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6 Tips and Tricks for International Travel
I have compiled a few tips and tricks that I've learned and found useful in my travels. Some of them I’ve stumbled upon myself and some of them were passed to me from seasoned professionals that I have had opportunity to use and found helpful. I arranged the information to be more generalized in the beginning and I get into some specifics towards the end.
1. Reasearch, Reaserach, Research (Just like you are doing right now)
Congratulations, if you are reading this you are well on your way to becoming a masterful traveler. They say the devil is in the details. Well I’m here to tell you that your saving grace is also there.
You’ve worked hard for your money and you want to make the most of your trip, so put in some time and nail down all the logistics beforehand. You definitely don’t want your trip soured because of a misunderstanding in your travel arrangements or because you got lost on your way to your hotel.
TIP* most reputable travel web sites offer you the option of booking round trip transportation to your hotel and back to the airport on your departure day, at a small additional cost, right before you finalize your trip purchase online.
(Is it possible to find slightly cheaper transportation once you land in the other country? Sure and by all means research all potential options. I prefer the reassurance that I will get to my hotel as efficiently and frustration free as possible.)
Take the time to check several web sites for advice from other travelers who have information pertaining to your specific destination. Not only can they point out things of interest to you that you may have missed otherwise, but they can also help you avoid stumbling into a bad situation or those all too common tourist traps.
RANDOM TIP* When traveling to Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico (CUN-Cancun Intl.) airport there will be a swarm of men and women in varying uniforms positioned inside the building near the exit of the airport, attempting to get your attention. They are sales men and nothing more, smile politely and say no thank you as you walk past them quickly. If you have arranged for transportation as I have suggested above, the company will provide you with detailed information about how and where to locate your drivers. Generally they will be outside the building in the bus/van area where you would expect to find transportation employees. The people inside by the doors are not your drivers.
2. Be wary of reviews
While you are surfing the internet for all that lovely advice mentioned above and conducting your vital research you will come across many reviews and rating sites. As the saying goes “everyone’s a critic.” For that reason I ask that you take any and all reviews with a grain of salt.
The primary reason is that for the most part when people are pleased with a trip they are so busy telling their friends and families about their wonderful experience that only a small percentage will sit down to write a good review.
In contrast, people who’ve had, what they consider a bad experience, tend to write more reviews. On the flip side there are actually people who are paid, sometimes employees, to write good reviews. The outcome is that the averages tend to get a little skewed and suspicious.
TIP* If on a reputable rating site, there are say 10 reviews per page and about 7 or more are positive AND you see this trend on several pages, then it could be a good choice.
3. All inclusive is the way to go
The best way to get the most bang for your buck is without a doubt the All Inclusive route. What is actually included varies depending on where you are going and in some countries, like America, it is near to impossible to find a true all inclusive deal.
A true all inclusive deal as I define it on the part of the hotel includes, your room, all of your meals, Hotel entertainment, all of your drinks (alcohol and non-alcoholic) and of course all taxes and fees.
From my experience these deals can be found in abundance in the Caribbean and Mexico at an astonishingly low rate.
TIP* Take a look at Vacation Packages when purchasing online. Booking this way with an All Inclusive hotel package, round trip airfare and that handy hotel transfer bundled together you can save a ton of money, time and stress and get on with the business of enjoying your trip.
TRICK* Thinking of taking a trip to the Caribbean or Mexico? Plan for a late September to Early November trip, they're nearing the end of hurricane season and the resorts are blessedly empty in comparison to the rest of the year. Watch the prices for those oh so desirable bundled packages around the end of July into the first 2 weeks of August and be ready to buy. The resorts plan ahead for that seasonal lull every year by dropping prices in advance for the September to November time period, and you should too. The weather that time of year is near perfection!
4. Street View is your friend
When traveling to a non-resort location such as a big city where you may want to get out and walk around, take your first look from the comfort of your home.
Most of us are familiar with Google Maps and the little yellow human shaped fellow that you drag and drop on the map to get a Street View of a location. But were you aware this option was available in most major cities internationally? Cities like; London, Paris, Berlin and Rome. You can even take a virtual stroll down the streets of Pompeii!
Where their Street View is lacking they attempt to make up for it with an interactive picture collage like service that is a conglomeration of photos other travelers have taken, resulting in something very similar to Street View.
(I’ve used the street view to get a good look around the Termini Train station in Rome, Italy prior to my arrival. Upon exiting the building on the opposite side of where I was intending I took one look at the surrounding buildings and businesses and knew exactly where I was.)
TIP* Look like you know where you are and where you are going by actually knowing where you are and where you are going. If you’re not acting like a tourist then you don’t look like a tourist or an easy mark.
TRICK* There are loads of cheap or free Map applications for your smart phone. Some of them are offline maps which means you are not hit with any crazy international charges while abroad. So instead of that cumbersome paper map, another dead giveaway, you can just look at your phone for directions.
5. Before you Leave
There are few small things you should do.
♦ Exchange your money. Most banks offer a currency exchange sometimes for free and sometimes for a small fee. Resorts will usually accept US dollars find out ahead of time by checking their website, sending an email or calling.
TIP* Call your bank well in advance of your trip to get the details on their currency exchange policy. Some banks need time to have the foreign currency sent to your branch location.
TRICK* Find out if your bank has and affiliate bank in the country you are going to. Even if you won’t be near one of them on your travels they may have ATMs you can use for a much smaller fee or no fee at all. This is key when the cost of using international ATMs can become astronomical.
♦ Let your bank and credit cards you intend to use know you will be abroad and for what time frames so you don’t end up security flagging your own account when a sudden international charge shows up.
♦ Call your cell phone service provider and set up a temporary international package. They should have different levels available to you that will keep your phone functional and mitigate those pesky international charges should you need to use it.
♦ Have a secure online copy of your passport information and photo. In the event of a lost or stolen passport having this may speed the process along for you at the US embassy.
6. Have Fun
Make the most of every moment and enjoy each one of them as they come. If you’ve done your homework before hand you will seriously diminish any chance of a mix up.
That being said, should you find yourself in tricky situation or a less than ideal circumstance, take a deep breath and just roll with it. Don’t let it ruin your trip or leave a bad taste in your mouth, life is messy no matter where you are. What’s important are the memories you are making, embrace them.
Pass it on
Please let me know if you found any of these tips useful or think you will. As an avid traveler myself I’m always listening for new tricks of the trade. Share this information with your friends and family who are embarking on their own adventures. Leave a comment and share your thoughts or some tips you’ve put into action during your wanderings. I and all our fellow travel junkies will be very appreciative. Happy Travels!