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Family Travel Tips

by Lux Joseph 16. May 2014

CME makes travel arrangements each and every day to bring loved one’s back home. At the same time, you may be arranging travel for an upcoming family trip. Anyone who's ever taken a family trip knows they have the potential to be both stressful and rewarding at the same time. We all have fond memories of embarrassing family photo opportunities and harmonizing in the backseat to pass the time, along with not-so-fond memories of airport hassles and bungled arrangements.

The secret to a successful family trip lies not only with extensive preparation but smart planning. This is the same approach we take when planning a medical escort repatriation and we have some tips that will help you plan a smooth vacation. Designing a vacation that appeals to a range of age groups can be quite challenging. How can you find family-friendly accommodations? How do you determine which destinations will appeal to both adults and children? How do you make it through the airport without pulling your hair out?

Rest assured, it is possible for families to have their "dream vacation," and more and more families are asking their travel agents for help. Approximately 77 percent of ASTA agents surveyed recently said they were currently booking more family vacation travel as compared to the previous year. In response to this increasing demand, an influx of new and varied intergenerational travel products have been introduced. And from theme parks to cruises to European vacations, there's something for every family.

At CME, we use our in-house travel department to make all the arrangements for our medical escort repatriations. We encourage you to contact your travel agent as they can help you explore your options and choose the vacation that's ideal for all your loved ones. Agents are one-stop-shopping - they offer planning services that include air, hotel, sightseeing, cruises and more. They also have a wealth of travel information and advice such as visa requirements, packing tips, travel insurance and international permit requirements for drivers. And agents are there to offer follow-up help if something should go wrong and can alert vacationers to scams. Plus, your travel agent can help you land the best group rates available on the vacation that's right for you.

The first step in planning your family vacation is to designate a group leader. As the saying goes, "Too many cooks spoil the broth," so appointing one person to be in charge is the best way to prevent possible spats. At CME, each individual in our office has a special role in putting together the repatriation for our clients. By selecting a key individual for your family vacation this individual will have responsibilities ranging from shopping around for the best group deals to holding on to everyone's tickets and coupons. Even if you decide not to appoint a leader, keep in mind that it's best to deal with one travel agent - you'll avoid potential confusion and get the best rates.

Families should book their flights well in advance so that they can get the best price and the most hassle-free arrangements. Whenever possible, groups should opt for non-stop flights even if it costs more. The stress of regrouping after members run to the bathroom, gift shops and food stands isn't worth the few dollars you'll save. It's always a good idea to invest in trip cancellation insurance, particularly when traveling with a group. CME always looks for the most direct routing to move our patients. This eliminates the hassle of potentially missing connections and ensures the most safe and secure transport flight.

Allow plenty of time for check-in and also between connecting flights. Arriving early to board together prevents last minute delays and confusion. We strongly suggest our medical escorts arrive three hours prior to an international departure and two hours prior to a domestic departure.  It would be great to consider establishing a buddy system to ensure that no one gets left behind.

When it comes to choosing accommodations, consider all-inclusive cruises or resorts - they're the ideal way to organize the big trip. All-inclusive venues usually have a variety of activities and foods that appeal to every age. Cruises have become instant family favorites because all activities are preplanned so you'll spend more quality time together. Condominiums can simplify group planning and typically provide accommodations like multiple bedrooms and full-kitchens that are ideal for value and convenience. Also look for resorts that advertise children's programs, not just children's facilities. Children's programs include planned activities in addition to such amenities as a gameroom or playground. A travel agent can recommend family-friendly accommodations to meet your family's needs.

When booking a room, be sure to ask for connecting rather than adjoining rooms. Connecting rooms have a door between them whereas adjoining rooms are side-by-side with no connecting door. Also ask for a room with a refrigerator - this is especially important for families traveling with infants who will need formula and juice. Since we all know how expensive food can be at resorts, you'll also save money by keeping snacks around for hungry teenagers.

When planning activities, families are encouraged to be open to new ideas or as one agent recommended, "Have a good sense of humor and keep it!" Family members should take turns choosing the group's activities - they might even discover an interest they never knew they had. And don't forget to include children in the decision-making process. This will make them feel that this is their vacation, too, and they're not just stuck tagging along on the adults' trip. Plan back-up and optional activities for those times when everyone begins to moan and the kids start teasing each other.

Also be sure to factor in down-time so that individuals have the opportunity to pursue their own interests. Don't attempt to do everything together. Giving people their space can go a long way toward promoting group harmony.

Families traveling with infants and small children require significantly more planning, not to mention packing, but the reward of spending undivided time together is well worth it. Reserve a crib in advance and make sure there's a laundry room on the premises where you'll be staying. This will allow you to pack fewer baby clothes. Packing a light umbrella stroller and a child-carrying backpack are among the easiest ways to get around. Car seats are also recommended since they help settle little ones during feedings and quiet time. If you think you might need extra help on the plane, ask for a seat in the back. Flight attendants tend to sit there when not serving passengers.

Don't go overboard packing toys. Children tend to lose interest in them quickly, and they take up a lot of room. Pack a few small favorites and don't forget a cherished book and blanket. Always keep snacks easily accessible in a purse or fanny pack. Children might not like the food offered in foreign restaurants, hotels or on planes. A great tip for parents is to freeze juice boxes if they will be taking a long flight or walking around all day. Pack a goodie bag with surprises to distract little ones who get fussy on the plane.

Traveling with teens also requires planning. Encourage them to pack snacks, books and a CD or cassette headset in their carry-on luggage. Consider allowing older children to bring along a friend - that may help build their enthusiasm for the trip.

Whether traveling with teens or tots, parents should chronicle all vital medical information and make copies of important prescriptions. Have pagers or cellular phones available in case someone gets lost or left behind. If you don't own either, check with your travel agent about renting them. Never allow members to go anywhere alone. Remember the old camp adage: "There's safety in numbers."

Although there are many factors to consider when booking travel for the entire family, a travel agent can help make the planning stages as pleasant and exciting as your actual trip. From locating kid-friendly hotels to booking a room with a refrigerator, your experienced travel agent can take care of all the details and arrangements - even the ones you hadn't thought of. So, all you have to do is relax and enjoy your trip.

Tips for Individuals Traveling Alone

by Lux Joseph 2. May 2014

Now more than ever, individuals are striking out and traveling for pleasure by themselves. From safety issues to cultural variations, individuals traveling alone encounter a variety of difficulties that can be avoided if the necessary precautions are taken. 

PLANNING

While it pays for all individuals to be educated travelers, it is especially imperative for those traveling alone to plan every step of their trip--from packing a suitcase to choosing a hotel room. Learning what to expect is the first step in preparing yourself for anything that could go wrong. As the old adage goes—“You never know!”

One of the initial steps to planning a safe and pleasant trip is learning as much as possible about your destination before you go.

Make sure your passport is valid, or if you don’t have one, apply for one at least eight weeks in advance of your trip.

While most travelers are aware of such travel hazards as robbery and hotel security, many don’t realize the potential risks of not adequately researching their destination.

When caught in the bustle of planning a trip, it is easy for travelers to forget that they can be directly impacted by a region’s religious and societal beliefs. In fact, some travelers might find themselves having to adapt their dress and demeanor to the customs of the country they are visiting.

For some destinations it is particularly important to dress conservatively. A travel agent can provide useful tips about an area as well as suggest travel publications that provide details about dress codes and other restrictions for travelers worldwide. Also, be sure to inquire about State Department information and travel advisories regarding your destination.  

PACKING

It is absolutely essential to make at least two copies of important travel and identification documents. Leave one back-up copy in your suitcase and the other with a family member or friend at home.

When traveling abroad include the address and telephone number of the U.S. embassy and consulate for each country on your itinerary in case you experience any difficulties.

Carry only one credit card, and don’t keep all your money in one place. Use covered luggage tags and write your office address rather than your home. Remember to always lock all suitcases and if you make a lot of purchases, consider having your luggage shrink-wrapped.

If possible, pack light so you won’t be weighed down and look weighed down, both of which make you an ideal target for pickpockets. Keep luggage and attire simple-- leave expensive-looking baggage (including camera bags), suggestive clothing, and jewelry home. Some travelers have stored such valuables as video cameras in diaper-bags to throw off would-be thieves. 

Plan to bring a tote that you can attach to your body or if you must carry a purse, take one that has thick shoulder straps and zippered compartments. If you’ll be carrying medication on your trip, carry an extra supply and a copy of the prescription in carry-on luggage.

The wise packer only brings necessities.

TAKE CARE OF HOME

When traveling, don’t forget to safeguard your home. If no one will be home for several days:

·         advise a trusted neighbor of your trip, or arrange for a friend to housesit,

·         set your lights on timers,

·         temporarily cancel newspaper delivery and ask the post office to hold your mail--a pile of newspapers on your lawn or an overflowing mailbox is a surefire way to announce that no one’s around.

 HOTELS

Another consideration for travelers, especially those traveling alone, is lodging. A travel agent can locate friendly hotels and book the safest room possible. Smaller hotels are often safest since the staff is more familiar with guests and more able to effectively monitor who enters and exits the building. Hotels on a well-trafficked street with an active nightlife will also fend away would-be thieves. Avoid “walk-up” style hotels.

When selecting a hotel, ask if they have staff available to escort you to your room late at night.

When requesting a room, keep in mind that ground floor rooms are more susceptible to break-ins than are higher floors.

Ask for a room near the elevators but away from stairwells and any renovation work. These allow intruders to easily access your room and hide if necessary.

Keep in mind you should never accept a room if the clerk loudly calls out your name and room number.  

Make sure the room’s door has both a peephole and a deadbolt. When given the option, store valuables in the safe at the front-desk rather than in-room safes--the main safe is usually better insured.

Hide more expensive clothes under other garments since robbers are most likely to steal what they can easily spot. If anything does get stolen, immediately ask management for help--most hotel theft is committed by staff.

TRANSPORTATION

How you will get from place to place—from your hotel to the convention center or from city to city--is also an important safety consideration. Travel agents can provide information on whether it is safest to rent a car or take public transportation. When traveling abroad, your travel agent can tell you if an International Driver’s Permit is required. Purchase maps and write out directions ahead of time. You want to learn as much as possible about getting around the streets so that you avoid looking like a lost tourist. 

Make sure to bring a cellular phone and car charger in case of an emergency.  If you must stop for directions, only do so at well-lit public areas. Lock all doors while driving and don’t keep any valuables on seats. Also keep maps discrete to avoid looking like a vulnerable tourist.

Reserving rental car through your travel agent also has its advantages in that agents can refer you to proven and trusted rental companies. At your destination, rental agents should always explain the car’s features, provide directions and, in a foreign country, brief you about international traffic signs and rules of the road. Avoid renting hatchbacks--luggage in the trunk can be easily seen. 

MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TRIP

Now it’s time to leave. A map of the area you will be visiting makes good reading material for the airplane. On an international trip, you might also wish to carry aboard a foreign language dictionary and highlight common phrases you’ll need when you reach your destination. Be prepared with questions about the area so you can ask the concierge about where—and where not—to go. In today’s world, many of these things are easily accessible on your mobile phone, but keep in mind that you may not have wireless or single immediately upon landing. Having a guide right at your fingertips is key to success.

As you begin your journey, you’ll find that the most valuable safety tip is to trust your instincts. You might feel silly, but better safe than sorry. If anything does happen, contact the police immediately, if traveling abroad contact the U.S. Embassy, and save all documents--insurance companies will need them.

Your trip will be more fulfilling if you try to meet with some of the locals. Travelers will find that people all over the world are eager to share their unique experiences and cultures and hear all about yours. Also keep an eye open for tour groups or tour guides who could really offer some inside information about what the area has to offer.

Cruises are a great choice for solo travelers who want safety and security with a lot of fun and nightlife and some cruise lines will even pair up single travelers in a cabin to help keep the cost down.

The more you travel, the more confident you become. So get packing and don’t forget to call your travel agent to make your travel experience hassle-free and as safe as poss

Tipping Etiquette Around the World

by Lux Joseph 21. February 2014

In the USA, tipping those individuals who work in the service industry is automatic. When you have dinner at a restaurant, you tip the waiter for their service. When our medical escorts utilize the wheelchair porters in the airport to assist their patient, the medical escorts tip them appropriately. Restaurant servers, taxi drivers, hair stylists, hotel porters, and wheelchair porters all expect to receive a tip for a job well done. Typically in the USA service based tips are between 15-20% depending on the level of service. The following are some guidelines to follow in the USA:

·         Waiter/Waitress: 15-20%

·         Bartender: 15-20%

·         Coatroom Attendant: $1 per coat

·         Parking Valet: $2

·         Taxi Driver: 15%, an extra $1 or $2 for luggage

·         Food Deliver: 10% of the bill

·         Spa Service: 15-20%

·         SkyCap at Airport: $1 per bag

·         Hotel Doorman: $1 per bag

·         Hotel Bellhop: $1 per bag

·         Hotel Housekeeper: $2-$5 per night

 

 But what do you tip when you travel abroad? Are the individuals expecting the same or nothing at all?

Whenever you are traveling abroad to another country it is important to understand the culture and how things are done. Everywhere you travel is different and learning about your destination is important so that you do not feel out of place or lost in a country unfamiliar to you. This blog today is going to help you become more familiar with tipping etiquette around the world. When you travel, you will be able to tip appropriately so that you are respectful of the culture.

Canada is identical to the USA. Just like the United States, it is custom to tip between 15-20% depending on the level of service which you believe you received. If you are having dinner at a luxurious restaurant or private country club, look closely at the bill because a standard gratuity may already be added. In most cases it will not be unless you are with a party greater than six people. As we begin to travel east, tipping etiquette changes slightly. The United Kingdom and Germany standard tip is between 10-15%. In most parts throughout the United Kingdom a service fee is already included, but you need to carefully read the invoice. There may be an “optional charge” that is considered a tip. If you accept it, there is no need to pay anything additional. Adding a tip to your restaurant or pub charge in Germany is standard, but in the UK tipping at the pub is not required nor is it expected.

As you travel to other parts of Europe tipping changes slightly. In Turkey, Italy, and France a standard tip of 10% is custom. In Turkey they will only accept cash (including the Euro, Dollar, and Lira). On the canals in Italy a tip to the gondolier is not expected and no more than 10% tip should be left. While France may have a standard 10% tip, it is important to know that it is in addition to the service charge added. Visitors are not expected to tip.

Travel throughout Asia gives you an opportunity to save your pennies. Tipping in China, Japan, and South Korea is standard for no tip. They are non-tipping societies and it is wise that travelers follow this principle. Hotel porters in South Korea will accept the standard $1.00 per bag, but we recommend that you adhere to the no tipping policy. It will not cause any offense to the Asian cultures if you leave a tip, but it may create confusion especially if you do not speak the language.

Tipping at restaurants and hotels while visiting South America is not expected in most cases like Brazil, but if you travel further south to Argentina a 10% tip is greatly appreciated.  The Spanish word for tip is 'propina' - a synonym of 'reward'- and derivative from the Latin word "propinare" meaning to give something (http://www.journeylatinamerica.co.uk/briefing-dossier/Tipping.aspx).

Of course, these are just some guidelines for tipping while traveling abroad. We recommend always doing research on your destination prior to leaving the USA. This will help you know what to pack, how to dress, the type of money you will need, and how to blend in with the locals. When traveling it is important that you do everything possible to ensure a safe journey to your destination and back home.

Below is an infographic regarding tipping etiquette around the world (all data is from Wikipedia, Wikitravel and Trip Advisor). This is provided by Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/19/tipping-around-the-world_n_3779911.html).

 

 

 


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