TRAVEL TIPS

There are many questions and considerations you might have to planning a Value Holidays tour. Without being specific to a particular destination, we’ve identified some of the more common questions we receive about Value Holidays tours. 

Select a topic from the drop down menu below to get the answers to some of the more frequently asked questions we receive.

Passport Help
Luggage Travel Help
What to pack
Personal Items
International Calls
Using Electrical Appliances
Currency Exchange and Other Money Matters
Custom Requirements
Tipping Etiquette

Passport Help

Please keep your passport with you at all times while traveling – do not pack it in your checked bag.  It is wise to have a photocopy of the inside picture page of your passport as well as extra passport photos with you on your trip (store them separately from your passport).  These items will help to expedite the replacement process should your passport be lost while you are abroad.  If your passport is lost during your trip, contact the nearest U.S. Consulate for instructions on how to proceed.

Luggage Travel Help

Check with your airline for your free luggage allowance. Most international airlines allow one checked bag and one carry-on bag while traveling without charge.  The combined total dimensions (length + width + height) of your checked bag must be 62 inches or less, and the bag must weigh no more than 50 pounds.  Your carry-on bag must fit under your seat or in an overhead compartment (maximum 45 total inches).  All baggage must have identification on the outside of the bag, and we recommend that you have identification on the inside as well in case the outer tag is lost. Never place your travel documents, money, cameras, medication or other valuables inside your checked luggage.  Keep them in your carry-on bag in case your luggage is lost or delayed.  Also, due to new security regulations your luggage must be kept unlocked so the security personnel are able to search it as necessary.
You may be required to remove your shoes or be singled out for “random” security checks at the airline check-in counter, the security checkpoint, or even at the boarding gate.  Quiet cooperation is your best way to get through all checks with the minimum amount of time and inconvenience.

Make Your Trip Better Using 3-1-1
3-1-1 for carry-ons = 3 ounce bottle or less; 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. One-quart bag per person limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring. 3 oz. container size is a security measure. Consolidate bottles into one bag and X-ray separately to speed screening.

Be prepared. Each time TSA searches a carry-on it slows down the line. Practicing 3-1-1 will ensure a faster and easier checkpoint experience.3-1-1 is for short trips. If in doubt, put your liquids in checked luggage.

Declare larger liquids. Prescription medications, baby formula and milk (when traveling with an infant or toddler) are allowed in quantities exceeding three ounces and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint.
Come early and be patient. Heavy travel volumes and the enhanced security process may mean longer lines at security checkpoints.

What to Pack

Casual clothing and comfortable walking shoes are the rule.  As the departure date draws closer you can check the internet at www.weather.com for the 10 day forecast for the cities that you will visit to get a better idea of what the temperatures will be. 

Personal items

If you wear glasses or take prescription drugs it is a good idea to bring copies of your prescriptions in case you need to have them filled during your trip.  Prescription drugs should be stored in their original containers while you are traveling to help with any questions from customs officials.

International Calls

It is extremely expensive to place calls from your room.  If you want to call home for any reason, we recommend the following alternatives:  1.) Purchase a phone card in the local currency (usually available from a phone kiosk, news stands or at the post office).  These phone cards can be used from public phones within the country for which they are valid, and are the most economical choice.  2.) Call from your hotel room and have the person you’re trying to reach call you back at the phone number listed on your contact list.  It will be less expensive to call from the USA to Europe than it will be for you to call home from your room. Regarding cell phones, your US cell phone will not work in Europe unless it is a GSM or World Phone. Please be aware that the roaming charges are quite high.

Using Electrical Appliances

The electrical current in most European countries is 200-250 volt – almost twice as strong as the 120-volt electricity that we use in the USA.  To use your small appliances during your trip you will need to have an adapter and/or a transformer (also called a converter).  An adapter will allow the plug on your appliance to fit into the outlet in your hotel.  Some appliances are equipped with a switch that allows you to change from 120 volt to 240 volt, in which case you may only need an adapter.  However, if your appliance does not this feature, you will need both the adapter and a transformer.  The transformer will convert the electricity supplied by the hotel to the lesser voltage required by your appliance.  If you use an adapter without converting the voltage of the electricity you may cause serious damage to your appliance.  Adapters and transformers can be purchased at travel specialty stores as well as the electrical appliance sections of many department and discount stores.  If you have questions about whether your appliance needs a transformer, we recommend that you contact the manufacturer.

Currency Exchange and Other Money Matters

In most Western European countries the currency is the Euro. The Swiss currency is the Franc (CHF). Not all European Countries have the Euro yet.  ATM machines are readily available, so consider using your debit card to withdraw money in the local currency (check with your financial institution regarding any fees for international withdrawals).  Of course you can also exchange currency or traveler’s checks at banks or currency exchanges.  However, in the age of electronic banking, only major banks in larger cities will accept your US currency for exchange. Credit cards are widely accepted in the areas that you will visit and are a wise choice for major purchases.   Be sure to call your credit card company and advise them you will be traveling overseas and to expect foreign charges.  As you reach the end of your stay, please try to spend all of your coins.  Paper currency can be converted back into dollars, but you will not be able to exchange coins from one currency to another.

Customs Requirements

There are exceptions to the customs rules, but generally each person is allowed to bring back to the USA articles totaling $800 in value and one liter of alcohol per person without paying duty fees.  If your purchases exceed $800 in value, you are required to declare your purchases to a customs agent when returning to the USA.  Declare your purchases using the customs form that you will be given on your return flight.  You will clear customs at the point of entry upon your return.

Tipping Etiquette

TIPPING AT AIRPORTS AND TRAIN STATIONS
Upon arriving at or leaving from the airport or train station, tip the standard porter rate of $1 per bag; more if your luggage is very heavy. Typically, a $1 tip for hailing a taxi is appropriate for doormen. However, you may want to tip more for special services, such as carrying your bags.

HOTEL TIPPING ETIQUETTE
When you arrive at your hotel after a long flight, first things first: Tip the taxi or limo driver. Ten to 15 percent of your total fare is usually expected. If you drive your own car, give the valet parking attendant $1 to $2. If you take a shuttle van or bus, tip the driver $2 per person.

The bellman, who will be more than happy to assist you with your bags and the door, should receive $1 to $2 per bag. Tip when he shows you to your room and again if he assists you upon checkout. Tip more if he provides any additional service. The concierge, who can get you anything from dinner reservations to hard-to-come-by theatre tickets, deserves $5 to $10 for such feats. You may tip at the time of service or at the end of the trip. To ensure good service throughout your stay, add a $20 tip to the bill.
Add 15 percent of the bill to a room service charge, unless a gratuity is already added, then add no additional tip or simply $1. If you requested something delivered to your room such as a hairdryer or iron, tip $1 per item received. Typically, the maid deserves a $2 tip each day, as well.

TOUR TIPPING ETIQUETTE
If you're taking a tour and a tip is not automatically included, tip a local guide $1 per person for a half-day tour, $2 for full-day tour. Tip a private guide more.
If you are on a multi-day tour with a tour manager - someone who travels with the group for several days and is essentially in charge - tour operators suggest anywhere from $3-8 per person per day. Don't forget the bus driver either - $2 per person per day.

CRUISE TIPPING ETIQUETTE
When on a cruise, tip according to your comfort level and only on the last evening of your cruise. As a general rule, dining room waiters receive $3.50 per person/per day whereas the dining room assistant waiter should receive $2.00 per person/per day, the dining room maitre'd $3.50 per person/per day and the dining room manager $1.50 per person/per day.

The room steward, for all his efforts, receives $3.50 per person/per day. Other personnel, such as bar waiters, bellboys and deck stewards may be tipped as service is rendered.

RESTAURANT TIPPING ETIQUETTE
Although excellent service calls for 20 percent of the total bill, most U.S. restaurants accept 15 percent as the standard tip. In restaurants where you sit at the bar or the waiter is a small part of the meal (cafes or pubs), 10 percent is also acceptable. The bar tenders, themselves, generally receive between 15 and 20% when you sit at the bar. If the food or service is unsatisfactory, speak to the manager - don't walk out without tipping. And pay attention to lunch and dinner bills in Europe and Asia, as some restaurants tack on an additional 15 percent (usually listed on the menu or check as a "service charge") and do not expect tips. At upscale restaurants, tip the maitre d' between $5 and $10 if he gets you a table - more when the restaurant is full and you have no reservations. Tip $1 when you check your coat and another $.50 to $1 for restroom attendants. For personal service from the wine steward, opt for 10 percent of the wine bill.

Information reprinted courtesy of ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents)