Are you planning to go to abroad on a holiday tour? Do you consider your preparation adequate enough for the occasion? Or are you still busy writing down plans and itineraries, and sorting out details about the tour? Chances are you'll run into a few hassles and tussles along the way.
Yes, there are quite a number of things that can spoil your long awaited foreign holiday: Expired passports, inappropriate visas, too many luggages, bungles hotel reservations, and those sorts of things. So, it is best to be logical and thoroughly prepared before buying your tickets. Here's an A-to-Z list that can help you:
A for Agents
Choosing the right travel agency is very important. They should be able to offer you the very best advice on any one country, package deal, accomodations or airline schedule. You should look and ask around, and select one with care. The advice, as a public service feature, should be totally free.
Don't be naive, a few agents have been known to disappear overnight. Ask for information from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). They can tell you if the travel agent is accredited or not.
B for Baggage
Many people have a tendency to overload themselves. What you take is what you end up carrying. You may end up furious if you find yourself stuck somewhere, and are faced with toting a couple of heavy luggage around. Holiday gears shouldn't weigh a ton.
If you're flying to the United States or Canada, your allowance is one piece of hand-carried luggage and two pieces of baggage. Elsewhere the average allowance is 20 kilograms in economy and 30 kilograms in first class, as well as the hand-carried luggage.
Take note: you'll pay for the "excess" baggage in terms of additional weights, and it is certainly not cheap.
C for Calling Home
As you might have probably seen on television commercials, the network companies has international operators that can handle your call home. Be sure to list international operators that can handle your call home. be sure to list down the numbers of these operators on the particular countries that you are visiting. This way you can charge the calls and pay them when you get home avoiding spending currencies on the tour. It is also important that you make your calls brief and precise.
D for Duty Free
If you're an avid shopper, find out the prices of the things you want to buy before you go on a spree and compare them on the spot. Resist the temptation stock up at the first duty-free shops you see - it won't necessary be the cheapest. Downtown duty-free shops in places like Hong Kong are usually much cheaper than their airport counterpart.
There are also good airport duty-free shops. Those in Bangkok, Singapore, Athens and Rio de Janeiro are listed as among the cheapest. Scandinavian countries have the most expensive ones. Buying on the plane is okay but the choice and availability are limited.
E for Embassy
Hopefully you won't lose your passport or find yourself in serious trouble but it's wise to make a note of the address of the embassy or consular office in the areas you intend to visit - just in case. You can obtain this information from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) before you leave.
F for Fares
Keep your eyes open: Fare structures change frequently and new deals are constantly being introduced by the airlines.
The cheapest advance-purchase fare has its limitation and isn't as cautious as it sounds. Airline fares tend to rise overnight especially during certain crises. But they definitely aren't as flexible as normal fares; so make sure you've checked all the restrictions governing them before you part with your money. Insure yourself against that last-minute change of plan: Agents or airlines will offer this option to you when you book.
Remember that the cheapest fare isn't always the best one. You should take your own circumstances and itinerary into consideration.
G for Geography
Whether you plan on walking on the tour country, riding a greyhound bus, driving a rented car, or going on a gondola ride, maps are essential. They are usually freely given by local tourist authorities. If you, however, are unable to obtain one, try getting it in your destination's airport. It also pays to know the climate and the terrain. Bringing a reliable, handy compass is an advantage.
H for Hotels
Flexible itineraries are great but, if you choose this option, endeavor to find out what's happening locally if you're heading for a big city, especially if you're going to stay there overnight. Local conventions or trade fairs often mean a row of "fully-booked" signs, just when you least expect them.
Keep in mind the old adage "You get what you paid for." Throughout Europe, hotels and pensions (small guesthouses) are required by law to comply with strict standards and are graded accordingly. But the cheaper you go, the less chance there is of making a reservation, especially during the peak tourist season.
I for Insurance
Like fares, be prudent to consider insurance for loss of baggage, medical insurance (which can cost more if you're unlucky enough to need it in some countries) and security for valuables. Premiums on travel insurance are usually quite reasonable. Ask your airline, travel agent or an insurance company for more information.
J for Jewelries
When on a tour, never show-off your expensive jewelries. Never wear gold chains around your neck or highly-priced watches and rings in your hands in places like New York and Hong Kong, where thieves and muggers are notorious.
On the other hand, Hong Kong is great for jewelry stores but make it a point to buying from reputable shops and avoids street touts. Bahrain, on the other hand, is one of the cheapest places in the world for gold. And they're scrupulously honest. Myanmar is a good place to buy rubies while South Africa is famous for diamonds.
K for Kinfolks
If you have close relatives in your place of destination, be sure to write down their addresses and telephone numbers correctly. If you can notify them of your intended tour date and arrival day ahead of time via e-mail or long-distance call, much better. They can certainly help you enjoy your vacation better than the tour guides.
L for Language Problem
Most Filipinos speak English quite well, which is a good travel tool. But there are places in some countries like China, Germany, Japan and Russia, that you need strings of prepared phrases in their national tongue to get by. If you are likely to encounter a language barrier, invest in a small language-phrase translator book. It could prove invaluable.
M for Medicines
Even if you're a health freak, don't bring too much medicines and medical parapher-nalia, unless you are on a medicinal or therapeutic schedule. Bottled medicines will cramp and add weight to your luggage. Bring only the truly necessary pills or the "cure all" tonics. Most countries have drugstores that sell prescription medicines in generics. Just don't forget the prescription.
N for National Customs
Travel experts will tell you that if people did their homework before they flew off, they would have greatly improved their chances of having a memorable holiday and avoid certain hang-ups. Knowing the people's customs and traditions in your destination continues will help you get along with them and sometimes will keep you out of troubles. Most countries have a government tourist bureau or information office in their embassies. You should be able to obtain all manner of printed information from these sources before you go. You can also ask your travel agency to furnish you these items.
O for Organizing Details
Being organized means being thorough. Organize your luggage on where to put what. Double-check on everything from travel documents, clothing and pocket money, to the lens of your camera; there might be small but important items that you missed out.
P for Pocket Money
On going on a foreign trip, it is best to take traveler's checks in small denominations plus a calculated amount of cash preferably US dollars.
Carrying an international credit card is definitely an advantage since the number of places worldwide that accepts such a transaction is growing rapidly. Some banks also offer ATM services in many countries.
Q for Quality of Service
This can be gauged through experience. Try asking some friends and relatives about their past experience. Note the things and places that merit their praises. From this you may be able to choose the place to tour, the best travel agency, the best airlines, the best hotels, and the best place to shop and dine. Take into consideration that the quality of service sometimes depends on the individual's tolerance and outlook: what is considered nuisance for an easy-go-lucky kind of guy may be elegant to the conservative aristocrat. Knowing the services that are being offered - its flexibility and limitations - is a great advantage. If it is necessary to spend a little more for quality, why not, rather than sulk on resentments later.
R for Receipts
All travel and identification documents are important. But so are receipts. Make sure not to throw them away. Receipts of ATM transactions and those of the item you bought should be kept for future references and confirmations. You may never know if the next custom's official to check your luggage will be more strict and by the book.
S for Stopover
Today's options for stopovers are quite unlimited in certain kinds of economy class fares. As long as you keep within the stipulated mileage for the fare you pay, you can switch airlines if you want to, and make your own itinerary. Many airline travel deals offer up to three or four stopovers at no extra charge. Stopovers also afford you the time for last-ditch shopping.
T for Tour Guides
Sometimes travel arrangements, especially in groups of first-time travelers, include tour guides at particular locations. If you have relatives or friends in the destination countries, it is best to consult them or better yet get them to stroll with you. Another option is to hire guides on-site. Be sure to consult airport or other civilian authorities in hiring tour guides. yes, there are countries, particularly in South America, with unscrupulous reputation regarding tour guides.
On the other hand, if you are a seasoned traveler, you can certainly do without tour guides.
U for Unpacking
A pleasure if you packed properly, a nightmare if you have succumed to the old "I just might need that" thought. Most of the time it remained just a thought - and the item uselessly occupied a large chunk of your luggage. By traveling light you leave room in your luggage for souvenirs and casual clothes you might pick up during your shopping.
One additional reminder: Always mark your baggage and packages with your name and place of contract. Just in case you loss one, it would be easier for the finder to return it to you.
V for Visas
Clarify everything with regards to visas with your travel agent. Remember that the words "Valid for 12 months" stamped on a visa do not necessary mean you can stay in the country for a year. The person who decides how long you stay in a country is the immigration officer who greets you on arrival there.
Ask also specific questions when travelling to countries where vaccinations might be necessary.
W for Weather
Checking out the weather is not a sign of paranoia but of thoroughness. It may be summer in one part of the world but is raining daily in another. South and Southeast Asia have rainy seasons and though it can be hot during summer, Korea and mildly, Hong Kong, have a winter which usually last from November to February.
If you're visiting Hong Kong during summer, pack a shawl for your shoulders. Most places are air-conditioned, and you'll feel the marked difference between the inside cool atmosphere and the sticky humidity outside.
Canada is a popular destination during winter because of their Winterlude festivals. You, however, need to dress thick since the snow goes on non-stop. Brazil, on the other hand, has a climate opposite that of many part of the world.
X for Xenophobia
Fear and loathing of foreign places and people can be a hitch if you are unable to offset it with casual conditions.
People having this affliction should best travel in groups with families and friends. You can also write to people you know in the country and seek reassurance of a well-meaning visit.
Y for Yammer
It's an informal word meaning "to complain loudly and whiningly." People tend to blame the people in their immediate surrounding if they find their accommodations unsatisfactory.
If there is something wrong with your accommodations, check with your travel agency first. Sort it over, and if you think you are at the short end of the deal, tell them that your experience will reach the DFA, the media and all the people you know. It's one way of straightening the crooked path.
Z for Zones
Time zones should always be taken into account. If you are expecting people to meet you on your arrival, double check that the time you give them is the local one.
It is helpful if you know the difference between the time at home and the countries you are visiting. That way you won't be confused and can readily adjust to the new time zones, especially if you have schedules to meet.