Monthly Archives: November 2016
There are two kinds of travelers in the world: those who pack light and those who wish they had. To include everything needed in as little space as possible, follow these helpful packing tips compiled by ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents). Some of the most travel-wise people in the world, ASTA members know the techniques of efficient packing and packing tips for all types of travel.
PACKING LIST – MAKE A PLAN AND STICK TO IT!
Like an architect planning a building, you must plan the contents of your suitcase by creating a packing list. A packing list eliminates the panic of last-second packing, serves as a handy guide for repacking at the end of the trip, and can be beneficial in the unfortunate event of lost or stolen luggage.
When planning your wardrobe, consider the events you will participate in both day and night and write down a possible outfit for each activity. Crosscheck this packing list to determine if one piece can cover multiple occasions. Pick clothes that coordinate well together, based around complimentary colors.
Check the weather forecast of the destination and plan accordingly. Also, be sure to know the local traditions, where a t-shirt for dinner could be a serious blunder, or bare shoulders may bar your entrance into places such as St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. For almost all outdoor activities, take pieces that can be layered.
Forget dress clothes for every occasion. The world at large has relaxed its dress code, showing almost universal leniency to tourists. Dark colors – a black dress or blue jacket – will get you through most dinners and plays.
PACKING TIPS : TO PACK OR NOT TO PACK? THAT IS THE QUESTION!
Now that the wardrobe is thoroughly planned, stick with it. When packing, lay out the items you intend to take and reexamine your packing list. If possible, weed out single-use items and extras.
Set aside the pieces you intend to bring and ensure that they are clean and ready to be packed. Contact your travel agent about the hotel’s in-room amenities – such as a hair dryer, an iron and board, soap, shampoo etc. – so you’ll know what to leave behind.
Jewelry – don’t take what you don’t want to lose, and leave behind the flashy pieces that could attract thieves. Keep makeup to a minimum to save space, and leave the perfume behind when scented lotions will work just as well.
When it comes to the question of toiletries, travel kits are always the answer. Having a travel kit perpetually stocked in a waterproof case will save in packing time before the trip and aggravation after arrival. Most toiletry items come in inexpensive travel sizes, so purchase these whenever you see them so as not to arrive with a half-empty bottle of your favorite hair gel. And don’t fill bottles up to the very top, for pressure inside the plane may force the contents to expand and overflow.
With each item you intend to bring, visualize how to make it smaller, like photocopying certain pages and maps from the guidebook instead of bringing the entire book. Streamline your daily habits. Bring only one bottle of all-purpose lotion instead of multiple lotions for hands, face and body. Choose a regular toothbrush or razor over electric models.
Film and other accessories can be purchased globally and often easily, so save packing room by leaving them behind. Create an in-trip adventure and discover more about the area by shopping for a local brand of deodorant or lotion.
When it comes to incidentals, a few items will go a long way. Important items to bring include a first-aid kit, a tin of aspirin, sunscreen and a small bottle of Woolite for emergency, in-room laundering if needed. Also, a Swiss army knife will amaze you with its handiness, whether peeling fruit or uncorking a wine bottle. Remember – it’s not allowed on the plane, so pack it in your checked luggage.
Once your travel kit is complete, be sure to pack it in your carry-on bag to avoid a mess in your checked luggage and have on hand during the flight.
THE ART OF PACKING
Now you know what to bring, so let the packing begin. Iron everything before placing it in the suitcase. If it goes in crisp and clean, odds are more in its favor of coming out the same. Button all buttons and zip all zippers.
Learn to fold. Practice folding like they do in clothing stores – they use that method for a reason. The better the fold, the fewer the creases. All garments can be folded in many different ways – T-shirts, jeans, skirts and sports coats can be rolled up and strategically positioned (i.e. stuffed) in a duffel bag or travel pack.
The interlocking method of folding clothes is ideal for suitcases. Overlap two pieces of clothing flat and then fold them into each other so that each piece cushions the other to aid in defying wrinkles. Placing a piece of tissue paper between each layer of clothing will also help prevent wrinkling.
If using the fold and stack method, try to think chronologically, placing the items to be worn first on the top. This will prevent rooting around the suitcase for a specific item while disrupting the rest.
Always pack tightly. Packing loosely wastes precious space and causes clothes to wrinkle. Eliminate wasted space, such as the insides of shoes, which are perfect for socks or underwear.
Always carry travel documents, medication, jewelry, traveler’s checks, keys and other valuables in your carry-on luggage. Items such as these should never be packed in checked luggage.
Label each piece of luggage, both inside and out, with your name and telephone number, but not your home address. If an address is needed, then put your office’s. And remove old claim checks to avoid confusion.
Unpack as completely as possible as soon as you get to the hotel to prevent further wrinkles. When repacking, remember that balled-up, dirty laundry takes more space than carefully folded clothes, so repack your used clothing identically to your original packing method.
The world of travel apps is saturated. There are apps for almost everything these days, from the planning stages right through to post-travel reminiscing. Some of them are fun, some are seriously handy and others are just gimmicks.
With all the tech that’s out there, it can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack if you want find something genuinely useful for your travels. Here are 7 apps and websites we rate for 2017.
1. For European rail adventures: Loco2
If you’re planning a rail trip around Europe this summer, Loco2 is a must-have. Whether you’re going to Lyon for the incredible food or want sun, sea and sand in Barcelona, Loco2 is on hand to help you book your trips.
You can search for in-country and cross-border routes throughout Europe and reserve tickets in either euros or GBP. Plus, you can set up alerts for when booking opens on routes you’re planning to use in future. There’s a desktop site and both a free Android and iOS app for booking on the move.
2. For savvy travelling: Hopper
Flight prices are notoriously unpredictable – one day they’re up and the next they’re down, with seemingly no logical or predictable pattern. This is where Hopper comes in. Enter your travel dates and Hopper will predict when your flight is going to be at its cheapest.
If it tells you to wait, you can watch the route and receive notifications when prices drop, or you can book there and then through the app (available on Android and iOS) with no added fees.
3. For a bit of fun: PolarSteps
Not all travel apps need to be practical. We’re intrigued by PolarSteps – the app (on Android and iOS) that tracks your travel using GPS (no data required) and turns it into an instant photo album.
Using only 4% extra battery power, it’s a good way to keep a log of your holiday without having to update social media or write notes on your phone (making your digital detoxeven easier). Over time it tallies up your number of trips, countries and total number of miles covered, giving you some serious bragging material.
Never underestimate the power of a good night’s rest, especially while on vacation or a business trip. To ensure the best possible hotel stay with the least amount of worry, follow these helpful hotel tips compiled by the ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents). ASTA members are trained professionals who know hotels, the services they provide, and, most importantly, the quality you expect.
CHOOSING A GOOD HOTEL
Choosing the right hotel is half the battle. Most Americans will spend hours finding the perfect airline ticket, but only minutes to research a hotel room, often going with the lowest price option.
While price is a universal factor, remember that all hotels want a full house and strive for this goal every night. To get the best deal, book early through a travel agent and try to be flexible with your dates. Hotels that cater to business people surprisingly will have great weekend rates, which they consider “off season.”
Travel agents will ask for special package deals loaded with options or discounts for seniors, families or the military that may apply. They also understand your needs and expectations, so they will be able to choose the hotel that’s best for you, based on the amenities and services it provides, along with its proximity to the interstate, airport, restaurants and attractions.
MAKING HOTEL RESERVATIONS
While direct online booking is an option, it’s still advisable to book through a travel agent. If you choose to contact a hotel directly, travel agents recommend that it may pay to connect in a more conventional way – by phone. Many hotels, both national and independently owned, have toll-free numbers to connect you to reservation specialists. If no such number is available and you must call the hotel directly, be sure to call in the afternoon or night, for the mornings are hectic times while guests checkout.
When making a reservation, confirm the quoted rate and record the confirmation number and the name of the person with whom you spoke. Ask the reservation specialist to repeat him or herself, write down the details, and be clear about the type of room you are getting, if it’s smoking or non-smoking, and what are the check-in and checkout times.
Once the room is reserved, document all hotel information and a full itinerary to leave with a friend or neighbor in case of emergencies. If you book your room through a travel agent, make copies of the reservation confirmation they provide you, for it will clearly state the hotel’s information and your arrival and departure dates.
Have this confirmation information or a printout of your e-mail reservation available when you check-in. Hotels never intentionally misplace or incorrectly enter reservation information, but it’s always a good idea to bring evidence just in case.
GUARANTEEING HOTEL RESERVATIONS FOR LATE ARRIVALS
There’s nothing worse than driving all day through syrupy traffic only to arrive at the hotel and discover your reservation is expired and there are no more rooms available. The key to never having this happen is knowing how late is late.
Most hotel chains will hold a normal reservation until 6 p.m. For those arriving later in the night, ask to guarantee the reservation with a credit card number. Even those pulling up after midnight with a guaranteed reservation will find a warm bed waiting. Hotels hold the right to cancel reservations that are not guaranteed. If you are delayed en route, call the hotel and ask to hold your reservation until you arrive.
OVERBOOKED HOTEL – NO ROOM IN THE INN?
Even though losing an expected room due to over-booking or a misplaced reservation may come as a shock, don’t let it get you down. Most hotels will assist in remedying the situation by transferring you to a sister location, an associated hotel nearby.
If the lost reservation was guaranteed, then the burden falls on the hotel to ensure that your new room at the sister location is of equal or greater quality and at no additional cost. The hotel should cover any transportation expenses incurred by paying for a taxi or providing the use of their shuttle service.
If this courtesy is not extended, then ask to speak to a manager or contact your travel agent to act as your advocate.
CUSTOMER SERVICE WITH A SMILE
As a valued consumer, your satisfaction is important. Hotel staffs are thoroughly trained, working around the clock to meet your needs. However, problems may arise, such as uncooperative neighbors, so know the hierarchy of the hotel’s customer service for a swift resolution.
A quick call to your travel agent is always a good first step, for they speak the hotel language and understand reasonable reparations for each problem. Through advocacy and advice, travel agents can assuage most situations, pleasing you and the hotel.
Staying within the hotel, the front desk clerk is trained to handle problems without involving the manager, so state your complaint clearly and allow them to arrange a remedy. From forgotten toothbrushes to room relocations, front desk clerks offer the quickest and most direct assistance.
If your complaint falls outside their jurisdiction, politely ask to see the manager. Managers better understand the necessities of customer loyalty and possess the authority to offer guests discounts on current or future stays.
If nothing is resolved with the manager, contact the hotel’s customer service department. Be sure to write down the names of the people you spoke with, the dates of your stay and the rates charged to aid the operator in assisting you in the most proficient capacity.
CHECKING INTO YOUR HOTEL
The only obstacle during check-in should be the line at the counter. With your reservation made, hotels will want to usher you to your room as quickly as possible, so have your confirmation information ready and verify that the rate charged is the rate originally quoted.
Know the proper check-in time and ask specific questions about the area and the provided services. Request a card with the hotel’s name, address and telephone information in case you get lost exploring the city.
FULLY STOCKED – THE THINGS YOU MIGHT NEED
Depending on your needs, ask if the hotel offers or provides the following:
Laundry service or in-room ironing board and iron
In-room coffee makers, refrigerators or kitchenettes
Morning newspaper service
Complimentary meals (usually breakfast)
Access to fax machine, copier or printer
Mini-bar or refreshments
Cable television, movies or video games
Portable cribs or rollaway beds
Shuttle service to airport or other points of interest
Telephone access charges
Hotels often have a limited number of internet-ready rooms or hair dryers, so ask for specific items during check-in.
HOTEL SAFETY TIPS = SLEEP TIGHT
Safety is a priority for you and the hotel. From your car to their bed, take a few precautions and don’t leave anything to chance.
Park in a well-lit space near the hotel entrance or your room,and be sure to lock all doors and keep valuables in the trunk and out of sight. If given the option, always ask for a room with an interior entrance. At the front desk, ask that the attendant write your room number down so that no one can hear it, and quickly pocket your key if it has the room number printed on it.
Once inside your room, lock your door with the deadbolt and the chain lock, and familiarize yourself with the fire exits posted on the back of the door. Do not open the door for anyone unless you verify the identity of the person either through the peephole or verbally, even if you are expecting a friend or room service.
CHECKING OUT WITH NO SURPRISES
At the end of a hotel stay, checking out should be a pleasant experience as long as there are no surprises like left-behind items or incidental charges. Check the room thoroughly before vacating, including drawers, closets and the bathroom, especially behind the shower curtain and the back of the bathroom door.
Most hotels have established checkout times ranging from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. If you need additional time, request it in advance, or else you may be charged an additional night.
Review the bill to ensure all charges are accurate, and you received all entitled credits and discount. Get a receipt, and if you pay in cash, make sure it is marked, “Paid in Cash.”