Monday, July 17, 2017

Planning Your Way to Great Britain


Does travel planning leave you in a cold sweat, unable to catch a breath and wondering just how you're going to untangle this web of money, time, and logistical nightmares?  Personally, I find it a very creative experience and one you shouldn't be afraid of in the least!  In fact, there are ways to engage yourself creative ways you may not have explored yet.  Below are some tools you can use to help devise your travel itinerary.  You can use them not only to stimulate your own creative juices but to involve the family in this creative experience as well!  It will give the kids, the spouse, and everyone involved a sense of ownership of the experience.

Create an Inspiration Board


1.     Start a Pinterest account.

2.     Create a board called Inspiration Board.

3.     Collect pictures from the web to paste there.

Create a Destination Board


Based on your favorite inspirations, create a destination board.  When you've visited places, move them from the left side of the table to the middle column.  If there are places you want to spend more time exploring, move those to the far right.
Places I want to go
Places I’ve been
Places I want to explore further
Devon
London
London
The Lake District
Stratford Upon Avon
 
The Pembrokeshire coast
Stonehenge
 
Whitby
Dover
 


Create an Events Board


Based on places you want to go that you haven’t been yet, determine things you want to do there.  As you do them, move them to the right column.

Things I want to do
Things I’ve done
Tour by canal boat
Churchill’s War Rooms
Tour Windsor Castle
Buckingham Palace
Tour Hampton Court
Tower of London
Have tea at Claridges
Climb a Wainwright peak
Tour Parliament
Merlin’s cave

Create an Itinerary

Pull all your previous research into an itinerary.  Use the web to gauge your estimates.

 
Trip Item

Description

Theme, Goal, or Destination

Type at least three things you want to see. Include a theme, goals you’d like to achieve, or destinations to visit.

Budget

Decide on a budget for your trip.  For instance, $5,000.

Determine how you’ll travel

Plane, train, car rental, bus, foot, etc.

Estimate cost

Determine lodging

B&B, camping, 4-Star hotel, Air BnB, etc.

Estimate cost.

Events

Determine events, castles, sights, and other places that might incur a cost.  For instance, an Elizabethan banquet or seeing Windsor castle.
Estimate cost.

Food

Pick an amount per day to allocate for food.  Multiply it by the number of days of your trip for the estimated cost.

Spending

Pick an amount per day to allocate for spending.  Multiply it by the number of days of your trip for the estimated cost.

Other fees

Kennel costs, trip insurance, gas, passport, etc.

The Finale

One your creative efforts are complete, total up the expenses.  If you're over budget, rework the plan until your budget and goals reflect what you want out of the trip. 

See! Told you it was fun. :)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Britain, Hands Down!


I am an American.  Born here, bred here.  Yet, after having lived in and traveled to the UK for so long, I began to wonder why.  What do the British have that we don’t? What do they do better than we do?  Is it just the topography of their beautiful landscapes?  The history, the monarchy, the magic?  Well, I decided to make a list of a few of the things that (in my opinion) the British do that’s hands down better than Americans.

Television

If I could cut out all American television, I’d live on various TV series’ such as Downton Abbey, Grantchester, Death in Paradise, Poirot, the Crown, Escape to the Country, Homes Under the Hammer, etc. 

Radio

I love English radio.  They have whole networks of stations that just do stories and plays.  Or documentaries and dramas.  Isn’t it fantastic? Almost like time stood still in the 1930s. 

Kindness

Don’t get me wrong… there are kind Americans (I’m one!).  But my experience of the British is that (once they get to know you), they’d go beyond giving you the shirt off their backs, they’d give you an entire wardrobe!  If you want to go hiking, they make sure it’s a good day out with a pub visit at the end.  If you are on the motorway, the slower cars give way to the faster ones.  Especially in the north (where I lived) or the south (in Cornwall where I’ve visited), I’ve found this to be true. This year, my entire trip is being spent handed off from friend to friend.  I’ll be seeing so many sights I’d never see without these lovely people!

Dress Up

The British do dress up to a gobsmacking level.  They have the Derby, Ascot, West End shows, and even just an evening event.  Where I might choose jeans and a blouse, they’d be in full dress.  They’re just that way.

Tea

No one is going to argue there.  Since the 1800s, this country has owned afternoon tea.  In fact, in Cornwall and Devon they’re fighting for the right to own the way your scone is served!  British teas are some of the finest (I get some of the loveliest tea at Fortnum and Mason in London).  Tea service has been perfected at places like the Ritz, Claridges, or Betty’s of Harrogate.  Yes, hands down, here!

Pomp and Circumstance

Oh yes, tradition rules the day in the UK.  Whether it’s Black Rod performing the state opening of Parliament or the Trooping of the Colour, or the Queen’s Christmas Message, you’ll find that there are rules and royal traditions everywhere!

Strange Traditions

In the 70s, I watched Wicker Man (the movie) with furrowed brow.  But this tradition (in some form or another) still occurs today with the burning of a wicker effigy. It sometimes merges with the Green Man who appears on May Day and represents rebirth or springtime. Guy Fawkes Night is another strange tradition where children are encouraged to build an effigy of Guy Fawkes to burn on Bonfire night!  Morris Dancing (we’ve forgotten what its origins are), or the ravens that protect the Tower of London and Britain by their very presence. For, if they leave, it is said that London and the Monarchy will fall! There are a million unique village traditions that would take hours to sift through, but these are some of the more well known.

Rules and Regulations

While most of these would seem silly to us, there are a few that I actually applaud.  Like the ethical treatment of animals or the conservation of historical sites and land.  But, then they take off on flights of fancy and, after watching Homes Under the Hammer, I have really got to question the rules that apply to property.  A council has to approve any plans to change a home.  Even if you plan to build a million dollar mansion (one was turned down on one of the shows I saw).  It was designed by an architect and didn’t reflect the mood or environment of the locals.  You can buy a place and still owe for its lease!  There are so many ways a property deal can go wrong over there it boggles the mind.   

Taxes, Licenses, and the Law

Well, even though we moan and complain about our taxation here, how would you like to be taxed for owning a television?  Do you realize that newspapers are so large because of a British tax in 1816 that required newspapers to be taxed per page?  A licensed establishment is one that is licensed to serve alcohol on site.  An off-license is one where you pay for your alcohol and take it away (such as a liquor store).  Did you know it’s an offense to be drunk and in charge of a cow in Scotland?  Or that all beached whales and sturgeons must be offered to the reigning monarch?  Or how about the more sensible, Prohibition and Inspections Act of 1998 that makes a nuclear explosion illegal?  Some comedian is missing out on some great material here!

Free Stuff

The UK provides some emergency healthcare even to people traveling to its shores. You’ll find a plethora of museums, buildings, andevents free to anyone! 

The Play’s the Thing

While you might say that we have a handle on live shows in New York and Las Vegas, I’ll put them up to London’s West End and the love of British for theatre any day.  Plus, tickets seem more affordable in London (that’s good).  I recently got three tickets to see Beautiful for $80!  Can’t beat that with a stick.  And, who wouldn’t want a chance to visit Shakespeare’s stomping grounds or the home of Agatha Christie?  My personal favorite literary museum is the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth, West Yorkshire.

Music 

Oh yes, we have our own hold on country, blues and modern day gangsta stuff, but it was the English invasion I recall with such clarity.  The Beatles, the Stones, the Who, Roger Daltry, Eric Clapton, Sir Paul McCartney, AC/DC, Adele, Queen, Freddie Mercury, Ozzie, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the list is endless.  I’m not saying that one is better than the other.  I’m just saying that in my own humble opinion, the gigantasaurs of rock n roll came from Britain. I know I’m going to hear from Elvis fans on this one!

Old Stuff

Oh yes, now this is one you can’t argue with me on.  Britain has older stuff!  Modern homes in Britain are from the 50s up.  A “traditional” home would possibly be from the 1500s.  Your mind boggles at the culture shock when it comes to home buying in Britain.

Dialects

One person estimates that there are “about 56 main "accent types" in the British Isles (or less controversially the "Anglo-Celtic Isles"), but within each of those accent types there are scores or even hundreds of distinctive variations… By way of contrast, there are about 42 recognised accents in the USA.”  When you think that all of the UK is only 1/3 the size of Texas, the differences multiply in the “per capita” arena.  Just give us a little time (a few thousand years) and we’ll catch up, I’m sure!

Summary

This was a fun jaunt and not without its controversy!  I remain steadfast in my right to my own opinion and equally reserve the right for you to have yours.  The two can exist on the same planet!  However, I really would be interested in your take on this.  If you like, please leave your thoughts in the comments section.
 
 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Obscure Travel Tips

“Everything that can be invented has been invented,” said Charles H Duell, Commissioner, U.S. patent office, 1899. Sometimes, I think that is true of travel articles. For weeks, I’ve been struggling to come up with a topic. Something I’ve not discussed before and something useful for people vacationing here or abroad.

So, one day I asked a friend if she had any travel tips. And, oddly enough, her tips were things I do (and maybe you do as well) that we hardly consider a tip. This doesn’t make them any less helpful!

Obscure Travel Tip 1

When you are planning your trip, build in a leisurely day here and there so you don’t get too worn out to enjoy the rest of your trip. Even the most experienced traveler has had to come to grips with overbooking their time. It looks great on the schedule! It looks fun on the schedule! But, in real life, you’re just a person looking for some downtime. Too much planning can overwhelm you before you know it, so for myself as well, I’m saying – be kind to yourself. This is your vacation. Maximize enjoyment of it!

Obscure Travel Tip 2

I’ve harped on this before, but you know you don’t have to pack two or three weeks worth of clothing. Especially if you’re going to a place that has laundromats. I love laundromats for several reasons:
  1. Downtime. You’re not doing much other than watching the swish swish of clothes in the washer and reading a book.
  2. You get to meet the locals or other travelers in a normal setting. I’ve had some great conversations in laundromats.
  3. I just like the zen of laundry. The smell of clean sheets. And the ability to wear clean clothes after several days on the road!

Obscure Travel Tip 3

Thrift stores, hardware stores, and antique shops give you a unique view into a country’s recent/distant past and provide a unique shopping experience that you won’t find in main street retail. In one thrift shop in Cornwall, I got the loveliest commemorative cup for QE II for just 3 pounds. One of my favorite finds to date! Look for the Oxfam stores in towns in GB as that seems to be the most widely spread of the thrift store chains.

Obscure Travel Tip 4

Don’t write or type your journal wasting lots of time when you could actually be enjoying your trip! Use the voice recorder on your smartphone.

Obscure Travel Tip 5

You won’t need that extra (whatever it is). This especially applies to dress shoes. Get some good, multipurpose shoes instead.

Obscure Travel Tip 6

Download as many helpful apps as you can. These include apps for: airport navigation and flight time/delay, currency conversion, train times/delays, calculator, tipping, parking, location (like English Heritage or National Trust) so you can locate their sites and discounts), and don’t forget TripIT (which stores your itinerary, confirmation numbers, etc.).

Obscure Travel Tip 7

Don’t waste every waking hour taking pictures or video. You’ll forget to stop and smell the roses! If you want to go completely camera-bare, pick up post cards from the places you visit.

Obscure Travel Tip 8

The Hop on Hop Off Buses are a godsend. Use them to get the lay of the land, learn more about places you never thought about visiting, and as an introduction to what you might want to see later if you’re on a time budget.

Obscure Travel Tip 9

Do a trial pack or two to ensure you maximize use of your luggage.

Obscure Travel Tip 10

Fold up a duffle bag, Rick Steves luggage bag, or other luggage piece that can be stored in a minimal amount of space and yet provides you with maximum space for returning with souvenirs or other bought things.

Obscure Travel Tip 11

If you are visiting friends and taking gifts, consider mailing rather than schlepping them. Yes, overseas postage is expensive. You’ll have to weigh the inconvenience with the cost. Buy souvenirs at the end of your trip if possible so you’re also not schlepping stuff around everywhere you go.

Obscure Travel Tip 12

Try traveling alone. You’ll meet more people and have more spontaneous adventures than if you were tied to someone else’s agenda.

Obscure Travel Tip 13

Ask people what they’d like you to bring them as a gift. The stranger the better! I’ve gone to places and seen things I would not have done otherwise. Just one word: Sheep’s Roving. Ok, that’s two words…

Obscure Travel Tip 14

Don’t believe your GPS. It lies! Constantly! And, it will also lose satellite just when you need it most. Bring maps, always!

Obscure Travel Tip 15

Create a theme for your trip. One travel partner wanted a “King Arthur” theme, and I got to see the most glorious places when we planned it.

Obscure Travel Tip 16

Something will go wrong. Sometimes more than one thing! Be flexible. Breathe through it. You’ll survive.

Obscure Travel Tip 17

Make your airport stay fun – especially if you have a long layover or a cancelled flight. Try a new restaurant! Shop! Get in your FitBit steps! Ask the guy on the electric cart if you can have a ride! If you’re in Austin airport, stop by Knot Anymore and get a massage!

Obscure Travel Tip 18

If you’re in a foreign country and don’t speak the language, take pictures of your hotel and street sign to show to taxi drivers or to ask directions if you get lost.

Obscure Travel Tip 19

Take pictures of the inside and outside of your luggage so that you can show authorities if your luggage gets lost. Also, tag your luggage so that it looks unique on the carousel (you don’t want to end up with someone else’s bag)! Make sure you have your info on the inside and outside of the bags in case of loss.

Obscure Travel Tip 20

Book the flight. Just book it. Your trip isn’t real until you do. Don’t wait for sales. Don’t wait for Christmas or your birthday… do it! Magically, your adventures will spin off from there. Note: I highly recommend reward miles.

Obscure Travel Tip 21

Use TripAdvisor forums to the max. Have a question on the best B&B and don’t believe the reviews? Go to the forums and ask real destination experts. An event has blocked out dates and you can’t figure out what’s going on? Ask a forum expert! Invaluable!



Monday, May 22, 2017

How to Spot an American in Great Britain



I was watching the entire Agatha Christie’s Poirot series for the third time when I began to notice something.  Anytime American’s were present in the script, they were not portrayed in a positive light.  Women were brash and easy while men were blowhards and stupid.  I got the feeling Agatha did not like Americans all that much!

Having said that, there do seem to be some traits that make Americans stand out over other nationalities.  Just in case you were wondering!

The Luggage

I was in Waverley train station in Edinburgh when I spotted a young lady laden with all sorts of luggage (most of it large).  When she sat next to me, I said, “so, are you from America?”  Turns out she was a college student heading to Aberdeen for school.  I’m not sure why Americans think they need so much luggage when it makes it terribly hard to travel, but that seems to be the case.  When speaking to an elderly friend about downsizing her luggage for a UK trip, she said, “oh, I couldn’t do that!”

You can, actually… you just have to be willing!  See my article on travel packing tips.

Also, that USA sticker or red, white, and blue carryon may be a dead giveaway (to thieves as well).

Photography

It’s generally not cool to snap pictures of someone without at least asking if it’s ok.  How would you like it if someone came up to you and began taking photos?  I think that, universally, it’s just a rude thing to do.  So, be the good American who politely asks if you can take pictures before snapping away.

Amplitude

I was with a tour once where someone saw a Scottish couple walking their dog in the country and basically overtook them (and their conversation) very loudly.  She was sweet and positive, but just a little too much for the couple who beat a hasty retreat.  In general, a tip of the hat and a “good afternoon” go a long way.  If you feel you’d like to strike up a conversation, be mindful of the response  you’re getting from the person(s) you’re talking to and back off if it seems they don’t want to chat.  It’s not that they don’t like you, but they may not be prepared for a noisy onslaught!

Place Names

One thing that’s a tad embarrassing is that Americans don’t seem to be able to pronounce English place names with any sort of accuracy.  See my article on “of icks and burras”.

Wrong Way

You look the wrong way when crossing the street.  Or worse! You drive on the wrong side of the road when renting a car.  Or try to enter the car on the wrong side.  Or continually ride the traffic circle looking for the right exit.  You might as well just slap a USA sticker on the back of the car!

Table Manners

When eating in a posh restaurant, it’s best not to ask the MaĆ®tre D too many questions about how to handle yourself at a meal.  Just take your fork and knife in hand and make a stab if nothing else!  However, a short course in etiquette might not be a bad thing.


Embarrassing Moments

  1. When an American on a bus tour began screaming, “A Bobby! A Bobby!” because she saw… er… a Bobby?
  2. When inside a true antique store (where objects were several hundred years old) and a friend began pulling them off shelves to view them.  The proprietor was not amused.
  3. When I allowed my dog into the ladies room at a park and was chased out by a woman who didn’t appear to like muddy paw prints in her freshly cleaned restroom!
So, how do you handle yourself when in England?  Classy is good.  Quiet.  Unpretentious.  Amusing. And remember to listen more than you talk - that goes a long way!  Be respectful of others’ boundaries and cultures.  Don’t force yourself on people. 

Let’s prove Agatha Christie wrong!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Another Little Piece of My Heart: The best English travel gifts aren't always purchased

I am always bringing gifty things back with me from England, and I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of key chains, pencils, and fridge magnets.  Not always the most welcome or unique gifts you can find for your friends, are they?  Well, I’ve pieced together a few ways to obtain gifts that your friends can be proud of and that carry memories of your trip back with you!

  1. A piece of the country you are visiting!  Do you know, I’ve had requests for rocks on more than one occasion?  One of my friends, on her 90th birthday, received rocks from Tintagel and St. Nectan’s Glen from me.  She has a thing for what she calls “spirit rocks”, and I think she really appreciated them (at least I got grand gushings from her and a special email of thanks).  My brother-in-law is a geologist and also wanted rocks.  My neighbor asked for rocks from my travels when I asked her what I could bring her (she got an entire baggie full).  So, bring back samples of the wonderful places you’ve been by gathering rocks, feathers, pine cones, or other natural things that might be appreciated by people on this side of the Atlantic.

    P.S. Within reason and legal limitations! Do NOT dismantle castles, holy places, and other historical sites.  Don't be the Ugly American tourist.  Always check the HM Revenue and Customs for what is and is not legal to take with you or the US Customs and Border Patrol website for what you can bring into the United States. 
  2. Post Cards. People don’t send me post cards very often, but I always enjoy seeing the foreign lands they visit.  If you’re afraid you’ll be spending all your time addressing and writing your post cards, pre-print some address labels before you leave for your trip.  Saves time and provides your friends with a lovely little piece of your vacation!
  3. Town Markets.  In England, many towns have a market day set aside for local crafts, foods, etc.  Buy something unusual at the markets that you wouldn’t find at one of those Piccadilly touristy gift shops.
  4. London Markets.  London has a variety of markets from Camden’s hippy chic to Portabello’s antiques and Petticoat Lane’s textiles.  Research the days and times of these markets to find just the right gift for your special friends.
  5. The Queen’s Gallery is my favorite gift shop of all the gift shops I’ve visited in London.  You can get objects both cheap and expensive, but all done with royal good taste!  The Queen’s Gallery is located at the back side of Buckingham Palace.
  6. To make things easier for you (because it means not lugging souvenirs along on your entire trip), give yourself time to shop in the Duty Free area of Heathrow or Gatwick airports as you leave.  At Heathrow, you’ll find outlets for Harrods, Fortnum and Mason, Kath Kidman, World of Whiskies, and more! You’re in duty free at that point, so you will be saving money while spending the last of your British coinage (which you can’t exchange once you’re back in the states).
  7. Ask friends for out-of-the way items that they may be interested in.  I found this out by accident when one friend asked me for “sheep’s roving”.  Well, what was that?  It sent me on a scavenger hunt – meeting people I wouldn’t have normally met and in towns I wouldn’t normally have visited!  It was a wonderful way to get stuck into a gift-finding adventure!
This is just a gentle reminder that some things of greatest value don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.  Always be mindful of the following:
  • Your friends’ tastes
  • The cost. You don’t want to blow your travel budget on everyone but yourself!
  • Weight (because you’ll be lugging around what you buy).  I’m reminded of the time I bought this cute little slate sign with my name on it to hang on the outside of my home.  Cute yes… but the darn thing weighed 10 pounds!  
Extremely Heavy Travel Gift!
  • The amount of space you have.  One year I actually had to buy another piece of luggage to bring back all the things I’d bought!  Don’t be me.  Keep your presents small and well-thought out.
  • Timing.  Try to buy things as close to the end of your trip as possible.  Don’t buy everything on the first day and then have to cart it around with you the entire trip!  One friend picked me up some beer from Germany but had to stow it in a train locker get it at the end of her trip because it was too heavy to haul around on her vacation!
If you’ll keep these things in mind, you’re sure to have yourself a great vacation and friends who will thank you profusely for thinking of them!



Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Recommended Viewing

I’ve written a lot about England and the rest of GB, but have failed to give you some further resources in case the topic interests you as much as it does me!  Now, a list of resources could go on forever, so this is a list of what I continually go back to view (or what I actually own DVDs of).

Places and Touring

Escape to the Country

This is an HGTV series that has hundreds of episodes (and is still filming today!).  The gist of it is to help city dwellers find homes in the country and, by the way, educating the viewer about what rural life has to offer in so many corners of the country!
Hidden Villages

This series is hosted by Penelope Keith (of To the Manor Born) who takes you far and wide to places you’ve most likely never heard of.  She gives airing to a way of life that is, perhaps, dwindling faster than we care to think.
A Picture of Britain

This documentary by David Dimbleby takes a look at Britain through the eyes of artists, painters, poets, and writers.  What he does very well is to also show you the landscape, its people, and what makes it special to the rest of us.  This documentary is only in region 2 format, but will play on your computer if you can grab a copy.

History

Battlefield Britain

This series is hosted by Peter and Dan Snow and is probably the #1 series that got me buying into researching military history.  Amazingly well done!
Britain’s Bloody Crown

Dan Jones, well-known author of The Plantagenets, historian, journalist, and presenter hosts this series which takes an in-depth view of just what it took to hold the English crown.  
The Story of English

This series takes a look at how English dialects and language, in general, have changed over the centuries.  Hosted by Robert MacNeil, it’s a very interesting look at where we’ve come from and where we’re heading!
Monarchy with David Starkey

I’m actually not a fan of Starkey.  His version of Richard III was more Shakespearian than fact.  However, he does give a complete look at the British monarchy from start to finish.
Elizabeth R

Wow, the best factually-based history of Elizabeth 1 (brilliantly played by Glenda Jackson).

Fiction

Last Tango in Halifax

This series is a fun romp based on two elderly people meeting online and falling in love.  Based in Yorkshire (which is close to my heart), the series is short-lived but very interesting! Plus you’ll get to experience a little of the Yorkshire dialect.
All Creatures Great and Small

Based on the wildly successful books by James Heriott (aka Alfred Wight), this series takes a look at how it was to live in rural Yorkshire in the 30s-40s.  This series was actually being filmed when I lived in Yorkshire.  Everything looks so old now!
Mary, Queen of Scots

Less factual, but still very engaging story of Mary and QE1.  Starring Glenda Jackson and Vanessa Redgrave.
The Crown

This series just came out last year on NetFlix.  It’s a drama about the life of QE 1, and while the casting doesn’t really seem quite right for QE1 (facial features are just not the same), the acting is decent.  Princess Margaret is well-cast, I thought. 
 
I’m sure more will come to me as I think of them, but these shows should give you food for thought and should fill your mind of an England that is not only beautiful but also has a colorful history and vast wealth of culture and tradition.  Feel free to recommend your own!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Travel Regrets?


I’ve been seeing articles posted on Facebook about what people regret most as they get older, and usually one of the top regrets is that they didn’t get to travel more.  I am doing my utmost to make sure that if I get to that ripe old age where I just can’t do it any longer, I’ve got no regrets.  I’ve put myself on that plane, plopped my butt in the seat, and bye bye amigos!!!

But even so, I know I will still have left tidbits on my plate of regret.  There’s so much world and so little time/money to take advantage of.  Do you have any travel regrets? 
Here are some things to think about.
1)      You are working your tail off for two or three weeks of vacation a year.  Consider taking off a longer period of time to see more of the places you travel to.  Ask your boss if you can make up time or take off a few days no pay. 

2)      If you are just signing on for a job, make *sure* you tell them you have an “x” week vacation already planned.  They typically work with you on that.  Even if you don’t have a trip planned… you’ll have the time set aside.

3)      Have a travel savings plan.  Whether it’s a jar on your table, an account at your bank, or some other method, calculate what you need and put in the account what you need from every paycheck.

4)      Visit friends.  This can help save you money plus allow you more time with people you love… as well as people who are local and can give you tips on touring in their area!  It’s fascinating to see other countries through the eyes of people who live there. 

5)      Share where you live with others by offering your home to out of town/country friends or by taking some tidbits they couldn’t get in their country with you as gifts if you are going to visit them.  Be a travel ambassador! One year, some British friends came into town and we had a blast!  I took them to Galveston, New Braunfels, Greune, Bandera, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston.  They didn’t have to pay for lodging at my house or at my sister’s when we stayed there, so some of their lodging and much of their transportation/food costs while here was covered.  Another year, I drove some friends to see Disney World… what a mad trip that was! 

6)      Ask if any of your friends might be willing to drive you part or all of the way to your next destination.  In my trip this year, one friend is heading from London to Manchester, and is kind enough to take me to a train station that puts me into Wales much more quickly than picking up the train from London.  Another is taking me from Leicester to Norwich.  Not only are you getting more time with your favorite chums, you are saving transportation dollars, getting to see the countryside, and maybe finding unusual places or things along the way.

7)      Study the language/dialect and customs of your destination so that you will feel more comfortable about tipping, asking directions, or finding the local pub!  This is especially helpful if you’re going to Paris where the Parisians can be a little testy if you don’t know French.  I was in Scotland once, and a travel companion rushed up to an unsuspecting couple walking their dog and loudly proclaimed her love of their country, their dog, their home… they seemed overwhelmed by her enthusiasm and vocal range!  I remember being with a friend in an antique shop many years ago (in England, the antiques can be several hundred years old).  She was picking things up off the shelf to look at them under the scowling eye of the proprietor.  Knowing when to look but don’t touch would be good to know about. 

8)      Knowing the history of a place might narrow down the places you want to visit on your trip… or add to them!  Study the great battles that took place, the kings (or queens) who ruled, and the sites erected to their memory.  Of course, this could backfire and give you WAY more places to visit than you could ever dream.  If this happens, see #1 above and ask for more time.

9)      Talk with people.  You will never truly learn about a country if you stick to yourself.  I love hearing people’s stories and telling them mine.  It’s like sharing a world you’ve never seen before.  I was in a pub once (feeling sorry for myself because of a rental car snafu), and ended the day having met four locals who made me laugh til my face hurt!  Or the world famous artist staying at our B&B who told me of a secret place to visit near Tintagel that turned out to be the best part of my trip one year.

10)   Set aside the part of your brain that says everything must happen “just so”.  I have found that no trip happens as you’ve planned it.  Delays at the airport?  Missed the train? Lost your rental car keys?  Having had all that happen to me (and much more), I can say with honesty… it will pass and all your fretting over things will not make it pass any more quickly.  Set your mind in vacation mode and let time fly by and through you… things will settle and you will live to travel to some of the most fantastic destinations!
In summary, I’d just like to say that there is truly no time like the present.  There is no need to regret not having traveled.  Anyone can do it!  Whether you travel a few miles or a few thousand miles… make your life an adventure with arms and heart wide open. 
Until next time… bye bye amigos!