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Look Who's Finally Realized that Budget Travelers Like a Bit of Style

By Lucy Izon
January 27, 2022
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Big hoteliers are courting people like us with a wave of artful projects, some tastefully modern and some bizarrely futuristic

Blame it on Wal-Mart. Thanks to the discount-store revolution, consumers now expect a lot more for their money. Or consider it a repercussion of 9/11 on the travel industry, which, through markdowns on empty four-star rooms, gave budget travelers a taste for luxury. Whatever the cause, major investors have gone to the drawing boards to craft showroom-quality lodging for the value-conscious, and their first experiments are debuting around the world.

Australia: "It looks like a million dollars," says Graeme Warring, CEO of Base Backpackers. "It should. It cost 10!" He's referring to what may be the fanciest hostel ever--four stories, sheathed in red glass, with a two-story atrium, a 59-foot-long aquarium embedded in the floor, a bar called RedEye, and an Asian restaurant. It ope-ned last May in St. Kilda, a beach suburb four miles from downtown Melbourne. There are 21 double rooms with Egyptian-cotton duvets, and 40 dormitory-style rooms, usually shared by six to eight beds, which have their own bathrooms. The Base brand, started by one of the world's largest hotel groups, Accor (Sofitel, Ibis), has already expanded to nine locations in Australia and New Zealand. All of the hostels include Sanctuary, a women-only area where a $1.40 premium buys privacy and extra comforts such as hairdryers, Aveda products, feather pillows, and fluffy towels.

United Kingdom: Because it's 12 miles northeast of Nottingham, England, the Dakota hotel, which opened last June, won't draw many Americans. But the next links in the chain will: By fall 2005 there will be a Dakota in Edinburgh, Scotland, and 20 more are slated for other parts of the U.K. by 2007. The men responsible are Ken McCulloch, father of the Malmaison luxury hotel group, and Scottish race-car driver David Coulthard. Behind the first Dakota's monolithic black-granite exterior, there's a warm look, including an open fireplace in the lobby, exposed brick, and hardwood floors. King-size beds and 32-inch LCD TVs are standard in the 92 rooms. "We strip out all the things travelers don't want to pay for," says general manager Bruce Robertson. "You won't find a chocolate on your pillow."

In London, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the entrepreneur behind the low-fare airline EasyJet, is squeezing 34 prefabricated fiberglass chambers into what was a 20-room Kensington hotel. EasyHotel, opening late this year, will rent bright-orange rooms, many windowless, for as little as $9 per night. The compartments--housekeeping could literally hose them down, although that's not the plan--are outfitted with a toilet and a shower, but no TV and no phone. Next up for Haji-Ioannou: a budget cruise line. Launching in 2005, it'll use the same prefab rooms as cabins.

Improbably, someone else in London is plotting a honeycombed pod hotel: Simon Woodroffe, best known for the European restaurant chain Yo! Sushi (once famous for having waist-high robots that dispensed beverages). Last month, after nearly three years, his Yotel prototype, inspired by the smart way first-class airline seats use space, debuted at a London design expo. From $91 a night, you'll get a pod that measures 10 square meters (107 square feet). Each has a double bed, bathroom with shower, pull-down desk, flat-screen TV--plus Wi-Fi and downloadable audio. Woodroffe plans to open a London location by next year. If it takes off, he'll franchise the idea to the next logical place: airports.

United States: Next month, InterContinental Hotels Group--owner of Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza--introduces Hotel Indigo in Atlanta. The new brand is designed to be easily refreshed: hardwood floors with area rugs, easy chairs with slipcovers, and beds piled with duvets. All targeted, says Jim Anhut, InterContinental's V.P. of development management, at guests willing to pay "a dollar for coffee at Starbucks rather than 50 cents at Dunkin' Donuts." A Chicago site will open in the spring, followed by 250 more locations.

Choice Hotels International, which runs Econo Lodge and Comfort Inn, among other brands, is also backing a new line, coming in early 2005, with rates averaging $90. Recent mock-ups called for airy rooms with flat-screen TVs and see-through shelving units instead of interior walls. There's no name yet, but there is a number: Expect up to 500 properties.

Even celebrity designers and hoteliers are catching the bug. Andre Balazs, who started the two hip and competitively priced Standard Hotels in L.A., is taking his concept east in the fall, when The Standard expands to Miami Beach. He has also acquired a building for a hotel near Times Square in New York City and has said that it'll offer "very, very, very minimal service" when it opens next year. Todd Oldham (of the Target housewares line) and David Rockwell (the sets for Broadway's Hairspray) are in early collaboration on a boutique chain; according to the Wall Street Journal, the nightly rate will start at around $85. And echoing

Balazs' vision, Philippe Starck, who designed many of Ian Schrager's upmarket hotels, announced to the Financial Times his dream for a "very, very, very, very affordable, sort of semiautomatic hotel." Clearly, "budget boutique" has gone from oxymoronic to chic. Make that very, very, very chic.

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Travel Tips

How to Buy Koa Wood on the Big Island

There's only one place in the world where koa trees grow: Hawaii, where the beautiful, red to chocolate-brown wood has been prized for centuries. Generations of Hawaiians believed that each koa tree was blessed with a special energy, or mana, and tribes reverently selected trees to be made into traditional dugout canoes, paddles, furnishings, and surfboards. Today, expert woodworkers carve bowls, chopsticks, jewelry boxes, knickknacks, furniture, ukuleles, and necklaces out of koa. Due to logging, fires, and overgrazing, Hawaii's supply of the special wood has shrunk in recent years, and prices have skyrocketed. Nearly all of the trees that remain are on the Big Island, which is where you'll find the best value for gorgeous handmade koa souvenirs. Color, Grain, Feel: Koa trees take 50 or more years to mature, growing upward of 120 feet and six to seven feet in diameter. They sprout out of old lava fields, and the dark, volcanic soil is responsible for the wood's trademark deep tones. The most coveted grain of koa is curly and wavy, which lends a dazzling, almost three-dimensional effect. Koa has a very hard and heavy feel, similar to walnut, and it seasons well without warping or splitting. A well-crafted item will be made of pieces of wood that are alike in color and grain, with sharp edges, strong joints, and no sanding marks. When it's finished, it should have a lustrous, slightly golden hue and a glass-smooth surface. Farmers Markets: At the Big Island's open-air farmers markets, you'll find dozens of inexpensive koa items to bring home -- chopsticks for $15, small boxes for $40 -- as well as fresh produce, chocolates, nuts, and tropical flowers. Try the Hilo Farmers Market (Wednesday and Saturday), in downtown Hilo, or the Kailua Village Farmers Market (Thursday through Sunday), in the Kona Inn parking lot in Kailua Kona. Haggling isn't customary, but some vendors will give you a deal if you're buying in bulk. Bring cash. Buying Direct: Most galleries mark up items considerably, and the shops inside the resorts on the northwest Kohala Coast are especially overpriced. The one exception in this part of the Big Island is the Harbor Gallery, where the prices are decent. Buying direct from the woodworker can sometimes save you money, and it's always exciting to meet the artists behind the art. A couple of upcoming events make it easy to do just that. From February 9 to 27, top artists will be showing and selling their works straight to the buyer at the Big Island Wood Show, inside the newly opened Chase Gallery in Hilo. The Big Island Woodturners Show at the Wailoa Center, also in Hilo, features hand-turned bowls and vases, from March 4 to 26. Another option is contacting the Hawaii Wood Guild, which will recommend woodworkers with no referral fees at any time of year. You negotiate prices directly with the artist, you can ask that the work be customized, and many craftsmen will even let you snoop around their workshops. Shopping   Hilo Farmers Market Corner of Mamo St. and Kamehameha Ave., hilofarmersmarket.com Kailua Village Farmers Market 75-5744 Alii Dr., Kailua Kona, 808/329-1393 (ask for Lee)   Harbor Gallery Kawaihae Shopping Center, harborgallery.biz   Chase Gallery 100 Kamehameha Ave., Hilo, chasedesigns.com   Big Island Woodturners Show Wailoa Center, 200 Piopio St., Hilo, bigislandwoodturners.com   Hawaii Wood Guild, hawaiiwoodguild.com

Travel Tips

Ski Resort Survival Guide

Psst! I have a confession to make. I've never skied. Seriously. All my friends are doing it. Geez, even their kids are doing it. But I've never quite mustered the right combination of guts and know-how necessary to try it. I dunno. Maybe it's because for me the word downhill brings to mind an ill-advised—and ill-fated—sledding stunt I attempted when I was 11. It involved a slight, um, cliff. And a second or two during which I was completely airborne. All these years later, I distinctly remember how my (relatively brief) life flashed before my eyes, and how it felt to finally hit the ground and walk away (lucky for me) with just a few bruises. Well, it turns out skiing at a good resort is waaaaay safer than my rogue sledding expedition. Those of you who have also never been skiing—or those skiers who feel you haven't yet gotten the hang of booking and getting the most out of a ski resort—are in luck. I've decided that this is the year I take the plunge, and I thought it would be the ideal opportunity for me to reach out to an authority—About.com's skiing expert, Mike Doyle, to help me and my family get started on our adventure. SEE SOME OF AMERICA'S MOST BEAUTIFUL SKI RESORTS! CHOOSE THE RIGHT DESTINATION "Before you can start planning, you'll need to think about two main factors: where the group wants to ski, and where the group can ski," says Doyle, an award-winning ski journalist who covers downhill and cross country skiing and has the brag-worthy distinction of dividing his winters between Park City, Utah, and Killington, Vt. "Set a budget for transportation costs and then decide how far you want to travel; once you have a location determined, look within that area for a ski area that best fits what you're looking for."  Doyle notes that your number-one concern should be what kind of terrain that resort you're considering offers: "Are there enough beginner trails to keep the newbies occupied, enough intermediate runs and groomers to engage those who are advancing in their skills, or enough expert terrain to satisfy the long-time skiers? Obviously, what you're looking for depends on the skill set within your group, but you want to make sure everyone will be entertained. Also keep in mind lodging options; nightlife activities; childcare opportunities, if necessary; and lift ticket cost. If you run into a roadblock and can't decide, research ski resort reviews to get a feel for the true experience." GET GOOD DEALS "The number-one way to snag a deal is to start planning now," Doyle advises. Getting started well ahead of ski season gives you time to compare prices, and booking early can also allow you to get some nice discounts. "If you buy an all-inclusive lift ticket and lodging package in advance, you'll likely spend a lot less than if you found a place to stay last minute and bought a lift ticket each day." As with other kinds of travel—especially to popular areas and resorts—avoid winter holidays and "peak weeks" when school is out. These are the busiest times and also the most expensive, and Doyle predicts, "You'll end up paying more just to stand in long lift lines." And while most ski resorts don't offer "flash promotions" independently (the way theme parks might), you can find similar deals online. (In fact, we unblushingly recommend BudgetTravel.com's Real Deals for winter getaway packages!) "It's pretty rare to see lift tickets on sale," Doyle notes, "but you can usually find great lodging deals." RENT OR BUY EQUIPMENT? I've always been a bit puzzled by how much ski gear can cost. (Okay, I'll admit my idea of "gear rental" is bowling shoes or ice skates. Needless to say, skis, boots, and poles scare me a bit.) "Renting vs. buying is a very personal decision," says Doyle. "It all comes down to how often you think you're going to use the equipment. If you're only going to ski once or twice a year, renting is the best bet. Usually, you can rent nicer skis and boots (which will make your day a lot more enjoyable) for less money than you can buy baseline, entry-level equipment. I generally recommend that new skiers rent for the first few times even if they think they're going to be skiing a lot, so they can get a feel for the sport and what kind of skis they prefer." WHAT IF THE WHOLE FAMILY ARE BEGINNERS? In my case, no one in my family has ever been skiing. So a ski resort visit will involve two adults, an 11-year-old, and a 6-year-old learning. How can that possibly work? "Regardless of the age of the children, the best bet is for separate lessons," says Doyle. "The techniques to teach children skiing vary from how adults are taught. I would recommend that the adults take a lesson together, while the children are in their own lesson. Then, once the adults are comfortable, the family can start taking runs together on the beginner trails." WHAT SHOULD WE PACK? "Before you head to the resort, make sure you have all your gear in advance, including less obvious items, like hand warmers and a neck gaiter," Doyle recommends. "If you forget to pack something, many of these accessories are available to buy at ski resorts, but at a significantly higher price." That can go for food as well. A ski resort cafeteria can charge $12 for a hamburger and $5 for a bottle of water! "Multiply that for each member of the family, and you're looking at a lot of unnecessary costs." WHAT WILL MY SKI-RESORT DAY BE LIKE? So, I know my family and I will be taking some ski lessons, breaking for a packed lunch, and attempting the beginner slopes together. But what else will our days at a ski resort involve? "Many resort towns offer fun winter activities like ice skating, dog sledding, snowmobiling, or sleigh rides," says Doyle. "Do your research before you arrive, so you know what to expect. If you're into resort nightlife, one of the best times to hit up the aprés ski bars is when the lifts close, around 4 p.m. Many offer happy hour discounts on both food and drinks." ARE THERE ANY UP-AND-COMING—OR BUDGET—SKI REGIONS? At Budget Travel, we're always looking for what's next, and I wondered if there are new ski regions on the rise in the U.S. "Not really," is Doyle's surprising answer. Although there are certainly areas that are perhaps underappreciated as excellent ski destinations, such as West Virginia, there really aren't new ski areas being developed. The exception, Doyle points out, is expert terrain that is being expanded into what's called "sidecountry," which means experienced skiers can venture outside the resort boundaries via "gates" that are accessible from the lifts. "Revelstoke Mountain Resort in British Columbia, for instance, is going into its sixth season, but it's pretty remote." As for destination ski vacations, Doyle recommends Park City in Utah: "It has three world-class ski areas all within a free bus route, and offers all the variety, abilities levels (including beginner-friendly), and is only 35 minutes from Salt Lake City airport. The town offers a wide range of lodging and dining that will fit any budget." With Doyle's advice ringing in my ears—and a brother-in-law in Park City—I hope to introduce my family to the joys of downhill skiing this winter. Do you have a great first-time skiing story? "Like" Budget Travel on Facebook and tell us all about it!

Travel Tips

How To Travel The World For Free

We know, we know. You can't actually travel the world without paying for something along the way. But we've got a few ideas to help cut down on costs and ensure you'll have a more authentic adventure. Barter your time and hard work for a place to stay Christine Maxfield, founder and editor of CompassMag.com and producer of the When In Roam: Conversations with Travel Writers podcast on iTunes, recommends work-exchange programs like WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), HelpX.net, and WorkAway.info as a way to immerse yourself in new culture and make local friends quickly. "Work exchange is a little different than volunteering because you barter your time for food and lodging with a host rather than spending money for the opportunity, said Maxfield. "I've learned the most interesting jobs that way, from black-pearl diving to working at a sea-turtle hatchery, and it only cost me my hard work! It was a very fulfilling way to travel, and I also made lifelong friends with my hosts so I was never lonely." Another option is to pitch in at a local hostel you plan to stay in, as oftentimes owners can use the extra help and may be willing to offer you a free bed for the night as payment for a day's work. How to get started: In the case of WWOOF, the hardest part is deciding where you want to go. Some countries have their own WWOOF organizations, websites, and programs, so visit the link listed above, choose a country, and browse through the farm lists. Sign up to be a volunteer—as long as you're over the age of 18—and follow the instructions. In some cases, you may have to pay a fee of up to $72 to view the final listings for a country, but it's well worth the money you'll be saving on accommodations in the long run. Pack sturdy work boots, prepare to pay for your travel expenses to and from the farm, and set aside some extra cash for day trips while you're off. The program is available in more than 60 countries worldwide including Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa, Costa Rica, Thailand, Ireland, Italy, the United States, and Canada, so take your pick! Related: 50 Incredible Images of New Zealand and Australia House-sit your way around the world You’ve heard about pet–sitting, but what about house–sitting to save money while traveling? Dalene and Peter Heck are one Canadian couple who did just that: four years ago, they sold everything for the sake of travel, started a website, Hecktic Travels, and wrote a book about how they saved over $30,000 in accommodations costs by house–sitting their way around the world. The basic idea is reciprocity: keep an eye on someone's home while they're away, and you get to stay in it for free. It's a win–win since the owners get the peace of mind in knowing their houses (and sometimes pets) are safe, and you get to take the price of accommodations out of your vacation budget. (You'll also save money on food, since your lodgings now include a kitchen.) Jobs can last anywhere from two weeks to six months and give new meaning to the term culture immersion. "The best part about the whole experience has been the ability to really dig in to a destination and get to understand the culture. We get to know people and visit places that regular tourists never would," said Dalene Heck. How to get started: A number of websites, such as TrustedHousesitters.com, House Sitters America, The Caretaker Gazette, and Mind My House among others, provide listings for a fee (ranging from $20 to $60 depending on the membership), but consider this an investment. The couple recommends creating an account on multiple websites to increase your chances of being chosen for a coveted house–sit job. Planning ahead is the key, since it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to fully flesh out the details of a contract. House–sitting hopefuls from the U.S. should remember to check Visa requirements for countries they plan to apply for, Dalene warns. "In 28 countries of Europe, Americans are only allowed 90 days total at a time, so the dream of bouncing around from house–sit to house–sit indefinitely isn't really an option there." Crash on someone's couch Websites like GlobalFreeloaders.com and Couchsurfing.org aim to bring together like-minded travel-worshippers and promote a more authentic, cultural exchange between them. The other perk of course is that free accommodations are more than likely part of the equation, with hosts offering an extra bed, couch, futon, or other temporary place to crash while you're visiting a new city. Participants get in contact with each other and can interact as much or as little as they want: if you'd rather just meet a host for coffee or lunch, that's fine. If you decide to host someone in your home (or are hosted at someone else's home) and want to cook for each other, even better. The whole point is to leave your comfort zone behind and get to know someone new from a different environment than your own, so take this free opportunity to make a new friend and embrace a new culture. How to get started: Both sites require you to create a free profile—GlobalFreeloaders only lets you do so if you're able to host someone in your own home within six months of signing up, as there are two sides to this travel coin, visiting and hosting. Couchsurfing, however, is more flexible and gives you the option to create an account so you can participate, and lets you list "Not Right Now (but I can still hang out)" if you're not ready to host someone in your own home but are still open to the idea of meeting new travelers, whether for a quick drink or to show them around town. Related: 11 Bucket List Adventures You Can Actually Afford Embrace the art of travel hacking The idea behind travel hacking is simple: work the system to score enough free rewards points on hotel and airline loyalty programs to earn free accommodations and transportation. Sign up for any credit card that offers ridiculous amounts of miles just for joining, enter contests that give away free miles or points, and basically jump at anything that offers free travel benefits. Keep up with special promotions and always be on the lookout for more point-earning opportunities, whatever they may be. With a little time (okay, more than a little time) and creativity, Matt Kepnes of NomadicMatt.com explains how it's possible to hack anything from airline costs and accommodations, to transportation, restaurants, and even attractions—he even has a new e-book about it, on sale now for $37 through his website with a money-back guarantee if you don't earn enough miles for at least one free flight within six months! How to get started: Register to receive emails from The Points Guy, a website founded by road warrior Brian Kelly that is dedicated to tracking and sharing the best ways to make the most of your travel rewards points. Either purchase the book mentioned above or sign up with the Travel Hacking Cartel to learn more about this gutsy new travel frontier. (Try a $1 14-day trial subscription to the Travel Hacking Cartel, or opt for more in depth packages starting at $15 a month). Teach English in a foreign country This has always been a really popular way to see the world and make a little money in the process—several of my college friends actually went on to teach English in Japan, China, South Korea, and in one case, Romania. While you will receive a steady paycheck and a place to stay, it's important to remember that you will basically be expected to work the equivalent of a full-time job, teaching students of varying ages the art of the English language at least five days a week with a full level of excitement and enthusiasm. Prepare to be exhausted, yet fulfilled, if teaching is your passion, and try to do a little exploring on weekends and holidays when you and your class have some free time. Or better yet, try to save up a little money for day trips or other regional travel from your new location if you can. How to get started: First, you'll need to work on getting TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Certification—basically you pay for and take a course online or in person (options vary), and learn everything you'll need to get started in your new classroom. Once you're certified, decide which country you want to live and work in and how long you're willing to sign a contract for. CIEE Teach Abroad offers options for teaching assignments in Chile, China, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Dominican Republic. Apply through programs like JourneyEast.org for teaching opportunities in China, The Jet Programme or AEON for options in Japan, or search for teaching job openings around the world via ESLcafe.com. Related: 27 Perfect Places To Go Camping Swap houses Anyone who has seen the movie The Holiday, a delightful chick flick that features Kate Winslet swapping her cozy English cottage for Cameron Diaz's Hollywood mansion (and leading to respective love affairs with Jude Law and Jack Black) has probably had this idea on the brain ever since. According to an article by USA Today, home swapping is becoming more and more popular thanks to websites like Knok, Love Home Swap, Intervac, HomeLink, and HomeExchange, all of which allow you to create an account, browse open houses and apartments in whatever destination you're interested in visiting, and connect you with potential home swappers. And you don't have to be a homeowner to participate either. Renters are welcome, and some people even go as far as swapping their places of residence and cars, but the important thing is to set limits if necessary and keep the lines of communication open, as you will be honored guests in each other's homes for the length of your stay. How to get started: You will have to subscribe for the service, and prices vary depending on the website and however many months you'd like to use it—a full year on HomeExchange, for instance, will cost you $9.95 a month, while an annual subscription to Intervac costs $99. Volunteer Abroad Donating your time to a noble cause, whether it's taking care of children at a local orphanage or helping to improve the environment, can be a great way to see the world for less, if not for free. Really do your homework on this one, folks, as there are literally thousands of opportunities and companies to choose from and all the important details, like where you'll stay and how long you'll be there for, vary. Look for free or low-cost volunteer companies that offer an experience you're interested in—you will most likely need to pay for yourself to get to and from your post, and some companies may require you to pay for your accommodations while others may offer to have you stay with a local family while you work. How to get started: Search for voluteer opportunities on websites like idealist.org and workaway.info, or in Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others, available on Amazon from $13 or on Kindle from $9.99.Every travel guide by Go! Girl Guides lists opportunities to choose from, offering listings for Thailand, Argentina, and Mexico, respectively. VolunteerSouthAmerica.net is also a great resource for free and low cost volunteer options, with their enormous list broken down into two main categories: programs that are free to participate in, and affordable options where you live in and pay for your own accommodations. Related: 35 Incredible Solo Trips You Love Work at a summer camp in a different state or country What better way to explore a new place than to spend a season working with children at summer camp, then taking the money you earned and using it to travel? A friend of mine from Australia did exactly that, working a stint at a summer camp in Maine for three months before using her earnings to fund a cross-country U.S. road trip. If you have any experience with children or specialize in a certain sport or skill (like photography), the options are endless and you'll make anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 for a few months of your time and energy, easy money to fund that long-awaited vacation. Working with kids is usually a great addition to any resumé, plus, if you play your cards right, you can work for a camp abroad or at least in another state to keep things interesting during your time off. How to get started: Create a free profile on CampStaff.com and CoolWorks.com, and remember to apply early and often to score your dream camping spot. Join the Peace Corps If you are an American citizen who happens to have 27 months to spare and a strong desire to make a difference in the world, consider signing up for the Peace Corps. Originally started in 1961 by President Kennedy, the Peace Corps relies on volunteers to work with local residents on projects that help to promote peace and understanding between global citizens. Most positions require a bachelor's degree or similar applicable experience and volunteers are matched with available programs depending on their background in volunteering and level of skill—you'll find opportunities in education, youth and community development, health, business and information, and communications technology, as well as in environmental and agricultural areas. Five percent of volunteers are over the age of 50, as there is no upper age limit to volunteer. Other perks include possible student loan deferment, paid travel to and from your country of service, medical and dental benefits, a monthly living and housing stipend, graduate school opportunities, 48 paid vacation days, the ability to take leave for family emergencies, and a "readjustment" allowance of about $7,400 upon completion of service. Not too shabby. How to get started: Don't just sign up lightheartedly for this, as it does require a 27 month-long committment between training and time served in the field. Visit the Peace Corps website to read blogs written by current volunteers, attend any and all information sessions, and try to talk to someone who has previously volunteered for a better idea of what you'll be getting into. Fill out an application online, meet with a recruiter for an official interview, and be prepared to be sent to wherever you are needed if you get accepted.

Travel Tips

10 Stupid Things Americans Do Overseas

Don't get us wrong: We're darn proud to be Americans, and we don't mind saying so—whether we're here at our New York City headquarters or standing on foreign soil. But unfortunately, we've all seen the embarrassing U.S. traveler abroad: The idiot wearing the "I'm With Stupid" T-shirt while visiting a museum of tolerance, the big shot flashing a wallet full of euros on the Paris metro, or the family that insists on chowing down on American fast food in Rome. How not to be the ugly American? Well, here are the 10 stupidest things Americans do while overseas: 1. DRESSING—AND ACTING—LIKE A TOURIST Traveling is one time when it's actually cool to be a poseur. Try your best to fit in with a country's style of dress and customs by ditching the fanny packs, visors, dark socks with sandals, and Hawaiian shirts—and not using your outdoor voice. "The golden rule of travel is that blending in and conformity are a form of flattery," says Lisa Grotts, author of A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette. "Most countries will not expect you to be an expert on the nuances of their culture, but they will appreciate a show of interest in matters of importance to them." Taking your usual gregarious behavior down a notch is a good idea too. "People of other nationalities are more reserved than we are, so it's important not to come across as the ugly American: overbearing, overly familiar, loud," Grotts says. 2. FLASHING MONEY AROUND Peeling bills off of wads of cash won't endear you to the locals—nor does it curry much favor here in the U.S.—but showing the contents of your wallet and taking copious amounts of money out of foreign ATMs in full view of everyone will make you popular with pickpockets. The cash machine itself could be a thief in disguise too. "Look closely at an ATM before using it, as criminals have been known to place 'skimmers' on the machines, especially in areas frequented by tourists," says Elizabeth Finan, spokesperson for the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the State Department. 3. ASSUMING EVERYONE'S THERE TO WAIT ON THEM Just like money doesn't buy taste or love, having vacation savings to burn doesn't guarantee the royal treatment everywhere you go. There are two keys to not being an American jerk: "Being a little bit patient and not assuming that everybody here is here to clamor over your tourist dollars is important," says Anna Post, co-author of Emily Post's Etiquette 18th Edition. Back in 1922, Emily herself wrote a book chapter titled "Europe's Unflattering Opinion of Us." Unfortunately, very little has changed. "For years, we Americans have swarmed over the face of the world, taking it for granted that the earth's surface belongs to us because we can pay for it," she wrote. Try to buck those stereotypes. 4. ORDERING AMERICAN FOOD ABROAD Don't be that person who orders French fries in the middle of Italy. "The absolute worst thing you can do is to ignore the local food in favor of what's familiar to you: always seeking out the American-style burgers and pizza and Caesar salads on a menu or, worse, eating at fast-food or chain restaurants you know from home," says Laura Siciliano-Rosen, founder of Eat Your World, a website featuring local eats around the globe. Not sampling exotic food means you'll miss a large chunk of the area's culture that will enrich your travel experience. That said, everyone has heard at least one horror story about getting food poisoning abroad. "Wash your hands a lot and be smart about the basic things—avoid tap water and ice and unpeeled fruits and vegetables—and you can eat plenty of local food," Siciliano-Rosen says. 5. NOT BOTHERING TO LEARN BASIC FOREIGN PHRASES English is indeed widely spoken all over the world, but not making any effort will just make everyone hate you. "If at all possible, at least say a greeting in the other person's language, and then say, 'Do you speak English?' right after that," says Post. "One thing that I've been told grates is to just start speaking English in a foreign county. Yes, it's likely that a lot of people, especially in touristy spots, will speak English, but the presumption that they do is really obnoxious." No need to bust out an entire language dictionary either. "If nothing else, learn how to say hello, thank you, and please," Post says. 6. BRINGING BACK SOUVENIRS THEY THINK THEY ARE ENTITLED TO Not so fast hauling that vase out of the country and into your foyer. Absconding with a piece of a country's history—whether you knew it was authentic or not—isn't smiled upon. "Some countries, like Turkey, Egypt, and Mexico, have strict laws on antiques," Finan says. "If you purchase a souvenir that authorities believe is a national treasure, you may be arrested. In countries with strict control of antiques, document your purchases as reproductions if that is the case." 7. NEGLECTING TO RESEARCH A COUNTRY'S CUSTOMS Accidentally making a jerk move abroad usually means you haven't studied what that country's jerk moves are. Post says there are six major areas to educate yourself about before you go to a new locale: greetings, gift giving, exchanges of money (whether to put money in someone's hand or on the table), handshakes, body language, and food. Food etiquette has many facets, Post says, "whether it's the eating of the food, the not eating of the food, complimenting the food, trying the food... In some places, a compliment may mean you want more." 8. RELYING ON CREDIT CARDS FOR PURCHASES Carrying zero cash and using your debit card to pay for a bottle of water is growing more and more common in the U.S., but when you're abroad, you can't count on plastic. "Credit cards are not widely accepted in some countries," Finan says. "Although it is a good idea to bring a credit card or two, leave all unnecessary credit cards at home." If you run out of cash, the U.S. Embassy can help you with everything from contacting friends and family on your behalf for wire transfers or giving you a loan to get back to the States. 9. PACKING SOMETHING DUMB Other countries' security can make going through airport security in the States look lax. Abroad, if you bring over an item that so much as looks dangerous, you might find yourself on the wrong side of the law. "A foreign country's laws can be different from laws in the United States," Finan says. "For example, some countries have strict laws on weapons—in some cases, possessing something as small as a pocketknife or a single bullet can get you into legal trouble." Clean out your suitcase before you start packing. 10. FORGETTING THEY ARE REPRESENTING THE REST OF US You can't cancel out the bad behavior of every American doofus traveling abroad, but you can make a difference by being a positive example of a U.S. citizen. "Americans in general have a pretty bad reputation to try to live down," Post says. "Any time you can go the extra effort to use every courtesy that's available to you to show appreciation—like for the time that someone gives you in a shop—even if they don't return it right there, I think that that is part of what it means to be an ambassador for your country when you travel."

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