Anne's Travel Tips
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Welcome

So, you finally decided to take that long awaited trip? Now the trick is getting everything together to ensure it's the best trip yet!

Traveling Papers

Do you need traveling papers for your trip?
Nothing will damper a trip quicker than standing at the Airline check-out counter and hearing: "May I see your passport?" and you don't have one!

What can you do?
  • First and foremost, ask your travel agent if you need one!
  • If you set the trip up by yourself, call the country's Embassy. Don't be shy; they're very friendly and they usually have the answer.
  • Or go to the bookstore or library and check-out the reputable travel books like Frommer's or Fodor's.
  • Don't forget the internet. Many of the Embassy's and their country's have web-pages which provide lots of travel information.
Where to get a Passport
  • If you are lucky enough to live near - Boston,Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Stamford, CT., or Washington, D.C., then go directly to the U.S. Passport offices.
  • But if you don't want to wait in line - you can always go to your local post office
A word of caution
Remember that it can take 4-6 weeks to get your passport - so do it early!
Also, if you need a Visa then the process is even longer. Because you will have to send all your paperwork to the appropriate Embassy. Plan ahead!

When to Go

Alright, you've got your traveling papers/ or you don't need them. What's the best time to take that trip?

Safety
Some people scoff at safety and say:"Hey, I'm adventurous! It's my vacation- I don't have to worry." Well, believe me you don't want to be stuck in the middle of a revolution with no where to go!
  • Ask your travel agent: "Is it a safe time to go?" "Are there any travel advisories for my destination?"
  • Call the travel advisory hotline at (202)647-5225 or visit the State Department's web site.
  • Even with all the precautions in the world - the world is unpredictable so I suggest the following:
    • Locate your Embassy in each country
    • Call the Embassy & check-in, w/ your itnerary
    • Don't forget to check-out too.
    • Arrange a check-in schedule w/ a relative/friend.
    • Make sure you include a back-up plan - in case you are delayed.
    • Make a "what to do if I never check-in" plan.
    • Give them your itnerary,too.
Weather
Contrary to popular belief, the best time to go may not be "your summer vacation". The best time to go is determined by: 1) where you are going and 2)your weather preferences.
  • If you like a good-old-fashioned Hurricane- I'd suggest the Caribbean in June-September(August-Sept peak).
  • Check with your travel agent for the best weather
  • All the good travel books include a weather section. But, I've found that if it's a hot country - their tempurature estimate is a little lower than reality!
  • Ask a friend who's been there & when they went.

What to Pack

The Golden Rule
Take LESS! For example, pack your suitcase with everything you think you'll need. Now, remove 1/2!
Believe me - A heavy bag is no fun -especially running a 1/2 mile to your transfer!

My packing Secrets

  • In your carry-on take your neccessities:
    • 1 day of clothes
    • Toiletries & cosmetics
    • Film
    • 1 pair of shoes
  • If your planning to buy alot & take it home. Put one suitcase inside the other. Pack the smaller one, then you have one to put all those great buys!
  • The suitcase: fold, fold, fold & take a small portable iron/steamer.
  • Take interchangeable outfits.(slacks go with all blouses,skirt(s) goes w/all blouses ect.)
  • The purse - that acts as a suitcase -
    • a small plastic/folded slicker, head-cover or umbrella
    • Sunscreen
    • Camera & film for the day
    • Foldable small hat
    • Itenrary, hotel numbers, & Map
    • Indespendible paper-back book for flight
    • Gum to help your ears pop
    • your wallet

    Being A Tourist

    Ah, you're finally there- it's time to be a tourist!
    Have you ever noticed the bad tourist? You know the ones - complaining because there's no ketchup or why the shops are closed when they want to shop? Well, don't let it happen to you -

    • Research the customs of the country:
      • - Do they take a siesta?
      • - What comes with a meal? What is their cuisine?
      • - What's proper behavior?
      • - What attire is neccessary to visit historic/religious sites?
    • Most travel books provide the basics
    • Check out the library and see if they have any travel diaries
    • But, most of all remember- you're the stranger, a guest in their country. A little patience and courtesy will surely enhance any trip! And besides, I've always met the nicest people when I was in a bind!

    Travel Deals

    Well, there's a lot of hype about travel bargins these days especially on the internet.
    My advise is: research! Do your homework - shop around and see what the going rate is. An educated consumer is the best kind of customer!

    • Air-fare consolidators (companies that by bulk tickets). My trip to Israel was booked through a consolidator. It was a bargin! But, no refunds & if there are problems with over-booking - well you could be at the mercy of the airlines.
    • Most of the major airline carriers now have their own web-sites w/last minute bargins.
    • But for the planner and a big three week vacation- book early period. Particularly, if it's a popular destination or if you're traveling peak.
    • And some times your travel agent can find the best fare anyway-because they have the time to search & re-search.
    • and also

    Travel Agents

    Over the years, I've had many experiences with travel agents. Some good & some bad. Here are some basic tips:

    • If you are planning an exotic, adeventurous trip inquire if they specialize in the country and/or type of trip you want. For example, if you want a rafting trip on the Amazonian River - try to pick one that actaully booked a couple of those trips rather than one who just does Domestic or Cruise trips. (Although, any competent agent should be able to book it - you'll get the inside track on when/where/advantages/disadvantages if they know your sport or destination well.)
    • If your travel agent can not answer any of the safety questions listed above - nor will find out the information - it's best to get another one- quick!
    • The same holds true- if your travel agent can't answer best time to go and won't find out - switch!
    • Remember a travel agent works for you - and you should expect them to do their best for you.
    • If you feel uncomfortable with your travel agent - then look around. Remember you are planning the trip of a life time. If you don't think they can do the job, get someone who can.
    • Ask how long they've been a travel agent, do they travel and where have they gone?
    • Will they be there for you if anything goes wrong? If there is a booking mistake will they take care of it promptly - without cost to you?
    • Your travel agent should not pressure you to take a trip. If you walk in to find out information they should be helpful, get you all the information they have available, but shouldn't expect you to book an entire tour right then. If you feel like you're being pressured- go somewhere else.

    Do-it-yourself

    Can you do it all yourself without a travel agent? Sure you can. You'll need:

    • Lot's of time to RSEARCH:
      • Where you are going
      • Where to stay & in your budget range
      • When to go
      • What you want to see & how to go see it
      • What tours are available & tour operator reputation
      • Transportation- airfare,connections, land travel & availability
      • Travel papers & saftey issues
      • & finally Go and have a ball!
    • I like to do both. I research where I'm going and what I want to see -
    • Then, I get the travel agent to find out about a variety of accomodations, tours & whether I can shape my own itnerary, as well as, air travel options.

    That's it! Now go have a great trip!

    As always - comments, suggestions, and your travel tips are always welcome!.