Friday, June 29, 2012

Tips on tips

While many of us are traveling, it's a good time to revisit tips. Here's our handy guide you can use both at home and on the road (or in the air or at sea!).

Restaurant servers: 15—20 percent
Room service: 15—20 percent
Food delivery person: 15 percent
Pool attendant: nothing for a towel; for a lounge chair, $1—2
Hotel housekeeper: $1—2 per day
Golf course attendant: $2—3 per bag
Caddy: $25—50 per bag
Skycap: $1—2 per bag; extra if he secures your airline seat for you
Tour guide: $1—5 per person
Hotel doorman: for hailing a taxi, $1
Emergency roadside service: $5—20, depending on the service
Hairdresser: 15—20 percent (but do not tip the salon’s owner)
Shampooer: $2—5
Spa assistants: 15 percent 

Happy trails!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Let's go to the library!

We love to beat the heat with a good book —and why not do it for free? Libraries are awesome for a lot of reasons, but this time of year, it’s a particularly great place to bring children for fun, especially as most libraries’ have kid-friendly summer programming. Which means that now is a good time to review library etiquette, for both children and adults.

• Be quiet. This should be obvious, but the library needs to be a quiet place to accommodate the reading and research that happens there. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk at all—just keep it to whispers, or a very low volume. If you’ve ever been to the children’s section, you’ll know that it’s often significantly louder than the rest of the library. It’s normal and developmentally appropriate for children to be loud. Still, reminding your children to use their “indoor voice” is a good idea, as it instills a sense of library decorum that they will hopefully remember and use as they grow older. (Side note: excited children who are loud are often likely running around, too. Remind them to use their “walking feet” to avoid collisions!)

Remember to silence your phones, too. If you need to take a call, go to the lobby or outside. (This might be hard to do if you’re in the children’s section with a young child—if it’s not an emergency, simply call the person back later, or else take the phone call with a very quiet voice.) Leave your music at home, unless you bring headphones and can be completely sure that the music is completely inaudible to others.

• Be patient. This is good advice for spending time in any public place: keep your hands to yourself and leave other people’s belongings alone. Of course, children may reach for the same book, computer, or game at the same time. These are teachable moments on sharing. If your child pitches a fit, calmly remind her that the library can put the book on hold for later, or that she may wait for her turn for a computer station or game. If your child is still screaming, it’s time to gently remove him from the library, with the promise to return once he is ready.

• Be orderly.
If you take a book off the shelf, decide it’s not for you, and don’t remember where you got it, what should you do? Place the book on rolling carts that are made for that purpose, or hand it over to a librarian. It’s much easier for a librarian to shelve it in the appropriate spot than look for a misplaced book.

• Be considerate. This covers a lot of bases—like not bringing food or drink inside, wearing appropriate clothing (shirt and shoes!), going into staff areas, being rude to employees or other patrons, engaging in loud or abusive language. But it also means taking care of the books that you check out. Never write or draw in it, or fold or “dog-ear” pages, and teach your child to avoid those things, too. Remember—you’re borrowing the book. You have to give it back so that someone else can check it out. And do remember to return the books on time! You’ll save yourself library fees and help others enjoy the books waiting for them.

Happy reading!

Friday, June 15, 2012


We love cupcakes, don't you? But they can be messy little things. How do you eat them?

You can certainly use utensils. Forks can be helpful when splitting a cupcake with filling, for example. If you've ordered a jumbo cupcake—the kind meant to be shared among several people—you may cut the cupcake into wedges with a knife, wrapper and all, to divide it evenly.

A knife also comes in hand for a neat sandwich-style trick: cut a hefty slice from the bottom of the cupcake, place it on top of the frosting, and enjoy.

But we say that tidiness is not the most important thing to consider when eating a cupcake. Frosting on your nose? No problem. Savoring even the smallest crumbs in the wrapper? Go for it. Some things are meant to be messy.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Swimming manners

It’s time to hit the pool, or beach, or lake, or any body of water that’s just made for the kind of hot summer days we’re having in our neck of the woods. But before you go, take a refreshing refresher course on how to have a good time—by using your manners, of course.

If you’re in water, you’re going to get splashed—that’s half the fun, especially if you’re a kid (or kid at heart). There’s really no way around this if the pool or beach is packed with families. If you envision a peaceful afternoon reading a paperback book pool/lakeside, consider moving away from the water, or at least away from young children.

Parents, set some ground rules: no splashing/squirting strangers or anyone in the face (unless face-splashing is part of the game, and all of the children know and are OK with it). And try to aim them away from child-free adults.

It hurts to get sand in your eyes. We all know this. Even children. And yet they still throw it. Pain can be a great teacher, but it can also ruin the whole day. For small children, set the rule of no throwing sand. And absolutely no throwing sand at strangers. That’s just mean!

We recommend leaving music at home entirely, unless you’re planning on bring earbuds (and staying far away from water), and what’s the fun in that? If you’re determined to bring music, keep the volume very low. Not everyone shares your taste in music.

Before you pack up the dog, learn the rules concerning animals at the pool, lake or beach.  And follow those rules.

Avoid bringing glass, because no one wants to step on broken glass, obviously. If you’re trying to go green and avoid using plastic, we recommend using stainless steel or aluminum containers. Of course, learn if food is allowed at your destination beforehand.

It comes down to this: teach your children to leave other people’s things alone. That might sound harsh. But so is watching middle-grade-aged children rifle through a series of complete stranger’s bags on the beach (while their parents looked on). Of course, if children see a raft/boat/squeaky dolphin that they absolutely must play with, then they certainly can ask permission if they can play with it—maybe they’ll even make some new friends that day. But marching up and taking something without asking is technically stealing. And super annoying. Children lack impulse control, but you can still start enforcing this rule at any age—just keep reminding them (gently—remember, they can’t help their undeveloped impulse control!) and helping them return items that have been “borrowed without permission.”

Clean up when you go
Leave no trash behind!

Have a great time!
A day by the water doesn’t have to be a joyless outing filled with strict rules. Just keep basic manners in mind and everyone will have a wonderful time!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Happy host, happy guests

There’s nothing like traveling and staying with friends and family, especially if everyone gets along! You can make sure that everyone still gets along after your stay if you follow our tips.

When you are packing…

• Consider bringing a host or hostess gift to present upon your arrival. Thoughtfulness always trumps expensiveness, so think of something simple and personal—a token  from your native state (like maple syrup from Vermont or peach jam from Georgia), a framed photo, monogrammed stationary, or guest towels.

• Unless you’ve been given explicit permission to bring a pet along, make arrangements at a kennel or with a pet-sitter.

• Prepare for a too-cold or too-warm house and pack layers to wear. That way you can change your wardrobe when needed and stay comfortable without asking your host to adjust the temperature for you.

• Before you get there, make sure your host knows exactly when you will be arriving and leaving.

When you are there…

• Follow the house schedule for meals and bedtime.

• Ask if you can help prepare meals or clean up afterward. And if your hosts prepare to cook and clean themselves, respect that too, and graciously leave them to their work.

• Keep your room tidy during your stay, and resist the urge to snoop in closets or drawers.

• If you break something, don’t hide it. Tell your host immediately and offer to repair or replace it.

• Limit your screen and phone time. Remember, you’ve traveled to be in their company.

• Whenever appropriate, thank them throughout the trip for their hospitality; you don’t have to wait until you’re leaving.

When you leave…

• As you’re packing to go, thoroughly tidy the guest room and bathroom.

• Take the bed linens off the bed and place the laundry at the foot of the bed. Put used bathroom towels in the laundry room, or stack them on the edge of the bathtub.

• Tour the house and make sure you don’t forget any of your belongings.

• Once you get home, hand-write and mail a thank-you card!