This time next month I'll be in Dallas, Texas, for the American Christian Fiction Writers' (ACFW) Conference. It's been a couple of years since my last conference and I'm very grateful to my amazing husband who will be running the gauntlet of solo parenting our two preschoolers for the nine days that I'm away!
This will be my fourth ACFW Conference, so I thought it might be fun to share a few things I've learned in my travels.
Speak sloooooowly and clearly, especially at border control.
The first time I went to a conference I said "tourism" and the American border official heard "terrorism". Fortunately, he must have wondered if he'd misheard, since I just got treated to a second level interrogation and my baggage searched (during which we worked out what the miscommunication had been) rather than immediately arrested/deported. But there were definitely a few nervous moments as I watched my luggage get pulled apart while I tried to work out what I'd done to warrant additional attention!
Money, money, money
In New Zealand tax is included in the price of everything, in the US it isn't. And you will never ever be able to work out what something is actually going to cost since the taxes vary by state. It used to drive me nuts. Now I just assume up to an additional twenty percent and roll with it.
And on that note - be a generous tipper. In New Zealand we tip only in exceptional circumstances. In USA you tip everyone for everything. Start at 10% for average service and go up from there. Many of the service people (waitresses, hotel cleaners) will be on minimum wage which is not enough to survive on and they rely on tips to make ends meet. Don't be the stingy foreigner!
Stay away from talking about politics and guns!
Just don't (especially of you're from New Zealand and think our super intense gun control laws are normal!). Our cultural divide on these issues is HUGE and it gets awkward if you make a snarky remark about American gun culture and then discover the sweet homeschooling mom you're talking to is packing a handgun in her purse!
Anyone else got any travel stories or tips to share?
Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Her debut romantic comedy, Close To You, will be an April 2016 release from Howard Books. When she's not working her day job as a public servant, chasing around a ninja preschooler and his feisty toddler sister, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. She loves to connnect on Facebook at Kara Isaac - Writer and Twitter @KaraIsaac