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Travel Tips for a Smooth Vacation


In Advance of Your Trip

Cell Phones: As each cell phone carrier has its own policies regarding international calls, you must contact your provider before you leave home to determine how and when you may use your cell phone when traveling abroad

Passport & Identification: Please remember that even if you do not need a visa prior to departure, check your passport well in advance of departure to insure: 1) It is valid for at least six months after the date of return. 2) You have sufficient blank pages for visa/entry stamps that will be added as you travel in and out of various countries.

Make sure you have two forms of photo ID. Carry any medical information, including copies of prescription medications, in case you are injured or incapacitated.

Subscribe to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to get up-to-date safety and security information and to help them reach you in an emergency abroad. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Enroll by clicking here. Double check that you have all necessary information and documentation before leaving home ! Bank and Credit Cards: Alert your bank and credit card companies that you will be traveling and where. This will avoid being locked out of access if they think overseas charges look suspicious and flag them as fraudulent. Take 2 different cards with you and carry them separately, in case one is lost or is not accepted by a shop keeper or restaurant. Check what foreign transaction fees will be. Some cards have very low fees. The easiest and usually least expensive way to get foreign currency is simply to withdraw cash at a bank ATM. Subscriptions: Contact all your monthly & weekly services to suspend services (depending how long you will be away).... Blue Apron, Home Chef, Newspaper, Gym memberships, etc. Also, Make sure the landscaper keeps coming because the more neglected your house looks, the more obvious it is you're not home. Empty your car so you don't have valuables showing, buy some smart switches or light timers, empty the trash in your kitchen, unplug unnecessary appliances and turn off your alarm clocks so they're not beeping all week long.

Luggage Tips

Checked Luggage: Airlines have substantially tightened their luggage policies for both carry-on and checked baggage; and their requirements are subject to change without notice. It is important that you check with specific airline carriers to determine weight restrictions and fees that might be applicable. Most airlines have recently begun to charge extra for suitcases weighing more than 50 lbs. Most airlines also limit the number of checked bags to two pieces. Generally speaking, from the US, economy class passengers are allowed to check in two (2) normal size pieces of luggage (each piece measuring no more than about 62 linear inches, which means length plus width plus height). As a general rule, flights originating outside the US have a weight limit for total checked baggage of 20kg/44lbs for coach class; 30kg/66lbs for business class; and 40kg/88lbs for first class. If your luggage weighs more than your allowance, you'll be charged for each extra pound (or kilogram). Small Plane Limits: Further restrictions apply for charter flights. For charter flights on small planes in various countries, the total including carry-on is usually 11 to 20 pounds, depending on the destination. Carry-On: Restrictions are subject to change without notice. Most airlines allow one carry-on bag in addition to one personal item such as a laptop or handbag. Most bags within the 22 x 14 x 9 (or, a total of 45 linear inches) size restriction will be considered legal carry-on size by major domestic U.S. airlines. Many US airlines check-in desks have sizing boxes within which your bag must fit. Note that when maximum size measurements are shown as a total number of inches, such as 45" for example, this is the total of the length, width and height of the piece all added together. If flying between countries internationally you may find that the carry one requirements are more limited in size than what you can carry on in the US. Locks: All luggage should have identification inside as well as secure baggage tags outside. Please note that the US National Transportation and Safety Board now suggests not locking your checked luggage. If a screener has to open your bag, the locks may have to be broken. This applies to flights within the US and international flights originating in the US. Therefore you should buy a TSA lock that allows them access. Lost Baggage: The most common complaint about airlines centers around lost or delayed luggage. In the unfortunate event that you arrive at your destination and your bag does not, you should report this to the airline baggage handlers before you leave the luggage collection area. You or the baggage handler should complete a property irregularity report and this is where your list and photos will help you describe what is missing. The report will have a unique file reference. This will typically be in the format of five letters followed by five numbers. The letters will be the airport code, then the airline code followed by five digits. For example, it might look like JNB BA 12345 (Johannesburg, British Airways 12345). Make sure that you receive this file number and use it in all conversations and writing, which may be necessary before you are reunited with your bag. You will also need to keep the sticker with the baggage check - this looks similar as it is the two-letter airline code followed by six digits – but bags cannot be traced using this number alone. The airline will take responsibility for locating the bag and getting it to you but please advise your local contact or our office so that everyone is aware of the situation. You will need a copy of the report as it will also be needed if you want to claim on your insurance.

Pack with Intention 1. Pack a small carry-on with at least one day's change of personal articles plus other items such as essential medication and prescriptions; photocopy of the information pages of your passport and airline tickets; passport-size photos for easy replacement should you lose your passport; change of underwear; reading material; telephone/address book; and trail mix or other high-energy snack food. Do not pack anything in checked luggage that you can't do without for several days such as essential medications or documents should always be easily available. 2. Many of the wheeled suitcases have a lining that can be opened with a zipper. This 'waste space' underneath the lining may have space for socks, underwear and as many light garments that fit the space. 3. Keep copies of important contacts, necessary medical information, itineraries, and anything else you might need on a USB or your smart phone for easy access. It is a good idea to password protect these items when traveling. Most places, you are likely to find a computer to use your USB if necessary. 4. Color coordinate your clothes for maximum utility with limited pieces. Use one main color and one or two accent colors to mix and match for maximum flexibility. Roll rather than fold your clothes results in less wrinkles. Several retailers offer great wrinkle- resistant clothing. 5. Pack a collapsible lightweight tote bag in your luggage for souvenirs to bring home. 6. Make an itemized list as you pack and carry it with you so that you can prove what was in your luggage should it be lost or stolen, which might be too difficult to do this under stress. Also, take pictures with your smartphone or digital camera, including photos of your luggage. The list also helps to cut packing time and reduce your chance of forgetting needed items.

Set Yourself Up for Good Travel On Travel Day: Arrive at airport well in advance of scheduled travel – currently, suggested arrival times are a minimum of two hours ahead for domestic flights, three hours for international. It’s best to check with carrier prior to travel. Have all trip documentation, receipts, and 2 forms of photo ID readily accessible at all times. Be patient with requests for baggage and documentation checks – it is for all our safety. For your comfort, carry lip balm and a small tube of hand/body lotion to combat the dry cabin air.

At the Airport

  • Allow ample time at the airport for check in, security screenings, etc.

  • Clearly label all baggage, including carry-ons. For checked baggage, place labels inside as well

  • Carry photocopies of important documents such as passport, tickets, traveler’s check receipts separately as replacements are easier to obtain if you have photocopies.

  • Share travel itineraries with family member or friend. Itineraries should include flight details, local hotel easier to obtain if you have information and contact numbers. Also, leave a copy with a family member or friend at home

  • Advise everyone concerned of any changes in travel plans

  • When two people travel together, consider packing half your belongings in each other’s suitcases. If your luggage is misplaced, you have some of your things. Repack into individual bags at your destination

Tips for Jet Lag With the adventures of international travel come certain unavoidable inconveniences such as lost luggage or bouts of jet lag. As much as 90% of long-distance travelers experience a degree of jet lag – that out-of-sorts feeling associated with long flights particularly across time zones. Symptoms and severity vary but may include drowsiness, fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, headaches, insomnia and swelling of the extremities. The number of time zones affects the severity of jet lag. The internal body clock follows circadian rhythm, controlled by the hypothalamus, and that clock is designed for regular cycles of light and darkness. Depending on the number of time zones crossed, it may take several days for that rhythm to be restored.

Although jet lag cannot be completely avoided, there are some simple things you can do to help minimize its affects. Start with this, once comfortably onboard your flight, reset your watch to the time zone at your destination. This small act helps you begin adjusting your body clock.

Sleep: Begin your trip rested. Adequate rest helps minimize the amount of catching up you have to do once at your destination. While it is not possible for many people, sleep during long flight if you can. As much as possible, create a dark and quiet environment on the plane such as using a sleep mask and ear plugs, which can help convince your body that it is nighttime. Bright lights are known to have a strong effect on individuals’ body clocks. Closing window shades and turning off overhead lights may also help. Many people find neck pillows help. If you arrive in the morning, plan to stay awake. As much as possible, try to get into local time quickly waiting until the local bedtime to sleep. Many people swear this is key in quickly adapting to local conditions.

Fluids: Drink plenty of water and juices to stay well hydrated. Carry drinking water with you and try to drink eight ounces every hour. Take an empty water bottle with you that can be filled up once you've gone through security. Avoid alcohol and caffeine before and during flights. Both are diuretics that promote dehydration. Alcohol also causes drowsiness but your body becomes more active once you have processed the alcohol which can disrupt sleep. Loose-fitting, comfortable clothing and shoes help in case you have mild swelling, especially in your feet and ankles. Experienced travelers often carry light slippers to wear on planes.

Exercise & More: Although not always feasible, look for opportunities to move around in flight. Even simple isometric exercises in your seat can help. These improve circulation, help promote increased alertness, and reduce swelling. During extended stopovers, showers are sometimes available. Trans-Pacific pilots report that taking a shower helps them recover more quickly from the general effects of jet lag after the flight.

Take Care of Those Taking Care of You We don’t believe in prepaying tips to the people on ground working hard for you. In most cases, the full amount never reaches the intended recipient. Tipping should be done at your discretion and as a reward for exceptional service, and it is a proud recognition for the recipient. General tipping guidelines: Gratuities preferred in USD, with notes no larger than $20 in new bills (2006 or later) as the older notes are not accepted in foreign countries. Make sure the bills are new and not ripped or worn as local banks will not accept them. We suggest bringing a small packet of envelopes with you to separate these as needed.

  • Restaurant bills: customarily 15% – 20% over and above the meal bill

  • Guides: $25 - $30 per person per day ($40 - $50 per person per day if guide and driver are same person)

  • Drivers: $10 per person per day for drivers if separate from the guide

  • Cruises, lodges, and Safari camps: $50 - $80 per person per day, given to manager or put in central gratuity box, if available, as they are pooled by the entire staff.

  • Keep single $1.00 bills with you, remember that tipping is at your discretion.

The Joy of Bargaining Fine shops, galleries, department stores, and hotel boutiques in large cities and towns will, of course, have fixed prices. But for those who love a challenge, bargaining is the way of life in local markets and some small shops around the world. Here, you will be expected to bargain to get the best price, although it’s not required. Most Western travelers are not comfortable bargaining, but it can be great fun and a culturally enriching experience. When shopping for specific items you know you want to buy, it’s helpful to establish prices before going out to bargain. If you have a guide they can often help you with this, but please do not expect your guide to bargain for you. That puts him or her in a very awkward position.

First, establish a price in your own mind how much the item is worth to you, and what your top dollar price will be. When bargaining, your first offer should be much lower than the asking price. You can expect the seller’s initial offering will normally be high, so your first counteroffer should be low. The bartering begins as you move up and the seller moves down. Do not be afraid to walk away. The seller may or may not drop the price. You will get a better price per item if you buy several items from the same vendor. Again, remember, it’s a game. Don’t take it too seriously. But make it fun and both sides will have a good time and be satisfied with the transaction. And always be friendly an polite! Plus, you will return home with treasured memories of ‘the hunt.’ Enjoy your trip!

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