Linda's Travel Tips

Travel tips from a 15-year veteran tour director (escort). Linda has escorted both domestic and international group tours for some of the world's major tour operators such as Globus, Cosmos, Archers, Maupintour, Jetsave, and others.

GENERAL TRAVEL TIPS
1. Airport arrival. Check with your airline to find out when you should arrive at the airport for your flight. This is usually 1½ to 2 hours early for domestic flights, and 3+ hours early for international flights. This will allow you time to check in, go through security, and maybe even have some time to relax. Remember, you want to arrive at your destination looking good and ready to work.

2. Airport security. Check with TSA for current regulations on what you may and may not pack in both your carry-on bag and your checked bags. TSA is the authority on this, not your local airport.

3. Airline baggage allowance. Check with your airline to find out how many bags you are allowed to check in. Also ask about the weight limit per bag. Either the airline will charge a fee for overweight bags, or you will be asked to leave something behind.

4. Packing. Travel lightly (oh sure!). But really, it's the best idea. It's less complicated: fewer things to keep track of, less weight to schlep around, and fewer bags to tip for. Lay out on your bed the clothing, accessories, and makeup that you plan to take. Once you have done that, take away at least 1/3 of what you've just laid out and leave that at home. Now start packing. You may have to pack and repack several times for best space arrangement. Remember, hotels almost always offer either valet laundry service (allow 1 full day for this service) or guest laundry rooms where you can do the job yourself.

5. Checking your bags at the airport. Check your bags through to your final destination. This will avoid having to retrieve your bags and recheck them at the connecting airport, which could cause you to miss your connecting flight. When you check your bags, be sure to review the routing tag that the airline attaches to your bag. Check to see that it has the correct connecting and final destination airport codes.

6. In-flight. You will want to arrive at your destination feeling fresh, looking good, and ready to work. As a tour escort, I have to 'hit the ground running', so here's what I do.

  • There may not be a pillow and blanket at your own seat so, as you are walking down the aisle, take them from wherever you see them (sometimes tucked between seats, sometimes in overhead bins). There always seems to be a shortage.
  • Use earplugs. That background engine roar is a major contributor to travel fatigue, even on short flights, and a crying baby right behind you can make a wreck out of you by the time you arrive. With earplugs, you'll still be able to hear important announcements, but you'll cut out all the excess noise around you.
  • Bring your own healthy snacks and forget the high-calorie junk food offered on board. Drink plenty of liquids (water is best).
  • Avoid alcohol! It will increase jet lag symptoms.
  • Sleep if you can. To help you sleep, ask for a window seat (so you don't have people disturbing you to use the washroom, and so you can lean your head on the side of the cabin), put on eye shades, cover yourself with a blanket, and try to relax and sleep.
  • When you board the flight, set your watch to the local time at your destination. It's a psychological trick for minimizing jet lag.

7. Concierge. The concierge at your hotel is your best resource. A concierge's job is to know about the city and where things are. He or she is the one to go to with almost any question you might have. Most major hotels, and even some smaller ones, have a concierge on staff. Use their services to find out about shopping, restaurants, attractions, local transportation, and much more. Be sure to offer a tip for any substantial assistance they provide.

8. Tipping. Savvy travelers know that tipping is part of their travel expense. Tips are seldom inappropriate and always appreciated by those who work in the service sector. The tipping custom in the United States is an incentive system that benefits you directly in the form of better service. How much you tip depends on the level of service provided. Generally, you will want to tip restaurant and bar servers, housekeeper for your room, taxi drivers, hotel concierge, skycaps at the airport (if they help you carry your bags), doormen (if they hail a cab for you or perform some other service), tour guides, and any service provider who gives you extraordinary assistance.

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL TIPS
If you are jetting off to Paris, Hong Kong, Milan, London, or some other fashion capital, here are some things to know before you go:

1. Passport. Be sure you have a current passport with enough empty pages for entry and exit stamps for each of the countries you will be visiting. If you don't yet have a passport, check with your main post office for an application or go online to http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html. U.S. passports are good for 10 years. A passport is now required even to enter Mexico and Canada.

Before you leave home, make several color copies (black-and-white copies are okay, but color is better) of the inside front page of your passport where all the information is printed. Give one copy to a friend or relative at home for safekeeping, and take several copies with you. If anyone, other than customs inspectors, needs to see your passport, you can hand them a copy. Many times this will suffice, and it will keep you from having to expose your actual passport more often than necessary. In the event you lose your passport, having a copy will expedite replacing it. Above all, guard your passport with great care. There is a market for stolen passports. Let it not be yours that gets stolen.

2. Visa. Allow plenty of time to obtain a travel or work visa, if required. There are agencies in the US that specialize in foreign travel documents, such as Zierer Visa Service (www.zvs.com), or A Briggs Passport & Visa Expeditors (www.abriggs.com). It's best to leave visa documents to the experts because of the complicated unique requirements for each destination country. Erroneous documents could mean denied entry into the country you want to visit.

3. Language. Learn a few key phrases in the language of the country you are visiting. It will open doors for you in unimaginable ways, even if your pronunciation or grammar are not quite right. Just making the effort will impress those who are serving you as well as those with whom you are working. 'Please' and 'Thank you' would be a minimum effort. And don't forget to smile. Make it fun.

4. Safety and security. Don't walk around on city streets wearing your expensive jewelry. Put it on only as you arrive at your go-see or interview, not before. For instance, if you are arriving by taxi, put it on just before you step out, or once inside the building, visit the washroom and put it on.

5. Street smarts. Don't carry your extra money, credit cards, or passport on the street unless you absolutely have to. In almost all countries, you won't need to show your passport while you are out and about, and if someone does need to see it, a copy will usually do. Carry only what you will need for your outing. Use your hotel safe (in your room or at the front desk). There may be a small daily charge for this but I always consider this cheap insurance. It is far safer to keep most of your valuables, money, and your passport in your hotel safe than to have them with you out on the street with you. WARNING: putting your valuables in your locked suitcase in your room is not secure enough as it can be opened easily by anyone in possession of a simple lock cutter or a key for your make of suitcase. Case in point: I once had to help a client open her Samsonite suitcase because she had lost her key. I used the key from my own Samsonite case to open it!

6. Street scam. Beware of the 'mustard' trick. It goes like this: You are walking along the street and someone accidentally spills something on you, like mustard, or ice cream, or some other messy stuff. They apologize profusely, take out a handkerchief, and offer to help you clean it off. Meanwhile, their cohort is picking your pocket or purse. The best thing to do is put your arms out and make them keep their distance, telling them it's okay, you'll clean it off yourself. Don't let them get near. You can clean it off later at your hotel, or send it out for dry cleaning. It's a dirty mess, but they won't get your credit cards.


     

 

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