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Travel Smart

Tips from our World Travel Guides

With over 24 years of experience from all over the planet, our newest addition to the website offers free travel advice from our hardy travel guides and authoritative travel resources. Bookmark this page for up-to-date information and new Travel Smart Tips each month!

Airlines: Ticketing, Flying, Cancelling

  • Online ticketing sites
    • Benefits: Less expensive fares, online access to seating arrangements, comparison shopping, no travel agent fees.
    • Drawbacks: Non-refundable tickets are usually least expensive, but they come with high cancellation/change fees as well as the airline's policy fees - you'll pay twice. Also, if you should need to cancel, change or reroute a ticket on the go, representatives at the airport typically cannot help you if you did not book directly with the airline. Make sure that you bring all customer service phone numbers, usernames, passwords and confirmation codes for the online site with you while traveling.
  • Travel Agents
    • Benefits: They work directly with airlines to get the best schedules and fares; you are notified of any changes in your flights before and during travel; if you have a good agent, she will make adjustments as necessary and track seating assignment time frames; when making changes or cancelling, you only pay the airline policy fees. Overall benefit: travel agent fees (typically $30-$50) far outweigh the headache of working with online ticketing sites that do not focus on customer service.
    • Drawbacks: It's better to plan ahead to get lower fares; better to know your specific travel days; travel agent fees.

Packing List
It's always a good idea to follow the recommendations of packing lists. From tour companies to guidebooks, these are the people that have been there and done that. You may scoff at bringing a pair of wool gloves on your summer kayaking trip or a bathingsuit for Yellowstone in winter - but you don't want to end up like this!
(see cartoon)

Along with your specific trip needs, click here to download the Adventure Associates General Packing List (PDF) when you get ready for your next adventure.

Money Matters
Consider these ways to cut the costs of conversion into foreign currencies:

  • Prepay as much of your trip as possible in US Dollars
  • Use ATM cards at foreign banks
  • Banks typically offer the best exchange rates - avoid changing money at hotels and stand-alone currency exchanges. Make as few ATM withdrawals as possible, because banks typically charge fees on both ends of the transaction. Call your bank to make sure your PIN will work abroad, and find out if your bank has a partnership with any banks in the country you are visiting. If so, you may be able to avoid bank fees altogether.
  • Use credit cards abroad to get the best conversion rates
  • Most companies charge a fee for converting transactions from foreign currencies into dollars on a per transaction basis - read the cardmember agreement or call the 800 number on the back of the card to find out which of your cards offers the lowest fee.
  • Carry a mixture of local currency, credit cards, and US Dollars
  • It's always a good idea to have a mixture of small denominations ($5, $10, $20 bills) for departure taxes, cab rides, tips, souvenirs and smaller purchases. Bring only new, crisp American bills (ones that have flaws or tears may not be accepted abroad). Note: When making purchases in remote villages or markets, use small denominations of local currency.
  • Always pack a spare credit card for emergencies and photocopies of the front and back of credit and ATM cards - keep these tucked away somewhere safe in your luggage

Important Travel Documents
New in January 2008, Americans traveling to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean are required to have a valid Passport for re-entry into the USA. Here are a few more tips for traveling abroad with your passport and important travel documents:
  • Always carry photocopies
  • Make 2-3 copies of the photo information page and any visa inside your passport, and leave one behind with your "in case of emergency" person. Color copies are best, but legible black and white copies work too. Sometimes hotels will ask to see or hold your passport and visa page overnight - if you can give them a photocopy instead, you won't have to hand over your passport. If you have booked through a tour company, make sure they have a copy on file as well.
  • Passport Rules of Thumb:
    • Check the expiration date
    • Your passport is valid for 10 years, and maybe it's been a while since you looked at the expiration date. Many countries require that your passport will be valid for 6 months beyond your last in-country day.
    • 1 blank page per country visiting
    • Many countries have begun printing visa stickers that take up one full page of your passport. Others still work with the quarter-page ink stamps. (Sometimes these stickers are removable, but it's not recommended to tamper with your passport.) Be sure that if you require an entry visa, you have one full blank page per country visiting. If you travel frequently, it is not a bad idea to request a passport with extra pages (available for an extra fee).
  • Travel Insurance
  • Once you have your policy number and emergency contact phone numbers in hand, tape the information to the back page of your passport for easy access.
  • Visas
  • Whether you have booked flights with a reliable travel agent or an online ticketing service, it is your responsibility to find out whether you need a visa for the countries you are visiting or routing through. AND whether you are required to get a visa prior to departure. Check the US Dept of State website for the Entry Requirements of each country you are visiting, including transit airports. Sometimes you can purchase a transit or a tourist visa upon arrival, but it is recommended to plan ahead when traveling internationally and acquire all visas at least 3 months prior to departure. Example: When transiting through countries such as India, US Citizens with checked bags must have a visa prior to arrival, even if you are not staying in India. More than likely, you will need to collect your luggage, pass through immigration, and re-check your luggage in enough time to catch your next flight. Be careful when arranging the amount of time between flights and always read the fine print!

Booking a Tour: Extra Costs
Each tour company handles inclusions and exclusions differently. Usually, the land costs cover ground transportation, guide services, lodging, most meals, and use of equipment. Many companies advertise "all-inclusive packages," but be sure to read the fine print on the itinerary of your specific tour when signing up and ask questions:

Are there flights or lodging not included in the tour costs?
Do I need a tourist visa and how much does it cost?
Will there be a departure tax for me to pay?
How many meals am I responsible for?
About how much does a meal cost?
Are entrance fees and government taxes included?
What is an appropriate tip to our guide(s)?
How Strenuous is this tour?

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