Elegance is not the prerogative of those who have just escaped from adolescence, but of those who have already taken possession of their future.-Coco Chanel
Rule #1 Manners-
I know, I know…you knew that we were gonna start here. For good reason. The easiest way to be an “Ugly ( Aussie, Brit, Yank….enter country of choice)” is by completely tossing all convention of what is classy and what is not to the wind whilst on holiday. Don’t be that guy/gal! One of the beauties of traveling is exposing yourself to new cultures, social norms, and new viewpoints. As a part of your trip prep, don’t skip of the chapter on local traditions and customs. No need to go over board and bow to the Japanese waiter every time he returns to your table to fill your water glass. But you might use “Nin” instead of “Ni” when speaking to someone in China to show respect.
The elegant traveler treats the bellboy with the same respect as the hotel’s CEO.
Rule #2 Dress-
This is likely one of the more obvious aspects of traveling with elegance. I remember the first time I traveled abroad and saw a gentleman wearing a sharp tweed jacket, tasteful kerchief in the pocket, button down shirt and cotton pants. He looked so sharp. A great example of an elegant traveler. It doesn’t take much to go from blah to vavooom.
Guys- OK guys, I know, this is vacation and all, but let go of the jeans with paint on them from the last remodel project. Leave the grubby ball cap at home. No need to go overboard here either. You don’t need to pull a Mike with his preppy kakis and button down shirt. Spiff it up a tad gents.
Gals- Lets start with hemlines. Harken back to rule #1. Just because your wardrobe is acceptable where you came from, does not mean that it will be ok where you are going. Conservative countries in the Middle East, Asia and even parts of Europe frown on too much exposure. Know your location. The elegant traveler plans ahead, and has the right ensemble for every occasion. And for heaven sakes leave the fanny pack at home!!! Better yet throw it away!
Rule #3 Courtesy
Common courtesy is an international language. Unlike manners, it is not requisite to be fluent in the local customs to show courtesy. One simply must put others needs before their own. Ideas include holding doors open for others, accommodating those that need “a little extra time down the jetway”, patience in trying circumstances. Some of the stuff your grandmother tried to teach you. Show respect to seniors, give a harried mother a hand in the airport, lift a bag for someone. And of course the golden rule of courtesy …please and thank you. These should be the first words you learn in the new language.
Rule #4 Dress for dinner
Take a lesson from the popular TV show “Downton Abbey” and dress for dinner. The Elegant Travel Dame always has a little black dress. The Traveling Gentleman always has a fine dinner jacket. One of our most elegant travel moments came in Cusco, Peru of all places. We try to include at least one really nice meal when we travel. During our Peru adventure, we elected to have dinner at the il Monastery in Cusco. Highly recommended! We had just come out of the jungle, and we cleaned up and had an amazing meal dressed to the nines. It made us feel like a million bucks.
Rule #5 Do the Homework
Our final rule is to do your homework. Truly seek to understand what you are seeing on vacation. Find destinations that really interest you. Plan a trip to Turkey! Dig a little deeper. Ask questions. Do all of this before you get on the jetplane. Learn a little bit of the language, enough to show respect for you host country. We typically plan our trips 6 months to a year out. We do this on purpose, it gives us enough time to do the homework. We learn the language, a little of the dominant religion and culture as well as search out the off the beaten path locations.
So those are our rules for becoming an elegant traveler. Did we miss anything? What advice can you give to others? Leave us a comment below.