Dear Ms. Plume,
I've been invited to join a group of women who are renting a house in the islands for a week.
What is the protocol for packing, sharing expenses, chores, etc.? I've never taken a vacation like this before but I'm looking forward to it as I feel that an opportunity like this only comes along once in a blue moon.
Dear Blue Moon,
Grab your camera, binoculars, sunscreen, throw less clothes than you think you will need in your suitcase, and go. Be sure you don't pack your camera and other important items in your check through bag, and wear your jewelry; pearl necklaces are optional on all girl trips.
The best way to share expenses is for everyone to contribute an agreed upon amount of money to be used for food and supplies; decide ahead of time if will also be used for alcohol and in restaurants. If you're one of those women who routinely insists upon a separate check for yourself, or scrutinizes a bill so you don't have to chip an extra dollar for something you didn't order, just stay home and spend your week comparing prices between Food Lion and Publix.
Let whomever likes to cook do so, and everyone else can assist; there are never too many sous chefs.
When you know what the sleeping accommodations are, draw straws or find some equitable way to choose; if all else fails and you feel you have gotten the children's bunk room, you can always short sheet the bed in the master suite.
Above all, wear sunscreen, remember that rum contains several important vitamins, and enjoy – because blue moons are rare.
Since we are on the subject of travel – practice travel etiquette. That means get on the airplane when your zone is called, don't sit in the boarding area saying good-bye to someone on your cell phone so you get on the plane last and there is not room for your luggage in the overhead compartment. I recently was on a flight where someone boarded late with a bag; when she was told by the flight attendant that she would have to check it because the overheads were full. She opened the compartment over her seat, took out someone's duffel bag – asked to whom it belonged, (it was an elderly gentleman), and tossed it in his lap and told him to put it under his seat. Then she crammed her bag into the space. Had I been sitting in her row I would have pulled her bag out after the flight and dropped in on her head.
Be alert on escalators – don't stop at the top and look around, read your map, or finish a cell phone call; there are people behind you who can topple backwards if they cannot get off the escalator. Think about your public cell phone conversations. Do you really want all the people around you sharing in your one side of the conversation? I cannot even begin to write about all the one sided conversations I have overheard; I think they are akin to sitting next to someone in a row of public toilet stalls.
Do not put your luggage, or even worse, your lunch, on an empty seat next to you on a crowded train or subway. It is rude. Remember when you are served in a restaurant, airplane, or shop, to acknowledge ther person waiting on or serving you. They are doing their job and earning their living as presumably you are also doing somehow, or have done, in your life. They are people, not robots, they deserve some respect. Introduce yourself to your seatmate on the flight, bus or train. You don't have to make them your new best friend but if you need to get up, or over them, or there is any sort of problem, it is better that they think kindly of you than not.