Melanie, Author at Starr Tours & Charters
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Conversation Starters

One of the most enjoyable things about traveling is the wonderful people you meet. Whether it’s across a continent or at a new coffee shop down the street, chatting with new people can be very rewarding. Starting conversations is hard, and continuing them is even harder. But fear not, because having great conversations with strangers is easy, and they can lead to some great new friendships.

 

Here are five tips for having great conversations:

 

Timing Is Everything

When starting a conversation, take into account the setting. If the area is busy and loud, you might not be able to keep your full attention on your conversation partner. Choose a person who looks happy, and make sure they aren’t busy. A conversation with a new person could be a wonderful and fascinating experience, but if the other person is in the middle of something, they can’t give you their full attention. Conversation with a new person is a great way to spice up a boring wait or a long bus ride, but can be awkward and annoying if it happens in the middle of a guided tour. If the setting is good, then it’s time for the next step.

 

Lead With An Observation

When starting a dialogue with someone new, it can be tempting to open with an introduction. This is a simple way to start a conversation, but it leads to a screeching halt after both parties say their names. Avoid the awkwardness by starting with an observation instead. For example, point out the great shirt they’re wearing or make a joke about the warmer weather. This is a great way to engage people in conversations other than the typical introduction. An observation can lead into a deeper conversation, and gives your conversation partner a chance to add on. When you compliment their coat, they can tell you where they purchased it, and before you know it you’re both talking about your favorite store. Then you can move on to introductions when it feels more natural and you’ve built a rapport already.

 

The Magic of FORD

So, you’ve started chatting with someone, led with an observation, and now you’re stuck. You’ve talked about the weather, introduced yourself, and the conversation has stalled. Welcome to the magic of “FORD.” FORD is a handy acronym that’s a great way to remember some great conversation topics. It stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams. These are all great topics to converse about when talking to someone new. Their answers may open the door to other topics, allowing you to learn more about them. Until you know the person better, FORD is a great place to start, and an easy way to identify common ground when chatting with someone new. When the conversation hits a lull, ask a FORD question. The answer is a great way to steer the conversation to something more personal, thus giving you a stronger connection.

 

Fight Awkward Silences

Everything seems to be going great in your conversation, and then suddenly it happens: the dreaded awkward silence. It may have been something you said, or a joke that fell flat, or nothing at all, but now the silence is in the air, and the conversation is dying fast. When confronted with an awkward silence, don’t let it hang. Use this time to change the subject. Ask a follow up question to something that was discussed earlier, or use another observation. Awkward silence can be a great way to incorporate a new topic to a conversation. Chances are, your conversation partner will be relieved to end the silence, and happy to chat about anything else.

 

Get Deep

It’s great to hear about the surface details of a person’s life, but the most interesting conversations I’ve had are when the conversation moves on a deeper level. This is a hard thing to do when you’ve just met someone, but a simple tactic is to ask them a “why” question. If they say they are a retired teacher, ask them why they decided to go into teaching. Their answer will be much more telling and interesting then if you asked them what grade they taught. “Why” questions are a great way to glimpse a person’s psyche and really helps understand them on a deeper level, and opens the door for much more in-depth conversations than simply talking about the weather. “Why” are great follow-ups when learning about someone’s hobby, home or occupation.

 

So there you have it! These are five ways to have great conversations with strangers. Hopefully you’ll use some of these on your next bus trip and meet a new friend! Your next great conversation is just a person away. On your next Starr vacation, take advantage of the wealth of new people around you, and get to know them a little. Your new best friend might be on this very trip!

Be sure to check out our other blog post – 4 Tips for Making Friends While Traveling Solo!

 

What are your tips for carrying on a conversation?

Ways to Go Green on Your Next Vacation

Ways to Go Green on Your Next Vacation

Contrary to what Vogue may tell you, green really is the new black. With Earth Day coming up, many of us are in the environmental spirit, but it can be hard to stay eco-friendly away from home.

The next time you’re exploring this beautiful planet, keep in mind these awesome travel tips:

1. Use Alternative Transportation
Forget trains, planes and automobiles. Did you know…

  • A couple traveling by bus will cut their carbon footprint nearly in half compared with driving even a hybrid car.
  • And if they take a bus rather than a plane, they will cut their emissions by 55 to 75 percent, depending on the distance they travel.
  • Buses emit the least carbon dioxide per passenger mile compared to other vehicles, and are 7 times more energy and fuel-efficient than single occupancy automobiles.
  • Buses are 3 times more efficient in reducing carbon dioxide output compared to commuter rail.
  • Buses are the most fuel-efficient transportation mode in North America when measured in terms of passenger miles per gallon of fuel providing 206.6 passenger mpg compared to commuter rail (92.4 passenger mpg), airlines (44 passenger mpg), and single occupancy automobiles (27.2 passenger mpg).

Switch up your usual style of travel and take a vacation by bus. It cuts down on emissions, making for a more fun trip with much cleaner air. Take a deep breath and enjoy the cool, clean clear air free of emissions and pollution.

2. Don’t Litter
Nothing wrecks a scene quite like a Coke can blowing in the wind. No matter where you are, it is awful to have a pretty picture ruined by some stray pieces of trash. Next time you have a wrapper, take the extra four seconds and toss it in a waste bin. You’re saving the view for others. Better yet…take care of someone else’s litter and improve the view for the next person.

3. Carry Your Own Trash
On a related note, sometimes you just can’t find a trash can. Whether you’re in a canoe, or on a long hike, it’s a good idea to bring a reusable bag to carry your trash. Whether it’s a bubble gum wrapper or your lunch debris, carrying a little extra trash can be annoying, but is worth it in the end. The earth and your fellow travelers will thank you.

4. Reuse Old Containers or Recycle Them
Reduce the clutter in your cabinets and reuse containers for other things. Old ketchup bottle? Clean it and use it for spare sunscreen! Recycle the ones you can’t use, but be sure to check to see what is recyclable in your area. Get to know your local Waste Management company to find out what is accepted in your recycling bin and what isn’t. For example, Mercer County, NJ only recycles #1 and #2 plastics and too much other plastic mixed into the batch could result in the entire batch getting tossed. “Understanding the seven plastic codes will make it easier to choose plastics and to know which plastics to recycle.”

5. Bring Your Own Water Bottle
In landfills, plastic bottles are everywhere. Cut down on your own personal waste, and save money by investing in a reusable water bottle. With countless colors and prints, you can even choose a pretty one. Stylish and environmentally friendly? Now that’s something I can get behind.

6. Pack Light
As anyone who has ever carried a heavy backpack knows, it can be a struggle. With sore shoulders, it can be a huge pain. But it is also a pain for the environment. The more weight on a vehicle (car, bus, plane, etc), the more fuel it uses. Every ounce counts, so save your back and your buck and forgo that extra four pairs of pants. The earth thanks you.

7. Bring Your Own Shopping Bag for Souvenirs
At the grocery store, we often hear the phrase, “paper or plastic?” Now, introduce a new option when you’re on the go. Bring your own reusable bags for souvenirs, and save the shop some money, and the world a few extra trees.

8. Go Digital Instead of Disposable
When it comes to capturing the perfect memory, there are a lot of strategies. Although many people are attracted to the convenience of a disposable camera, try a digital one on for size. It’s a long term option with great settings and HD. It can save the earth, and save your pictures – no print shop visit required.

9. Support Local Businesses
When out and about, it’s easy to go the Wendy’s or McDonald’s route rather than the local place. After all, we love something predictable. But trying out a local place is a new experience, it also helps support local businesses, and local farms. Take a bite out of the local agriculture and try Joe’s Grill for a change instead of Jack in the Box.

10. Leave the Aerosol at Home
Everyone loves the ease and quickness of an aerosol sunscreen or hairspray. It’s quick and effective, but it’s also torture on the ozone layer. Now, don’t forget the sunscreen, but protect your skin with a cream-based option instead. Every little bit helps. Even better, invest in biodegradable sunscreen to protect our oceans!

11. Avoid Paper Maps
In the wonderful age of technology we live in, there’s no excuse to waste money on heavy and wasteful paper maps. Print them out at home on recycled paper, or better yet, keep the information on your phone. Save a tree while exploring the forest.

This Earth Day, don’t leave the celebrations at home – take them on the go! Keeping it green at home or away!

What are your favorite ways to Go Green?

 

P.S. Go Greener with Starr!

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and… Roaming!

In school, we heard a lot about the three R’s: reading, writing, and arithmetic. But according to Roger Dow, President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, that old saying needs a modern reboot: “For my kids, I made roaming the fourth R. We live in a global society, and if you don’t see outside the neighborhood you grow up in, the world will pass you by. Traveling has opened my kids’ eyes; it’s made them more confident and inspired them to reach outside their normal environment to learn and obtain skills to bring them to the next level.”

Here are some reasons why a trip is exactly what students need to invigorate the learning environment:

Scientifically Proven Benefits
A recent study done by that same U.S. Travel Association took a survey of a large group of adults, some who had a class trip in their youth and some who never had. This pool had people from all incredibly diverse backgrounds and had explosive results. Regardless of race, gender or economic background, the students who had taken trips were more engaged in class, more likely to graduate with better grades, and more stimulated, both in and out of school. Class trips often act as a way for students to recharge their learning batteries: they remind them why they’re working so hard, and energize them for more learning ahead. Take a look at Starr’s lineup of school bus trip suggestions.

Learning with a Porpoise Purpose
Now more than ever class trips are needed. In a world filled with screens, it is more crucial than ever to connect the next generation with real-world examples. With many schools focusing on standardized testing, students need to be reminded of the larger purpose of what they’re learning. When in a long science class inside the classroom, it is easy to say that none of the information learned is useful. But suddenly, when the entire class is in an aquarium, science comes to life, invigorating a passion in students that textbooks just can’t capture. As great as reading a reprint may be, it cannot truly capture the joy of observing marine life, right in front of your very eyes.

The Power of Mentors
As children, who did we look up to? Rock stars, singers, maybe athletes? As great as those role models are, chances are they are people that students cannot see in real life and get advice from. Field trips give students an opportunity to see adult professionals in real life that aren’t their parents. Meeting a real person succeeding at their job inspires students and gives them a strong role model that isn’t on a screen. It can also help them make connections and plant the seeds to create a passion for a subject later in life.

Hands-on Experience
In the real world, there are no textbooks. If you’re having difficulty with a problem, there is no teacher you can ask. Real life activities like field trips offer students ways to observe as well as perform. Outside of the classroom, they are given the freedom to problem solve and explore on their own, at their own speed. By getting out of the classroom, students can encounter real-life issues, allowing them to finally use those skills they have been fine tuning at their desks.

With all of the benefits of field trips, it’s easy to see why it is essential for the student to have real-life experiences out of the classroom. Thanks to Starr, it is more wonderful than ever for parents and administrators to organize one of these terrific outings. With Starr, it is easy to be transported by bus; quickly, safely, and conveniently. With onboard comforts and amenities, students will have the time of their lives safely coasting to their destinations.

If you just want transportation on one of our fabulous coaches, Starr is here for you. But if you want to sit back and relax, let Starr take the wheel. We can plan and organize an entire trip for you, from food to transportation. Let us take care of everything, or just relax with the security of knowing that the transportation for your school group is taken care of. No matter what option you choose you can be guaranteed a safe ride. Starr holds its drivers to rigorous standards ensuring a safe and memorable journey.

If there’s one thing Starr values, it’s students. With seventy years of bus transportation experience, we’re rooting for your trip, whether you just need transportation or would like us to coordinate and plan the trip, Starr is at your side (and behind the wheel) of your education expedition. Talk to Starr today to tackle your next trip. We’re here to ensure your school trip is a resounding success.

Contact Starr and start planning your trip today!

The Color and Wonder of PHS’s Most Popular Event

The Color and Wonder of PHS’s Most Popular Event

Everyone seems to brighten at the sight and smell of flowers. With the dark winter months and the chilly cold air, there is nothing like a nice batch of springtime to make winter go by much faster.  Take a bus trip to the Philadelphia Flower Show, where you can wander through gorgeous gardens during the time of year when you need it the most. Whether you are a gardening fanatic, or don’t have a green thumb in your body, anyone can appreciate the wonder of the Philadelphia Flower Show! Even for those who can’t tell a sunflower from a succulent, the show is the perfect way for people to escape the dreary cold weather outside and immerse themselves in a wonderland of flowers and gardening.

The Philadelphia Flower Show was started in 1829 by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. In fact, it is the world’s longest running and largest indoor flower show! Every year, the show wows audiences with the newest plant varieties, gorgeous garden and design concepts, as well as organic and sustainable practices. This year The Flower Show will celebrate the beauty and life-sustaining interplay of horticulture and water with the theme “Wonders of Water.” “America’s leading floral and garden designers will create tropical jungles, temperate forests, native woodlands and arid landscapes, showcasing the astounding plants that thrive in each environment, from exquisite orchids and flowering vines to luminescent desert blooms.” Each year, horticulturalists from around the world compete in world-renowned competitions in horticulture and artistic floral arranging, gardening presentations, and demonstrations centered around the chosen theme.  The competition is fierce, and the Flower Show judges have a nearly impossible job: selecting which exhibits are most deserving of a blue ribbon! The judges pay attention to quality of design, horticulture, plantsmanship, visitor experience, and many other uniquely demonstrated qualities. Who knows? Maybe on your trip you’ll spot a winner!

The Philadelphia Flower Show is held annually at the Philadelphia Convention Center and is a beloved tradition that attracts 250,000 visitors from around the world each year! With all of this fame comes a great amount of responsibility; before the end of the flower show, horticulturalists are already tending to flowers that will be next year’s potential stars. Then, designers and artists spend the year collaborating and designing the eye-catching displays that will fill the Convention Center with color at next year’s show. Years of dedication and hard work have earned The Philadelphia Flower Show the honor of being named the best event in the world by the International Festivals & Events Association.

The Philadelphia Flower Show is a wonderful and “must see” horticultural experience and Starr makes it easy for you to get there! Take a trip on one of our luxury coaches and walk through rows of roses and promenades of peonies as you escape the cold to a wonderland of flowers. It’s the perfect fix for those with spring fever, and is great to hold you over until you sprout up seedlings of your own. After you’ve basked in the colorful glory, you’ll stop for a delicious dinner at Aldo Lamberti’s Positano Coast before sitting back to relax on your way home. The only thing you’ll have to think about are the amazing displays you’ve just seen! Take in the Philadelphia Flower Show with Starr, and book your tickets now!

 

Have you experienced the Philadelphia Flower Show? What are your favorite memories?

 

Photos Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

2017 End of Year Recap and Thank You

As we approach the New Year, let’s take a look at the past, present, and future of Starr. Let’s also give thanks to everyone involved, from our readers to our drivers, our office staff to our Tour Directors, our Mechanics to our Travel Partners and finally our wonderful customers. We could not be the business we are today without the blessings and support from all of you.

 

The Past

The story of Starr starts with a bus – well, two buses actually. Our journey started in the year 1947. There were two transit buses that went in between Trenton and Hightstown, NJ. Back then, no one riding those buses knew that this little bus company would become one of the largest privately-owned tour and motocoach companies in America.

 

Then came the 1950s. Starr grew into a fleet of charter buses that were sleek and modern, unlike anything anyone had seen at the time. We started giving individual tours in the 1960s with the World’s Fair in New York and developed several and exciting bus trips – both day-trips and multi-day trips.

 

In the 80s and 90s, Starr developed into a first-class Tour Operator. With 80s hair and Culture Club pumping through our Walkman radios, Starr quickly became one of the largest operators of day trips and fabulous vacations in the United States.

 

The Present

 

Now, Starr is one of the best companies in the world. With luxurious motorcoaches, exclusive trips, and amazing customer service, Starr caters to your every need. We are constantly expanding and innovating within the bus industry and we are always on the lookout to provide every comfort and need. However, Starr wouldn’t be where it is today without the tireless work, determination, and support of many people and employees. From our Starr Family including Alan, Renee, Sandy and Pete, we would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to all who have helped us get here today and will continue to have us grow into tomorrow and beyond.

 

The Future

 

The future is bright! Not only are we continuing to evolve and improve ourselves, we also have several fun events planned. Next October, we will be celebrating our 71st birthday, so get ready to head south to our Myrtle Beach Birthday Bash!

Starr has come all this way thanks to all of you and we are all so eternally grateful. Let’s keep riding, folks! Stay tuned for our New Year´s Resolutions for the Young at Heart series where we will will examine four big vacations that will surely hit your bucket lists.

A Happy and Healthy New Year to All!