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Newbie How-to’s

Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to using Google Flights to search for the best fares

October 26, 2015 • By

Planning trips can be confusing to the inexperienced.  But if there is only one thing that you take from this post let it be this: “Booking your flight is the absolute first thing that you must do when planning your vacation.”  Why?  Because airfare will arguably be the most volatile expense that you will incur.  The cost of gas (as of this writing) is steadily declining, so airlines are offering fantastic bargains as a result.  However, these great fares aren’t available for all destinations.

That makes it all the more critical to plan ahead, monitor flight prices, be flexible with your departure dates and destinations as much as possible because some times are better than others.

Once you’ve decided where you want to go, my suggestion is that you start with “Google Flights“.  Much like its search engine counterpart, it allows you to search for the best flight deals to any destination.

Here’s how it works:

Once you have reached the Google Flights home page, you will see a search box.  The first screen will give you the option of selecting a round trip (where you travel to one destination and take a return trip back to where you started), a one way (is just as it sounds, you go to a destination with no plans to return or if you’re not exactly sure when you will, you can purchase a return one way ticket at a later date) or you can choose the multi-city option if you are planning on visiting several locations during the course of your vacation.

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Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to Cruising, Part 3 | Cruising Checklist

April 13, 2015 • By

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Back Again With Helpful Cruising Tips

Now that you’ve actually booked your cruise, it’s important to make sure that you take care of a few things before leaving.  Here’s a handy cruising checklist to assure that you will be ready before the ship leaves:

 

  • Check with your medical and renter’s/homeowners insurance to see if you and your belongings are covered by your current policies when traveling abroad.
  • Check with your cell phone carrier for international rates; beware of exorbitant roaming charges.
  • Notify your credit card company and your bank of your travel plans.  They will usually deny suspicious transactions from foreign locales if they weren’t forewarned about your plans.
  • Make from 2-3 copies of your passport, birth certificate and identification. Have one copy of the documents on your person separate from the actual documents when in port cities, place a copy in your luggage and if you opt to utilize a stateroom safe, place a copy within it as well.
  • Make sure your passports are 6 months or more before expiration when traveling.  Most countries will not allow you entry otherwise.
  • Be sure to purchase travel insurance.  It truly buys peace of mind in the event that you find yourself unable to travel after booking airfare, car rental, hotel stays, cruise fare, etc.  If you do not have it, if you have to cancel, you will lose any monies that you’ve spent.
  • Your Cruise Line will probably send you self adhesive luggage tags that will have your stateroom number printed on them.  Be sure to affix them to your luggage as instructed before leaving home.  

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Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to Cruising, Part 2 | Cruise Day

February 20, 2015 • By

cruise day

 

What should you expect on cruise day?

 

Alright.  You’ve decided that you want to give this cruising thing a go.  You’ve determined where you’d like to go and have already booked your cruise  with your preferred cruise line.  What should you expect on cruise day?

How do I check in?

Each Cruise Line is different but Celebrity allows you to check in well before your sail date.  If it’s possible,  I would recommend that you do that.  If you are familiar with flight check- ins at the airport, this works the same way.  You will go to the cruise line’s website, create an account and put in your information.  This in effect, pre-registers you for the cruise.  You will be able to print out your guest ticket which will give you pages of info on what to expect on cruise day, during your cruise and your cruise itinerary, etc.

We received luggage tags via regular mail with our stateroom number stamped on it and were advised to affix them to our luggage before leaving home.  One can only imagine the logistics involved in keeping up with the luggage of thousands of passengers, so we made sure that we followed their instructions to the letter.

I’ve heard that it’s best to arrive one day before your scheduled cruise departure.  Why?

Most cruises, particularly, Caribbean cruises depart in the late afternoon.  That might lead most people to think that it’s a safe bet to fly in on the day of the cruise.  My advice is to plan on flying in the day before, this will allow you breathing room to be prepared for embarkation the next day. Can you imagine booking a flight on cruise day and something happens to delay the flight?  Trust me, the cruise lines will not wait for you, so save yourself the stress and fly in the day before.

 

What if I choose to drive directly to the port from my home?

This has become such a “thing” that you will find that hotels located close to ports will offer “Park, Sleep and Cruise” specials.  If you pay for one night’s stay, they will allow you to park your car on site for free and reclaim it at the end of the cruise.  They will usually provide a complimentary shuttle from the hotel to the cruise port.

This might be the most desirable option should you choose to drive in because port parking fees are high (approximately $20.00 per day).  I rented a car during my last cruise and after dropping it off at the rental agency, I was shuttled to the port by the agency for free.

What can I expect when I arrive at the port?

We flew into Fort Lauderdale (FLL) because the flights were cheaper but our port was in Miami.  We hired a shuttle service to drive us to our Miami hotel and the next day we took the hotel’s shuttle to the port.  It cost $10.00 pp but it was worth it to assure that we’d get to where we needed to be on time.  As soon as you reach your particular cruise line, the driver will remove your luggage and you will then turn it over to the porter who works for the cruise line.

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Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to Cruising, Part 1 | Booking Your Cruise

January 26, 2015 • By

 

booking your cruise

Helpful Tips for Booking Your Cruise

When you consider how busy people are these days, it’s no surprise that Cruising is one of the most popular modes of traveling.  Think about it.   Literally, you will have 3+ days of pure bliss on a floating resort, practically any type of food you’d like, be treated like royalty by staff, participate in daily activities like Zumba, volleyball tournaments, trivia games, try your luck in the casino, enjoy nightly entertainment from singers, ventriloquists, dancers and musicians, be pampered in the on-site Spa, eat till your heart’s content or burn those same calories at the full service gym. What’s not to like?

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Add on the fact that cruise ships visit different ports and it’s easy to see why this would be a very cost effective way to get away from it all. I will admit that previously, I’d decided that my first cruise would be my last and only  recently realized that perhaps, I’d been too hasty.

If you prefer a relaxing, care-free vacation where you only need to show up and have the time of your life or just opt to relax, lounge around the pool and do nothing, cruising may be the ideal solution for you.

That sounds lovely, but everyone knows that there are a billion cruise lines.  How do I go about choosing the right one for me?  

If you asked three people that same question, you would get three different answers.  The answer is highly subjective and truly depends on the type of cruise you are looking for.   Take Carnival Cruises, for example.  They have a reputation for being a ‘party’ cruiser, however, when I was aboard the Carnival Liberty, there were 4,000 kids there.  The lovely thing is that I saw maybe two of them.  Carnival has a very good program for the youngsters that keeps them well occupied for the length of the cruise.  Therefore, families should not be wary of booking with them and singles should know that they will feel that they are almost on an adults only cruise.READ MORE


Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to Booking Accommodations – Part 1 | Booking On A Budget

September 16, 2013 • By

courtesy- treehugger.com

Booking Accomodations on a Budget

Today marks the beginning of a three part series that breaks down the choices one has in selecting accommodations for vacations or holidays. We will begin with our most economical offerings and work our way to the more expensive options.

 

 

When it comes to finding accommodations while traveling, I’m somewhat of a pragmatist.  I don’t require 5* stays mostly because I see it as a colossal waste of money.  When I travel, I see my hotel room as somewhere to lay my head at night.  I didn’t travel so that I could stay in a room, I plan to spend as little time there as possible!  But this is just my budget conscious opinion and when it comes to securing accommodations, preferences are never one size fits all.

Still, half the fun of searching for somewhere to stay is in realizing how many strange and unusual places to choose from that will make your visit more enjoyable.  Hotels are the default accommodations of choice, but how interesting would it be to stay in a monastery, an igloo or even a log cabin?

How do you find not only standard hotel rooms but find unique places to stay while you are on vacation?

I’m on a strict budget.  What is the best type of accommodation for me? READ MORE


Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to using the TripIt! Application

July 8, 2013 • By

Screen shot 2013-07-07 at 1.35.36 PMI’m a planner. I’m not the type A, OCD type of planner, but I like to keep things organized and in its place. Never is this more apparent than when I am planning the details of my vacation.

I like to have all of my flight, hotel and activity confirmations in one place where I can access them at any time.

I started out using the calendar feature of Microsoft Outlook. I could easily record all of my confirmations by keying them in on the appropriate dates; then the day before departure, I would print out each day’s activities and have them ready to go.

I really didn’t have an issue with preparing my itinerary this way. That is, until I found a quicker and easier way to do it. Enter the app, TripIt.   I found it while searching through apps on Linked-In, of all places.

It allows your linkedin connections to see where you are headed to next. This can be a bad and a good thing, I chose to disable this feature since I didn’t necessarily want everyone of my connections to know my complete schedule in real time.

However, you can input all of your information via their website by opening an account at TripIt . You can even give TripIt permission to auto import travel plans from your email inbox (this can be rescinded at any time). When you receive confirmations of your airline, hotel and tour bookings via email, TripIt will automatically scan your inbox and capture those bookings into your TripIt account. Each screen shot that you see below was automatically scanned into my account when TripIt discovered it in my gmail account.READ MORE


Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to the U.S. Global Entry Program

January 24, 2013 • By

global entry machine

 

Nothing makes the heart sink faster than seeing long lines at airports, especially when those long lines resemble a cesspool of copper headed snakes and are just as pleasant.  You know the drill….whether it’s waiting to go through the tiring TSA lines or through passport control/immigration, we have been conditioned to the art of the wait.

In a rare show of common sense, the government has developed a program to alleviate this inhuman form of torture.  Originally created to target frequent international travelers, the U.S. Global Entry program has been a virtual god-send for travelers who want a fast and secure way of skipping the lines altogether when re-entering the United States.

What is it exactly?

When coming back to the USA after visiting a foreign country, you will have to go through Customs.   Usually the lines are long because at any given time there are many flights re-entering the USA at the same time that your flight arrives.  This compounds the number of people who have to go through customs and usually end up creating interminable lines as a result.  The Global Entry program is a Trusted Traveler pre-screening program that allows you to go to a computer kiosk instead of a Customs officer when you are returning home.  This will significantly expedite your re-entry into the country because there will be virtually no wait since you can just walk up to the kiosk, scan your passport, let the camera scan your face and then your fingers to identify you biometrically.

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A screenshot of your flight details will pop up and you will need to verify whether or not you have something to declare.  If you are cleared through, a piece of paper will print out that you will need to hand over to the customs officer on your way out to baggage claim or ground transportation.  Time elapse?  Less than three minutes.READ MORE


Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to what seasoned travelers have learned about traveling

November 15, 2012 • By

Hindsight is always 20/20. What is it about traveling for the first time that causes Newbies to hesitate taking the plunge? We’ve all been there; wanting to see the world, but for whatever reason, we talk ourselves out of it.  Some reasons were internal….some external.  At the end of the day, only Only the individual can ascertain what is keeping them from following those long held dreams.

I wanted to get to the bottom of this and perhaps help others who may be stuck to see themselves in the comments that I solicited from several of my travel blogger friends and people who simply love to travel and have been doing it for years.

I posed this question: “If you could go back in time, what mistakes did you make as a newbie traveler that you wish you could change? Of if you were to give a new traveler advice, what would it be?” Here are their responses:READ MORE


Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

12 Travel Packing tips that will make your trip less hectic!

November 19, 2011 • By

There is nothing worse than having to haul over-sized luggage along with you as you travel the globe. Some people are learning that you don’t have to trudge along a pair of shoes for every outfit that you plan to wear. Most of us realize that lots of heavy luggage is the equivalent of a millstone around one’s neck. It’s not the best use of time when you are trying to get away from it all. So, how do you change your habits mid-stream and learn to love traveling light? It’s not as hard as you think.

1. Try to take clothing that is on its last leg. Finally, the clothing that was totally five seasons ago can earn its keep. Whether it’s well -worn shirts, tops, jeans, skirts or underwear, you can wear it and discard or donate it before coming back home. It’s a great way to clear out the closet and finally put your neglected clothing to good use plus you will have more room for souvenirs!

2. If you are taking a short trip, try to edit your contents down enough to where it will fit into a carry-on. You know the old rule, lay out everything that you think you will need for the trip and then remove half of that. You will experience euphoric joy when you realize that you do not have to grow old standing at baggage claim when you can leave the plane with the bag you brought on.READ MORE


Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to renting a car at the airport

November 7, 2011 • By

Under what circumstances should I rent a car while on vacation?

When I travel a great distance from my house (meaning more than a 4 hour drive) chances are I will be traveling by plane. I will rent a car when I’ve found that the city I’m visiting lacks a sufficient public transportation system. If it seems that it would make sense logistically to have a car as opposed to not having one, I will rent. If it takes three buses and one train ride to get to destination B, it makes sense to spring for a car.

Or if I want to take a day-trip to another nearby city, it makes sense to rent. Some cities like New York City, Chicago and San Francisco lend themselves to being very pedestrian friendly so it would be counter intuitive to rent a car under those circumstances.

If someone in your party has a physical impairment or if you have a large number of people in your travel party and public transportation would be difficult to navigate as well as being cost prohibitive, then you can’t go wrong renting a car.READ MORE