By Lewis J. Walker, CFP®
As winter fades to spring, the travel bug bites...the open road calls! Travel dreams are high on most everyone's wish list, especially when one ponders what money and time are for. As one who developed a sense of wonder and wanderlust at a young age, I offer a few travel tips.
Plan well in advance. The best seats on airplanes, rooms in hot hotels, popular tours, desirable cabins on cruise ships, river ships, expedition and small boat sailings, fill up way ahead of time. It's not too soon to begin planning for 2017. Travel agents can be of great help in securing discounts and in matching ships with your personality! Cruise ships come in myriad sizes, with different features that appeal to some but turn off others. While mega-ships seem to be the rage, feedback I get from inveterate travelers is a preference for mid-sized ships (600-1200 passengers), or even smaller vessels, especially luxury categories.
If you are meeting a tour group or ship, arrive at least one day early, if not before. There always are stressed passengers joining the ship at down line ports due to delayed or cancelled flights. Another advantage to coming in early is time for delayed luggage to catch up! You have time to adjust your body clock to the crossing of multiple time zones.
If a tour or cruise advertises "free air fare," recognize that it's not free, the cost is buried in the pricing. True, cruise and tour operators may secure discounts and you need to find out what that is for comparison purposes. Ask for "cruise only" or "land only" quotes to determine the true cost of the air fare in the package. Then compare that to what you can arrange on your own. Perhaps you prefer certain carriers where you can garner or use points. You also may have more control over seat selection.
Second only to water boarding, a middle seat on a long flight is torture. Go on www.seatguru.com to determine the good and bad seats on any airline and the specific type of aircraft you are flying in. You want to avoid seats with no window, don't recline, have blockages where your feet will be. Avoid seats close to toilets or galleys, especially on overnight flights where you want to sleep. Seatguru will tell you the seat width and pitch, the distance between your seat and the one in front of you. When you see how tight some airline seats are, you may want explore increased options in premium economy or business class!
Looking for something to do in various cities or areas if you arrive early or go on a post-tour or cruise exploration? Check www.viator.com for tours and qualified personal guides in cities all over the world. This writer has hired personal guides through Viator and been very satisfied. One delightful couple in Istanbul recently sent an announcement welcoming their baby son. You may also contact the manager or concierge at your hotel for help. This past summer my wife and I met friends in London for a few days. They were getting off of a cruise ship and my wife and I were meeting a ship in Southampton for a London-Rome cruise. The manager at Rubens at the Palace Hotel secured four great tickets to Wicked for us. Viator provided skip-the-line access to the London Eye and a Thames boat cruise.
When you fly, paste a little paper note on a bag tag showing your flight and destination hotel. Most people have their home address on their luggage tags. Guess what! You aren't home! Also put a copy of your itinerary on top of your clothes in your luggage in case your bag tags get ripped off.
To shop for rental cars, try www.hotwire.com. When you get a price, go on www.priceline.com and underbid the other quote by 20% or so. Sometimes that works, sometimes not. Mark Twain said, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do." Makes sense to me. Bon voyage! Viaggio sicuro!
Lewis Walker is President of Walker Capital Management, LLC. Securities and advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis Walker is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of SFA which is otherwise unaffiliated with Walker Capital Management, LLC.