Travel Tips


Travel Presentation to Mandeville Library, June 20, 2019

I think that practically everyone aspires or have aspired to travel at some time in their lives. When I was a young educator, most of my peers expressed a desire to travel after retirement. Sadly, most often, this did not happen due to financial reasons, health challenges or the loss of the sense of adventure. My first recommendation is, if you aspire to travel, the time is now. The topics I will talk about today will not apply to everyone; I merely want to share with you some travel possibilities. Select what is relevant to you.


  1. Ideally, we begin a course of action by thinking about it first. Here are some thoughts.
  2. Ask yourself why do you want to travel? Sun and sand? Culture? History? Gastronomy? Hiking? Sightseeing? Relaxation? Combination of these? all of them or Other?
  3. Plan your travel once you know where you will be going. This could be the most important step in traveling as it could make or break your vacation. If you speak a foreign language, even a little, give that country more consideration.
  4. Begin early. I start my planning process in the fall before my summer vacation.
  5. Ideally, make your flight arrangements, lodging and car rentals at least five months before travel date for availability and best prices.
  6. Start your research on your destination. Research it well. This will save you time and maximize your experiences. For example, if you are going to Paris, or New York, learn the metro system before you get there. Choose what you want to see –you will never see it all. Map out every site you wish to visit and how you will get there.
  7. How to save money on travel. Travel is not cheap, especially on extended international vacations, but there are methods to save a great deal of money in certain situations. The largest expenses are lodging, food and transportation.


  1. Most travelers, especially Americans, automatically opt for hotels for lodging. In Europe, Canada and the US, hotel rooms under $100.00 per night are rather rare. This can add up quickly on a vacation of one or more weeks. Here are some options:
  2. Do a home exchange. European teachers developed this concept at least 40 years ago. You exchange homes and sometimes cars with a family who lives in a country and area you wish to visit. These exchanges can be simultaneous or non-simultaneous (explain).Basically, you eliminate the cost of your lodging, and car rental, and reduce food cost by 75%. That’s real money. Additionally, you are actually living in a country –not just a tourist. The process begins with going to a home exchange website – I’ve used and There is a small fee for membership.
  3. Rent a gite. A gite is actually a rental house (usually rural, but also in towns) in France. Other countries have rental properties also –the Italians call theirs Villas. The cost of a gite is usually about half the price of a hotel and you don’t have to look for a place to stay every night for the duration of your vacation. Gites are rented by the week and contain all you will need to set up household –equipped kitchen, fridge, pool, and so on. The beauty of this concept is that you can do your meals at home. The owners are usually very informative and helpful. Check to see if your gite choice is near many attractions. In France, Gites de France are the best


  1. Buy travel insurance. This could recoup most of your money should you not be able to make your travel date due to documentable extreme emergencies.
  2. Car rentals. Car rentals are also expensive; here are a few things you can do to save a little money. Rent early, four to five months or more in advance for best deals. Check your credit card to see if it pays collision for rentals in the area visited. Bring your own GPS or cell phone instead of paying extra for it. Rent the smallest car possible that will fulfill your needs. Large cars can become a nuisance in narrow European streets and parking. Air-conditioning is an expensive option in Europe. Be aware that car rental companies are much like used car dealers. Always look for hidden or unnecessary costs.
  3. Other Travel Methods.
  4. Bed and breakfast. This method has some advantages. First, your host will usually be very helpful in orienting you for your excursions. Secondly, often, B&Bs are very restful and unique. Again, location is important—do your research. Finally, the cost of a B&Bs is often about the same as a good hotel.
  5. Cruising. There many advantages to cruising. a. Usually, it is not more expensive than a regular vacation.b. You don’t have to pack and unpack every day. c. The food is great and plentiful. d. You have a wide variety of interesting excursions available. f. You can be as active or inactive as you like.
  6. Safety precautions are necessary while on vacations. While most European and Canadian cities are safer than large American cities, losing your passport and or money could ruin your vacation.
  7. Safety: Be aware of your environment at all times, especially while still jet lagged from a long flight.
  8. Try to avoid being in large crowds. Pickpockets often operate in large crowds.
  9. If you drink, do so in safe environments.
  10. Dress properly to protect your valuables. I wear cargo pants with a bunch of zipped and buttoned pockets. My shirts also have buttoned pockets. Women should not carry a purse – carry essentials in a fanny pack.
  11. If you find yourself surrounded by several children talking to you, they may be setting you up for a pickpocket.
  12. Photography.
  13. This is the best method to preserve your wonderful memories of your vacations.
  14. Take many photos.
  15. The best camera is the one you have with you.
  16. Unless your hobby is photography, don’t spend more than $250 to $300 on a lightweight digital camera. You need decent wide angle, and telescopic functions.
  17. A cell phone is not yet as good as a camera for photos, but it beats no camera and it’s always on you.
  18. Finally, don’t post your position on social media while on vacation.
  19. Keep notes.
  20. After a short time in your travels, unless you have a photographic memory, you will forget many important details and events.
  21. Use your cell phone to enter your events — like a daily diary.
  22. At the end of the day, recap your experiences on paper, recorder or your phone or tablet.
  23. When you get home, you may want to type and save a narrative of your experiences. Many years from now, you will enjoy reading them –like a free vacation.
  24. Final consideration – assess your physical condition. This can be important on guided excursions. European excursions tend to be more challenging as Europeans usually walk a lot more than Americans do.(Often up and down hills and on cobblestone streets)    By Sidney P. Bellard, author of  A Cajun in France




                                                                                                                                                            Travel for Less
By Sidney P. Bellard, Author of A Cajun in France
Probably, most people hope to eventually do some traveling to distant regions of the United States and/or foreign travel. Yet, the vast majority of people will never realize that dream. While some lose their desire for travel, most don’t travel for a very simple reason — travel is very expensive. The cost of travel per day in the United States can easily cost $350.00 or more for a couple. The following are two solutions which can significantly reduce the cost of travel.

Home Exchange
A. This is a European concept begun by European teachers many years ago which came to America in the 80’s and to Louisiana in the 90’s. Due to our frequent trips to France, we were among the first to do home exchanges in New Orleans area. There are many attributes to home exchanges. 1. This concept can save one over 50% on travel expenses. 2. It facilitates getting to know the people and area visited. 3. Eliminates moving from hotel to hotel every day. Instead of a hotel, travelers have a whole, equipped house (often with a pool) as a head quarter to enjoy their vacation.

B. How to make a home exchange? Planning must begin in the fall before the summer you will travel. Decide where you want to go. Go online to locate a home exchange site. ‘Guest to Guest’ and ‘’ are two of the most popular home exchange sites. Some sites will let you view available homes before joining. There is an annual fee to use these services, but they are relatively inexpensive compared to the money saved. Once you have registered, list your house for an exchange. You will be asked to describe your home and attributes of your area. You will post pictures of your home. You will also list the country, city, or area you want to visit.

C. Once you have completed the above, you can contact home owners from your areas of interest and propose a home exchange. Home exchangers can also contact you for an exchange. It is best, though not mandatory, to exchange with families who have traits in common with you such as age, profession, family size, etc. It is also good, but not mandatory to have an exchanger who speaks English if in a foreign country. Use Google Maps to view the house and area of your prospective exchange. You will also have the option to exchange cars which saves another large amount of money.

D. Once you have agreed on an exchange, begin making your plans for your stay in your vacation home. Research the area well so you will save time and maximize your experiences there. During this time, you will exchange many emails with your exchange partner; consequently, you will feel like you know them and that they know you.

Gite Rentals
An alternative to a home exchange is renting a gite (a furnished home in France, usually rural, but available in towns and cities). This concept is popular in Europe, especially in France. In Italy these rentals are called villas and most other European countries have similar rentals. The cost of a gite varies according to location and level of amenities. In France, a nice gite can be rented for 40 to 60 dollars per night, often with pools. Hotels are usually $100.00 plus per night. Gites are usually rented by the week.

Car Rental
With a gite or rented house, a rental car will be necessary. Here are some guidelines. Start by renting your car well in advance to get the best rates. Go online to search for the best deals in the area to be visited. If possible, avoid renting a car from an airport—they are more expensive. Instead, search for a car rental near an airport. Don’t rent more car than you need. Finally, be aware that your credit card and/or car insurance may provide collision coverage. Rentals will often try to sell you insurance you will not need.


                                                                Fitness for Travel

By Sidney P. Bellard, author of A Cajun in France

Hippocrates, father of medicine who lived from 460 to 337 BC, famously said, “First, do no harm.” This is also a wise approach in advising prospective travelers.

Most travelers have had experiences where they were not able to do all the activities they had planned for their vacations. On the other hand, some were able to do the whole agenda, but ended up so spent that it was not fun anymore. Often, travelers sign up for an excursion classified as “moderate difficulty level” and find themselves unable to follow the group. The tour guide becomes most annoyed because he/she has to slow the whole tour group down due to those who could not keep the pace.

Often, tourists do not realize that a “moderate” excursion for a European could be difficult for some Americans. In general, Europeans walk a great deal more than Americans do. Additionally, Europeans are more likely to walk on cobblestone streets, up inclines, and often up flights stairs. Even in the Paris Metro, one often has to walk up flights of stairs, stalled escalators and long distances. (Did you ever notice that most stalled escalators are the ones going up?) American travelers in Europe who ask directions often receive a response of, “Oh, it’s only a ten minute walk.” That 10-minute walk usually ends up being 20 or more minutes.

Traveling across several time zones is another factor that can add to the increased fatigue levels due to jet-lag. It could take from a few to several days to shake this condition. Since most vacations are a week or less, the traveler could be under the curse of jet-lag for the whole vacation.

So, what can we do? I will start with another quote from a great Greek, Plato, who advised: “know thyself.” Make an evaluation of your physical fitness. Consider your age, weight, health, present activity level as well as what type of vacation you want to take. Keep in mind that even on a cruise there are often challenging excursions. If you are under 50, active and healthy, then you could probably do most things on a normal vacation. However, if the activities are especially strenuous, do some appropriate physical training.

OK, you have made your assessments. Are you vacation-ready right now? You may say, “Yes, I do a lot of walking three times a week.” How fast do you walk? Do you walk on level roads or trails? Can you walk a couple of hours in hot weather? Can you walk up a series of steps? Steep inclines? Unless you can say “yes” to these questions, you could benefit from additional training.

Here are my recommendations to help you become vacation-ready: 1. If you have not been exercising, check with your doctor to determine if you are ready for increased physical activities. 2. Start early – at least six months before trip. 3. Get your spouse or anyone who will travel with you to workout with you. This is important, as one can walk no faster and/or farther than his/her vacation companion. 4. Select a time for your workouts – if possible, same time each day. 5. Do major walking workouts three times a week and step training two days a week.  6. Purchase a good pair of walking shoes.

Important:  You are not training for the Olympics. Your goal is to increase your cardiovascular efficiency and increase your legs’ strength and endurance.  In other words, you want to enhance your endurance and mobility. It is not a competition; you simply want achieve a higher level of physical fitness.

There are two programs you can follow, outdoor training and indoor training.

Outdoor Training – This will consist of walking to increase aerobic fitness, and stair climbing to increase leg strength. Find a good, safe place to walk such as your subdivision or street, a school track, a park, or bike path. It is good to walk in different places to avoid monotony. Walk three alternate days per week (like Monday Wednesday Friday for example). Get a walking app for your cell phone to measure how far and how long you have walked. Begin walking a pace and distance that is comfortable for you. After about two weeks, add about 100 steps (about 100 yards) to your walk. When this gets comfortable, add another 100 yards and continue this process. If you feel very good, you may want to increase faster; if it is too much, decrease some. If you really feel good, you may want to jog short distances during your walk. To help with the monotony of exercising, take your music with you.

On two of the days you do not walk, do your step exercises. You can use any steps accessible to you such as steps in your home, a nearby stadium, or shopping center. If no steps are available, get a sturdy box about 12 inches high and do repetitions stepping up and down the box. Start easy and increase the reps as you get in better shape. Knee bends are also helpful – do half knee bends and stop when you feel fatigue setting in. Increase your reps gradually, and if you really feel strong, do knee bends with one leg.

Indoor Training – For many people, indoor training is more convenient as many have in-home gyms or are members of  health clubs. Use the treadmill for the walking workout. Again, start slowly with moderate pace and resistance. Walk until you feel comfortably tired and note the time you have walked. As you get stronger, gradually increase the speed and resistance. To replace the steps, you can use the adjustable elliptical machine. These machines usually have three settings – level, medium incline, and sharp incline. Start with the first level mode to get used to the machine. You can adjust the resistance of this machine form low to high. After you feel comfortable with the elliptical machine, go to the second level setting. This will be a little more taxing, but after a week or two, it will get easier. Finally, you will go to the third incline that is much like stair stepping. Increase your time and resistance gradually. Other machines that will improve your step-climbing ability are the stair-step machine and leg press machine.

For variety, you may want to do a combination of outdoor and indoor routines. If you have room in your home, you may want to consider buying an elliptical machine. I have one in my house, and I watch the news as I workout.

When your vacation time arrives, you will be a new person with ability and confidence to tackle the rigors of multiple stairs of steps, those cobblestone streets and the steep inclines of hilltop villages. Even better, you will have probably lost weight, have decreased your pulse rate and blood pressure, and most importantly, you will feel good. Keep that feeling; make exercising part of your lifestyle.

Bon courage,



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