What is the Best Way to Purchase Foreign Currency?

October 15th, 2018 / blog / Comments Off on What is the Best Way to Purchase Foreign Currency?

The least expensive exchange rate is typically getting cash from an ATM machine in the country you are visiting. See what logo is on your debit card and look for the same logo on the ATM machine. Most large international airports will have ATM machines. Know what your daily withdrawal limit is and ask your bank to increase it before leaving home during your travel if you think you will need to take out larger amounts during your travels. In addition, many US banks require that you let them know where and when you are traveling abroad or they may deny a transaction suspecting fraud (also true for credit cards).

If you want to have some foreign currency on hand for emergencies or a taxi upon arrival, then buy a limited amount from your bank or credit union. Avoid foreign exchange stores in airports as they have expensive conversion rates and fees. Also, stores that say they accept US dollars often do not have a competitive exchange rate – you are better off paying cash in local currency.

Protect Your Cellphone & Data While Traveling

September 15th, 2018 / blog / Comments Off on Protect Your Cellphone & Data While Traveling
Cellphones can be very handy travel devices and become a major frustration if lost or stolen. These simple precautions can minimize your risk:
  • iPhones have a Find My iPhone setting so make sure it is activated (go to Settings and also turn on Send Last Location).  Androids have a Find My Device feature (go to Settings under Security & Location).
  • Consider purchasing insurance from your wireless carrier in case it is lost, stolen or damaged.
  • Save and display your contact information (first name, email address & alternate phone number) on your screen’s “wallpaper” so someone knows how to contact you if they find your phone.  For an iPhone, simply type your information in Notes, take a screenshot of it, then save it as your Wallpaper background.
  • Remember to contact your wireless carrier immediately if your phone is stolen.
  • If you don’t think you will retrieve your phone, you can even erase the data remotely.

Refunds for Shopping in Europe

August 15th, 2018 / blog / Comments Off on Refunds for Shopping in Europe
If you plan to do some hefty shopping while traveling abroad, don’t forget that you can request a refund of Value Added Tax (commonly called VAT) that you have paid during your trip.  Keep all of your receipts. Make sure the merchant fills out the necessary documents before you leave the store. Have a copy of your passport saved on your Smartphone that you can readily access when completing the reimbursement form.  Some larger stores have a desk you can go to for their purchases; otherwise, look for the VAT refund center at the airport when you are headed home.  Allow enough time for this process, as it could be busy!

Dealing with Short Airport Connections

May 15th, 2018 / blog / Comments Off on Dealing with Short Airport Connections

Have you ever found yourself having to race through an airport to find your next gate for a connecting flight? Many airlines have tight connecting schedules that are considered “legal” (but not necessarily realistic) connections in the industry. If you are concerned about making any of your international flight connections or just want to enjoy a smoother process, “fast track” and VIP services are available at many airports to whisk you away to your next gate, removing any guesswork and stress. Call us to arrange this valuable service on your next trip abroad.

A Few Simple Ideas to Make Your Trip Abroad More Comfortable…

April 15th, 2018 / blog / Comments Off on A Few Simple Ideas to Make Your Trip Abroad More Comfortable…
  1. Pack a few plastic zip-lock bags of varying sizes to help organize a multitude of things from dirty laundry, packing snacks, wet bathing suit, keeping your camera or phone dry, and storing trash.
  2. Tuck a washcloth into your suitcase as many foreign hotels do not offer one.
  3. Invest in some decent headphones or at least ear plugs to cancel out plane noise so you can sleep better on long flights.  And listening to relaxing music may help lull you to sleep.
  4. Put an inflatable beach ball in your carry-on bag – can be used as a footrest when inflated or for lumbar support or head pillow if partially inflated.

Packing for the Unexpected

March 15th, 2018 / blog / Comments Off on Packing for the Unexpected

Ever experience arriving at your destination and one or more of your checked bags are missing?  This can certainly get your much awaited vacation off to a rough start.  If traveling with one or more companions, mingle some of your clothes in each other’s bags so that one of you isn’t left completely in a lurch.  Don’t forget a change of clothes in your carry-on bag as well as this can be a life saver.

Complete Travel Itineraries on Your Phone!

February 15th, 2018 / blog / Comments Off on Complete Travel Itineraries on Your Phone!

Have you heard about Gateway Destinations’ travel app that provides an electronic version of your trip itinerary and documents on your smartphone or tablet? Pocket Travel Consultant gives you easy access to your itinerary while traveling and includes flight notifications, comprehensive destination information and even the ability to send and receive messages with fellow travelers. This complimentary service is an added benefit to our comprehensive paper travel documents. Try this new feature on your next Gateway-planned adventure!

How Will the Real I.D. Act Affect My Travel?

January 15th, 2018 / blog / Comments Off on How Will the Real I.D. Act Affect My Travel?

Properly issued I.D. will soon be required for ALL commercial air travel in the U.S. to comply with the Real I.D. Act (new law passed by Congress in 2005 after 9/11).  An extension was granted to the State of Arizona for issuing new or replacement Driver License or Travel ID card (if you don’t drive) until October 1, 2020 (originally slated for January 22, 2018).  Stricter proof of citizenship documents will be required at an in-person appointment; cost is $25 and will be valid for eight years.

If you want to get a jump on being compliant or if your driver license is up for renewal in the next few years, you may want to apply for the compliant license – MVD will not automatically issue it when renewing licenses.  Details for Arizona can be found at:  AZDOT.gov/TravelID. Existing license holders can make an appointment online at: ServiceArizona.com.

What Makes Spain a Great Travel Destination?

January 9th, 2018 / blog / Comments Off on What Makes Spain a Great Travel Destination?

Hola! Spain is a great destination to visit for many reason, even visting multiple times. It is a country with much diversity, deep history and natural beauty. From bustling cities to charming villages, stunning beaches, natural wilderness areas, winelands and snow skiing in the Pyrenees Mountains, Spain has a lot to offer. Madrid and Barcelona are easily accessible by non-stop flights from the U.S. which makes Spain an easy European destination to reach and the currency is Euro, making it easy to combine with other nearby European countries.

Once there, travel within Spain is quite easy via rail, rental car, or even by bus. Local flights in some cases are the best way in order to save time (e.g. – Barcelona to San Sebastian or Seville). If your are adventuresome and have enough time, doing a self-drive in some areas is highly recommended and easy to do as roads are in good condition with good signage. Recently, France and Spain have collaborated to offer high-speed train travel between several cities in France to Barcelona or Madrid, making it very easy to include both destinations. A short ferry ride connects southern Spain with Morocco as well.

You can cover a lot of Spain in two weeks, but sights will need to be prioritized. If a future trip is possible, then focusing on either northern Spain (Barcelona, Costa Brava, Madrid, Toledo, Verde Coast & the Basque region) or southern Spain (Seville, Valencia, Cordoba, Granada, Costa del Sol) is preferable. A customized, seamless itinerary including local transportation can be created to suit your requirements. Unusual sightseeing such as private Flamenco dance lessons, olive oil tasting in the Lecrin Valley, a bullfight, cooking classes and foodie tours are ideas to consider including.Perhaps an escorted group tour is more to your liking?

One of my favorite hotels includes the Hostal de la Gavina on the Costa Brava north of Barcelona. In Barcelona, I recommend Hotel Claris, Majestic Hotel & Spa or Hotel Neri. The Westin Palace in Madrid has a great location and the Villa Real is another great option for Madrid. Hotel Maria Cristina is the best luxury option in San Sebastian and the Gran Melia Colon is an excellent choice for Seville. For Granada, you may want to consider reserving Hotel AC Palacio de Santa Paula, Alhambra Palace Hotel or NHCollection Victoria. I always recommend to stay in at least one Paradores property which are luxury hotels located in historic buildings – former castle, palace, convent, monastery or fortress and are sprinkled throughout the country.

Spain’s rich history was largely influenced by the Romans and Moors. As a result, Roman ruins are plentiful and beautiful Moorish architecture can be found in Barcelona and Madrid and to the south. A Gaudi architecture tour in Barcelona is recommended for clients who appreciate architecture. Both Madrid and Barcelona are home to lively outdoor markets that are well worth a visit and both are centers for the arts. Spain’s entire eastern coastline offers numerous beautiful beaches on the Mediterranean, with southern opportunites on the Alboran Sea and the Atlantic bordering its beaches to the north and northwest. Largely Catholic, Spain observes a number of religious holidays and has a lot of festivals to enjoy, one of the most well-known being Fiesta de San Fermin in Pamplona. And, of course, the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela is where four Christian pilgrimage routes culminate from various parts in Europe.

In summary, Spain is an ideal destination for solo travelers, couples (including honeymooners), families and groups.

 

Where Would You Like to Travel in 2018?

December 15th, 2017 / blog / Comments Off on Where Would You Like to Travel in 2018?

Not sure where you want to travel next year?  I had the pleasure of returning to France several times this year, enjoying a river cruise on the Rhine, exploring Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands and visiting the Seychelles Islands and South Africa and am excited about my travels for 2018!  Here are just a few ideas for you to consider:

  • Croatia (by land & sea)
  • South Africa (very diverse – safari, luxury train, vineyards, nature reserve & much more!)
  • Mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda or Rwanda
  • River cruise in Europe (Portugal, France, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and eastern Europe)
  • Hotel barge cruising in France (great food & wine!)
  • Luxury sailing ship (Mediterranean, Caribbean or South Pacific)
  • Luxury biking and/or hiking small-group tours
  • Ecuador, Galapagos and Peru
  • Alaska (by land or sea)
  • Down Under (Australia & New Zealand)
  • Fall cruise in New England & eastern Canada
  • Exploring World War I history in France
  • Villa stay in Italy
  • Ireland or Scotland (self-drive, group tour or by private chauffeur)
  • Vietnam & Cambodia (river cruise & land journey)
  • ???

Call 602-923-1542/888-429-1242 to brainstorm ideas for your adventure!