Booking Flights …
Know your airport codes. For example, Los Angeles is LAX, Boston is BOS, Tahiti is PPT, Havana is HAV.
I tend to start a flight search on google.com/flights, so I can see what airlines service the route and get a general idea of prices. Click through to the airline’s website. Flights and Kayak.com will both do price watches for you, emailing when the price goes up or down.
Other big online bookers are Travelocity.com and Orbitz.com. Smaller online bookers; skyscanner.com, vayama.com, cheapoair.com, etc.
The booking websites are great for consolidating multiple airlines but if all my flights are with one airline, I will book directly on that airline’s website. This can often ease or cheapen flight changes.
Passport is required in most countries, to be valid 6 months after visit ends. I bring copies of important documents and if I leave my passport in my room (or boat) I can bring a small copy of my passport into town. Note you’ll need your passport to change money. Most countries do not require a Visa from US citizens or Visa is granted upon arrival (note that under the current US regime, travel is getting harder for US citizens globally). Need to renew, Click Here. If in a hurry, get your passport faster through a private expediter.
Current US government info on travel requirements and advisories to all countries … http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country.html
Equally handy resource for our friends in Canadia …
Keep in mind when booking, most countries use the date format, dd/mm/yyyy
Hotels & Rooms …
Short term rental websites like Airbnb and VRBO can offer nice apartments, well situated. They are community oriented, show reviews and you book with locals who can give you advice on local things.
For hotels I’ve been using Booking.com with Hotels.com as a backup. Travelocity.com has reviews of resorts, food and what to do in a town. Most sites you book your flights on will work for hotels too. If I am on a longer range, lower budget Adventure, I will check out hostels – Hostel World or Hostelz.com. For a little extra, you can get your own room and often your own bathroom (ensuite) and there is usually a communal kitchen/living room where you can interact with other travelers. You can be middle age, just don’t act it :).
Most room booking sites have a map feature. This is great as it shows you where all of your options are relative to what part of the city you are trying to see (even if you just want airport/train/bus station close). Lonely Planet guides are great to bring. They have an online presence too.
Airport tips …
I like to be through the front door of the airport at least 2 hours before an important flight. I focus and do not rest until I am through security. Then I kick back, at or within eyeshot of my gate (or in a lounge if it’s a long wait) and trust my fate to the often capable hands of the airline industry. Different airports have different days they are busy. Mondays and Fridays are often busy. Weather and holidays can slow things down too. I try to travel carry-on only but most people check luggage. Check with your airline, but 40 pounds is often the maximum per bag. You can order a cheap bag scale online. Another trick is gate checking to save luggage fee. If your second bag is also carry-on size, wait to ask to check bag until you arrive at the gate.
I prefer to travel carry-on only. Usually, I can print my ticket at a kiosk upon entering the airport and avoid waiting in line. My bag is a rolling duffle the size that fits into all overhead bins on the planes. The duffle design smashes down and fits best under bunks on boats.
Security (TSA): Most know the drill. Laptops, liquids, shoes, jackets, metal jewelry, drone batteries and contents of pockets in the bins. Consider this list when getting dressed for flights; slip on shoes, beltless pants, less/no jewelry. Pack liquids in checked bag. Pack security pull out items on top of carry-on. Liquids in 3.4 ounce bottles and you can take as many as fit in one quart ziplock (get freezer style, sturdy). I have never been questioned with up to 5oz bottles as long as they are in their quart size ziplock in the bin. I have a clear waterproof satchel that all my electronics (vhfs etc.) go in. It pulls out easy and security doesn’t have to open it to see items. If I have time, I’ll often skip the full body radiation ‘scan’ and get the pat down instead. The radiation is minimal but cumulative.
I bring my empty water bottle and fill it on the happy side of security. You can buy duty free booze etc (a quart/liter or two is usually allowed to bring into a country, check regs). I wouldn’t buy until before your final flight.
Other security tips: Click here for TSA Website for banned items and stuff you must put in checked baggage. Basically, larger liquids, sprays, fire and sharp stuff.
Carry on bag size: 22 x 14 x 9 inches is industry standard. Mine’s 23 and barely fits sometimes. JetBlue and others offer 24″. 22″ x 9″. But Jetblue might confiscate your checked tiny folding bike without warning (I loved that bike). The length and height numbers are important. The 14″ width measurement is not fixed by the dimensions of the overhead bin so you may have some leeway there. Not enjoying the new fees for checked baggage? I’m a fan of duffles with wheels. After watching some cheap bags disintegrate, I found a perfect carry-on. I use the empty rack as a dockcart sometimes, Kelty Ascender 22, if you can find it.
Travel Offsetting …
Though sailing Adventures are among the least carbon intensive vacations you can have, we like to offset the emissions that do occur. And know that you are half way there. AV offsets all of the emissions, for all of us, for the duration of our Adventures on the boats. If you would like to add offsetting for you flight as well, we encourage you to try our favorite (deductible, non-profit, people-helper) … Cotap.org.
For those who would like flight insurance, be sure to read the fine print as most will not cover you unless you can get a doctors note. This makes it useless in most circumstances. Credit cards and airlines both offer this kind of insurance.
Civilized countries provide free medical for their citizens. Some require medical insurance for travelers. If so, that will be listed on the country info on the our government travel site, links above. If your US insurance covers you in the country, bring printed declaration. Diversalertnetwork.org $35 membership includes 100k of emergency evac that will get you back to the US to use your US insurance. I just buy travel medical insurance online: Coolest I found is Worldnomads.com. Cheapest is via Visitorscoverage.com.
So often when travelling, there is no meter in your taxi. Always confirm the price to your destination before getting into a cab. If they are hesitant or it sounds excessive I will offer them an amount (research a bit prior or ask your travel partners). Often, guys will come up to you as you are leaving the airport offering their ‘taxi’ or wanting to carry your bag (to their taxi). I enjoy the funny negotiations but if you’re not used to that, it may be best for you to ‘no gracias’ past them on your way to just outside to find an airport rep in uniform and ask them for a (legit) taxi or for the taxi line. On your walk to the cab area, consult a local or two on a fair price to get you where you want to go. The ‘no gracias’ walk away can be an effective bargaining tool for cabs or gift shopping after you have offered a fair price and they’ve said no. They’ll often call you back. Like all interactions, do it respectfully.
ATM at the airport is your easiest option. Put your debit card in and out comes the local currency. The rate is usually decent. Be sure to call all of your card companies before travelling and tell them of your plans or they will lock your card on first use. Capital One has cards that do not charge foreign fees and give cash back. There are others.
Your bank at home can usually get you foreign currencies at your branch. There are always exchanges at airports and in foreign towns with a lot of tourism. Ask if there is a fee. Some exchanges charge you commission on top of a varying exchange rate.
If you only have US bills, know that most everyone on the planet will take US dollars. You will usually pay a little more (know your approximate exchange rate) but you will be able to get what you need until you find an exchange. 100 dollar bills can be hard to exchange (except Cuba who insists on them). I had a foreign bank tell me they couldn’t change my new version colorful 100’s. No worries, I found the nearest Asian-run shop and they gave me local change for the purchase of a coldy (my new Asian friend, as usual, more sophisticated than the local banker).
Wifi and Calling …
Check with your phone company on their international calling/data charges. T-Mobile offers cheap calling and unlimited slow data at no extra charge, in 100+ countries. Wifi is widely available in coffee shops and hotels. If your phone allows wifi calling, you’re set. You don’t have to shout into a cel phone, that’s a strange US habit. And there are messaging and calling apps like Whatsapp and Viber. I sometimes have my calls forwarded to my Google Voice account. Fun feature, GV makes hilarious attempts at translating your phone messages into texts.
There is rarely wifi available onboard our yachts. When we are anchored off resorts you can often sign up for their wifi. Another option is to buy a local sim for your unlocked, GSM (international sim card) phone when you arrive. The sim for our last Greece Adventure was cheap and provided reasonably priced, super fast internet even in the outer islands.
If you have any suggestions or changes for this page, please email me. Thank you. Woody@AdventureVoyaging.com
More on money …
From an ABC article (click here)... “Another place travelers lose money is in exchanging U.S. dollars for foreign currency. Some businesses and institutions charge significantly higher rates than others. To minimize exchange fees, you need to know where to go.
Begin by Googling current exchange rates for your destination. Rates can fluctuate without warning, but starting with a general ballpark number will help you spot scams and rip-offs.
Many travelers will be more comfortable changing currency at their local bank in the States, but that usually isn’t the cheapest route. You might want to change a little cash beforehand to cover initial travel expenses, but wait until you arrive at your destination to swap the bulk of it.
Once you land, you’ll have a few options. Airports and hotels often offer exchange services, but the rates won’t be great. You’re better off exchanging currency at a local bank in the area.