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Be a Savvy Traveller. 8 Travel Prep Tips
Good Bye Snow, Hello Sand!
The lure of the last minute vacation
Huddled around warm cups of tea, excitedly staring at a computer screen.Images of a sunny beach scattered with palm trees swaying in the breeze staring back at us. The lure of the perfect all-inclusive resort at a discounted price was just too much to resist. We looked at each other and said “Let's book it!”
December 24th, 8:00 a.m
The initial excitement of getting away for the holidays has worn off. I'm now starting to get nervous. I've packed and repacked my luggage several times. I check my purse for the thousandth time, yes, my passport is still in there. I'm getting antsy. It's time to get going. We load up the car with our luggage and head to McDonald's for breakfast, our travel day tradition. Rolling along on the highway, munching on my egg mcMuffin, the nerves start to set in. I've never been on a plane before. I hate crowds. It's Christmas Eve and I'm terrified of navigating the airport for the first time, during one of the busiest travel times of the year. Am I crazy? Are we actually going to attempt this? I get so anxious about the whole thing, I actually contemplate backing out of the trip altogether.
My fears are quickly allevieated when we realize we practically have the airport to ourselves.It seems everyone else has already arrived at their desired Christmas destinations. We seem to be some of the only people crazy enough to actually travel on Christmas Eve.Arriving to the airport three hours early seemed almost unnecessary. With some time to kill we get a coffee and sit for a while before heading to security. Sitting quietly and watching other planes take off allows me to relax a little bit.
I'm actually going to spend Christmas in the Dominican Republic!!.. Okay, now I officially start to get excited.
My Christmas airport experience turned out to be much less stressful than I thought it would be. My anal retentiveness actually paid of. My check-lists, packing and repacking my luggage, it all paid off the minute I stepped off the plane Christmas Eve to balmy 34 degree weather. This article is a travel to do list. I've broken this piece up into three separate categories; Things to do before you leave home, things to note while in the Caribbean, and finally a review of the resort we stayed at.
If you have any handy travel tips, please feel free to post them in the comments section below. It's always great to hear from other travellers and learn from one another.
Did you know?
According to the World Health Organization, Injuries are the number one reason American travellers have to be transported back to their homeland by air transport. Auto accident crashes cause the most injuries at 45%, followed by accidental falls. Be sure to always travel with insurance in case you need to cut your vacation short due to injury or illness.
Before you leave home
#1- Get travel insurance.
If you have insurance through work, find out before you leave if it covers you outside of your homeland. If it doesn't, get some that does. I always get my travel insurance through my bank. Whoever you choose to purchase with, just be very clear what it is you're covered for, and make sure you keep the travel insurance card with you in your wallet. It's also a smart idea to keep an extra copy in your suitcase and one in your carry-on just in case. One common condition of travel insurance is that if you're hurt and need to go to the hospital you actually need to call the insurance hot line first and they'll give you a list of approved hospitals you can go to. You can't just go to any hospital you find, because you might not be covered. Make sure you understand the way your insurance works before you leave.
#2-Pack Smart & Know the Airlines Regulations
After you've booked your trip, pay a visit to the airlines website. You'll be able to find a list of items you can and cannot bring with you in your carry on, as well as how many bags you're allowed to have as checked luggage. These rules will vary depending on the country you're departing from, it's best to make yourself aware of them before you get to the airport.
#3- Call your credit card company
If you will be using a credit card to purchase souvenirs or book any excursions it's a wise idea to give your credit card company a call before you leave. Advising them that you'll be in a particular desitination will prevent the security department from flagging your card for fraud charges and leaving you with no card to use while you're on your trip.
#4- Charge all your electronic devices
Charge your camera batteries (bring extras!), ipods, mp3 players, cell phones if you plan to bring it with you. Any little toys you'll be using, charge them up before you leave. Rechargeable batteries are a must. Check to see the type of outlets they use in your destination. I left a few items at home because I didn't think I'd be able to charge them, only to find out when I got there that the Dominican Republic uses the exact same outlets as Canada. You can find that information on your hotels website.
#5- Exchange your money before you leave
Most hotels at all inclusive resorts will offer some kind of currency exchange service, but you can be sure they'll charge you a rate that is much higher than any you'll get back home. Hit up the bank or currency exchange at the airport before you leave. Having a little understanding of the conversion rate will help you when purchasing souvenirs as well. I paid almost $20 for tanning oil I could've got for half that back home because I didn't fully understand the conversion rate. Google's currency converter is a good one to check out.
#6- Leave a way for people to contact you
Leave the hotels name, address and phone number (available on their website) as well as your flight information with a family member or friend. It's always great to get away from the hustle and bustle of life, but you still want your loved ones back home to be able to contact you in the event of an emergency.
#7- Pretty up your luggage
I had your standard luggage tag on my bag, purchased at the dollar store. I noticed several luggage pieces wheeling around on the luggage carousel with ribbons tied on the handles. One person even took a piece of duct tape and stuck it on there. It makes identifying your luggage a little easier in a sea of black & grey luggage.
#8- Check-in Online
Take advantage of the airlines 'online check in' service, the night before you leave. You'll be made aware of any flight delays or changes, and you'll save yourself time by being able to print your boarding pass right at home. Skipping lines in the airport is a beautiful thing.
So now you've got everything packed and ready to go. It's time to enjoy some fun in the sun! Check out part two of my article for Caribbean specific travel tips.
A little reading material to be a savvy traveller
Check the status of your flight
It's a good idea to check the status of your flight before you leave home, especially if the airport is a fair drive away from you. You can check out FlightStats.com for information on flights leaving from any airport world wide.
Your first time on a plane?
Seasoned flyer's can skip this section if they like, but I'd like to add just a few extra little tips for the first time air traveller. A few things I learned from my first plane ride that I'd like to pass on to you to help make your first plane ride as comfortable as it can be.
- Bring gum to chew on, it'll help when your ears pop as the plane ascends.
- Have some Gravol in your bag just in case (I didn't bring it, and I got slightly nauceous on the plane)
- Bring plenty of reading material, magazines, books, and ipods to pass the time.
- Most flights will offer movies to watch, but they charge you for the headphones, bring your own.
- Bring some treats in your carry-on to eat. I shudder at the thought of the charges I had to put on my credit card because I was too hungry to pass up the dinner service and I didn't have anything in my bag to munch on.
Are you a travel planner?
Do you plan a lot before travelling?
Useful Websites for Travellers
- Currency Converter - Google Finance
- CDC Health Tips for Travellers
Official U.S. government health recommendations for traveling. Provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- FlightStats - Global Flight Tracker, Status Tracking and Airport Information