a visa, as well as any other documentation that you might need along the way.
10. Travel Expertise Many travel agents are considered experts in the area you are traveling to and have probably already been to your chosen destination.
11. Best Value for Your Money Spent Travel agents can help you to make your dollars go farther while you are away. They have access to finding all sorts of deals ranging from flights to hotels to dinner recommendations.
12. Location, Location, Location!!!! Travel Specialists can help you to find a place to stay pretty much anywhere you desire. If it’s a hotel with a view of the ocean in Hawaii or a jungle hut in the Nigeria foothills, a travel agent can help you make it happen.
13. Knowledge of All the Ins and Outs Travel specialists can help bring you up to speed on the local laws and regulations of wherever your travels take you.
14. Credentials Travel agents attend all sorts of seminars and classes to prepare themselves for trip requests like yours.
15. Tourist Attractions Travel agents can give you a list of all the not-to-miss spots: such as amusement parks, museums, nature preserves, and historical locations.
16. Avoid International Flight Confusion Travel specialists can help organize those confusing international flights that Internet search engines don’t cover.
17. Where to Go With Kids Travel agents can help you to find great locations that are kid- friendly.
18. Trip Cancellation Something has come up and you need to cancel your trip? If you have used a travel agent they are the only person you need to call.
19. Travel Insurance With all the countless options for travel insurance these days, it can become confusing. A travel agent can help you pick which package works best for your needs.
20. Personalized Trips A travel agent can prepare you a personalized trip based on where you want to go and what you want to do.
21. Where to Go to Avoid Kids Want to go somewhere without children running all over the place? A travel agent can help you to find excellent retreats that are open to adults only.
22. Good Senior Trips Need a trip with a good balance of sight-seeing, rest and relaxation? Travel agents can help lucky retirees plan great extended trips that are senior-friendly.
23. Student Discounts Some travel agents are an excellent go- to source for students looking to go on discounted trips.
24. Exotic Adventures Travel experts can help to recommend great once in a lifetime experiences. They can help you to find the best/safest shark cages to dive into and the highest free-fall bungees to jump off.
25. Great Deals without Sitting at a Time Share Presentation Want an affordable trip to Florida without having to sit through a timeshare presentation? A travel agent can help you to exceptional deals without the stipulations.
26. What to Eat Where are all the top chefs at your destination? Travel specialists give great advice on the best restaurants to hit on your trip.
27. What Not to Eat Leaving your home country and not familiar with the new language? Travel agents can help give you some forewarnings so you don’t accidently order the local delicacy (which may or may not be specially prepared bugs) without meaning to.
28. Local Traditions Travel specialists can update you on all local traditions and customs of places you are visiting, so you make a good impression. For example, in Japan many people expect their visitors to take their shoes off before entering their homes.
29. Local Laws Many countries have laws that are very different from your own. Travel agents can help give you a quick rundown of what you need to be aware of before you go.
30. Busiest Travel Times to Avoid If you want a quiet trip, travel experts know what dates you should avoid and can help you plan your trip accordingly.
31. Avoid Unexpected Expenses Travel agents will be able to inform you about expenses you will incur on your trip, even ones you might never expect.
32. Exchange Rate Knowledge Travel agents are knowledgeable of the countries where your dollar can go further.
33. Useful Travel Books to Have with You A travel expert can give you advice on what travel books are the most useful to have with you. Some of these books list restaurants, customs, and small amounts of the local language.
34. List of Not- to- Miss Places Travel specialists can give you a great list of not- to- miss hikes, waterfalls, and cliffs that may or may not be published elsewhere. 35. What to Wear Many restaurants have different types of dress codes. If you are interested in dining at specific places on your trip, your travel expert can advise you on appropriate dress wear for the occasion.
36. What Not to Wear Travel agents can help you to be in the know of local dress code restrictions. So if a thong is part of your favorite beachwear, you should know that they are illegal in places like the Isle of Palms.
37. Crime Rates Travel experts are great at informing you about questionable parts of town that you may be heading to and can give you tips on what to look out for.
38. Someone to Call if Having a Problem During Your Trip An online travel agency is not going to answer the phone when you call with any complications during your trip. A travel agent continues to give you that personal support even while you are away.
39. When You Shouldn’t Drink the Water We are always told when you travel be careful of the water. Travel agents can advise you on when it is safe and when it’s not safe to drink the water.
40. Small Intercontinental Flights Delayed – What to do? Travel agents can help you find somewhere to stay when you are left helpless at an airport overnight due to flight delays.
41. Saves You Precious Time on Your Trip To avoid 36 hours in the airport, your travel expert can help plan your trip so your time spent getting to where you want to go is the shortest it can be.
42. Anticipating Trouble Travel agents are extremely useful if you are planning a trip to a known weather troubled area such as the hurricane plagued Caribbean islands. In the event of a natural disaster, your travel agent can work to immediately reschedule or cancel your trip so there are no worries for you.
43. Complicated Itineraries Made Simple Travel experts can take care of all the details for those complicated around the world itineraries and all the extra headaches that go with them, such as hotel and transportation along the way.
44. Special Needs Travelers Travel specialists can prearrange any wheelchair or special need that someone in your travel party may have. They can also take the time to make sure your reserved accommodations are safe and easily accessible for the special needs traveler.
45. What to Pack Some activities you choose to partake in may require different layers of clothing throughout the day. Your travel agent can advise you on what to bring. A bike trip down an extinct volcano in Hawaii for example, may require you to start out with jackets and wool socks, but when you get to the bottom you may be down to shorts and a tank top.
46. Let Them Wait on Hold By using a travel agent you no longer have to wait on hold and talk to automated systems while trying to book different parts of your trip.
47. Business Concerns If the airline you are scheduled to use goes on strike or bankrupt while you are traveling, your travel agent can work to find you alternate travel means while you continue to relax at the hotel.
48. Transportation in Smaller Countries Travel agents can arrange all your transportation and travel needs, especially in those smaller countries where you may not know if cabs or van services are safe.
49. Group Hotel Reservations Travel agents can help to keep everyone in your group on the same floor at a hotel.
50. Charter Private Boating Trips Travel specialists can help you to avoid paying top dollar for chartered snorkeling or fishing trips for large groups. They can often find great deals for large groups who want to do personalized tours.
51. Immunizations That May Be Needed To enter certain countries you may be required to obtain certain immunizations first. Your travel expert can advise you on the steps you need to take.
52. Special Deals Worked Out in Advance Travel agents may have a relationship with certain tour operators and could be able to get you a special price that might not otherwise be available. 53. Make Travel Meaningful for Children Travel agents can offer information about kid-friendly activities on your trip to make the experience exciting and meaningful for everyone.
54. Where to Shop Travel agents can offer excellent advice on great shopping neighborhoods in your destination city.
55. Avoid Scams Not all 5 star hotels are treated equally. Many times photos are outdated and information about the hotel you are considering may not be true. Travel agents can make sure that what you are seeing beforehand is what you get.
56. What You Can Buy Later New airline restrictions make packing for long trips hard. Travel experts can give you advice on what you might be able to purchase while you are on your trip to avoid having excess weight in your luggage beforehand.
57. Advice on Where to Go if You Get Sick If you happen to be unfortunate enough to get hurt or fall ill while on your trip, your travel agent can help you find somewhere clean and safe for medical attention.
58. Trust If you should have any questions after booking your trip, you know how to reach your travel agent and can avoid the confusing FAQ section on a website.
59. You Know How to Reach Them When You Need Them Problems at the airport? Reservations issued at the hotel? Your travel agent is a phone call away from getting your problem solved.
60. Tips and Tricks How early do you really need to be at the airport? What are the quickest ways to get through security? Your travel expert can advise you of the airport security levels the day of your trip and any new security checkpoints you may have to worry about.
61. Is the Upgrade Worth It? Your travel expert can help you save money by helping you decide if upgrades are really worth the extra money.
62. Difference in Days to Save Money Instead of playing around with dates on the internet for hours, your travel agent can advise you on any changes to your travel dates that might save you hundreds of dollars.
63. Staying In-the-Know of Daily Promotions Travel agents get emails and faxes of daily money saving promotions.
64. Enhancing the Trip with Extra Amenities Your travel specialist may be able to arrange for those little extras- like a bottle of champagne to be waiting in your room when you arrive.
65. Using Clout in Impossible Situations Whether it is airline seats, cruise reservations, or overbooked activities travel experts have more buying power than the average consumer.
64. Clarifying the Fine Print Your travel agent can advise you of all the cancelation penalties and restrictions hidden in the fine print of your travel documents.
65. Detailed Itineraries Your travel expert can help you plan out your trip day- by -day to give you a good mix of fun and relaxation.
66. Advice on Activities to Book Beforehand A travel expert can forewarn you of any activities that tend to sell out early so there are no unexpected disappointments when you are there. For example, character dining in Disney sells out months in advance.
67. General Ideas on Where to Go A travel expert can offer excellent trip advice based on the details of what type of trip you want to take. Internet booking sites tend to require a destination up front.
68. A Trip to Nowhere…Sort of Want to get away to somewhere that is not normally a vacation hot spot? Your travel specialist can help you find that perfect place.
69. Great Singles Trips A travel agent can help find you exciting singles trips and cruise.
70. What to Pack Your travel expert can give you great advice on what to pack to those exotic destinations.
71. Plan a Trip Where you Bring the Kids but Can Still Get Some Alone Time Many cruises and resorts now offer activities throughout the day for young children that make the day fun for them and give you some time to yourself. Travel experts can help you find great family destination options.
72. Higher Productivity Benefits You have your trip planned while you are hard at work in the office.
73. You Get to be the Boss You get to tell someone what to do for a change.
74. Great Group Trips Trying to organize a trip for big group of people? A travel expert can help get all the details finalized and update everyone in the group.
75. Someone to Complain to If that slim chance were to occur that you do not get what you were promised, you have a real person to go back and complain to. Travel agents will work hard to rectify the matter.
76. They Are Considered Travel Experts and Specialists Wouldn’t you rather have a travel expert plan your trip rather than a preprogrammed website?
77. Best Pre-Seat Assignments Possible Travel agents can talk directly with the airline to arrange for you to get the seats with the most leg room, seats that might not otherwise be released until the day of the flight.
78. Mapping Routes Out Ahead of Time Not really good at reading maps? A good travel expert can help you to map out any basic directions you might need on your trip ahead of time.
79. Family with 3 Small Children and Only Want 1 Room? A travel expert might be able to find a way to help a family with small children get around the hotel policies of only 4 to a room.
80. Help, I’m Lost!!!!!! If you should get lost somewhere along the way, your travel agent could be a good outlet for help.
81. It just Makes Sense to Use a Travel Agent.
82. They’re Out There… Use Them Why do the work if someone else like a travel specialist can.
83. Possibility of a Free Gift Some travel agents offer free incentives. Who doesn’t like the possibility of free presents?
84. Even if the Internet Goes Down Your Trip Can Still Be Planned Your travel agent is still getting your trip planned even if your internet at home or at the office is not working.
85. Back-up Distributor of Documents You can give your travel agent a copy of all your travel documents so if anything were to get lost you have someone to call that can send copies.
86. Because We Said So Our business is to help you find a qualified travel specialist.
87. What to Expect on the Flight Your travel expert can give you helpful answers on what to expect long flights to be like, and maybe some interesting activities to do while flying.
88. It is Their Job Travel agents actually work to get different accreditations to increase their qualifications as a travel expert.
89. Lost Baggage If the airline should lose your baggage, your travel agent can get on the phone and make sure the airline works as quickly as they can to solve the problem allowing you to at least go relax at the hotel.
90. Travel Agents Must Be Doing Something Right. They Sure Have a lot of Business Travel agents still sell 51 percent of all airline tickets, 87 percent of all cruises, 81 percent of all tours and packages, 45 percent of all car rentals and about 47 percent of all hotels. *
91. Don’t Like Letter Writing? A good travel agent will send a letter to the airline or hotel for you if you should have a bad flight or poor service at a hotel.
92. Sound Important When Talking About Your Trip After a bragging about a great trip to coworkers or the neighbors, and they ask how you got all those details organized you can say, “My agent did it.”
93. Forbidden Fruit Your travel agent can forewarn you of items not allowed to be brought back into the United States. –Yes, you have to smoke those Cuban cigars before you leave to come home and you can’t bring that “rattling rose apple” back with you from India!
94. Financial Planning Travel experts can help you to create a budget to stick to while you are on your trip, so you can have a good time and not break the bank.
95. Good Babysitters Travel experts might be able to help you find a local babysitter in the area you are traveling to if you want to plan a night out alone.
96. Good Lounge Recommendations Travel specialists can help you decide if purchasing access to an airline lounge is worth it or not.
97. Good Airport Hangouts Travel agents travel a lot. They can probably help you figure out what to do with that extra time you have in an airport after getting through security.
98. Where to Watch Your Wallet More Carefully Although you should always take extra care to hold onto your wallet when traveling, travel agents can warn you if pick-pocketing is common at your future destination.
99. What to Put in the Hotel Safe Travel agents can give you good advice on what you should be keeping in that hotel safe while you are out exploring the sites so there is nothing important missing when you return.
100. Altering Your Travel Arrangements If you have already booked your trip but want to change some details your travel agency can help get all the necessary steps done, leaving you without the headache and confusion.
101. It Makes Traveling Easy Once you find a good travel agent, your dream vacation is just a phone call away.
Some of these local customs may strike outsiders as downright weird. But learning a bit of cultural etiquette, important phrases, and the absolute no-no’s of any country you visit can save you not only embarrassment but also time and money! THE WRONG HAND GESTURE CAN GET YOU IN TROUBLE Here in the U.S., you’d never seriously consider flipping the bird to a total stranger, right? (Just roll with this and say “Who me? No, never!”) But when traveling abroad it’s entirely possible to throw an unintentionally rude gesture at a well-meaning waiter, hotel concierge, or friendly passer-by—if you’re not familiar with local customs. Say your waiter in Rio just asked if you enjoyed your steak dinner. Flash him the OK sign (a circle with your thumb and index finger) and—congrats!—you’ve just insulted him really badly. In the U.K., making a peace sign (or V for victory) with your palm facing inward is the equivalent of the American bird. In Spain, extending your pinkie and index finger from your fist is an insult.
DO YOU WANNA TOUCH?To touch or not to touch can be baffling overseas. Here in the U.S., we’re relatively reserved compared with some European countries when it comes to the violation of personal space during a friendly conversation. But compared with much of Asia and Africa, we can come off as overly huggy. In Italy and France, maintaining eye contact and reaching out and touching the other person during a friendly conversation is considered more polite than standing there with your hands in your pockets staring over someone’s shoulder. But in China or Germany, that level of touching will make the other person uncomfortable, and in some cultures, such as Nigeria, maintaining eye contact can be even be perceived as overly bold or threatening. As for public displays of affection, be prepared to reign them in if you’re visiting most destinations in Asia and Africa, and keep a low profile wherever you are (perhaps with the exception of Paris) until you have evidence that, say, smooching on the sidewalk is commonplace.
MIND YOUR TABLE MANNERSElbows off the table? Clean your plate like your mother taught you? Not so fast. Food etiquette varies widely from culture to culture and can sometimes appear to have no rhyme or reason. In the Middle East, India, and parts of Africa, keeping your elbows off the table isn’t enough—you’re not supposed to touch anything at the table with your left hand (it’s considered dirty). In France, it’s considered more polite to put your slice of bread on the table than to rest it on your plate. Slurp soup in Japan and no one will bat an eye. Slurp soup in China and you’ll be the Ugly American. In China, eating rice with chopsticks is expected, but in Thailand it’s considered inappropriate (there, you should use a spoon). In Brazil and Chile, don’t eat anything with your hands (no, not even fries). In Italy or Cuba, putting your cutlery on the right side of your plate means you’re done with the meal. But in Spain, you’d place it on your plate to indicate that you’re finished. Clean your plate in Ecuador and you’ll be given seconds, but in Peru cleaning your plate is just considered polite. And remember whenever you sit down to eat in a group outside the U.S., there’s a good chance you should wait for either the host or the eldest person at the table to start eating before you tuck into what’s on your plate.
RAISE A GLASS? NOT SO FAST!If you ever thought that American rituals and customs surrounding alcohol were a bit arcane (what exactly does “Here’s mud in your eye?” mean, anyway?), you’ll be relieved to learn that the rest of the convivial world can be just as confusing. When a Russian offers you vodka, the polite thing to do is accept—and drink it down fast. Similarly, you should never refuse sake in Japan (though that hot beverage can be sipped, of course, instead of tossed back). In some countries, including Switzerland, it’s rude to start drinking before a toast is offered. And the rituals surrounding which hand (or both) with which to accept a drink, which direction to pass, whose glass you should fill, and other surprisingly important items of cultural dogma should be mastered by consulting a reliable resource such as one of the great books in Dean Allen Foster’s Global Etiquette Guide series. Be mindful that in some cultures, alcohol is forbidden—you won’t find it served in Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates.
THE TIPPING POINTYou’d never skip out of an American restaurant without leaving at least 15 percent on the table (well, unless the service was downright awful). But in many other parts of the world, tipping is either built into the bill, culturally frowned upon, or unnecessary because waitstaff are paid a much higher salary than here in the U.S. Don’t tip in Japan, Australia, and Brazil. Leave 5 to 10 percent for exceptional service in Italy, France, and Germany. Leave 10 to 15 percent in Egypt, South Africa, Russia, and Hong Kong (but don’t tip anywhere else in China).
The Amazing ThailandThailand’s world-famous attractions have been well documented on television, are used as backdrops in several Hollywood movies and crop up again and again in modern fiction. Still, to witness the Grand Palace in person or to watch a Railey Beach sunset or even to approach Phi Phi Don for the first time is guaranteed to send a shiver up the spine of even a hardened traveller and the frisson of passing by a limestone monolith in Phang Nga Bay is unforgettable.
From the north of Thailand in Chiang Mai to the lush southern province of Krabi you’ll be charmed and even shocked by the raw beauty of Thailand.