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Ask T+L: International Etiquette, Trip Insurance, and More

Portrait of Mimi Lombardo.

Photo: David Alexander Arnold

Ask an Expert: Mimi Lombardo, T+L Fashion Director

Q: I often travel to exotic locations. How can I make sure my clothing and manners are appropriate? —Sarah May Goggin, Las Vegas, Nev.

A: Nobody wants to look like a tourist. Make sure you’re au courant by consulting blogs like Street Peeper, a showcase of global style from Seoul to São Paulo, Brazil. Sites such as eDiplomat and Kwintessential help travelers mind their international p’s and q’s with a litany of helpful tips that revolve around various destinations (e.g., greeting a family in Luxembourg? Shake hands with everyone, even the children. Need to point at someone in India? Do it with your whole hand—using just one finger is regarded as offensive). If you’re curious about something in particular, it never hurts to inquire directly with the country’s U.S. consulate before your trip.

Q: We want to plan a quick getaway in the Northeast that includes both the city and the outdoors. Thoughts? —Jake Ellenz, via E-mail

A:With the Town & Country package at the Mandarin Oriental New York (doubles from $7,590, through December 31), you’ll spend three days in Manhattan then be whisked 40 minutes north for two nights at Richard Gere’s Bedford Post Inn, where 14 acres of private backcountry are ripe for exploration. The weekend of October 14, Four Seasons Boston ($7,995 for a group of six) is offering a Farm to Table Getaway package—guests travel to Belkin Family Lookout Farm, pick Ginger Gold apples, and return to the hotel to spin them into treats with the chef’s help (cider doughnuts, anyone?).

Q: Does trip insurance cover canceled flights? —Marcia Freed, Portland, Ore.

A: While airlines typically provide some sort of compensation for delays caused by mechanical issues, they are not at fault for what they deem “uncontrollable irregularities” (for example: blizzards and billowing volcanic ash). According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, some 58,000 flights were canceled in the first half of this year, so proper insurance can be a godsend. Most insurance plans do indeed reimburse for grounded air travel, but read the fine print closely—practices vary with each company. Our A-List travel agents recommend buying coverage well in advance of your trip through independents such as Travel Guard (800/826-4919) and Travelex (800/228-9792). Weighing two options? Heed the advice of T+L A-List agent Priscilla Alexander: “If one is cheaper, remember that you usually get what you pay for.”

Q: We’re headed to Spain. Are there any tours you would recommend? —Dinna Gener, via E-mail

A: One of Spain’s top selling points is its wealth of cultural attractions. You can sail by private catamaran down the Costa Brava and enjoy an after-hours, curator-led visit to the Museo Centro de Arte Reina Sofia with Madrid & Beyond (34/91-758-0063). Delaware-based Kensington Tours arranges intimate access to the Nasrid palaces of the Alhambra by night, when only 400 visitors are allowed in, and can also book a private balcony for watching Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls. Artisans of Leisure (800/214-8144) is known for its classes at La Sociedad Gastronomica, one of Spain’s most prestigious (and ordinarily members-only) cooking societies.

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