Traveling Thursday – Meeting Times Matter

Most group tours or cruise excursions feature at least a little time for passengers to explore, shop, or eat on their own. The guide always communicates a meeting time and meeting location and far too often, there is always someone who returns to the group late.

I’m here to implore you not to be that person. By returning to the group late, you send the message that you are a little more important than everyone who made it to the meeting point on time. Understand that almost everyone in the group would have liked more time to explore but instead they followed the rules and returned on time.

Not only are you behaving like a jackass, you also make things more difficult for the guide and driver.

It might seem that a tardy arrival isn’t a big deal but it can really create havoc. Many popular tourist areas have temporary bus parking close to the pedestrian center. Late arrivals can cause the bus driver to have to pay additional fees or risk a fine if he/she exceeds the time allowed in this area.

In many countries including the US, bus drivers are limited to working a certain number of hours each day. If someone in your group returns to the bus five or 10 minutes late, your driver will probably not exceed the limit. If that short delay is compounded by a traffic jam or detour, you might end up with a driver who is no longer able to drive. When Mr. McB visited the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, one of the passengers returned to the bus late and the driver almost ran out of time before the group got back to Dublin.

Consider that a 10-15 minute delay for a morning stop could also make you late for a lunch or tour reservation later in the day.

Timeliness is also very important when it comes to the all aboard on a cruise ship. The comings and goings in a port are not a haphazard affair. Sailing away from a port is a carefully orchestrated event generally involving a pilot ship and tug boat. With all these preparations, there is little tolerance for tardy passengers and the ship is within its rights to leave them behind.

Please just BE ON TIME when you are traveling with others. I know this might seem elementary but given the experience on our cruise, this is a lesson that some folks haven’t learned yet.






Traveling Thursday -Tipping Take Two

Last year, I wrote a post about tipping those in the travel industry. I’m adding to that advice today with a note about tipping while abroad. In the past, many travel companies and guides said that it was acceptable to tip in US dollars as long as you were using bills and not coins; this is no longer the case due to rising bank fees.

A guide explained that shopkeepers could no longer accept US dollars because  they were easily paying 25-30 percent in fees to convert the dollars to euros. While she never mentioned tipping or the travel industry, I immediately thought of it and was thankful that we had been tipping in euros.

If at all possible, tip in the local currency. If it isn’t feasible remember that in addition to the exchange rate, you should consider the large fees that the bank will charge when your guide or driver changes money.

Traveling Thursday – The Grateful Traveler

Last week, a lot of attention was given to stores that were open on Thanksgiving and the employees who had to work on the holiday. Since my father retired from a long career in retail last year, I understand and appreciate the sacrifices made by these folks, and their families. I can also tell you that even when stores were closed to the public, people were working on Thanksgiving in preparation for Black Friday.

All of these discussions made me think of others who work on Thanksgiving and other holidays. As I rattled off the list in my mind, I started to think about the wonderful people who work in the travel/tourism and hospitality industries. Just like retail, these industries hit their peak during holidays and require employees to work while many others are enjoying days off and time spent with family.

I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge those who work in tourism and hospitality. Whether its bringing families together around a big Thanksgiving buffet at a restaurant, managing group tour headed for some famous holiday attraction, or making sure we have a comfortable hotel room after our big journey over the river and through the woods, you are here to make sure we can enjoy our holidays year-round.

Thank you for taking time away from your friends and family to take care of us.

Traveling Thursday – Upgrades, Add-ons and Travel Insurance

Yes, I’m going back to the topic of travel insurance. Forgive me but I haven’t written about it in quite some time and there is more to share.

If you make any travel plan upgrades or add services or extensions to your trip, don’t forget to update your travel insurance coverage. Yes, it will take some extra effort on your part and will involve an expense but if there are problems, you want to get your full refund.

If you purchase a $300 upgrade to your accommodations, you will likely pay $25-35 to have this added to your plan. Isn’t it worth that amount to ensure that you will get a full refund?

If your original plan had features (like cancel for any reason) that had to be purchased within a certain number of days after booking the trip, the same rules apply to your add on.


Traveling Thursday – Skip the Lines

Everyone wants to maximize their time on vacation. One way to make the most of that precious time is buying tickets for popular attractions in advance. In today’s connected world, you can buy tickets to many of the world’s most popular sites from the comfort of your home.

When searching, try to find the attraction’s official ticketing outlet instead of going through a third-party site. For example, there are many sites that resell tickets to the Uffizi but the official site is the best place to purchase tickets. The same is true for the Colosseum. 

In this piece, Rick Steves has even more advice about advance ticket purchases and avoiding long lines.

Buying advance tickets to museums and attractions in the US is just as easy and effective when it comes to making the most of your vacation time.

Sometimes it is worth an even larger fee to avoid the lines and have a guaranteed spot. For example, the Big Shot VIP passes for Preservation Hall run more than twice the normal admission yet you can avoid the lines and you are guaranteed a seat. If your time in New Orleans is limited, this extra money can easily give you an extra hour and it means that you have a seat for the show.

Before you next trip, do a little research and see what your pre-booking options might be.

Traveling Thursday – What’s In Port

While the cruise line’s packaged excursions are always an option, more travelers are considering touring on their own. I highly recommend What’s In Port if you are looking to add some independent exploration to your next cruise itinerary.

The website can help you determine the distance between the port and the attractions that most travelers want to see. It also provides links to maps and recommendations for the best methods of transportation for accessing these sites. With more than 1,200 ports represented, it’s a great resource.

Traveling Thursday – A different type of airport connection

Two new websites Meet At The Airport and Planely are designed to help layovers a bit more bearable by allowing travelers to meet up for romance, conversation or networking.

Travels answer questions about themselves and their purpose for using the site. They are then matched with others based on these answers.

It’s rather ingenious really. Business travelers spend countless hours at the airport so why not give them an option to ease personal connections.

So what do you think road warriors? Would you use these services?

Traveling Thursday – Cinderella was right.

Cinderella knew the importance of the right pair of shoes.

As travelers we should take a page from her book when it comes to selecting the right footwear. Blisters and sore feet can ruin your vacation.

I highly encourage you to read this article about the shoes that travel professionals recommend. There are a lot of great recommendations.

Personally, I love my Sketchers, Privo by Clarks, and my cute Crocs. Whatever you pick, find something that is comfortable, durable, and well broken in. I also always take along a few blister band-aids just in case.




Traveling Thursday – Privileges of Membership

Are you a member of a zoo, garden, or museum? Did you know that many of those attractions offer reciprocal membership benefits at other facilities across the country? This could mean that you would enjoy free, or greatly reduced, admission during your travels. It’s a great way to save money and take full advantage of an existing membership.

The AZA offers this list of zoos with reciprocal membership benefits.

For other types of attractions, check your membership materials or the member’s section of their website.