Booking Your Vacation Online

winter vacationIt is coming to that time of year that we have all been looking forward to for many months, winter vacation time. We have managed to make it through the cold and dark, wet and windy long winter days where it is dark when we get up for work and dark when we get home from work and now it is time to look forward to some heat from the sun to warm our bones. The summer vacation market has changed a lot in the past 10 years, the way we choose our vacation, the places that we go to and what we look to do when we get there is all very different than years gone by. The main reason for this broadening of the summer vacation market has been the growth of the inter web as well as the amount of cheap airlines that are now in operation and flying to countries that previously people would not have had the option nor inclination to travel to. So with the development and widening of the holiday market what should you be looking for in you vacation this year?

Depending on what you like doing and what your family circumstances are you have no end of choice as far as a holiday goes. No civilized part of the world is out of bounds these days, barring those that are war zones and many people still choose to holiday in war torn countries. Even places like Antarctica are accessible now in what is called eco tourism where the impact to the environment is kept to a minimum but allows tourists to experience relatively untouched parts of the globe. Eco-tourism is not for everyone but it is a vacation option that was mostly un-heard of 10 years ago that is becoming more popular each year.

In many countries the inter web has radically changed to way we book our holidays, it use to be the case that straight after the January sales people would flock into the local travel agent to see what deals were available for the summer. It used to be that the earlier that you booked the better the deal that you got. The internet has done away with the need for that by allowing people to find flights, accommodation and car hire online for almost any country on earth, and this has had the effect of closing many travel agents down or making them streamline their operations inline with the market. Arranging your own holiday online could not be easier really, you get to choose the type of accommodation that you want, whether it be hotel, apartment or villa as well as choosing the location that best caters for your needs and as long as there is a flight to the local area you are all sorted.

Even some of the less traditional summer holiday locations are just as easy to book now. Emerging holiday destinations such as Croatia, Estonia and Bulgaria are as easy to book as traditional holiday destinations such as Italy, France and Spain. Many of the emerging countries offer better value summer rental accommodation than more traditional locations as well as offering a more unspoiled location with a more traditional feel about them. Summer rentals in Bulgaria, Estonia, Croatia and even in Hungary are now becoming very popular as people realize that they will receive a warm welcome from very hospitable locals in a wonderful location.

Many of the emerging countries are able to offer totally unspoiled countryside as well as some magnificent hotels that take full advantage of the spectacular scenery to be had and most of these locations are within easy reach of an airport that is serviced by a low cost airline.

So this year if you have not booked your holiday yet why not look further a field and go solo and book your holiday online from start to finish. You may find a really special hotel that the main agents do not have and you will probably save yourself a bit of money as well.

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Hotel Reservation Tips

The internet is a very powerful tool when it comes to planning vacations. Whether it is booking flights, hotels, or rental cars there are several popular travel search engines that will give you instant price quotes when you so wish. It is almost too easy to book a travel package – and often times there are long disclaimers that we quickly breeze through. While it is certainly possible to breeze through the disclaimers there are a few things to look out for in order to reserve the best possible travel package for you and your family.

Read the fine print. Is your hotel room non refundable? Often times there are discount rates that are non-refundable. It’s nice to get locked in at a reasonable rate, but what happens if your plans change? You do not want to be stuck with that hotel room, even if it is a cheap rate.

  1. Understand the cancellation policy. Does the hotel room have a 24 hour cancellation policy or a 48 hour cancellation policy? These slight details can make a huge difference when it comes to paying the vacation bills. Sometimes trips have to be cancelled last minute, sometimes they have to be cut short. Knowing the cancellation policy can save you a few dollars.
  2. Save your reservation email. There have been countless times when vacationers have showed up to their hotel and the front desk has to tell them that the hotel is sold out. They politely ask if they have their reservation number and they don’t. Simply saving the email, or even printing out can help alleviate this problem, or the hotel will at least help you find comparable accommodations.
  3. Check in early. The earlier that you check in, the more choices you will have for rooms. Do you prefer two queens over one king? Would you like a smoking or non-smoking room? The earlier that you arrive allows you to decide which option you would like to take advantage of.
  4. Shop around. Several hotels of similar calibre can vary greatly in price. Depending on the time of year, and the exact location, you can save a few dollars by staying during a slightly off-peak time, or a few miles away from the major city.
  5. Call direct. Did you find a price online that you think is the best? Sometimes booking direct with the hotel can yield better rates.
  6. Join rewards programs. Do you travel often? By joining an airline, or hotel carrier reward program you can get rewarded with discounted and sometimes even free stays or flights.
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Travel Planning Tips For a Better Vacation

Many people head out for vacation without doing any travel planning in advance. To them, spontaneity is one of the great things about traveling, and figuring everything out ahead of time takes all the fun out of it.

But most people invest quite a bit in their vacations, on several levels. And if you only get two weeks a year, you want to make sure that you enjoy every minute. A little pre-vacation trip planning can ensure that you get to stay where you want, spend what you want, and make the most of your time.

If you already know where you’re going, check out some travel websites that cover your destination. Fodors, Frommers, and Tripaddiction are all good sources of information. And in less than half an hour, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you want to do.

Charming, inexpensive hotels in great locations are nearly always sold out during high season, so if you want to get the most value for your travel dollar, reserve your hotel well in advance.

The most popular attractions, like the Eiffel Tower or the Vatican Museum, often have long lines, sometimes involving several-hour waits. But now, you can make reservations for most attractions online in advance. It may cost a little extra for the convenience, but if it saves a few hours of your time, it’s well worth the added expense.

We usually prefer to do our sightseeing independently. But signing up for a group tour will often get you in and out of an attraction with no waiting. Most of the time, you can book these through your hotel concierge the day before, sometimes even the same day.

Even if you’re just traveling across the country or your home state, some travel planning leg work will still help you get the most bang for your buck. Restaurants in the areas most visited by tourists are often overpriced and mediocre. With a steady supply of customers, they don’t have to be good or a good value. But often, there are great restaurants just a couple of blocks off the main drag. If you know where to go, you’ll eat well and save money too.

The websites for local newspapers or weekly periodicals often have restaurant guides. And you can often search by neighborhood, cuisine, or price range. The information is usually up to date too.

Arriving in town and learning that something you’d love to see is sold out can be really disappointing. So check before you go to see what’s happening during your visit. Most area websites have a calendar of events. And these days, you can order tickets for virtually anything online.

A few minutes of travel planning before your trip can help you enjoy your vacation more, for less. The next time you’re going on vacation, do a little legwork in advance.

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Travel Planning Tips for Taking a Cruise

When it comes to going on a cruise it is important to ensure that you take all your important information with you as well as all of your necessary times otherwise you will be suffering when you are out to sea! So, consider these travel planning tips before you head off on your cruise and you will more than likely have the time of your life!

First of all, you want to make sure you have the best luggage to take with you and that would of course be Samsonite luggage. When you have outstanding luggage you won’t be concerned with the zippers breaking and all your clothes falling out or anything of the sort. That is a relief in itself and you will know that your clothes and personal effects are all packed away in a safe piece of luggage. Some things you might want to pack in your Samsonite spinner include Dramamine in case you get sea sick and many people do on cruises. That is especially so if there is a bad storm. Don’t forget to pack several different levels of sunscreen either. When you are on the boat you will realize that the sun is reflecting off the water and you can get burnt easier. Be sure you pack plenty of swimsuits as well because it will be easier to just put on a new suit than wash the same one out time and time again. Sunglasses and/or a hat are also incredibly important especially if you have sensitive eyes. Don’t forget your passport or birth certificate either or you won’t ever make it on the cruise!

Once you are packed you will be all ready to go. However, you should go over some last minute details to determine if there is anything else you need. Check the forecasted weather for the week in the destinations you will be heading to. This can give you some much needed information regarding what else to pack. Perhaps a rain coat for storms, binoculars for whale watching, or perhaps your snorkel. Knowing the weather will help you decide what kind of activities to plan and pack for.

You may be an excellent trip planner and you may not be. However, the tips offered here are great reminders that will help you plan and pack for your cruise.

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Top 5 Vacation Planning Tips

Planning a vacation but haven’t quite worked out the details? Here are five vacation planning tips every new traveler should know.

#1 – Start with the “What”, Not the “Where”

Destinations don’t make or break vacations–activities do. No matter how exotic the location, it won’t feel like much of a vacation if you’re not enjoying yourself.

Think of how you want to spend your vacation and make a list of your “must do” recreational activities. Use the list to narrow down your destination and hotel choices based on your recreational needs. You’re more likely to have a great time if everything you want to do is conveniently located.

#2 – Do Your Homework

Sites like Expedia and Orbitz make it easy to book cheap vacation packages, but these packages don’t necessarily provide you with the best value for your money. There are generally a lot of restrictions on these packages (e.g., travel dates, modifications, cancelations, etc.) and the price is often indicative of the quality of the accommodations.

Take the time to research every aspect of your vacation–not just the price–or you could end up with buyer’s remorse. Ultimately, the best vacation deals are the ones that best meet your needs and expectations in terms of quality, flexibility and price.

#3 – Timing is Everything

Every destination has peak and off-peak seasons. During peak season, there are many more consumers vying for the same services and accommodations. Due to the increased demand, you’ll have to contend with higher prices, larger crowds, and less attentive staff.

During the off-peak season, these service providers are starving for business. You can save a bundle on your package and you’re practically guaranteed better service.

#4 – Plan Ahead

The sooner you start planning your vacation the better. A lot of research goes into planning an amazing vacation, so allow yourself plenty of time.

Also, the further in advance you book your reservations the better the rates and the wider the selection of available flights, rooms/cabins and rental cars. Most reservations systems will accept bookings up to 11 months in advance.

#5 – Use a Free Vacation Planning Service

Believe it or not, some travel agents offer free vacation planning services as a way of adding value for their clients. A good travel agent can save you time, money and effort by:

  • Researching the best destination for your interests, budget and travel dates
  • Finding you the lowest prices for flights, hotels, cruises, car rentals and activities
  • Providing you with helpful information about the places you’ll be traveling
  • Offering flexible installment plans for vacation packages

The best part is, these services are provided at absolutely no additional cost to you.

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How to Organize a Family Travel Plan

  • Carefully planned and organized family vacation can be real fun and exciting and certainly leaves us with great memories which can be truly cherished for the rest of our lives. However, with all the fun and excitement, organizing an appropriate family travel plan is a huge risk and a big responsibility. Disagreements are bound to happen anytime a bunch of people come together irrespective of the fact that they are related by blood. Instead of being blamed for the unhappiness caused to everyone, by just paying extra attention to a couple of few things, you can surely turn your family vacation into a beautiful time spent in the company of your near and dear ones.

Tips to Organize a Fine Family Travel Plan

1) The foremost thing which you need to pay attention is to choose convenient dates, keeping in mind the schedule of 90 percent of the people who plan to come for the vacation. Always choose a couple of potential dates and then you can ask for everyone’s input regarding their availability.

2) Go in for a central location. All the family members must be traveling from different directions and thus it becomes a necessity to pick a central location. You can certainly please everyone in this manner if all the members have to travel approximately the same distance to get to the vacation spot.

3) Search for a big hotel. It will be real fun if everyone can stay at the same hotel which will allow all the family members to spend enough time with each other. While organizing family travel plans, also make sure that you think about the amenities required by those families who have children. Also, each family will have its own budget and thus you can choose a hotel which offers expensive suites as well as less expensive accommodation.

4) Researching fun activities which can involve all the family members is definitely important. Do not be under the misconception that family holidays can be great fun just because all the family members are coming together. You need to research and jot out a set of possible activities for each day of the vacation. But, also remember that not all people will want to do the same thing so be ready for suggestions and alternate plans.

Following the above-mentioned tips is not an easy task, however, you will notice that your tension will be eased if you follow these suggestions which will make sure that you organize a fantastic family travel plan for your loved ones.

 

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How I Cut the Cost of My Family Travel in Half

How I Save Big Money on Plane Tickets for the Family

Tho cost of flights for a family can be extremely expensive. I have found some great ways to save a lot of money when booking plane tickets. I start my research early for flight prices. I play around with the dates in the online booking tools to try to see how low the flight prices can go. I sign up for the airline’s email distribution list so that I know when the airlines are having a seat sale.

I look at the total price of the flights including tax when comparing costs. Most airlines offer a 25% discount off the base ticket price for children. Due to the fact that the taxes and surcharges may vary depending on the airline and flight path, I might get a better deal on a higher priced ticket that has lower taxes when I factor in the child discount.

Travelzoo is an excellent source for finding the best travel deals. Every week they email me a list of discounted flights, hotels and tours. I have gotten excellent information on cheap flights from Travelzoo such as tickets from Toronto to Lima, Peru for less than $400 including taxes. Travelzoo has different versions depending on where you reside.

I check out the cost of flying out of nearby cities. I live in Ottawa but its a four hour drive to Toronto. The cost of flying out of Toronto can be significantly less than flying out of Ottawa. I can save hundreds of dollars even when I factor in the cost of gas, parking and an overnight hotel.

Plane Ticket Savings

Regular price of ticket Toronto to Lima $896.00 including tax. My price was $396.00 taxes in for each person.

How I Save BIG Money on Accommodations

The cost of accommodations can be quite pricey for a family if you are looking at staying in a typical hotel room. I look for hostels to save money when I travel with my kids. A lot of hostels offer family rooms with ensuite bathrooms at prices significantly less than a hotel. Another option is a serviced apartment where you have access to a kitchen to cook in and lots of space to spread out in. This is usually much cheaper than paying for 2 hotel rooms. I also look for cheap accommodations that are centrally located so that I also save on local transportation.

Accommodation Savings

Cost of the Beijing Swissotel for a family of 4 was $220.00 per night. Cost of the hostel I stayed in was $37.00 for a family room!

How I Save on Local Transportation

When traveling with my kids the cost of local transportation can really add up. I take public transportation whenever possible. If there is a subway at my destination then I use this to move around. My kids also have fun trying to navigate the subway. I try to always book a centrally located hotel close to public transport and close to markets, stores and restaurants.

Local Transportation Savings

The cost of a taxi from my Shanghai hotel to the Science and Technology Museum was $12.00 each way. Cost of the subway for my family of four was $2 each way.

How I Save Loads of Money on Tours and Attractions

I always look for free or low cost attractions for my kids and I to enjoy. We always head to a local park for a few hours. The kids have fun exploring the different playgrounds and usually end up making some new friends too. I always search for free activities, museums or festivals. Organized local tours can also drive up the cost of your family trip. On a recent family vacation to Negril Jamaica I wanted to visit YS Falls for the day. I managed to save quite a bit by hiring a driver for the day and paying our own entrance fee. It was also great to have the flexibility of having a driver as I was able to leave when the kids were tired and we were able to stop for a delicious jerk chicken meal along the way.

Savings on Tours

The cost of an organized tour for a family of 4: $270.00

The price of a taxi driver and entrance for 2 adults, 2 children $145.00

How I Save Money on Dining

The cost of eating on your vacation can take a big bite out of the family travel budget. There are lots of ways to save money on dining on your trips. For breakfast I head to a local grocery store and stock up on fruits, baked goods and cereal (I pack a couple dollar store bowls and spoons). I try to book hotel rooms with a mini fridge and stock up on drinks and snacks as well. I also try to eat where the locals eat. The food is usually cheaper and much tastier than at the inflated tourist restaurants.

Savings on Dining

Cost of the breakfast buffet at my hotel in Paris was $60.00. The cost of some fruit and pastries was $18.00 for the whole family.

Now with all the money I have saved I can go on another family trip!

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International Air Travel Tips

Flying around the world might be easy and hassle-free if you remember some of the international tips for air travel. Early arriving and ensuring about the correct documents is necessary. Additional tips for making the trip smoother comprise receiving wanted seat assignments, converting some dollars to the local currency prior departing, and gaining benefits of the facilities accessible to the business class plus the first-class passenger, if possible.

Documentation

Correct documentation is necessary for any of the international trip. You are just not permitted to enter the airplane lacking it. Almost each and every international destination at present requires carrying of legal passport. Additionally, several countries necessitate having visa – authorization to go in the country, which is embossed directly in the passport. Few countries too need a fitness document that shows your recent inoculations.

Ensure allowing sufficient time for new passport processing if needed. The standard rotate time via mail takes four to six weeks. Take more time if you require visa for the trip since you should have passport initially in order that visa can be stamped in the passport.

Plan Early when Possible

The greatest seat with the greatest airfares nearly always goes to the people making their reservations in advance. In peak travel time, like summer of Europe, vacation travel, and particular events, like Paris Air Show or Paris Fashion Week, it is not possible to travel if not planned in advance.

The exemption in this regulation is end minute discounted fares that various airlines, like United, American, or Continental place on the websites. Only few selected city pairs get offered every week, if there.

Air Travel Restrictions

The 11September, 2001 events have initiated enlarged America’s airport security, particularly for overseas travelers. For a stress-free security check, ensure arriving as a minimum of two hours before the international flight. You must check the recent restricted items list on Transportation Security Administration website.

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8 Ideas for Smooth Family Travel

As a busy parent, you deserve some rest and relaxation. Here are 8 tips to help you derive the most enjoyment from your next family vacation.

Start planning now – the earlier the better.When you research your destination in advance, you’ll spend less money, and you’ll probably have a more relaxing time, too. Spend time as a family researching your destination using print travel magazines as well as online sources and guidebooks.

  1. Let your kids in on it.Ask each of your children to choose a few things to see or do on this vacation, as well. When kids are invested in planning the trip, they take more responsibility and, ultimately, derive more enjoyment from the trip.
  2. Take your time. Try hard not to cram too many activities in any single day, especially if you have young kids. Children need downtime, especially when they are away from their normal routine, so schedule time for resting between events. Plan to return to the hotel for a brief nap or quiet time before going to dinner, for example.
  3. Don’t over-pack.Everyone will enjoy the trip more if you travel light. As long as you’re not embarking on a super long trip, kids who are grade-school age and over can probably be responsible for carrying their own suitcases or duffels. And, if they are seasoned travelers, you may be able to trust them to pack it, as well. We hand our children each a checklist and away they go. We check to make sure they have everything they need, but it’s nice for them to make their own choices and be included in the process of preparing to leave on the family trip.
  4. Bring things to do during downtime.You might reserve a special bag of goodies and activities that you bring out only when the kids find themselves bored and restless, perhaps when they are waiting for a connecting flight or for the multitude of other delays that can occur on a vacation. Here’s what’s in our “emergency bag”: a deck of playing cards, a few dice, a book of mazes, a small set of colored pencils and a book of intricate designs to color, that even my older children are captivated by. You’ll also want such a bag of “emergency snacks,” which includes nuts and other forms of lean protein.
  5. Try to stick to your routine as much as possible.Don’t stray too wildly from the kids’ ordinary bedtimes, for example. And eat at normal times. Kids are so much more even-tempered when their sleep patterns and blood sugar levels stay on an even keel.
  6. Consider the help of modern technology.While you’ll probably want to put limits on these types of entertainment sources when you’re paying an arm and a leg to see new parts of the country and the world, a well-timed (albeit brief) dose of portable DVD player, iPod, or Game Boy can help weary traveling parents in untold ways.
  7. Stay open-minded.You want to have a fairly set itinerary, and you want to keep your routines fairly predictable, but the ultimate goal is to have a refreshing, rejuvenating vacation where everyone is able to lighten up, be flexible, and have fun. Start each day by reminding yourself of this simple truth, and have a great trip!
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How to Beat Jet Lag for Good

Air travel can be a lot of fun, but also it can be very tiring. A common thing people experience after air travel is this phenomenon called jet lag. Jet lag is where your body and mind feels tired and out of sync with the local time zone. One of the causes of jet lag happens when you cross through various time zones and because of that your body’s time clock is not adjusted to the new time zone yet. So for example when you reach to your destination overseas to a new time zone, day time there maybe your late night of your home country, so your body may feel tired because it still thinks it is night time.

Having massive jet lag is not fun and actually may ruin your trip if it is not attended to properly. Here are some quick and effective air travel tips to beat jet lag.

Tip #1: Drink lots of water and avoid alcohol and caffeine on the plane

While on the plane you may be tempted with all the wide range of alcoholic and caffeinated drinks available, but do not give in on them! Reason is that these drinks will cause dehydration in your body, and especially with the dry air in the plane, this will multiply the effect. Dehydration of your body has been found to be linked with making jet lag worse! Therefore drink as much water as you can so that your body stays nice and hydrated while on the plane.

Tip #2: Sleep as much as you can on the plane

One of the easiest tricks to beating jet lag is to sleep as much as you can on the plane. This will help in adjusting your body to the new time zone difference and providing your body with ample rest. If you do have trouble sleeping on the plane, then there are various sleeping aides you can take to help you sleep. However before you start taking sleeping aides, it is best to consult your local doctor for their expert advice.

Tip #3: Don’t be tempted to sleep during the day at your destination

When you arrive at your destination, usually the first two days you will feel the most jet lagged. With that you will start feeling tired during odd times of the day such as in the late morning, or late afternoon. Do not give in and sleep during these times of the day.

You must push yourself to force your body out of your old time zones and stay awake until it’s the evening when it is proper for a night’s rest. One way to keep your body pumped up for the day is to do some regular exercises and stretches. This will help keep your blood circulating and help to keep your mind focused.

Jet lag can be a drag to your vacation. It can ruin your vacation by causing your body to feel tired and out of sync with the world. However if you follow the above three simple but effective air travel tips to cope with jet lag, then you should be able to beat it within the first two to three days of landing at your destination.

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Family Travel Tips And A Transportation Idea

Either a family trip in a vehicle you own or rent can provide many possibilities not offered by plane and rail. Most families have a car or van, but motor homes are available at very affordable prices. They have coverage through cheap insurance companies included in the rental package along with roadside assistance. In either case, the following are a few tips on provisions for adults, children and pets.

Entertainment for children can include storybooks for the little ones with plenty of pictures to captivate their imaginations and keep them settled down. Hand held games keep older children occupied while in route and help pass the time until reaching your destination. Play some group games for everyone such as the old favorites or make up some new ones as you go.

Pets are members of the family, too, and they have needs that include food, water and a few essentials. Take a leash for walking them in the parks, and some comfortable bedding to sleep on at night. Pet treats go well with the plan for traveling snacks so they do not eat up all of the human stash. Keep in mind they typically need restroom breaks more often, and plan your stops at convenient rest areas.

Travel snacks for non-canine and non-feline members are safest when drinks have screw on lids. Food items that are dry like chips and crackers or trail mix are easier to clean up if a spill happens. Natural dried fruits and veggies, even cookies made with these ingredients make an interesting snack item for traveling that is healthy and delicious. A hand held car vacuum could prove invaluable.

Clothing depends entirely on your destination. If traveling from lower altitudes during warm weather months, you will need cool wear. However, if the destination is the high Rocky Mountains each family member should have at least one windbreaker. Extra blankets can serve as wraps if the temperatures drop drastically. Some locations offer laundry areas, but in case there are no machines, pack easy care treated clothing to shed loose dirt.

One of the best things about RV traveling is having most of the comforts of home right there along with you. It is easy to find a list of RV and State parks to plan your itinerary before leaving home. For people who have their own RV, they can still find cheap insurance companies to provide the travel insurance needed.

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