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Blog, Travel Planning

What is the best time to plan your next vacation?

My plan, when I retired, was to be able to take advantage of those great “last minute” travel deals.  Guess what? They are not as available or as deeply discounted as I had imagined.  Adding last minute flights to the deal often negates any anticipated savings.  So when is the best time to plan that next great adventure or time relaxing at that tropical beach resort?  At the very least, book six months in advance.  At best, book about a year or more out from your travel date.  Here are the reasons:

  1. Hotels, Cruises and Tour Operators often offer early bird booking rates that can translate into significant savings.  They will also include additional amenities such as included breakfast and free Wi-Fi.
  2. Flight costs increase as you near your travel date.  Often the best rates can be found about a month after the flights first become available. I just booked round trip business class flights to Europe for $2,000 each.  Coach travel can cost that much or more when you wait too long.
  3. It takes time to put together all of the miscellaneous travel arrangements.  Do you need renew your passport?  Do you need a house or pet sitter? 
  4. You will know, far in advance, when the final payment is due. This gives you more time to stash away cash for your vacation.
  5. Finally, you get to pick your choice locations, cruise cabins, hotels, and guides. Instead of settling for an okay travel plan, you get exactly what you want.

So start planning now for that wonderful vacation for this time next year!

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Active Travel, Blog, Independent Travel, Travel, Travel Planning


Maybe.  We all know that our passport must be set to expire more than 6 months after our scheduled return date.  You may also check with US state department to determine if you travel destination (s) require a visa.  But who among you check on immunization requirements and health risks.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the Hepatitis A vaccine when planning to travel to most destinations.  The only exceptions are Canada, Western Europe, Scandinavia, New Zealand and Australia. 

As I book travel for customers, one of my first research steps is to determine health risks and recommended immunizations.  The CDC (https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list) is the leading authority on all destinations throughout the globe. This way my clients, along with their primary care doctor, can make informed decisions about their health.

In addition to vaccine recommendations, the CDC can help you take basic precautions.  For instance, in countries where typhoid is prevalent, don’t eat from street vendors or eat unwashed fruit. Drink bottled water and omit ice in your drinks.

While you may be tempted to take your risks or stay home, obtaining the recommended vaccines can provide an added measure of protection. I took my own advice and had the first Hepatitis A vaccine, with the plan to have the second in 6 months.  Yes, it hurt and continued to be sore for about 2 days.  But it is a small price to pay to avoid the risk of infection.   

Consult with your doctor for the final word on what is best for you. Then focus on your business or personal travel plans, knowing that you have that additional protection. For more travel advice, visit me at https://glicktravel.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/glicktravel/.

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Planning for your trip abroad Part 1 – 3 to 12 months before your trip
September 18, 2018
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Planning your trip abroad Part 2 – The weeks before you leave

Most, if not all, of your travel arrangements are complete and you can’t wait to leave for vacation.  Here are the things you should remember to handle in the weeks before you leave.

2-3 Months Before You Leave

  • Purchase your starter set of foreign currency. You want enough to pay for transportation to the hotel and miscellaneous needs (about $100 to $200 US currency is generally sufficient).
  • Purchase your train tickets if you are traveling by train. You can purchase these from your travel agent or directly.
  • Purchase tickets for “hard to book” museums and events. For instance, The Academia in Florence houses Michelangelo’s David and pre-purchased tickets enable you to skip the long lines.  If you are visiting Amsterdam and want to visit Anne Frank’s museum, tickets go on sale exactly 2 months from the scheduled visit day and sell out quickly.  These are just some examples. Check out the city’s Museum Pass to see if it is good idea. They often enable you to skip the line and provide free admission to many sites. Sometimes they can be purchased in advance, such as the Vienna Pass.
  • Finish shopping for all of your travel needs. This includes clothing, comfortable shoes, toiletries and packing aids.  If your luggage is subject to weight limitations, purchase a luggage scale. Do you need more TSA approved locks?
  • Finalize all other arrangements. Flights, Hotels, and Transportation should be set. Did you forget to arrange for a dog sitter?
  • Visit your city’s/country’s tourism page for up to date information. Each city/country has its own tourism site and is full of valuable information.
  • View some of those YouTube Videos and other websites such as Lonely Planet and Rick Steves. We are currently planning our own Christmas Markets trip and the YouTube videos and official city Christmas Markets websites have been informative. I already know what I plan to purchase in Linz!

2 – 6 Weeks Before You Leave

  • ATM Card. Contact your bank to let them know which countries you are visiting and the corresponding dates.
  • Credit Card. See ATM card instructions, if required. At self-service kiosks you may need a pin number in order to use your credit card. Contact your bank for a pin number in case you need it. (https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money/chip-pin-cards ) If you don’t have a pin, check to see if have a “contactless” card which enables you to tap it at the kiosk.
  • Mail Newspaper Delivery. I know, you are asking who gets newspapers delivered. Well some do. Make arrangements to stop and start delivery. Stop the mail or make arrangements for someone to pick up your mail.
  • Confirm Arrangements. We had someone cancel at the last minute and fortunately were able to find a substitute pet sitter. But it pays to confirm ahead. Confirm with House/Pet sitters, scheduled tour guides, airport drivers/parking, and any other people necessary for your stress-free vacation
  • Create a detailed packing list. Check off items as you place them in your luggage. It is a good idea to start packing as soon as possible
  • Decide what medications you need to bring. This refers to prescription and non-prescription medications.  I have my own list that includes treatments for traveler’s diarrhea, colds, cuts and other common health issues.   The CDC is your resource for this: (https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/resources-for-travelers  and https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/pack-smart )
  • Purchase a Global Phone Plan. Determine if you need a global calling plan while abroad and sign up if required. Some carriers only charge you for the days you actually use your phone.  Contact your carrier to determine the plan that is best for you.

The Week Before You Leave

  • Carry On Items. Whether it is a bag, backpack and/or carry on suitcase, plan what you will bring with you.  This should include required medications with prescription labels, reading material, enough clothing for about 1-2 days in the event your checked luggage arrival is delayed and anything else you cannot live without. Make sure you check your airline carry-on limitations and TSA for banned items.
  • Cross Pack. I always carry on enough clothing for about 2 days in the event that my luggage does not arrive with me. If you are traveling with a spouse/friend, think about cross packing some of your clothing in the event one suitcase is delayed in arriving.
  • Finish packing. And weigh your luggage to be sure it is within the airline weight limits. When in doubt leave it home.  Think in terms of layers and be prepared for different weather possibilities.

The Day Before You Leave

  • Complete Online Flight Check In. Airlines sometimes swap out plans and re-ticket travelers. Make sure you have a seat. We once left in the aftermath of a hurricane.  The airline had seats for me and a friend – they just didn’t have seats for our husbands. Fortunately, we all made the flight.
  • Make sure that your carry-on includes:
    • Passports
    • Currency – US and Foreign
    • Credit Cards
    • Flight and other transportation confirmation information
    • Hotel Vouchers, if needed
    • Smartphone and Charger
    • Instructions for converting to Global roaming, if needed.
    • Other necessary paperwork
  • Confirm with your transportation to the airport, pet sitter, etc.
  • Finish packing.
  • Relax!
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Planning for your trip abroad Part 1 – 3 to 12 months before your trip

Here is part one of the tips that I have learned over the past 20 years. Use this as a guide or a checklist.  Planning ahead can lead to an enjoyable vacation where nearly every minute is a wonderful adventure.

Documents, Health and Insurance

  • Passports – Check the expiration date on your passports. Generally, your passports must be valid until at least 6 months after the last date of your trip.
  • Visas – Most countries do not require a Visa but check with your travel agent or the US State Department (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/americans-traveling-abroad.html)
  • International Driver’s Permit. If you are renting a car, the country(ies) where you plan to drive might require an international driver’s permit.  AAA is one source for driver’s permits.
  • Auto Insurance. Plan to purchase auto insurance as part of the car rental.  I learned the hard way that my charge card only covers auto rentals within the United States.
  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance. Make sure you purchase a policy that will cover emergency medical care, including evacuation.  It should cover airline ticket, cruise or tour group, hotels, and other major costs.
  • Recommended Vaccinations. Check the vaccination requirements for each country you plan to visit. Check online with the Center for Disease Control (https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel)
  • For more detailed information and links to pertinent websites, visit the Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html)
  • Document your plans. As you make your plans, store all of your arrangements (e.g. flight record locators/details, hotel confirmation/dates/address, Guide names and contact information, etc.) store the information in a safe location. Smartphone apps such as TripIt enable you to store all arrangements for your travel.
  • Smartphone Apps. There is a plethora of apps that can help with your travel. Familiarize yourself with options and download them now.  I don’t travel without a currency converter, language translator, Rick Steves Smartphone Guides, TripAdvisor, PayPay, Boingo and my Airline and Hotel apps.

Travel Arrangements

  • Even if you planned a Cruise, you may want to book hotels at the cities near the ports of departure and disembarkation. Work with your travel agent who can help you select the best hotel for your budget. Remember that not all foreign hotels have elevators so travel light.
  • Flights. Not all airlines will sell through the large booking websites. I check with the airport of departure to see which airlines fly from/to that airport. Then I start searching on the individual websites to be sure I find the best price and flight options.  You should also check neighboring airports.  For instance, while I generally fly out of JFK, I also check Newark, NJ flights.  If you need connecting flights, make sure the layover is not too short (you can miss the second flight) or too long (you will arrive at your destination weary from spending too much time traveling). Once you book your flight, you need to log into the airline website to complete TSA required information including passport numbers, emergency contact, destination hotel, and birth dates.
  • Guides. It pays to research guided tours available in the areas you plan to visit. TripAdvisor is a great resource for helping select a guide. Book ahead.  If you wait until the last minute your guide may not have availability.
  • Other Transportation. Schedule car service to and from your home airport if you are not driving to the airport. Find out if you need to book airport parking if you are driving yourself. Unless your tour group is providing transfers from the airport, learn now how you can best travel from the airport to your hotel.  If your travel involves trains, car rentals and other means to transportation, start reviewing available options now.
  • Research and Plan Your Time. Spend time learning about your destinations and plan your time. This is especially important if you are traveling independently from a group.  Rick Steves, Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet (and many others) have websites full of information.  I have used both Rick Steves and Lonely Planet published guidebooks. There are many YouTube videos covering nearly any destination. And I always travel with printed guidebooks.
  • Travel Limitations and Accommodations. You can still plan a perfect vacation but do your research and plan ahead.  Don’t hesitate to ask questions and request accommodation for your specific requirements.


  • Credit Cards – Sign up for a credit card that is widely recognized abroad and does not charge foreign currency exchange fees. I always travel with 2 different cards in case something happens to one card or the other. Make sure you have an appropriate credit limit. Find out if your credit card companies require notice of your international plans.
  • ATM Cards – An ATM card is just as essential as the credit card so apply for a card if you do not have one. Not all merchants accept credit cards abroad.  Most, if not all banks, do charge exchange rate fees each time you withdraw money at a foreign ATM.  (About 2-4 weeks before you leave the country, call the bank to let them know what countries you will be traveling to and the dates.) To save money, withdraw large amounts in foreign ATMS fewer times.
  • Budget – Put together a budget that includes all expected costs.
  • Foreign Currency. Have enough foreign currency for your first destination to pay the taxi driver and for incidentals.  Then you can use a local ATM for ongoing requirements.  AAA, Wells Fargo and American Express can provide currency at competitive exchange rates.  However, for most currency needs, plan to use local ATMs once you arrive at your destinations.  I generally withdraw the maximum amount at foreign ATMS in order to save on fees.


  • Pets – Don’t forget to schedule the pet sitter or boarding service.
  • Luggage – Find out the airline luggage limitations, especially weights. Look for deals on luggage if your current luggage is not suitable.
  • Packing aids. Compression bags are a great way to stuff more clothing into a suitcase. I also use packing cubes for items that wrinkle.
  • Clothing. Think about washable, comfortable versatile clothing that you can wear several times. Plan to dress in layers.  If you must bring dress shoes, pack one pair.  Otherwise, make sure you have comfortable shoes made for lots of walking.
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Blog, France, Independent Travel, Italy, Stories, Travel

Expect the Unexpected!

That is – when traveling independently. Whenever my husband and I travel, there is always some independent travel element. Often it is at the beginning and/or end of a cruise. We like to fly into a city and experience its sites on our own.

Our first taste of independent travel was in 2007 when we flew into Rome for three days prior to our Greek Island cruise. We walked to the Roman Coliseum only to find long lines. I know we are all warned away from allowing people to approach us at these sites but in this case we ignored the warnings. A young college student sold us on a guided Coliseum tour that skips the lines. Our guide was a young history student who provided a first rate tour of the structure. But what sticks in our memory was an add-on tour of the Palatine Hill – the birthplace of Rome. We learned about the mythology of Romulus and Remus as well as the history of the Roman Emperors who called the Palatine Hill home. I definitely recommend that you consider touring this area on a visit to Rome. In addition to John Lateran Cathedral, we also visited the Basilica of St. Clement which is three layers of Church – the current basilica, a 4th century church, and a 2nd Century Mithraic Temple. Neither stop was something generally found in a group tour.

Basilica of St. Clement in Rome with three layers of churches going back to the 2nd century or even earlier.

Our next vacation was a three-week independent trip through France with a close couple of friends. I prided myself in my somewhat limited understanding of French. What I could not translate was a sign that apparently warned that the road ahead was closed due to paving. We reached the hilltop town only to find that the center of the road was closed and there was no other way to go through the town. The only time our Garmin ever set us on a bad route was that day. We drove over Montagne Noir (Black Mountain). There was a several thousand foot drop at the edge of the road and I was convinced that, if we went over the side of the road, they would never locate our bodies! We made it to the top and stopped to pay respect to the memorial of the World War II resistance leaders – an unexpected but welcome surprise.

Montagne Noire (Black Mountain), Dordogne, France WWII resistance fighters’ memorial.

These are a few examples of the joys of independent travel. Even when traveling with a group, I urge you to take a little time on your own just to explore. Some of your best memories might be these unexpected encounters.

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Active Travel, Blog, Stories, Travel

10 Reasons to take a cycling vacation

When I tell friends about my cycling vacations, their first reaction is that I must be an athlete. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I consider myself the “un-athlete”. So why do I take biking vacations?

Here are some of my reasons:
1. Even “un-athletes” can ride a bike. It just takes practice.
2. You can see so much more on a bicycle. Imagine reaching the top of a hill to see a view of the Austrian Alps in the distance. On a bicycle, you pull over to the side of the road to enjoy the view and snap pictures – frequently.
3. You can “smell” so much more. My husband and I rode through a balsam-scented forest that we will never forget.
4. You can eat more terrific, regional food. Meals are guilt free because you will work off the calories.
5. Opportunity to make friends. Cyclists are a friendly group and often ride in packs.
6. You can spend all day outdoors.
7. Plenty of chances to connect with the local residents. Somehow the different languages were never a barrier.
8. The sense of accomplishment after riding several miles and taking that last hill feels great.
9. You might get a chance to ride the cobbles. Unlike the Tour de France, the stretch of cobbles is short and our speed is slow.
10. It is FUN. When I cycle, I feel like a kid again.

With the recent introduction of e-bikes that power you up hills, even non-cyclists can take a bicycling vacation. So pull out your old bicycle and start riding. Remember, you never forget how to ride a bike.

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A change of pace – A love for travel!
August 1, 2018
Blog, Stories, Travel

A change of pace – A love for travel!Featured

Dear Colleagues, Customers and Friends,

I loved nearly every minute of my 32+ year career in the software application industry but it is time to do something more creative. My next career is to share my love for travel by assisting friends and family in arranging their personal travel plans as an independent travel consultant.

Over the last 20+ years, I have explored exciting destinations across the globe, especially Eastern and Western Europe, including bicycling, cruises (river and ocean), and plenty of walking.  For each vacation, I completed the research needed to select the hotels, tour guides, activities, and restaurants, creating memorable experiences.

Memories include walking the ramparts in the evening in Carcassonne after all of the tour buses left for the day, accidentally getting in line to climb the Duomo in Florence resulting in a magnificent view of the entire city at the top, experiencing the changing of guard in Athens and Monte Carlo, taking a hot springs bath in Budapest, and viewing Monet’s Waterlilies at the Orangery in Paris.

Drawing upon my travel experience, I plan to help my customers determine what to pack, how to navigate cities using cabs and public transportation, find the best restaurants, schedule guides to provide an in-depth introduction to their own native homelands, jump to the head of the line with museum passes, navigate highways and manage un-attended toll booths, use a laundromat in a foreign country, utilize technology to enhance a travel experience, and so much more.

Most of all, my desire is to make each of my customer’s vacations special.  As you plan your own leisure travel, please keep me in mind as a professional travel planning resource.

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