Vacation rentals can be confusing

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Q: I love staying in vacation rentals, but I'm often surprised at how little information about the house or apartment is provided by the owner. We've stayed in several apartments in Europe where the appliances were completely inexplicable to us, and no directions were anywhere to be found.

We had to search online for the product manuals! Then there was one apartment where we didn't understand what to do with garbage. There were two different colors of garbage bags, so we assumed one was for recycling, but we had no idea what was considered recyclable, and we didn't know where we should leave it. We ended up carrying water bottles out of the apartment and recycling them in public containers.

Isn't it kind of inconsiderate of property owners not to provide detailed explanations of all the appliances, what to do with trash, how to use the TV and VCR, etc.?

A: I don't think they're deliberately trying to make things difficult for guests. They simply may not be aware that appliances work quite differently in different countries.

If most of their guests are from within their own country, there's probably no need to explain how to work a combination washer/dryer, for example.

If a manager does get a number of international guests, however, I think writing up very clear directions, and having them professionally translated, if necessary, is a smart idea.

But remember, as a guest, you can and should speak up to the manager if you don't understand something.

When you book the apartment, explicitly ask if the person who lets you in can take time to explain how all the appliances work and what to do with trash and recycling. And once you're there, if you have questions, call the manager.

I'd try to be reasonable about this. Don't attempt to do laundry at 1 a.m. and expect him to walk you through all the steps over the phone, but there's nothing wrong with asking for help if you need it.

Q: Once again, could you remind people about picture-taking etiquette? If there is a crowd of people waiting for a shot of their kids on the lions at Trafalgar Square, for example, don't let your own kids stay up there for 20 minutes while you take 100 photos.

A: That's a very good example -- take your photo, take a moment to check that nobody blinked and then move on if others are waiting.

I would add that if you are taking photos of people in front of a landmark, but you're on a public sidewalk, you need to leave room for people to pass behind you.

Do not make everyone stop and wait until your little photo session is over, or force pedestrians to step into the street in order not to block your shot.


Email travel-etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at


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