10 Travel Tips
by William D. Hicks
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What makes me an expert on travel? Well, as a newbie traveling across Europe for four months, I learned a lot from guidebooks. I also learned a lot from making mistakes, so why not take advantage of mine? Below are my tips for making your trip a little more enjoyable:
1. Surf & Turf
Be sure to surf (the Web) before booking your turf (hotel). Certain credit cards, memberships (AAA) and Internet bookings can often get you a cheaper price than "rack rate." Sometimes this information in on a hotel's website. Sometimes you have to make a phone call. Always ask yourself if you're getting added value. By booking with a AAA membership, you could save enough money to pay next year's membership fees!
2. Bed, Bath & Beyond
Everyone knows you must state your preference: king bed or two twins. However, did you know that you should also ask about a bathtub? Some hotels only have showers in the rooms. If you're like me and love baths, call before you book.
3. Sorry, We're Closed
For people trying to sightsee, find out how close the hotel you've selected is to the sites you must see. Also, make sure the sites will be open when you are available to see them. Hotels can often direct guests to free/fee sightseeing buses. Some even have their own transportation and may be willing to drop you near a site.
4. Document Everything
Be sure to make copies of important paperwork (driver's license, passport, visas, tickets) before leaving home. Place these copies with traveler's check documentation in a separate, secure place, away from the originals. A good place is a money belt. Since pickpockets are at work everywhere, this will safeguard your money and important documents. It's easier to prove who you are with copies than without them.
5. Like Mother Goose, We All Live in Our Shoes
Bring good walking shoes that are appropriate to vacation plans. Visiting the Louvre, sunbathing in Aruba or hiking the Appalachian Mountains all require different types of walking gear. Consider Rockports (they make dressy ones too) for double-duty city/museum visits.
6. Swim, Don't Sink
Hoping to use the pool at your hotel? First, find out if it's indoor or outdoor. Outdoor pools are seasonal and only open during certain months of the year.
Don't leave home without your swimsuit. If your hotel has a swimming pool and you plan to buy a swimsuit when you get there, reconsider this move. It's difficult to buy swimwear during off-season and expensive during high-season. Even if your hotel doesn't have a pool, or if you're not planning on swimming, it's always a good idea to pack one. On the off chance you decide to take a leap off a short pier, you'll have a swimsuit with you. If you must buy a suit upon arrival, do what you do at home and try to find a K-Mart.
7. What You See Is Not What You Get
Take a tip from the Europeans; check out the hotel room before unpacking. If it doesn't meet your needs (the view/look/feel you want), ask for another. On occasion, the front desk will even upgrade the room at no charge; they don't want you to leave unhappy.
8. Ask, Don't Tell
When it comes to sites, events and entertainment, ask the concierge what he recommends. Don't just tell him/her where you want to go or the play you want to see. Otherwise, they'll just follow your orders and help you get the tickets. Perhaps the play has been panned by patrons, or the star is out sick; this kind of information can only be had by asking, not telling.
9. Check This Out
If you're running late for check out time at a hotel (don't we all procrastinate to make our vacation last just a little bit longer?), call the front desk and ask if you can get a "late checkout." Business travelers know this trick. A friendly "please" may get you no late check-out fees.
10. Store Before You Go
The train/bus/flight leaves hours after check out. What to do? It's a typical dilemma. Store it. Don't lug it. Ask the hotel concierge to store your luggage for a few hours until you're ready to leave for your transportation. Usually, it's not a problem for departing patrons.
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