General Travel Tips
Do you start to panic at the thought of going on vacation? Do you know someone who always has their act together when preparing to go on their trip while you are falling apart? Don’t deny it, we all know someone like this, and it is okay to be a little jealous of them. Luckily for you, Ohana Sunscapes has created this helpful collection of general travel tips and overseas travel tips to help keep you as cool as that frozen beverage in your hand while you are relaxing on that stunning beach. These helpful general tips are just another way our travel agency helps you enjoy your vacation even more.
Travel Tips to Keep in Mind
Post-Flight Sinus Problems – If you are prone to sinus infections, take a decongestant an hour before your first flight and again 5-6 hours later (note: if you have high blood pressure, check with your doctor first). Also buy saline or any generic medicated nasal decongestant spray. Spray each nostril once at each take off. These steps will help keep your sinuses clear during the flight.
Do the usual stuff while taking off and landing to keep your ears clear – chew gum, eat something, blow your nose (unless you’re afraid of a herd of elephants running through), but something that applies pressure to ears to get rid of the bubble. Then, when you land, repeat again mid-day, and the following day, take both again in the morning. The saline will flush out the germs. If around crowds all day, the saline may not be a bad idea every day.
Jet Lag – Did you know that jet lag is caused primarily by dehydration more than the time change?
Avoiding Dehydration – On the flight, don’t drink alcohol (dehydrates) and drink as much other liquid as you can possibly get into you (preferably water). If the airport you are leaving from has a brand that has electrolytes, buy two large bottles for each traveler.
Assuming you are taking a night flight over the pond, sleep as much as you can, but when awake, drink water. Dehydration will make you much more tired (and nauseated) when you arrive than lack of sleep. Keep drinking as much water as possible the day of your arrival. Avoid caffeine. This will intensify the dehydration. Look for brands like Gatorade™, PowerAde™, Vitamin Water™, Smart Water™, etc.
Time Change – When you arrive at your final destination (usually early morning if going to Europe), the best approach is to keep moving when you get there, and then later in afternoon, when you can check in, unpack and maybe take a 60-90 minute nap at most. Then get up, shower if you desire, freshen up, walk around, have dinner, and stay up until your regular bedtime that night to help your body get used to the new time zone.
Very Important Reminders
Before you leave on your trip, we’d like to share with you some quick tips you should definitely consider to avoid a growing problem at vacation destinations – unsolicited sales pitches by representatives of resort companies or cruise lines trying to sell time shares or future cruises.
During your trip, you may be approached (more than once!) by sales reps at the resort or on the ship pitching everything from future cruises and resort stays to time share deals. Some pitches may be high pressure, for example you must buy immediately in order to secure a limited time deal, while others may be just mere annoyances, such as being invited to a meal by the rep, and even so far as to receiving daily voicemails on your resort extension.
Sadly, there is nothing our travel agency can do to stop this from happening to you while you are trying to enjoy your vacation. These reps are typically employees of the resort company or cruise line and their employers own the property or ship you will be staying on. Please keep these tips in mine to protect yourself from booking a future travel “deal” you will regret as soon as you get home.
Tip 1 – Remember that when you sign a booking form or sales agreement in a country outside of the United States or a United States territory, you are no longer protected by the United States’ consumer protection laws and regulations.
When we make travel arrangements on your behalf as a US-based agent, your bookings are governed by US laws and regulations. However, if you book future cruises or resort time shares while you are on vacation in a foreign country, you will be under their laws, which can be much different than here in the United States. This is a particularly huge problem with time share properties.
Tip 2 – Think twice about travel offers that require you to place an immediate deposit or sign a booking form on the spot to claim a promised credit or discount.
There is a huge red flag with this sort of deal. Take for example that you are in Punta Cana for the first time, and outside of the resort you are staying at, you know nothing about the surrounding areas. What’s the big rush to buy? The resort isn’t going anywhere. When resort or cruise line sales reps push you to sign on the dotted line immediately to qualify for whatever the deal du jour is, their primary goal is closing the sale with you and lining their pockets with commission – not helping you to plan your next getaway and make sure it’s the right one for you.
If you find yourself presented with a deal that sounds too good to pass up, remember the old adage – if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. We’re here to help you. Let us review what the sales rep has presented you with. We can help you weed out the noise from the deal by comparing it against other known promotions at other lines or resorts. This way, you can make an informed decision.
Tip 3 – The sales reps approaching you during your vacation work for the resort company or the cruise line. Their job is to close sales, not look out for your best interests. The more sales they close, the more money they make.
Because our agency operates independently of any resort or cruise line that we book with, you are always our first priority. We don’t have sales quotas to meet and we don’t report to any cruise ship officer or resort manager. If you’re approached with special travel offers while you’re trying to relax, consider contacting us with the details so that we can check them out.
Tip 4 – When you book future travel directly with a cruise line or resort company, it may be impossible for us to take over that booking to work with you when you return home. One way to ensure that the booking is within our control is to use the Client Loyalty Booking Form that will be in your trip documents package that we send before you travel.
While some travel suppliers will allow our agency to assume control of that reservation, many cruise lines and resort companies will regard any booking made while on property or on the ship as belonging to them, which means our agency will not be able to assist you with confirmations, making changes, or any other plans that you want to make. Instead, you will be required to deal directly with their people, and handle arrangements on your own. In most cases, you also won’t receive the level of customer service like you will receive from our agency. Our clients are our number one priority.
Tip 5 – The special offers extended to you at a resort or on a ship will almost always require you to return to the same resort or ship, or the same company’s properties or ships.
When you book with us, we will always present you with the best offers and deals from many competing cruise lines and resorts. By doing this, we help you find the vacation that suits your needs and wants. It’s more customized. However, if you book direct while there, the only options you’ll be given will be that company’s product. This limits your options, and also your potential experiences.
Tip 6 – Don’t waste your valuable vacation time sitting at a desk inside with a sales rep booking future travel! Isn’t that why you went on vacation in the first place – to get away from sitting at your desk at work?
The older we get, the more we realize just how short life really is. Vacations are shorter still. They’re really just a blip on the radar screen. Don’t waste your time flipping through the brochures in someone’s office. Get out and enjoy your vacation that’s already paid for! There’s plenty of time for that when you return home to the daily grind. Have fun, relax, have a cold drink in the pool, and leave everything else to us. All you need to worry about is packing.
Overseas Travel Checklist & Tips
1. Prepare Your Documentation
- Make sure your passport is valid for six months past your return date. Some countries may only require three months, but six has you covered either way.
- Make two photocopies of all your credit cards, license, and passport. Give a copy to a trusted person at home and take the other copy with you. Make sure you carry this separately from your originals. As your agent, we will keep a copy of your passport on file, too.
- Depending on where you will be traveling, you may need an International Driving Permit (IDP). For driving in Italy, this is a requirement, but other countries may be less strict on that.
- Have all booking and itinerary documents in one, organized place. You will receive a folder from our travel agency with everything in it.
- Print out any pertinent information you may need if a problem arises by visiting www.tsa.gov.
- If you are going to the Dominican Republic, make sure you have your Tourist Card before you leave. They are $10, and can be purchased online ahead of your trip at www.dgii.gov.do/Tturistaweb/Order-en. If you wait to purchase it, not to worry – you will be instructed on what to do at the airport.
2. Make Sure You Have the Correct Currency
- Traveler’s cheques are becoming a thing of the past; however you may run into high bank fees if you use an ATM overseas. Take more than you think you’ll need and exchange it for the currency of the country you will be traveling to if they don’t accept USD.
- Contact your bank to let them know you will be out of the country and to not put a hold on your account or worse yet, close it for fraudulent activity. Make sure someone at home has the ability to move money for you in case your card gets shut down.
- Make sure your credit cards will work in the countries you are heading to. Call your credit card company to check before leaving.
- Also carry some USD with you in case of emergency.
3. Always Reconfirm Your Itinerary before Leaving
- Sometimes flights get canceled last minute, changed, hotels have emergencies, etc. Make sure everything is ok before you go.
4. Good to Know before You Book or Go on Your Trip
- European hotels are different than American brands. Sometimes the rooms are much smaller than you’re used to with typical American brands. If you have a third or fourth person in your room, their bed may actually be a cot. Book a second room.
- Don’t expect to have a full breakfast. Many hotels only offer continental breakfasts or no meals at all.
- Hotels may reflect local cultures and traditions, depending on location. Please be mindful and respectful of these.
- Carry a voltage converter in case you find that the voltage of the hotel is different than your appliance. Laptops and cell phones will require a different type of converter than a personal appliance. Make sure you have what you need, or you may risk frying your electronics. Ouch.
- Washcloths and facecloths are not standard in European hotels. Bring some from home or get disposable ones before you leave home, preferable disposable. Airlines have weight restrictions on luggage, and you don’t want to have to leave your souvenirs or pay a lot to bring them home if your luggage is too heavy.
- You are going to an area rich with culture and history, so you will be doing a lot of walking. Make sure you have comfortable shoes that you can do a lot of walking in all day. If you don’t want to stick out like a tourist in Italy, don’t wear sneakers (tennis shoes). Nothing screams “tourist” more than sneakers. Ballet flats are both comfortable and popular right now, but if you have a foot or other joint condition, please wear what your doctor thinks is best for your feet. After all, you’ll never see these people again, right?
5. Miscellaneous Tips to Keep in Mind
- Set your watch for the time zone in which you will be arriving. You will need to start living by that time, so it’s best to start as soon as you deplane. Begin your day with your familiar routines. You may be tempted to go back to sleep, but keep to your routine. If you arrive at night, then by all means, go to your hotel and go to sleep. Start your day fresh the next morning.
Tips for Traveling with Grandchildren
When you’re a grandparent, you treasure every moment you can be with your grandchildren. You want to help them experience the world around them. Here’s some tips to taking your grandkids on a vacation without their parents:
- Consider a short vacation with the kids first to see how they handle being away from their parents.
- If you have many grandchildren, consider taking only two at a time. Any more than one child per adult can be exhausting.
- Work with the kids and their parents to help establish some ground rules for the trip (ie: bedtime, spending money, how often to call home, etc.).
- If the kids are older, consider getting connecting or adjacent rooms.
- Can’t forget to take handheld electronic devices (video games, e-reader, MP3 player) and a headset.
- There are special forms that will need to be filled out, signed, and notarized for taking the children out of the country. We can supply you with those and even notarize them for you. These forms also apply to one parent traveling with their kids, especially in the case of divorced parents.
Packing Tips for Your Vacation
First and foremost, ditch the heavy and/or hard-sided luggage. Find light-weight, soft-sided luggage that is 10 pounds or lighter. Since most airlines have a weight limit on luggage, packing can be a struggle. Make it easier on yourself and purchase packing cubes that go inside your suitcase. You can roll your clothing and zip it up in these cubes and then place them into your suitcase. Makes packing and unpacking a breeze since they are removable. Both are available through www.ebags.com or your local retailer.
Mom always told you to pack shoes on the bottom since they are dirty, right? Wrong. According to the TSA, it is easier to scan items through security if shoes are packed on top. This makes everything underneath easier to see on scan. Hence, less chance of you receiving your luggage with a missing lock because TSA wanted to see what you packed for your trip. Also, wear the heaviest pair of shoes you’re bringing on the trip onto the airplane. This saves weight in your suitcase if you’re borderline having to pay for the extra weight. If you don’t have heavy shoes, to make your time in security faster, consider wearing easily removed shoes like flip flops, sandals, or Crocs ™. Easy on, easy off. If you travel a lot or plan to, you might want to consider getting TSA Pre-Check.
If you have a young child (infant – 3 yr old), pack their clothes in a carry-on suitcase that is no larger than 21 inches. If you’re going to a place where you know that you’re destined to buy a lot of souvenirs, such as Disney, you can then check in a larger one to go under the plane and use it to carry these purchases safely home without the struggle to get them on the plane and under a seat or potentially broken in an overhead bin.
To Passport or Not to Passport – That Is the Question
People always ask if they need to have a passport. Here is the official word on the matter:
“Closed Loop” Cruises – United States citizens who board a cruise ship at a port within the United States, travel only within the Western Hemisphere, and return to the same U.S. port on the same ship may present a government issued photo identification, along with proof of citizenship (an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular report of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of Naturalization).
Please be aware that you may still be required to present a passport to enter the foreign countries your cruise ship is visiting. Check with your cruise line to ensure you have the appropriate documents. The big thing to remember is to check the rules of the country you are going to. Even with a passport, you can be denied entry if you have a criminal record, or now even worse, behind on your taxes. Vancouver, Canada is a popular cruise port for Alaskan cruises, but they won’t let you in if you have a DUI, even years past.
Always check. Since your travel agent doesn’t need to know your intimate personal details, it is your responsibility to make sure you are permitted to travel, not your agent’s.
Even though passports may not be required, we highly recommend them. In the not too distant future, passports will be the only form of accepted identification. Having one will help you if you are ever in the unfortunate spot of being in a foreign country and having a medical emergency. An example:
“Ok, so here it goes. We were in Nassau that day but decided to stay on the ship. After dinner my daughter who is 7 started complaining of pains in her stomach. We thought it was gas so my husband and I stayed in the room with her and watched movies while her brothers went to kids club. Well the pain got worse, my daughter was in the fetal position trembling in pain and then I noticed she was starting to spike a fever. I ran down to guest services where they put me on the phone with the ship’s nurse. She told me bring her down to deck 1 medical to have her examined by the doctor. Well in the docs office they did a urinalysis on her and told us that she needed to be transferred to the local ER because it was looking like an appendicitis that could require surgery. I was told to ‘Get your passport, the ship leaves in 3 hours, so prepare to disembark.’
Wait… I don’t have a passport; I am here on a birth certificate and ID! I was then told ‘They won’t deny your daughter because she is a child, but it is illegal for you to stay in this country without a passport.’ To which I responded, ‘I am not leaving my daughter.’ At that point I was fighting back tears. The port authorities told me ‘For now, let’s get to the ER and while you are there I will see what I can do for you.’ So he took us to the ER in Nassau. It was a little run down and a little dirty but the staff there was excellent. I then suffered the longest 3 hours of my life. I am an anxious person, so I don’t handle things like this well. Especially because I had no way of communicating with my husband who was still on the boat with my 2 sons and would arrive at CC the next morning without us? And if we didn’t get back on the boat in time, when would I talk to him again? In 3 days when the ship pulled back in port? Would he even know what was going on with his daughter? To top it off my daughter was crying, she was in pain, and she wanted to bad to get back on the ship. It was heartbreaking.
Well, at this point in the story it starts to get better. Her appendix was fine. She had some other things going on that could be treated with antibiotics and we could get back on the ship. It was 1:19 a.m. and the ship left at 2. I paced the floor, waiting and waiting for the doc to type the discharge papers. At 1:40 I was told that the port authority was out front waiting to take us back to the ship. At that point the man who takes care of insurance stopped me and said, ‘We need to settle up before you leave.’ AHHHH! So I quickly paid the bill, (which was more than the cost of the cruise) and holding my daughter, ran to the car that was waiting to take us back to the ship. We boarded the ship at 1:53, greeted by a very happy group of cast members, and were able to finish our vacation as a family. Sigh!
So that’s my story. I thought I’d share it here so if any of you are thinking of traveling without a passport, think again. It could happen to you. I just want to add that the staff on the Dream was awesome, including the medical staff, before and after our little adventure. Oh, and check with your insurance before you travel outside the country. The hospital did not accept foreign insurance, so we are now waiting to see if we can be reimbursed.”
Tipping – Who & How Much?
There’s so much confusion when it comes to tipping. Do I tip at the end of my stay? Do I tip every day? How much is appropriate? Well, it really depends on what type of vacation you are on. If you are on a cruise, most of the major cruise lines give you the option to prepay them. This works out to be about $10-15 per day. If a family of four were to go on a cruise they can prepay the gratuities for around an additional $240. Age doesn’t play into prepaying, which means a four-year-old pays the same amount as you do.
When you’re talking about all-inclusive resorts, though, this is a totally different animal. The term “all-inclusive” sounds wonderful, right? Everything you want or need is included in the price. This includes gratuities. Let our agent explain how the all-inclusive gratuities work.
You book a vacation at a resort that has 500 rooms. Your gratuities are divided among all of the housekeeping, bar, front desk staff, etc. Think about this for a moment, your “generous gratuity” has now been divided among the whole resort staff, which means that the people that took care of you personally maybe see $0.25 of that. While they are grateful to have anything, you can’t compare what is included to what they are making on tips. Their base salary at some of these resorts is $5-10 per day. You want to make sure you get the best service and make some friends in high places? Here’s what we suggest: Tip in addition to what’s included in your vacation package.
If you are traveling to an all-inclusive resort, gratuities are included with your total, but if you receive exceptional service, don’t be afraid to tip. Here’s what we recommend:
Wait staff – If the service you received was good, than $1-2 per meal per person is acceptable. If the service was top notch, then $5 is fine. Regardless, they will appreciate your kind gesture. Now, if you’re planning on sitting on the beach all day and there is someone bringing you drinks, you can tip for the time you will be out there and let them know that. A friend of our agent’s named Paula once told her that she tips the waitperson who is attending to them $10 for 5-6 hours and the drinks keep coming.
Bartenders – Who doesn’t love the bartenders when on vacation? This depends on where the bar is located. If it is a bar in a lobby and you’re just getting a quick drink before dinner then $1-2 is fine. If you have a bartender who is swinging drinks like that old Tom Cruise movie and hooking you and your friends up, this person is a rock star. Tip this person well. We suggest nothing less than $5. They will remember your faces and names, as you will theirs.
Excursion Drivers/Guides – It depends on how long your ride is. If you take a shorter excursion, then $2-3 is fine. However, if your driver goes above and beyond and shows you things that weren’t on the itinerary, or tells you stories along the way, then you can use your judgement here. This will also depend on how many are in your party. Excursions / tours are typically above and beyond the all-inclusive venue.
Airport Assistance – $2-3 is appropriate, unless you have a lot of luggage. Then use your judgement.
Room Service Staff – Should you decide to have a romantic dinner in your room, or a quick breakfast before you leave to head home, the delivery person will be happy with $2-3 depending on how large the order is. Make sure to check your receipt or menu to see if it has automatically been added to the total. Some resorts also add a percentage plus a fee to your total before gratuity.
Housekeeping Staff – This is your preference. Some resorts rotate their staff out every few days, so you may not have at the end the same staff that you started with. You can either tip a little as you go long, in case of such a change, or you can do it all at the end. Either is appropriate. This will also depend on the level of resort you are staying at. Higher end resorts would require higher tips. Also, take into account how many people are in the room. $2-3 per night would be acceptable for a moderate level resort.
Butler – If you are staying at a resort that has butler accommodations, this person anticipates and attends to your every need. Tip them well, depending on how often you use their services. The tip should be around $20 per day, on average.
Masseuse/Nail Tech/Stylist – Keep in mind that spa services are not usually included in the all-inclusive package, so if you obtain a spa service, you are paying for the whole fare. Here, the tip would be the customary 15-20%, as you see fit.
Event Planners/Wedding Coordinators – Planning a meeting or destination wedding at an all-inclusive resort? There’s a lot of planning that goes into this behind the scenes. You can either tip them, or give them a special gift, depending on your occasion. $50-100 would be greatly appreciated, too.
Again, these are just general guidelines. Please use your discretion in tipping these people. They work hard to make sure you have a wonderful stay or event.
Best Weather by Month
This is only a guide to when different destinations traditionally have the best weather. This is by no means a guarantee that Mother Nature will cooperate, and our travel agency is not responsible if it rains during your trip. You’ll need to speak to Mother Nature about that. The months immediately preceding and following prime times are considered the shoulder season and enjoy good weather, too. Keep in mind that some areas have temperate weather year-round, such as the Caribbean islands and Hawaii.
January & February
Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Bali, Belize, Brazil, Canada (for Skiing), Caribbean, Central & South America, Africa, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Maldives, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Florida Keys, United States (for Skiing)
Argentine, Australia, Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Canada (for Skiing), Caribbean, Central & South Africa, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, French Polynesia, Hawaii, Maldives, Mexico, Morocco, Florida Keys, United States (for Skiing, Southeast & Southwest)
Argentina, Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Caribbean, Central & South Africa, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, French Polynesia, Hawaii, Italy, Maldives, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Spain, Florida Keys, United States
Belize, Bermuda, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Central & South Africa, Caribbean, Czech Republic, Fiji, France, French Polynesia, Greece, Hawaii, Ireland, Italy, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Seychelles, Spain, Thailand, Florida Keys, United States
Bermuda, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Central & South Africa, Czech Republic, Fiji, France, French Polynesia, Greece, Hawaii, Ireland, Italy, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Spain, Thailand, United States (Alaska & Northeast)
July & August
Bermuda, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Central & South Africa, Czech Republic, Fiji, France, French Polynesia, Ireland, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Seychelles, Thailand, United States (Alaska & Northeast)
Australia, Bermuda, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Central & South Africa, Czech Republic, Fiji, France, French Polynesia, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Spain, Thailand, United States
Australia, Bali, Belize, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada (for Skiing), Central & South Africa, Egypt, Fiji, French Polynesia, Hawaii, Italy, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Seychelles, Spain, United States (for Skiing, Southeast & Southwest)
Australia, Bahamas, Bali, Belize, Brazil, Canada (for Skiing), Central & South Africa, Egypt, French Polynesia, Hawaii, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Seychelles, Spain, United States (for Skiing, Southeast & Southwest)
Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Bali, Belize, Brazil, Canada (for Skiing), Caribbean, Central & South Africa, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Florida Keys, United States (for Skiing)
Keep in mind that the official hurricane season is from June to November and affects most of the Caribbean, with the exception of Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Trinidad, and Tobago. In general, every island’s northern shore gets more rain than the southern, especially the Hawaiian Islands’ Kauai and Big Island. The worst months to go to Europe are December through February.
Contact us to receive even more travel tips to ensure your journey is a safe and fun one. Our travel agent is here to provide memorable vacation packages and informative travel tips to clients located throughout the High Point, North Carolina, area.