Don’t Be a “Tourist.” (Be a Savvy Traveler.)
We've all seen that big group of people, innocently checking out an attraction or exploring a destination—and obviously not from the area.
Consider the factors that made it clear they were tourists, then ask yourself: How can I be sure my groups don't stick out like a vulnerable sore thumb?
Be sure your travelers know the area's customary greetings and standards, so when eating meals, asking questions, or interacting with locals, nobody sends the wrong message or offends someone. Also keep in mind bathroom etiquette. Do you need your own toilet paper? Do you need to pay to use the loo? Nobody wants to wait until it's too late to know this often-overlooked information.
What Not to Wear
Encourage proper and comfortable footwear and outfits for the tours and excursions on your itinerary. Nothing says "I'm not from here" more than stumbling down brick roads in high heels while toting a designer bag or being dressed in the head-to-toe adventure gear Steve Irwin wore while getting friendly with crocodiles. Also steer clear of being too casual for a location or situation.
An Eye on Valuables
Visitors shouldn't carry more cash on them than they need for the day and shouldn't display their valuables at all times. Put your phone away when you don't need it, don't keep a camera slung around your neck, don't wear excessive—and expensive—jewelry, and so forth. Remember when packing: It's best not to travel with items you'd be upset to never see again.
Play It Cool
If travelers are trying to find their way or end up a bit lost, their best bet is to fake it until they make it. Encourage groups to learn some of the local language, so they could ask a friendly looking local for directions, rather than immediately pull out a map—which alerts potential pickpockets to their vulnerability. If people need to take out a map or book for guidance, suggest they pick up a local newspaper or magazine to discreetly cover it.
When traveling, groups should know to be adaptive and open to things being done differently than where they're from. While eating in a restaurant, accept the condiments given and avoid asking for typically Western options, unless allergy-related. Trying new things is an essential part of travel! Go ahead: Give it a whirl.
Ultimately, while traveling abroad—or anywhere at all—awareness and common sense go a long way.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for Groups Today, and originally published in Groups Today magazine.