Over 35 Travel Tips to Make Your Next Vacation Easier
Ready for some travel tips from a travel expert? Scott Clifton is the Celebrity Cruises Director of Market Sales West, and not only is he a west coast resident, but he’s also a frequent traveler. He has visited over 50 countries on six continents and is a two million air miler. He definitely knows his travel stuff and today he’s sharing some of his top travel tips with you.
MONEY TRAVEL TIPS
A four-digit PIN is required for use of your ATM card overseas. Many European countries won’t accept anything longer than four digits.
Get cash from an ATM and the airport rather than from a Currency Exchange booth. Exchange rates and fees are much better at an ATM.
Foreign Currency Conversion
Check with your credit card company in advance as to whether they charge foreign currency conversion fees. These can total several hundred dollars. Many credit cards (including American Express Platinum) do not charge foreign currency conversion fees.
Make sure your credit card will work in the country you’re visiting. European banks have switched almost completely to the more secure chip-and-PIN technology, and fewer businesses abroad are accepting the outdated magnetic-strip cards. Find out your four-digit code as you’ll likely need to enter the code when using the chip.
Also, make sure you have your credit card company’s “call collect” number. 800 toll-free numbers don’t work overseas.
Cash is King
Keep a few personal checks and/or cash in your wallet. Some areas don’t accept credit cards or give you a break for paying with cash or check. Some merchants add 3% to your purchase if you pay with a credit card.
Perhaps the most important piece of advice is to advise your bank and credit card companies when you’re traveling outside the US. If you don’t, they may put a hold on your ATM and credit cards.
SECURITY & HEALTH TRAVEL TIPS
Take pictures of your passport and email them to yourself. That way, if your passport is stolen you can still access a photo from any public computer. If your passport gets stolen or lost you want to be sure that you can still get back into the country, or be able to prove your citizenship.
Very important: Be absolutely sure you have a full 6 months expiration remaining on your passport from the day of your return. Even one day short of 6 months and you will be denied boarding on your flight or cruise ship.
Take a photo of your luggage and email it to yourself. That way, if your luggage is lost/misplaced by the airline you can simply show or email them a photo of your luggage.
Check-in with your doctor and insurance carrier before your trip. Double check and make sure that you have all of the proper vaccinations and that you have renewed all essential prescriptions. Also, ask your medical insurance provider if your policy applies overseas for emergencies. If it doesn’t, you may want to add extra coverage.
Scott always carries an eye mask and earplugs in his medicine bag because you never know what your hotel room is going to be like. Other good medications to bring on your vacation include Sudafed, Advil, NyQuil, Imodium A-D, Rolaids, and a handful of other key medications.
Note from Scott: Yes, even the most historic European neighborhood has a drugstore. But do you want to be running around Germany late at night, trying to translate “diarrhea”? I was just in Amsterdam with my wife and had a terrible cold the night before my flight home. Over the counter cold medicines like Sudafed and Benadryl require a prescription in The Netherlands. If you’re heading to developing countries, stocking up on the right drugs is even more important. Many travelers fill a prescription in advance for the antibiotic ciprofloxacin and bring it with them just in case.
It’s a good idea to check the State Department’s travel warnings and alerts. It’s also smart to print out the address and contact information of the local embassy.
Activate your phone’s global capabilities. There’s usually a charge for doing this, but it is much less than the roaming charges you’ll get if you don’t. Simply set up your cell phone to avoid international data roaming. Many business travelers have an international calling and data plan. But infrequent travelers don’t. The biggest costs can come from transmitting data overseas.
Do you have more dollars than sense? Tipping is a practice heavily rooted in cultural context. In reality it can get pretty complex. In some places, you could get the recipient fired while in other cases be showered with praise. Here’s some advice on the what, where, and when to tip.
At hotels, tip €1 per bag and €1 to €2 per day for a housekeeper. At restaurants, the words “service compris” mean that no tip is required. But most locals leave about 10 percent in coins. Tipping at bars is not expected. Tour guides expect about €25 per person per day. A separate driver should get about half that amount. Give €10 for a private airport transfer and a euro or two for a taxi driver depending on how helpful they are.
At hotels, tip porters €5 and housekeepers €1 to €2 per night. At restaurants, leave as close to 10% as possible, but no more (in cash – as a tip cannot be added to your credit card charge). Cabbies can keep the change while you should tip drivers €20 for a private tour. Tipping gondoliers and vaporettos (water taxis) isn’t customary. You should also insist if your tip is first refused – it’s a common demurral in Italy.
United Kingdom Tipping
At hotels, tip porters £1 to £2 per bag and £1 to £2 pounds per night for housekeepers. For taxis, tip 10% or less and tipping is optional on guided boat tours on the Thames (although they will ask). At restaurants, service is often included. If not, tip 10% to 15%.
Note from Scott: Not only is tipping in pubs not customary, but I had a Brit shout at me “don’t start that!” when I tossed my change on the bar.
At hotels, tip porters €1 per bag and housekeepers €1 per day. No tip is expected by taxi drivers but if you round up the fare they will be ecstatic. Tip private tour drivers €20 per day. At restaurants round up to the fives (so €25 for a €22 meal).
Tipping here is fairly formalized. Either the service charge is included in the bill or tipping isn’t done. Taxi drivers don’t expect tips and even porters and coatroom attendants have fixed fees and don’t expect anything extra.
Australia/New Zealand Tipping
Be discreet and prepared to have your tip refused, especially in New Zealand where people are particularly reserved. At hotels, tip one Australia or New Zealand dollar (depending which country you are in) per bag and $1 to $2 per night for housekeeping. At restaurants, tip 10% to 15% to the waiter. Also tip 10% for cab drivers, $5 to $10 for a bus tour guide, $20 per day for a private driver, and 10% to 15% for spa treatments.
The law of the land and the rule at many hotels is no tipping. Fine hotels add 10% to 20% service fee. Most tour guides earn commission from shops they take you to, so tipping is not advised. Places where tips are suggested include massage houses (10 to 30 yuan per massage) except in hotel spas where tip is included. Tip luggage porters (10 yuan per bag).
Tipping is not customary in Japan. If you decide to leave a tip, place the money in an envelope and leave it behind in your room. Do not give the tip to anyone in-person as that is considered rude. Expect to have your tip refused. For a tour guide leave 2,500 to 5,000 yen in an envelope. To tip a taxi driver round up, but it will frequently be refused. Waiters also frequently refuse tips.T
Tip bathroom attendants about 20 baht. At hotels, tip 40 baht per bag to the porter, but nothing is expected for housekeeping. Round up for taxi or tuk tuk drivers (usually 20 baht). Also, when hailing taxis, it is common to keep your hand horizontal, fingers facing down. Holding your hand with fingers up or above your head is considered rude. Tip 300 to 500 baht per person per day for tour guides (who tip the driver so don’t worry about them). In all restaurants, it is customary to leave behind any loose change in coins as a tip. In more upscale restaurants, with professional wait staff who provide excellent service, a larger tip of 5% to 10% is quite common. Bring $2 USD bills as they really open doors in Thailand (and Cambodia). They see them so infrequently that it will be very much appreciated and considered good luck because of their rarity.
At hotels, tip about 20 to 40 pesos per bag and 40 to 80 pesos per night for the housekeeper. Tip 10% to 15% at restaurants in cash.
At hotels, $2 per bag and $2 a day for the housekeeper. Concierge will not expect a tip. No tip is required at restaurants, but 10% is routinely included in the bill for “service.” Round up for taxi drivers and $20 to $50 for a full day tour.
TOURING THE DESTINATION TIPS
Wondering where to watch the sunset in Paris? Few buildings in Paris have rooftop bars, but the Holiday Inn at 4 Rue Danton does. Take one of the tables to the right of the elevator (they face west) so you can watch the sunset over medieval Paris with the Eiffel Tower and Sacre-Couer beyond. Turn to the left to watch the light fade over Notre-Dame.
The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is introducing a new timed ticketing system to reduce queues outside one of Amsterdam’s most popular tourist attractions. Visitors who book online will be given a 15-minute entry window.
Vatican City Tip
Order your Vatican tickets online before arriving in Rome.
Panama Canal Tip
Take a Virtual Tour or live view of the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal Authority has produced an informative video demonstrating how the new Post-Panamax locks operate since the June 26, 2016 opening of the new locks. If you know the date friends and family will be transiting the locks (either original or new locks) you can use the site’s live video feed to watch their ship transit the Panama Canal!
London is an expensive city. Use www.smartertravel.com for a list of free attractions including many museums. This site works for many cities throughout Europe.
OTHER TRAVEL TIPS
Consider installing a Ring video doorbell at your front door. If someone comes to your door you will receive a video “ring” wherever you are in the world, even in flight, as long as you have WiFi. You can answer the door and just say you’re on the phone and can’t come to the door. They will never know you are overseas!
Trusted Traveler Programs
Enroll in trusted traveler programs. Global Entry truly expedited time spent in US Customs when arriving back in the US. You simply use an automated kiosk to self-process yourself back into the US. It’s fast, easy and convenient. The expedited program is offered by the US Customs and Border Protection (CDP). Cost is $100 and includes TSA Pre-Check (expedited airport security line for domestic travel.) No more removing your shoes, laptop, or liquids! There is approximately a 6-month waiting list for the required face-to-face interview and finger printing. Visit global www.entry.gov for complete details.
Hotel Business Cards
Note from Scott: The first thing I do when arriving at a hotel overseas is take a business card from the front desk. That way, if I ever get lost, I have the name and address of the hotel in the local language. Large populations around the world speak English, but having something in a local language that I can show locals and taxi drivers is an extra bit of insurance.
sE-Cigarettes are now banned by the US Department of Transportation from all carry-on and checked luggage. Samsung Galaxy 7 phones are also banned from all carry-on and checked luggage.
Train Travel Tip
There is a new train operating between Marseille, France and both Genoa and Milan in Italy. The train operates 3 times a day. Also new this year is a Scandinavia Eurail Pass (formerly a Regional Pass) and a new high-speed train service between Madrid and Granada.
Bring a charger adapter. Countries have different size plugs and voltage. So if you want to use your iPod, make sure you can charge it.
Note from Scott: Check the voltage of your electronics. From my own experience I know that nothing is worse than having an adapter and still not being able to use a blow-dryer or a straightener because the voltage isn’t high enough for that country.
If you usually rely on your cell phone to get around and don’t want to add a data plan to your phone while abroad, you can still jury-rig a crude version. Using the Wi-Fi in your hotel, plot out a few routes you plan to walk that day. Then take a screenshot of those maps. You can later find the photo, zoom in, and follow the path. It’s not ideal, but it’s a work-around.
Hopefully these great travel tips help to make your next vacation go more smoothly. Happy travels!
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