General Travel Tips

  1. When making reservations, be sure to ask if the hotel is located near a hospital, fire department, police station, or ambulance dispatch. Although these services are great in an emergency, they are less than desirable when sirens scream near your room in the middle of the night.
  2. Be sure your reservation is confirmed, otherwise you may not have a reservation at all. Especially now that everything is so instant with the Internet, it’s very possible that you could call or email an establishment about availability, send in your information, dates, etc. only to check back to find your room, or suite was booked to someone else. If you don’t make up your mind on the spot, the lodging establishment is NOT obligated to book the reservation with you. Just because you called or sent an email indicating you want to place a reservation does not mean you HAVE a reservation. Someone else could call or email 10 seconds later and book the vacancy with a CONFIRMATION (while you’re still on the fence, or just delayed in your response).
  3. The Better Business Bureau acknowledges that lodging establishments are within their right to book a room or suite to someone else, if in the meantime you are undecided or have not yet responded with all the appropriate information. If the lodging establishment did not transact a payment (cash or credit) with you, then there is no binding agreement.
    This position by lodging owners is understandable, since there are thousands of non-returned calls and ‘blow-offs’ where people never bother to follow through on a tentative reservation. Therefore lodging establishments have developed the “confirmation” as a way of verifying to you that your reservation cannot be booked to someone else, and if for some reason it is, then they are obligated to provide you with alternate arrangements. Many lodging establishments will not hold a room or a suite for the same reasons: Many times people just never call back. Meanwhile the lodging owner would be sitting with a vacancy on an empty promise. So do yourself a favor and don’t insult the lodging owner by asking them to “hold” a room for you.
    If part of the reason you are undecided is because of timing with other people’s plans, or because you are still ‘comparison’ shopping, then it’s best to hold off on actually placing a reservation until you have the those planning details ironed out. Place your reservation when you’ve made up your mind, and when everyone can agree on the time and place. The reservation process will go much more quickly, and you will have a CONFIRMATION that secures your getaway spot.
  4. Learn a few essential terms in the native language of the country you are travelling to. For instance, if going to a Spanish speaking country “Hola!” means “hello” and “gracias” means “thank you”. Other essential words such as food, water, restroom, etc. should also be learned. Not only will the natives appreciate your effort, your trip will be more enjoyable in learning a new language and culture! Also, it can really help to get around easier!
  5. Plan carefully before traveling. Pack coldeeze, or zinc lozenges to fight off colds. (Builds up your immune system.) Carry those little bottles of germ killer lotions in your purse or pocket. (These are handy to wash your hands before eating out at a restaurant.) Also, don’t forget to get a flu shot before leaving. It might be a good idea to get a pneumonia vaccine shot, too. That shot is good for 6 years.
  6. Passport: Make sure your passport does not expire within 6 months of your date of travel. A large majority of countries insist that your passport be valid for at least that time period, and some of them even insist on it being good for a year. Make a copy, in case you lose it while on vacation (or it gets stolen), so you can send the copy to your Embassy.
  7. Departure Tax: Find out before you depart whether there is a departure tax, and how much it is. Some countries do charge a small fee, and will not let you board your flight without first paying it. In Grenada, the departure tax is $15 USD per person ($40 E.C). It is best to reserve that amount of cash, as credit cards and other forms of payment are not accepted.
  8. Car rentals in Europe are often two or three times as expensive as in the United States, and Asia. France can be very expensive, but!! If you reserve and pay for your hire in the US with a multinational (Hertz, Avis etc.) for collection in your arrival airport, you can get a good deal, especially if you do it in advance and negotiate a little.
  9. When planning your holiday, let your travel agent know well in advance. Specials can come up very quickly that last a limited amount of time. If your travel consultant knows your dates and destinations, she can act quickly to give you a promotional fare.
  10. When deciding which adventure guiding outfit to choose, make sure they have permits to operate in that particular area. Do not be afraid to ask for a copy of their permit – as it is your right to do so.
  11. Solo travel increases odds of meeting people, gives you more one-on-one contact with the locals, greater cultural understanding, and freedom to do as you please. Hotels are the biggest expense for solo travelers, but there’s a way around that if you’re willing to do a little research. I have recently stayed in Paris for $65, Budapest for $38, Sydney for $75, Puerto Vallarta for $60 – always with a private bath in well-located, clean hotels. Travel agents don’t list these inexpensive hotels that don’t pay commissions. You find them two ways. One is to look through several guidebooks for hotel listings in your budget category. Once I find the same hotel recommended by two guidebooks, I’ll call for a reservation. The other is to call the tourist office of the country you’ll visit. They will send you free information on hotels and may even make suggestions. My book, Travel Alone & Love It, includes an appendix with listings of over a hundred foreign tourist offices, most with toll free numbers. Travelers must learn that, just because a hotel has only one or no stars, does not necessarily mean that it’s a dump; it only means it has few amenities. Maybe it won’t have a restaurant or elevator. Perhaps your room will not have a TV or mini-bar. You should still rely on your travel agent to find the best airfare and rail passes, but you’ll beat the single-room supplement by finding your own accommodations. Your hotel staff can book sightseeing tours for you.
    Sharon Wingler
  12. When planning your trip, you may want to check out hotel accommodations on the net. Many hotels offer better rates, special discounts (some almost 60%), and other such deals to those people booking online.
  13. You can never learn too much about the places you will be visiting! Read as much as you can about where you will be going. Learn the history and culture behind what you will be seeing. This will make your trip much more meaningful.
  14. Determine from the airline or your travel agent the aircraft type for each leg of your trip. That way you’ll know what carryon items will fit in the cabin.
  15. Plan at least a day or two after your return home before any commitments are scheduled – you may be exhausted after your journey, or experience delays.
  16. Order free low-fat or special airline meals at least 24 hours before your flight.
  17. Check with the local tourist office for accommodations gradings. They are usually reliable, as local operators are quick to scream if there are discrepancies.
  18. Ask for a cash price when settling a bill or getting a quote. Small operators have to incur excessive credit card service charges, bank deposit charges, and bank withdrawal charges, to say nothing of the paperwork and the possibility of bogus cards or cheques. Many operators will extend an automatic 5% or more discount.
  19. Planning your trip is the key to a successful vacation. When selecting an inn at which to stay, prepare a short list of questions (3 or 4) for the innkeeper in advance of your e-mail or telephone call. These questions should be directed towards those things that are most important to you for the particular trip you are taking. You can then judge from the answers you get which inns will most likely provide you with what your expectations are.
  20. Using a taxi in a foreign country is not always expensive. Before leaving home, or when you make a reservation, ask how much a taxi will be. Allow +20%, and put the right money in a separate pocket.
  21. Before leaving on a trip, check the internet for accommodations. The internet often provides area information, weather conditions, and pictures of the place that you are seeking information about.
  22. When touring a coastline, plan to travel in the direction that puts you and your passenger on the ‘view’ side of the road. This way you can see down a coastline and anticipate where the best turnoffs are going to be, and most importantly, you will not have to be crossing and recrossing traffic in order to access the beach or viewpoints.

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