Free And Useful Travel Tips For You – From Our Team of Go-today Experts!

best international travel tips

Our go-today office is made up of frequent-flying, travel-loving fanatics.  Several customers have recently asked us to share some of our best travel tips, and we thought – yes, why not spread the travel wisdom?! 

We’ve therefore compiled some of our favorites for you.  While some are obvious, their usefulness never grows old.  Our aim is simply to save you time, stress and money – as well as inject an extra dose of authenticity into your trip!  We hope they’ll prove most useful on your next vacation to Spain, Chile, South Africa, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Thailandor wherever the wind may take you.

 

Packing & Other Pre-Departure Sundries

international vacation packages

  1. Read and print your travel documents – and be sure to take them with you!  This may sound pretty obvious, but we do receive calls from passengers who didn’t realize a printed voucher was needed (for a sightseeing tour, airport pick-up, wine tasting, etc.).  It may seem tedious, but it’s in your best interest to go over all your documents immediately after making your reservation.  
  2. Photocopy your passport – and then give one copy to a friend or family member at home and another to your travel companion.   
  3. When packing, use space-saver bags (or try to squeeze as much air as possible out of any sealable plastic bag).  Unfortunately, we’ve all seen wet suitcases coming off the baggage claim belt… Space-saver bags can help prevent your clothes from getting wet and from being tossed around in flight.  Later during your travels they’re also useful to keep your (highly-precious) clean clothes separate from your smelly ones.  
  4. If you plan on bringing your electric shaver, curling iron, straightening iron or hairdryer – find out which of your appliances already are dual voltage and then purchase any necessary international adapters and converters.
  5. In the event of potential rain or cold weather, instead of packing gloves, hats and umbrellas, buy them as souvenirs when you get there!  That way, you’ll have a useful keepsake and won’t be dragging stuff around that you might not even need.   
  6. Pack a couple of books: one for pleasure and another on the destination you’re visiting.

Flying & Airports

vacation packages to Europe

  1. For winter-holiday travelers, flying in the winter season can sometimes mean weather delays so stay apprised of your flight status before you leave for the airport by checking online and signing up for airline alerts.  Plan for extra time to get to your destination as traffic, parking and lines tend to be longer. 
  2. If you’re traveling with gifts, wrap them after you arrive as all items carried on board are subject to inspection and may be unwrapped at the security checkpoint. 
  3. To save yourself time and hassle at airport security, go for slip-on shoes – and keep the jewelry to a minimum! 
  4. Fully charge your electronic devices (tablets, phones, laptops, etc.) before you arrive to the airport for your return flight back to the United States as per new TSA requirements – or you might end up having to leave them behind.
  5. Pack a little bag of in-flight essentials that you can keep with you during the flight: pen, sweets, headphones, ear plugs, medicine, tissues, book, etc.  You’ll then have everything you need in one convenient place.  Stow the small bag under your seat – that way you won’t have to keep getting up every five minutes to rummage through your larger carry-on bag in the overhead bin.
  6. If you’re taking a particularly long flight, consider wearing compression socks and try to get up regularly and walk around the airplane cabin to avoid deep vein thrombosis. 

Money, Money, Money

vacation packages to Europe

  1. Keep in mind that you can often get the best currency exchange rates right at the ATM when you arrive.  Avoid the currency exchanges in the airports, whose fees tend to be high.
  2. Before traveling internationally, notify your credit card companies that you’ll soon be making purchases from a different country; this way they won’t assume the charges are fraudulent and freeze your card while you’re abroad.
  3. Don’t store all your credit cards, debit cards and cash in the same place (i.e. your wallet) while traveling.  Keep them separated to ensure you’ll still have money should you happen to lose one or become a victim of theft. 
  4. In large, tourist destinations – don’t display large quantities of money in public.  This may seem obvious, but while on vacation people often withdraw enough money from the ATM to last for several days.  Make smaller amounts of local currency easily accessible (for small purchases and tipping), and store your larger bills and other valuables in a safe place like a money belt or the hotel safe.  

Getting Around

Public Transportation in Europe

  1. Public transportation passes are a great and inexpensive way to get around.  Depending on where you are visiting, the same pass is often valid for multiple forms of travel (metro, tram, bus and funicular).  If the pass is based on the number of voyages, you can often share it and “pass back” to your traveling companions.
  2. Don’t leave your belongings unattended in public, particularly in tourist areas.  No-no’s include leaving your luggage outside the hotel’s entrance, your cell phone on a table in a restaurant, and your purse on the back of your chair.
  3. If you’re visiting a non-English-speaking country, learning a few basic phrases in the language of your destination will go a long way.  Not everyone will speak English, and even those who do will appreciate a muchas gracias, bonjour madame, obrigado, bitte, etc.  Perfect pronunciation isn’t expected, so just give it your best! 
  4. Before setting out from your hotel room, familiarize yourself with the area.  Study your map, ask the hotel’s receptionist or consult your guidebook.  It’s easier to steer clear of bad neighborhoods when you know in advance where they are!  If you do get lost and suddenly realize you’re in a dodgy part of town, the street corner is not the ideal place to bust out a map.  Pop into a hotel, restaurant, café or shop and then calmly figure out where you want to go.     
  5. If you plan to travel by train in Europe, find out if your departure station has an information desk.  If so, use it to help you plan your rail journey.  Don’t expect the person at the ticket window to answer all your questions when there’s a line of impatient commuters waiting.  This is especially important in crowded stations located in cities like Venice, Paris and London.  When you know your desired train’s date and departure time or number, whether you need a national or international ticket, whether it’s a single journey or roundtrip and whether you want first or second class, then go to the ticket window.  If you have access to a computer, you can also find out much of this information online before you go to the station. 
  6. Remember that purchasing individual rail segments may prove cheaper than buying a rail pass!  Passes often exclude mandatory seat reservations and supplements when riding high-speed trains.  These costs aren’t necessarily included in the price of the pass.  (Local and regional trains generally do not require them.)  

Sightseeing and R&R (a.k.a. the sweet reason one undergoes everything described above)

vacation packages to Rome

  1. Upon arrival to your international destination, fight the urge to hit the sack and instead go for a leisurely walk around town to defeat jet lag.  Getting your body clock on local time as quickly as possible will make for a much more enjoyable vacation – and your dining and sleeping schedules will match the locals’.
  2. For your must-see, once-in-a-lifetime sightseeing attractions – do your planning ahead of time to guarantee you’ll get in and to avoid long lines. 
  3. That being said, don’t over-schedule yourself!  Leave some free time in there to shop, hang out in a neighborhood café, walk on the beach – or along the riverbanks.  Many wonderful attractions are natural, and culture isn’t only found in a museum.  Give yourself time to take in whatever interests you most – at a relaxing pace.
  4. Traveling can be stressful at times.  (For proof of this, reread what we just wrote about airport security!)  If you know you’ll want a morning or afternoon of pampering, consider booking a superior hotel with a spa. 

Dining

cooking class in Paris

  1. When staking out a restaurant for lunch or dinner, watch where the locals are going.  Small, hole-in-the-wall restaurants can serve up delicious local specialties! 
  2. If the weather is nice and you’re in search of something low-key, stock up on local food products at a neighborhood market and make a picnic lunch.  It’s inexpensive, a chance to try local goodies like freshly-baked breads, charcuterie, cheeses, fruits and wines, and a great way to chill out.  (Isn’t that why we go on vacation?!)
  3. When traveling, it’s easy to forget about healthy eating.  Large meals, drinking and exotic foods can wreak havoc on the body…  During your gastronomic adventures, enjoy tasty, traditional dishes but also try to include some smaller meals that include plenty of vegetables and lean protein.
  4. Eating is cultural, and many cultures don’t eat on the run as much as we do in America.  Therefore, don’t forget to sit and eat (which is also better for your digestion). 
  5. Drink lots of water to keep hydrated!

We hope you’ve enjoyed perusing our handy travel tips!  At go-today, our reservation specialists are experts in planning exciting travel experiences to Europe, Asia, South America, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Australia, Morocco and South Africa.  Should you like to speak with a member of our team, please kindly call us at 800-227-3235.  We’d love to hear from you!  Alternatively, check out our website where you can see popular vacation packages as well as customize a vacation package – just for you. 

Safe travels!

 

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On Vacation in Scotland: Enjoy a Beautiful Glimpse of Our Favorite Places!

 

vacation package to Scotland

Built on an island at the intersection of three lochs, Eilean Donan Castle is a true beauty of the Scottish Highlands.

The 18th of September was surely a fateful day in Scotland!

After 307 years in the United Kingdom – which comprises England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – the majority of Scots voted yesterday to reject independence and to remain in the union.

Passions are running high today in the British Isles, and you’re sure to see a lot of news coverage on the Scottish referendum for independence.

Therefore, we thought it would be opportune to show you some of our favorite places to visit in Scotland - a country admired by visitors for its gripping natural landscapes, fascinating historical sights and welcoming attitude!  Care to see more for yourself?  If so, check out our photo album below!

 

Our Favorite Places to Visit While On Vacation in Scotland!

vacation packages to Scotland

St Andrews, the original home of golf

vacation packages to Scotland

You might recognize 14th-century Doune Castle from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. More recently, the castle has been used in the popular TV series Outlander as the fictitious Castle Leoch.

vacation packages to Scotland

The unusual rock formations of the Quiraing are popular with hikers on Scotland’s beautiful Isle of Skye.

vacation packages to Scotland

Culzean Castle & Gardens are easily visited on a day trip from Glasgow.

vacation package to Scotland

Scotland’s beautiful capital of Edinburgh is famed for its historic attractions, great museums and legendary festivals.

day tours to Loch Lomond

This spectacular Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park offers visitors 720 square miles of wooded glens, mountains and lochs. An easy day trip from either Edinburgh or Glasgow, it’s hard to do this scenery justice!

vacation packages to Scotland

The pretty resort town of Oban is popular with Scots and visitors alike.

vacation packages to Scotland

Visitors traveling to the picturesque area of Glencoe in the Highlands will likely see one of Scotland’s most iconic mountains along the way: Buachaille Etive Mòr.

vacation package to Scotland

While decidedly more urban in spirit than Edinburgh, Glasgow still merits a visit for its top-notch museums, galleries, Victorian architecture and lively ambience.

vacation packages to Scotland

The fishing village of Anstruther was once part of the medieval Kingdom of Fife. It is easily visited on a day trip from Edinburgh – and is a great place to try fish & chips!

vacation package to Scotland

Robert the Bruce defeated the army of King Edward II of England for control of Stirling Castle (pictured) at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The castle was also the site of Mary Queen of Scots’ coronation.

vacation packages to Scotland

The almost-900-year-old ruin is one of Scotland’s most famous. Rumored to be the burial site of Robert the Bruce’s heart, Melrose Abbey is easily visited on a day tour from Edinburgh. The visit is frequently paired with Rosslyn Chapel, a fascinating monument long-associated with the Knights Templar that was used as a filming location in the Da Vinci Code.

We hope you’ve enjoyed seeing a few of our favorite spots to visit in Scotland!  For information about our vacation packages to Scotland and elsewhere in the United Kingdom, please kindly click here.  If you’re thinking of traveling to Scotland with a group, we have a variety of escorted tours as well as a Group Department who would be more than happy to help your group customize an itinerary to Scotland.  Last but not least, consider using our convenient Vacation Builder tool to design your own package to Scotland; you’ll find many exciting sightseeing tours, excursions and hotel options to consider!

Safe travels!

 


 

 

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Traveling to Peru On Your Next Vacation? Meet Its Amazing World Heritage Sites.

 

vacation packages to PeruAs summer is about to wrap, many of us are yearning for a vacation extension filled with adventure, relaxation and sunshine.

For those who cannot sit tight until 2015, consider chasing summer by heading south to South America!

One South American country is certain to satisfy your taste buds, pleasant-weather needs and cultural cravings: Peru.

Trip Advisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards for 2014 recently announced the 25 Top Destinations in South America, and five fantastic Peruvian cities made the list.

Two Peruvian cities even managed to capture second and fifth place: Cusco and Lima.  The other winners from Peru were Arequipa (15th), Urubamba (16th) and Mancora (24th).

vacation packages to PeruVacation packages to Peruvacation travel to Peru

Graced with snowcapped mountains, serene lakes, volcanos, skyscraping waterfalls, 1500 miles of Pacific coastline, dramatic canyons, exceptionally-scenic river valleys and rainforests, Peru’s tourism scene is so hot – it’s about to catch fire!  Peru has something for everyone: adventurers, outdoor sports fans, art aficionados, foodies and beach bums.  For history fans, Peru is nothing short of heart-stopping.  Did you know that Peru was home to South American’s most ancient civilizations?  It’s true!  For travelers wanting to connect with their inner Indiana Jones, Peru contains some of the very best ruins in all of South America!

When we think of ancient, flourishing cultures like those of Greece, Egypt and Mesopotamia, we cannot discount the ancient civilizations of Peru.  For example, the ruins of the Sacred City of Caral-Supe, the oldest city in the Americas, are a mind-blowing 5000-years-old!  The Moche culture flourished for over six centuries along the coast of Northern Peru; their incredible huacas or pyramids still stand and can be visited in the Moche Valley near the city of Trujillo.  The Chavín culture also added to the rich fabric of ancient Peru, and many visitors today travel to the highlands to see the 3000-year-old ruins of its former capital, Chavín de Huántar, which is one of Peru’s World Heritage Sites.  Another is the fascinating archeological site of Chan Chan, the capital of the ancient Chimú Kingdom, whose empire was eventually defeated by the Incas.  The giant, mysterious Nazca lines – yet another World Heritage Site – were created by ancient cultures in Peru between 1500 and 2500 years ago!

vacation packages to Perusightseeing in Perusightseeing in the Sacred Valley

Get the gist?  Peru’s ancient history goes so deep that we can’t possibly cover it properly here.  It’s also worth mentioning that because of transportation, some of Peru’s best ruins are easier to visit than others (unless you intend to go trekking through the jungle).  For this reason, right now we’re going to narrow in on Three of the Best World Heritage Sites in Peru – all of which are exciting, affordable and easy to visit.

 

Historic Centre of Lima

vacation packages to Peru

Lima's Plaza de Armas square

When the notorious Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro, defeated the mighty Incas in their capital city of Cuzco in the first half of the 16th century, he decided to create a new, grand capital for the Spanish Crown in a river valley nestled between the Pacific Coast and the foothills of the Andes Mountains: Lima.

Known as the “City of Kings,” Lima prospered and became the official capital of Spain’s Viceroyalty of Peru, a territory that for roughly a century included most of South America.

Lima’s colonial architecture is legendary, and its historic center – a World Heritage Site – is brimming with fascinating monuments from Peru’s colonial past, which shed light on how Lima was selected as the fifth best city to visit in all of South America by TripAdvisor.  Particularly worth-while sightseeing attractions to check out include the Plaza Mayor square, the Archbishop’s Palace, the Convent of Santo Domingo, the gorgeous Convent of San Francisco and its impressive catacombs, and Lima’s 16th-century Cathedral, where Pizarro himself was laid to rest (after being assassinated).

vacation packages to Peru

The Monastery of Santo Domingo, Lima

Visitors traveling to Lima have a wealth of entertainment venues, boutiques, musical performances, lively markets, galleries and gourmet restaurants to enjoy.

Lima is also home to Peru’s best museums.  If you only have time for three, make them the Museo de la Nación, the Museo Larco and the National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History.

All three beautifully illuminate Peru’s ancient past with extraordinary artifacts from pre-Colombian civilizations like the sophisticated Moche civilization, who dominated the coast of Northern Peru from the 2nd century AD until about 1200 years ago, and the ancient Chavín civilization, which originated in Peru’s highlands 3000 years ago.

While the city of Lima was founded by the Spanish (and most folks come for the ambience, food scene and colonial history) don’t gloss over the fact that many ancient, indigenous groups lived in the area before those conquering Spaniards showed up.

Vacation packages to Peru

The archeological site of Pachacamac

The outskirts of Lima do hold some interest for ancient history fans.  Probably the most interesting (and convenient) to visit is the archeological site of Pachacámac, whose pyramids and temples pre-date the rise of the Incas.  The ancient city served as a sacred, pilgrimage site for roughly a millennium.  When the Incas took over, they were so impressed that instead of destroying the sacred structures, they added to them.  The ancient complex is currently under consideration to become a new World Heritage Site.

After all that sightseeing in colonial Lima and its ancient surroundings, spend some time in the modern, seaside borough of Miraflores, which is home to great restaurants, pubs, hotels and casinos.  Lima is also reputed to have the best gastronomy in the country.

For great seafood dishes, head to one of the restaurants along the Costa Verde (Lima’s seaside), and visitors in need of relaxation during the summer months (December to April in Peru) can hit the fabulous beaches located to the south of Lima!

 

 

 

City of Cuzco (also written as “Cusco” and “Qosqo”)

vacation packages to Peru

Cusco, the former capital of the Incan Empire

An absolute cultural gem, Cusco is best known for having been the capital of the far-reaching Incan Empire.

Because of its wealth of archeological and cultural attractions, it is often called the historical capital of Peru.

This beautiful city, which was carefully laid-out by the Incas in a fertile river valley near the foothills of the Andes Mountains, is an extraordinary natural marvel.  It is also a portal into the lost world of the Incas.

This is no small honor, for the Incan Empire (13th to 16th centuries) was the largest and most powerful empire in all of South American before European conquerors arrived.

Its vast territory included lands that today form part of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, and Argentina, and it is rumored that when Pizarro and Co. arrived to the Incan capital, they were blown away with what they saw!

vacation packages to Peru

Traditional Andean weaving

The runner-up for the Best Destination in South America by TripAdvisor, present-day Cusco reflects a true blend of its past: both indigenous and Spanish.  You’ll enter a colonial, baroque church – and hear mass said in the Quechua language.  You’ll see remarkable Incan monuments, walls and temples as well as Spanish churches, palaces, convents, academic centers and mansions.  While its cultural heritage is unbeatable, visiting Cusco is not like walking around inside a distant history lesson.  This city has a great, infectious spirit!

Indigenous Peruvian culture is alive and well in Cusco, as evidenced by the traditional hand-woven crafts, dance and music you’ll find throughout the city.  A dining experience in Cuzco is frequently paired with traditional music and dance, so consider checking out one of Cusco’s peñas (local tourist restaurants).  The Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo also regularly offers music and dance programs with performers donning traditional, colorful costumes.

Before beginning your sightseeing of Cusco, consider drinking the popular local infusion mate de coca, which is recommended by locals to get used to the altitude of the city.  Historical attractions in Cusco’s historic core, a World Heritage Site, include the magnificent Plaza de Armas square, the Cathedral, the neighborhood “Barrio de San Blas”, the Convent and Museum of Santa Catalina, and the remarkable Incan Temple of the Sun (Qoricancha), which the Spanish conquistadores pillaged and converted into the Convent of Santo Domingo.  On the outskirts overlooking Cusco – and within walking distance if you’re up for it – lie the ruins of Sacsayhuamán.  Without a doubt it is one of the best Incan sites to visit in Cusco.  Today the otherworldly ruins provide the setting for a reenactment of the Incan winter solstice “Inti Raymi” festival in late June.  Other popular ruins in or very nearby Cusco include Kenko, Puca Pucara and Tambomachay.

Incan sightseeing in Peru

Ollantaytambo Fortress, the Sacred Valley

In addition to visiting archeological and cultural sites, many adventurers travel to Cusco to hike, mountain bike or raft.  Many tourists also choose to visit the nearby Urubamba Valley, a superbly scenic area known to the Incas as “The Sacred Valley.”

This popular day tour generally features the market town of Písac – home to excellent Incan ruins – as well as the superb ruins of the fortress of Ollantaytambo.

Despite Cusco being conquered by Pizarro and Co., many of the city’s surrounding highlands were never even seen by the Spanish and were therefore preserved.

The renowned World Heritage Site of Machu Picchu is one such place.  Visiting it is an unforgettable experience, and Cusco is the logical starting point.

 

 Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu

vacation packages to Peru

Peru's legendary ruins of Machu Picchu

Of Peru’s 12 World Heritage Sites, this ancient and downright remarkable place is one of only two to be classified as both a natural and cultural site (along with the Río Abiseo National Park).

It was also a winner in the New Seven Wonders of the World contest in 2007.

Characterized by tropical mountains adorned with seemingly-magical mists and scenic, terraced farms almost 8000 feet above sea level, it’s easy to imagine how the great Incan rulers believed the spectacular spot – where the Andes Mountains meet the Amazon basin – was sacred.

It was built by the powerful Incans in the 15th century most likely as a royal estate.  It’s hard to believe, but after constructing the architectural and agricultural masterpiece, it was only used for roughly 100 years.  When the Spanish conquistadores arrived and sacked Cusco in 1533, the Incas abandoned Machu Picchu, and in true Sleeping Beauty style, it remained hidden to archeologists until 1911.  For this reason, Machu Picchu is understandably in much better condition that the religious Incan sites discovered by the evangelizing Spaniards.

Much mystery still surrounds the Incan site of Machu Picchu.  Despite unsolved questions, it remains a superstar of Ancient Peru’s fascinating legacy.  While many adventurous souls hike to Machu Picchu from Cusco along the Inca Trail, a challenging journey that takes four days, many tourists prefer to either base themselves in Cusco and visit Machu Picchu by train on a guided day tour or to overnight in the town nearest Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes, which also hosts a great outdoor market with traditional handicrafts.

If you’ve already visited the World Heritage Sites of Machu Picchu, Cusco and Lima, other South American winners in the 2014 TripAdvisor Awards were Buenos Aires, Argentina (#1); Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (#4); Santiago, Chile (#6); and Salvador Brazil (#11).

For all our affordable, exciting packages to South and Central America – including Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Costa Rica - please click the respective links.  We’ve also got excellent sightseeing tours in Peru available for you here

Safe Travels!

 

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