Sunday, December 1, 2019

Mystery of Egypt's pyramids


Our spring trip to Egypt would not be complete without a visit to the pyramids of Giza. We were as fascinated with these ancient wonders as travelers have been for thousands of centuries. Learning about the history of these imposing structures gave us greater appreciation for the magnitude of engineering skills required to build the pyramids.
Three main pyramids at Giza. Note how close the city of Cairo is in the background.
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the largest in the Giza pyramid complex near Cairo, Egypt. It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the only one to remain mostly intact. The Great Pyramid was the tallest structure made by man in the world—a record it held for almost 4,000 years.
The Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world
for almost 4,000 years.
Located on the Giza plateau near Cairo are three major pyramids (and three other smaller ones) that were constructed over a 20 year period more than 4,500 years ago.  The most widely accepted theory is that Egypt’s ancient pharaohs expected to become gods in the afterlife, and the pyramids were filled with things they would need in the next world. It was a place where their mummified bodies would rest for eternity. Despite this belief mummies have not been found inside the pyramids.

Foundations rocks are truly enormous.
Standing as a defining symbol of Egypt’s history, how the pyramids were built is still a big mystery. The ancient engineering feats are so impressive that even today scientists aren’t sure how the pyramids were built. Experts speculate that it became a national project with workers coming from many communities across Egypt. Many were farmers whose land was flooded by the Nile during the rainy season, so the government provided work for them to do.

We marveled at the immensity of the pyramids and positioned ourselves near the bottom stones of the Great Pyramid to show perspective of its size. Totally dwarfed, we stood in amazement at the achievement of a civilization without modern tools and an educated engineering fleet.

See me touching the pyramid!
The Great pyramid stands at 450 feet high--eroded over the centuries from a height of 479 feet high. Inside are triangular poles for support. Although visitors can go inside the pyramids for a fee, there’s not much to see today. It’s reputed to be very hot inside, so we did not go in.

The perfectly pyramidal structure covers two football fields. It is comprised of 2.4 million blocks of stone which weigh anywhere from two and a half tons to eight tons each! Because of the immense size and weight, it’s difficult for us to comprehend how these stones were raised and positioned so precisely.
Souvenir vendors ply their wares in what is admittedly a tourist destination.
Of course, the Egyptians never miss an opportunity to make a buck. Trinkets and camel rides are for sale nearby. Photo hawkers are everywhere—and quite insistent on using your camera or theirs to take touristy photos of you and the pyramids—all for a price. But, what the heck, we couldn’t resist taking some of these fun photos—and I got several at a bargain price later when the “photographer” tracked us down.
Getting on and off a camel requires holding on tight.

As if these amazing structures aren’t jaw-dropping enough, don’t forget to take photos of the enormous Sphinx statue there, too. It’s still an attention-getter, even though part of the face has been destroyed. 

The Sphinx is another iconic structure for Egypt.
Duly impressed despite the crowds, we were glad to have had this time to visit one of the world’s most historical sites. I highly recommend a day trip to Giza when visiting Cairo.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier


Monday, November 25, 2019

Giant sand sculptures for the holidays in South Padre Island, Texas


Holiday activities include sandcastle village, parades, and more

An island holiday is one of the most festive ways to celebrate the season--and a great excuse for a weekend getaway to the best beach in Texas.
 
Queen Isabella Causeway to
South Padre Island
Special events on South Padre Island include a tree lighting ceremony followed by a Christmas parade down Padre Boulevard, a lighted boat parade, breakfast with Santa, and its well-known  holiday-themed sandcastle village.
Winter Texans enjoy the climate.

With a tropical feel, miles of sandy beach and expansive views of both Gulf of Mexico and Laguna Madre Bay’s blue waters, South Padre Island is a world-class, year-round Texas Gulf Coast beach destination. The Island provides an abundance of activities including water sports, dolphin watching, fishing, horseback riding, shopping, diving, and birding.

Amazing sand castles will be on display.
November 25th - The Holiday Sandcastle Village opens with unique holiday sand sculptures built by incredibly talented sand artists. Santa’s sandy Christmas throne, a Sand Snowman, and more will be part of this exhibit, complete with a lighted musical performance. Located near Louie’s Backyard and Gravity Park and open through January 13th, the scene will be perfect for your unique Christmas card photo. Free for the public.

December 6th - Tree Lighting Ceremony and Annual Christmas Parade is an Island tradition. Join residents and visitors alike for this fun-filled event on the steps of City Hall, then stay for the parade. Hosted by the City of South Padre Island Parks and Keep SPI Beautiful Committee, the parade takes place immediately following the tree lighting. Filled with lighted floats, special guests, and live music, it’s festive fun and free to the public.
Holiday lights capture attention.

December 7th - The Annual Lighted Boat Parade will launch from South Point Marina in Port Isabel, lighting up the bay with holiday spirit. Boats of all shapes and sizes will be decked from stem to stern starting at 6 p.m. with judging taking place at Jim’s Pier. Don’t miss this free event.

December 8th - Have breakfast with Santa himself at the Hilton Garden Inn from 9 am to 11 am. This annual event is an opportunity for kids to put in a good word with Santa.  
Plenty of great seafood like these
mahi mahi tacos

Shopping and art events also take place on the Island throughout the holiday season, including a Gone Surfin’ St. Jude fundraiser painting party at Beachside Bar & Grill and a “Shop the Island” shopping spree giveaway. For more information about upcoming holiday events and Island experiences, visit sopadre.com/events.

Information courtesy of Winter Prosapio, Communications Director for South Padre Island, directorwinter@theatkinsgroup.com. Photos courtesy of www.Barberstock.com 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Petra, Jordan--city of wonders


If you have seen the Indiana Jones action movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, you have glimpsed ancient Petra.

But it’s much more than a movie set, as Larry and I discovered when we visited Petra, Jordan. Centuries of historical significance and impressive architectural engineering are the reasons this ancient city was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
Petra is an ancient city of buildings carved into the mountains.
When did Petra come into existence?

Built by the semi-nomadic Nabatean tribe, Petra is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. Located in southwest Jordan, it was the capital of the Nabatean kingdom around the first century B.C.
Walking tall walls of  the Siq is an amazing and
beautiful experience.

It was considered an important strategic location linking the Arabian Peninsula to the south and the Levant in the north to faraway China and Europe. As such, Petra grew rich through trade in frankincense, myrrh, and spices. It thrived until a large earthquake in the fourth century A.D. destroyed much of the city.

By the middle of the seventh century Petra was largely deserted. Only local Bedouins inhabited the area. After Swiss explorer Johannes Burckhardt rediscovered Petra in 1812, people began to recognize its beauty. Today it is Jordan’s most visited landmark.

Horse-drawn carts take mobility-challenged
visitors to the Treasury.
Petra is called the Rose City because of the colorful mountain rock from which its structures were carved. Wandering through its dirt streets, we could easily see why Petra was designated one of the Seven Wonders of the World in 2007 and why Smithsonian Magazine named Petra as one of the 28 places in the world you should see before you die. There’s simply no other place that it can be compared to.

An engineering wonder

The Siq is a fascinating lead-in to Petra.
The ancient city is built on a terrace divided from east to west by the Wadi Musa (Valley of Moses, where the Israelite leader struck a rock and water gushed out). Today visitors see the remains of its massive buildings carved directly into brilliantly colored sandstone cliffs.

These amazing carvings are accessed through a narrow canyon called The Siq. Visitors must walk about a mile on this gateway road to enter Petra, but the views through the gorge are so dramatic that it doesn’t seem long at all. Cliffs in shades of red, purple, yellow, and tan are reminiscent of the thriving spice trades which helped Petra to prosper eons ago. These cliffs also hold many carvings and relics from ancient times.
Experts aren't really sure of the purpose
of the Treasury, but it is an imposing
structure and a marvel of engineering.

One thing we learned quickly when walking on the Siq was to watch out for carts pulled by anxious horses. Intended to help mobility-challenged visitors get to the Treasury, the horses trotted at a rapid pace through the narrow passages—and they could easily run you over if you didn’t move out of the way!

Arriving at the end of the Siq we truly gasped as a sliver of the intricately carved Treasury came into view between tall rock walls. Called Al Khazna, this two story masterpiece is carved into the side of the mountain. Topped by a beautiful urn, which legend says conceals a pharaoh’s treasure, the Treasury is intricately decorated with Corinthian capitals, friezes, figures, and more.

Consisting of three chambers, the elaborate façade represents engineering genius. The Nabateans were very skillful builders who devised a plan to work from the top down, slicing off huge slabs of stone as sections were finished. This formed scaffolding for the masons to stand on as they proceeded to carve out the lower levels.
Camel rides are possible around the main carved buildings.
Other magnificent structures in the ancient city include a theater, Royal tombs, sacrificial sites, a church, the Colonnaded Street (main shopping area of ancient Petra), the Lion Triclinium, a Monastery (an additional three-mile walk), and more.
The Colonnade is a section of buildings with large columns.
Larry and I spent several hours dodging camels and exploring many of the intricate facades that are sculpted into the sandstone cliffs. We walked about six miles that morning in an attempt to cover as much of the incredible site as possible before our late lunch. The memories made a lasting impression of this unique destination.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Fly free to Cuba


Is a trip to Cuba on your bucket list?

Old cars like this still fascinate tourists.
Do you think it may be out of the question now that stricter rules are in place for American tourists?
Not only is travel to Cuba possible, but it is easier than ever since InsightCuba, the leading provider of legal travel to Cuba, introduced free flights from Miami to Havana.

There are many historic buildings to see.
Effective immediately, president Tom Popper says InsightCuba has decided to add air without raising tour prices in order to bring much-needed attention to that destination. “Despite the Administration’s policy changes over the past two years, traveling to Cuba not only remains legal but is still easier than it was a few short years ago,” Popper says. “And now it’s even more affordable,” he adds.

Certain restrictions still apply, but an experienced tour operator like InSight can guide you on finding the right group tour or custom trip to allow for your best experience in Cuba.

Be sure to have a meal at a paladar, a family-run restaurant.
Complimentary air is available on most InsightCuba tours including the 10-day Undiscovered Cuba, 7-day Classic Cuba, 6-day Legendary Cuba, and the popular 4-day Weekend in Havana. Custom-made tours are available with dates till the end of 2020.

Samples of beautiful pottery to be found in Cuba
Air-inclusive packages include roundtrip air from Miami to Havana on scheduled service as well as the Cuban visa. Undiscovered Cuba will include roundtrip air via charter flight from Miami to Havana and Holguin to Miami and also includes Cuban visas.
Horseback is still a useful mode of transportation, especially in rural areas.
Popper says InsightCuba tour itineraries and experiences remain unaffected by policy changes. “Next year is our 20th year providing legal travel to Cuba for Americans, and we look forward to providing this incredible opportunity for Americans for another 20.”

While other U.S. companies provide tours for Americans to Cuba, Insight is the first to offer complimentary flights with their tours.

The square in Havana is a gathering place. 
Note: I have not personally traveled with Insight, but having been to Cuba six years ago, I encourage Americans to consider this destination. You’ll learn so much about this fascinating country and its people than you would never expect. Travel there will most likely change many of your perceptions about this once-forbidden island that is only 90 miles from the U.S.

Information courtesy of Tom Popper, President of InsightCuba

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier


Saturday, November 2, 2019

What you need to know before driving in a foreign country


Driving in a foreign country can be an easy way to get from one destination to another—and on your own time schedule.
For most Americans traveling in a foreign country, the choice to drive means renting a car. However, not all countries consider a U.S. driver’s license sufficient for driving there. You may be required to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) in order to rent a car. Basically, it acts as a translation of a driver’s license providing important data, so the holder may drive a private vehicle in any country or jurisdiction that recognizes the document. It is not a regular driver’s license.

Since an IDP contains your name, photo, and other driver information translated into at least the 10 most widely spoken languages, it can help you avoid problems if you are in need of identification or assistance from local police or other authorities in a country where English isn’t the main language. As a United Nations regulated travel document, an IDP can make foreign travel easier and safer. That’s a good preventive reason to have an IDP before you drive in any of more than 150 countries that accept the IDP document.
How to get an IDP

You must be at least 18 years old and have a current driver’s license from your home state before applying for an IDP. You’ll still need to take your U.S. driver’s license along, as the IDP is only valid when accompanied by your U. S. license. You’ll also need to have your passport in your possession at the same time.
If applying by mail, you’ll need to send in a photocopy of both sides of your driver’s license. You’ll need to complete an application, include two original passport-size photos with your signature on the back, and pay the application fee, which may run between $20-30. The IDP is valid for up to three years, but it can’t be used for more than one year in the same country. If you plan to stay in a country longer, you must apply for a local driving permit.

Obtain an application at any AAA (AmericanAutomobile Association) full-service location and apply in person or by mail (may require up to 10 days). Or apply online to an organization such as AATA(American Automobile Touring Alliance) and get a digital version of IDP in as little as two hours. Find a list of countries that accept the IDP at international-permit.com.
Although an IDP is not required if you are driving your own vehicle into Canada or Mexico, don’t forget to get Mexico liability auto insurance since U.S. liability is invalid in Mexico. U.S. auto insurance also may not meet minimum requirements of other countries, but you can usually buy additional insurance in the U.S. or in your destination country if needed. Check with your insurance company and the U.S. consulate of the country you are visiting beforehand.

Photos from free sources

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Travel agents are changing--how to choose the best one for your needs


Today’s post is by consumer advocate Christopher Elliott. His latest book is “How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). This column originally appeared in the Washington Post.

Finding the right travel agent used to be easy.

The top agents had a defined set of skills and certifications, and they belonged to the same trade groups. So for someone like Kathleen Corcos, who recently contacted me for help finding a “reputable” travel agency in the Chicago area, the answer should have been pretty straightforward.
The role of travel agents is changing. but
they still aim to help travelers make decisions.
“I’m planning a trip to Europe and I need someone with experience in booking rail trips,” said Corcos, a retired university administrator from River Forest, Ill.

A quick visit to what was then the American Society of Travel Agents’ website to find a specialist in European travel would have yielded a few usable leads.

But in the fast-changing world of travel, is anything that simple? Maybe not. Airline, car rental and hotel sites enable you to act as your own travel agent. If you need a little hand-holding, you can visit an online travel agency and avoid some fees. And now, to add to the confusion, some travel agents aren’t even calling themselves agents anymore.
What will signs of the future say?
That’s right, those agents are now advisers. Last year, the American Society of Travel Agents changed its name to the American Society of Travel Advisors.

Paul Metselaar says it’s an important shift. Travel agents are no longer “order takers,” or intermediaries between the traveler and a company, he says. People now think of them as professionals, like lawyers or accountants. As the CEO of Ovation Travel Group, a New York-based agency, he was among the first to discard the “agent” label in favor of “adviser.”

“As travel advisers, we’ve built a significant level of trust with each of our customers on a highly personalized level,” he says.

In the face of fierce competition from online agencies, travel agents are also upping their game, says Dave Hershberger, ASTA’s chairman and owner of a Travel Leaders agency in Cincinnati. “That’s the biggest change,” he says.

Instead of offering a broad range of services, many agents now specialize in niche products such as honeymoons or cruises.

If agents — or advisers — don’t see themselves as intermediaries anymore, are there some trips you should book yourself? Yes. For a simple weekend trip, self-booking might be easier. Plus, you can avoid an adviser’s consulting fee, which averages about $100 per trip. But for a complicated rail adventure through Europe, like the one Corcos is planning, you’ll probably want to hire an adviser.
 
Making travel decisions may be difficult.

So how to find an agent in this topsy-turvy world of travel?

You’ll still want to look for certifications and association memberships. For example, the Travel Institute’s Certified Travel Associate (CTA) and Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) designations mean an agent has taken the time to study and understand travel. In 2017, ASTA created a Verified Travel Advisor program, which indicates that an adviser has met “a higher level of verifiable professional knowledge.”

Of course, membership in ASTA or in the Association of Retail Travel Agents is also a sign that your travel adviser means business.

Some of the best travel agents, or advisers, are affiliated with well-known franchises, such as American Express or Carlson Wagonlit Travel, or with an agency network such as Travel Leaders, Signature or Virtuoso. These affiliations offer peace of mind and, sometimes, lower prices.

For example, membership in Travel Leaders or a similar network means that the agent is properly trained and insured and that there’s an 800 number you can call 24/7. “It ensures that you have someone to help you if your trip is disrupted or you need advice once you arrive in your destination,” says Roger Block, president of the Travel Leaders Network.

It's a big world! Go explore!
There’s more, says Matthew Upchurch, the CEO of Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel advisers. “Reputation, experience and professionalism certainly come into play,” he says. “But then you have to count on the X-factor, which really comes down to chemistry.”

“A great travel adviser will be happy to provide references — not just online testimonials, which can be posted by anyone,” says Christine Hardenberger, owner of Modern Travel Professionals, a full-service travel agency in Virginia Beach. “People are less likely to lie when contacted directly.”

Above all, stay flexible as the industry changes. The economics of being a travel adviser are still shifting, according to Jack Ezon, the founder of Embark, a new platform for travel agencies. The next generation of travel advisers will change the model to be more customer-centric, Ezon says.

That would be good — for everyone.

Photos from free sources.

 

 

Monday, October 21, 2019

Five great reasons to venture out from Albuquerque

Petroglyph National Monument, Boca Negra Canyon
One of the largest petroglyph concentrations in North America, the monument isn’t a single object but several areas featuring more than 25,000 highly fragile petroglyph images scratched on boulders along the volcanic cliffs of the West Mesa escarpment.  Boca Negra Canyon provides some of the most accessible, and therefore most heavily visited, petroglyphs in the Albuquerque area. 
Guides can help interpret the drawings--or use your imagination.
Archeologists believe that many of the images, including those in the Canyon Trail area at Boca Negra, date back at least 3000 years.  Although no one can say for sure what many mean, images often portray animals, birds, geometric shapes, and weapons. Guides provide interpretive talks to help visitors understand the historical importance of the drawings.
A short walk takes you to a variety of these prehistoric drawings.
Several short trails (with the city in near view) provide plenty of images to photograph and interpret however your imagination leads. 

Tinkertown Museum
As you head along the Sandia Crest Scenic Byway, but before reaching Hwy 14, stop to visit Tinkertown Museum.  You’ll find an amazing collection of wood carvings and other items created by the late Ross Ward. The main features are an animated Old West Town and Three Ring Circus.  Set among other historic relics, frontier humor and the thrill of the Big Top come alive in thousands of hand-carved figures, the majority done personally by Ward. 
A few of the creative figures carved by Ross Ward.
An artist and carousel painter by trade, Ward spent 40 years creating his dioramas and the museum proudly exhibits a sign saying, “I did all this while you were watching TV.”   What began as a hobby grew into a huge conglomeration of scenes and collectibles.

A small portion of the wondrous vignettes hand-carved by Ross Ward.
Walls and buildings made from 55,000 discarded glass bottles, metal sculptures, mining tools, and an antique wooden boat that’s been sailed around the world are on display in this private museum now run by his family.  Anyone with a fondness for quirky memorabilia and appreciation for creative passion will love this place.

Tinkertown closs for the winter on October 31 and will reopen on April 1, 2020.
Sandia Crest Byway

For an absolutely stunning drive, follow the Turquoise Trail as it heads out of Albuquerque on NM 14.  Past Tijeras Canyon and Cedar Crest the highway soon intersects with the Sandia Crest National Scenic Byway, otherwise known as NM 536.

A beautiful drive out of the city
Located on the east side of the Sandia Mountains, the byway curves sharply through the mixed conifer vegetation of Cibola National Forest to an altitude of 10,678 feet. You’ll see a rainbow of pastels—pink flowers, blue sky, and feathery white clouds—contrasting with multiple shades of forest green.  Trailheads for more than 40 hikes dot the roadside, and most are quite doable even for novices. 
Spectacular views from the trail.
If you choose not to detour for a hike you’ll arrive at the Visitor’s Center after 12 miles. There you’ll find the trailhead for a lovely, moderate hike to the Kiwanis Cabin.  The trail is well marked and maintained but not crowded.  For a little more challenge while hiking, take the rocky path on the rim and enjoy unobstructed views of rugged peaks across the mountain range. 

You’ll arrive at the Kiwanis cabin, built as a CCC project in 1936 to provide a place for hikers to stop and rest.  Perched on the peak’s edge it provides an excellent vantage point for photography enthusiasts. 
Landscapes to stop and admire
Back on Hwy14, drive northward to the old mining towns of Golden, Madrid, and Cerrillos for a look at life as it used to be. Galleries, antiques shops, and small museums attract visitors now. 

Take a Llama to Lunch
Leading llamas through Carson National Forest near Red River was an experience in nature appreciation with unanticipated depth.  Our guide kept a watchful eye on his charges, both human and animal, and a running conversation about the surrounding natural environment. 
Llamas usually follow well.
 


 “I want people to appreciate the nature that belongs to all of us,” says naturalist Stuart Wilde.  “The llamas are a means to accomplish this goal,” adds the owner of Wild Earth Llama Adventures, which provides excursions from half day to overnight.
Nature at its best
Not only will participants learn about llamas (very social and non-threatening) and fragile plant ecology, but they will also enjoy a gourmet camp lunch, beautiful scenery, and an empowering adventure for outdoor-loving people of all ages. 

Sandia Aerial Tramway
At the top of the tram, you arrive at Sandia Peak.
Your visit wouldn’t be complete without an overview of Albuquerque—and there’s no better way to do this than on the Sandia Peak AerialTramway.  The tram crawls 2.7 miles up Sandia Mountain on the eastern edge of the city.  While passing through four climatic life zones, spectators may glimpse deer, mountain lions, and small mammals, plus golden eagles, red tail hawks, and ravens.  
The Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway traverses
stunning mountain scenery.


After disembarking at the summit, visitors can hike or mountain bike, or enjoy golden sunsets while dining at High Finance Restaurant. From 10, 378 feet high, you’ll take in breathtaking vistas of the mountains and the sprawling city below.  Tram riders get a close look at the 300 million-year-old lime and 1.4 billion-year-old granite in the strata of the mountain, ingredients that make the mountain turn a pinkish watermelon color in late afternoon (Sandia means watermelon).

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

 

 

 

 


Monday, October 14, 2019

The most annoying things travelers do


This guest post is by Christopher Elliott, a consumer advocate and author of “How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). This column originally appeared in USA Today.

Tourists can be absent-minded and obnoxious, and they often leave their common sense at home.

How annoying are travelers? A recent survey by the online travel agency Agoda breaks it down by behavior:

  • Noisy travelers (57%)
  • Travelers glued to their devices (47%)
  • Those insensitive to cultural nuances (46%)
 Shut up and travel!

Why are travelers so loud? Yes, there's the joy of discovery. You can't help but gasp the first time you stand at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and stare into the abyss. Or when you catch a glimpse of the Alps, the Egyptian pyramids, the Taj Mahal.
Headphones or ear buds can signal that you
don't want to talk at the moment.
 
But there's more going on here. It feels almost as if everyone's hearing aid has a low battery, and they're yelling at each other. It's a uniquely touristy behavior, for which there's no rational explanation.

And it's also the meaningless and seemingly endless dialogue.

"The chatter could be talking a lot because of nerves," explains Jacquelyn Youst, founder of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol, an etiquette school. "That's particularly true on planes, where you could be seated next to a nervous traveler."

Her advice: "If you are sitting next to a chatty traveler, put in your earbuds." This is the universal sign for 'I do not want to be disturbed.'" 

And if you're not on a plane, then move away from the disturbance.

Power down that phone

Taking pictures with a smartphone is
common, but sometimes just look and enjoy
the scenery.
 "Put down your phone once in a while and unplug," says Andrew Moore-Crispin, a frequent traveler who works for Ting Mobile, a pay-as-you-go mobile service. "Take that walk on the beach without bringing your phone.”

On vacation, device addiction is an embarrassment. I've seen kids staring almost catatonically at their screens at America's favorite tourist attractions, from the Statue of Liberty to the beaches of Santa Monica, California. 

Learn the language, s'il vous plaît

Taking the time to learn even a few words in the local language can go a long way when you're traveling to change you from a walking stereotype into a welcome guest. Consider Arlene Englander's experience when she visited Germany with her husband.

"We'd both listened to some Pimsleur CDs from the library for an hour a night for three weeks, so we could actually have brief conversations in the language," says Englander, a clinical social worker from North Palm Beach, Florida. "I've never seen people so thrilled by our efforts as the Germans were."

On the flip side, you can easily offend someone if you insist on speaking English all the time. It's difficult to understand how off-putting an "English-only" attitude can be until you master a second language – and hear what they say about you behind your back (falsely believing that you can't understand them).

The fix: In the run-up to your trip, devote a few minutes a few times per week to an online language learning program like Babbel, Duolingo, Memrise, Pimsleur or Rosetta Stone.  Try any of them and you'll find language instruction has come a long way from the days of reciting verb conjugations. These apps use different types of quizzes to teach you basic vocabulary and sentence structure. Odds are at least one will suit your learning style. 

Avoiding linguistic faux pas can not only make you a more welcome traveler but also increase your enjoyment of the places you visit.

Break these other bad travel habits

Consider curbing these patterns while you're at it: 

Failing to plan: Tourists are often disorganized. "A checklist is a simple way to save a ton of mental energy – and ensure you never forget anything," says Jimmy Hayes, a frequent traveler who co-founded Minaal, a bag and accessories company. He recommends using project management software like Trello or Asana to build a packing checklist. "You can even build multiple checklists, based on destination or climate," he adds.


Not reading the instructions: That can lead to serious consequences. Consider what happened to Paul Warren, who runs an e-commerce business in Redington Beach, Florida, during a trip to France. When he needed to refill his rental car, he didn't pay attention to the fuel type. "I put the wrong grade of fuel in the car at the gas station, just before getting on a major toll road," he recalls. The engine sputtered and stopped shortly afterward. (Tip: Use Google Lens to translate text you don't understand without having to type it in.)

Limiting yourself to tourist traps: Why does everyone flock to the same attractions? This may be the single most annoying thing travelers do. They read the same online reviews, crowd into the same restaurants, visit the same attractions. But just a little research online or at your local library will reveal there's more to see out there. Much more.

Photos from free sources