Here are my most valued travel tips broken down into 2 stages: planning and safety. Within each there are the things to do ahead of time, and the things to do while away. Of course domestic and international travel have different rules but I have included all here for a one stop shop.
This information can be used while creating your itinerary as well. For more itinerary specific information please see the previous blog, For a Game Plan Part III.
· After booking your trip, no matter if it’s through a travel agent or online, always call the hotel to make sure your reservation went through and ask for email confirmation. You don’t want to end up with no place to stay as computer glitches are part of life;
· Check out the cheapest way to get to and from the airport or train station. Depending on where you are going it might be worth it to pre-book your ride. It can save time, money, and prevent aggravation;
· It might seem obvious; but the first thing to do before leaving home is to put the hotel, airline, train, restaurant and other pertinent numbers into your phone. This alleviates tension and fumbling when trying to make a call or gather information when out and about. It will remove the stress of any given moment;
· Call your credit cards, bank (for debit cards), and phone company if you are leaving the country. You don’t want them to think its fraudulent activity and block your cards while away. Get the numbers to call while abroad in case of a problem with your cards or phone. You should ask your cell phone provider about service plans, text and call costs per minute, as well as roaming charges based on where you are going. Many have temporary plans that are cheaper that you can add just for the time you are away. Don’t be caught by surprise when your cards or phone don’t work when you need them the most;
· City Passes are a great saver of your time and money. They can be cheaper than paying for attractions separately and they also allow you to skip to the head of the line without waiting, which is my favorite part. Most cities, both domestic and international, have types of city passes. Another great feature of a city pass is public transportation. For example, in London, I chose the city pass that included an unlimited “metrocard” and it was so worth it. Depending on the list of attractions included on your itinerary versus those on the city pass list, it can be a steal. Arthur Frommer and I recommend always doing the math before purchasing a city pass. Make sure that for the length of your trip and what you plan to do the pass works for you. They can all be bought online and I recommend having them mailed to you to avoid the extra step of picking them up when you arrive at your destination. Some cities don’t have a pass because most, if not all, of their attractions are free. Even if a city offers a city pass, it might not be worth it if all famous attractions are free. Always be aware of what you are paying for. A final word of caution: many cities offer more than one kind of pass that can seem similar, but the math is different. So again check your guidebook and do your math!! Be sure to research your destinations thoroughly. It is worth the extra effort before you depart. To get you started, here are some examples of great city passes:
· Keep a folder of where you want to go no matter if you are currently planning a trip there in the foreseeable future or not. When you do go you are going to want to remember that great restaurant you read about or that cool museum you want to go to. Whenever you do make it there, this folder must come with you;
· Bring a separate folder with all tickets, copies of confirmations, hotel bookings, and attraction pamphlets with you. I like to carry this on me in case of anything. I don’t like to leave personal information lying around my hotel room;
· Bring your guide book, which can be left at your hotel or wherever you are staying. This is good for updating your itinerary each night; and
· Bring copies of itineraries so you can write on one and edit another.
This is preparation for the worst. I know I will sound like Debbie Downer here but it is always better to be safe than sorry. I am like a boy scout that way. Always be prepared!
· Be sure to leave a copy of your itinerary with loved ones at home, especially if traveling overseas, so they have an idea of where you will be going and definitely where you are staying. If you are leaving the country, even just to go to a Caribbean island, you need to also leave copies of your: drivers license, passport or valid id, credit cards you are taking, passport, health insurance card, and travel booking documents. In case of identity theft, loss of these items or travel emergency, the appropriate American embassy will need these things and you need someone with easy access to them all;
· Register your trip, including your traveling partners, with the State Department. Again, even if you are going to the Bahamas, you should do this. If there was (God forbid) a natural disaster, both governments need to know you were there to look for you. This is the website: https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/. While you are on this site it is always good to look at travel warnings for where you are going, see recommended vaccines, and travel advice;
· Print out and keep American embassy locations on you;
· Never ever get in a cab that is unlicensed in this country or any other. Be sure to wait it out on the legal taxi line that is often long but clearly outlined. This is better than going in a car with a stranger whose whereabouts aren’t being tracked and whose prices can vary from one moment to the next. Do not take any chances with your safety or money; and
· Be sure to bring home any and all personal paperwork (i.e. itinerary, confirmations) to shred when you get home.
Check back tomorrow for the conclusion of this series: For a Game Plan Part V- Packing