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Helpful Travel Tips To Book A Hotel

Whether you're travelling alone or with your family in tow you're often in unfamiliar territory.  Be a smart traveler and study up on some of your destination's norms and conventions. A bit of working local education will go a long way to make your journey more safe and enjoyable.  You may even avoid personal embarrassment or humiliation. Or worse yet, if you don't know the local or regional customs you could insult someone unintentionally and not even realize what you have done or why you are being treated poorly by your hosts.  We've scrubbed the web for the best and most helpful travel tips and ideas and assembled them with a smattering of our own to help you make the most of your holiday or vacation away from home!

Tips on Tipping

Who do you tip? When? How much?

The practice of tipping is meant as a form of thank-you for services rendered, or beforehand as a subtle bribe for special treatment.

Tipping in Macau need not be considered mandatory or automatic. Too often, tips are taken for granted or expected regardless of the quality of service. Tipping should be done at your discretion and as a reward for good or superlative service.

Below are some tipping suggestions for travelers. At nearly every step of the traveling process, there are professionals waiting to "lighten your load" or provide assistance. So remember to carry a lot of change and small bills for tips.

Taxi/Limo Drivers: A $2 to $3 tip is usually satisfactory; more if he helps you with your bags and/or takes special steps to get you to your destination on time.

Porters: A standard tip for airport and train porters is $1 per bag; more if your luggage is very heavy.

Hotel Bellman: Again, $1 per bag is standard. Tip when he shows you to your room and again if he assists you upon checkout. Tip more if he provides any additional service. Note: A $5 tip upon arrival can usually guarantee you special attention should you require it.

Doorman: Typically, a $1 tip for hailing a taxi is appropriate. However, you may want to tip more for special service, such as carrying your bags or shielding you with an umbrella.

Concierge: Tip for special services such as making restaurant or theater reservations, arranging sightseeing tours, etc. The amount of the tip is generally dependent on the type and complexity of service(s) provided-$2 to $10 is a standard range. You may elect to tip for each service, or in one sum upon departure. If you want to ensure special treatment from the concierge, you might consider a $10-$20 tip upon arrival.

Hotel Maid: Maids are often forgotten about when it comes to tipping because they typically do their work when you are not around. For stays of more than one night, $1 per night is standard. The tip should be left in the hotel room in a marked envelope.

Parking Attendants: Tip $1 to $2 when your car is delivered. Waiters: 15-20% of your pre-tax check is considered standard. The same applies for room service waiters. Some restaurants will automatically add a 15% gratuity to your bill, especially for large parties-look for it before tipping. If the 15% is added, you need only tip up to another 5% for superlative service.

Cloakroom Attendants: If there is a charge for the service, a tip is not necessary. However, if there is no charge, or extra care is taken with your coat and/or bags, a $1 to $2 tip is appropriate.

Tour Guides/Charter Bus Drivers: If a tip is not automatically included, tip $1 for a half-day tour, $2 for full-day tour, and anywhere from $5 to $10 for a week-long tour. Tip a private guide more.

These are some of the people you are most likely to encounter while traveling in the U.S. Undoubtedly there will be others. If there is one standard rule in tipping it is this: If someone renders special service to you along the way, show your appreciation with a tip.

Travel Scams

You Don't Get Something for Nothing

Beware of travel companies that misrepresent information about the bookings and transportation costs. For example, a company that offers an unbelievably low airfare may make up the loss in another way such as overpriced hotel accomodations. In most cases, one should assume that "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Don't be taken by solicitations by postcard, letter, or phone claiming you've won a free trip or can get discounts on hotels and airfares. These offers usually don't disclose the hidden fees involved, for example, deposits, surcharges, excessive handling fees or taxes.

Some travel scams require you to purchase a product to get a trip that is "free" or "two-for-one." You'll end up paying for the "free trip" or more for the product than the trip is worth, and the two-for-one deal might be more expensive than if you had arranged a trip yourself by watching airfare deals.

Be wary of travel offers which ask you to redeem vouchers or certificates from out-of-state companies. Their offers are usually valid only for a limited time and on a space-available basis. The hotels are often budget rooms and very uncomfortable. The company charges you for the trip in advance, but will the company still be in business when you're ready to take the trip?

Check the reputation of any travel service you use, especially travel clubs offering discounts on their services in exchange for an annual fee. Contact your state or local consumer protection agency or the Better Business Bureau.

Request copies of a travel club's or agent's brochures and contracts before purchasing your ticket. Don't rely on oral promises. Find out about cancellation policies and never sign contracts that have blank or incomplete spaces.

Never give out your credit card number to a club or company with which you're unfamiliar or which requires you to call 900 numbers for information.

Don't feel pressured by requests for an immediate decision or a statement that the offer is only good "if you act now." Don't deal with companies that request payment in advance or that don't have escrow accounts where your deposit is held.

Research cut-rate offers, especially when dealing with travel consolidators who might not be able to provide your tickets until close to your departure date.

You can protect yourself by using a credit card to purchase travel services. If you don't get what you paid for, contact the credit card issuer and you might be able to get the charges reversed. Be aware that you have 60 days to dispute a charge.

Pre-Travel Preparations

When going away, make sure you cancel all newspapers, pay bills before you go, and get someone to look after your house - give them the spare key, and ask them to clear your mail. Also, if possible, park a car in your driveway if you are taking your car with you.

When taking a purse or wallet, only take two credit cards and Driver's ID and only necessary business cards. Leave ALL other credit cards at home and always write down the credit card numbers you're taking with you and place them elsewhere in your luggage in case your purse or wallet is stolen. Also write down important phone numbers of people to contact in case of any emergency (doctor, dentist, pharmacist, credit card companies, etc.) and put them elsewhere in your luggage. They can be a life saver!

If you're going to a popular tourist attraction, buy your film at home!

If you take trips that require any special wardrobe or equipment, keep it all in a duffle bag so that when the time comes, it is already packed and ready to go. For example, I have a ski bag that includes ski sweaters, hat & gloves, ski socks, thermals, goggles, etc. It saves a lot of mornings of buying equipment at the mountain at inflated prices.

Several days before leaving, make up a checklist of everything you need to take. Start with morning things (medications, shower necessities, etc.) and mentally go through and write down everything you will need for a day. Don't forget things like a clock, camera, laundry soap, etc. You can keep this list on your computer and pull it up whenever you need it.

Always carry lots of quarters and dimes. A used film canister works very well. You never know when you will need to catch the bus or train or make a pay phone phonecall.

Make sure your will and personal papers are all in order. If something were to happen to you while traveling, it's good for your family and heirs to know where your will is, where your insurance papers are kept, where the safe deposit box keys are, etc.

Eat yogurt two weeks before you leave - this builds up a "friendly" bacteria in your system and you can then tolerate more things. Drink bottled water and no ice. (Better hotels have their own ice making that uses purified water). In third world countries only eat cooked food or fruit that can be peeled (bananas or oranges) - raw food (salads, etc.) may not have been cleaned properly.

Create a list of all your travellers' check numbers. Keep this entirely separate from the actual documents so that if they are lost/stolen you will have immediate reference to the correct information.

Always carry wet naps in your bags, and tissue paper.

Have a photocopy made of your passport ID page and airline tickets before you embark on your trip.

Bring lots of single dollar bills for tips during endless airport transfers, hotels, and courtesy busses.

Before leaving home photocopy all your credit cards, ID, and travel documents and leave a copy with your housesitter or someone reliable.

What to Do When the Airlines Lose Something You Need

What to Do When the Airlines Lose Something You Need Right Away Although airlines handle millions of suitcases every day without a mishap, the system isn't without its faults. Although the chances of having your bags misdirected or lost are small, if you travel a lot for business, sooner or later you may have to deal with this irksome situation.

So what do you do when you've got an important presentation in the morning and your luggage never made it to the baggage carousel? For starters, don't panic. Most luggage is only delayed, not lost permanently. File a missing-luggage form--even if the airline agent insists that your bags will turn up on the next flight. Don't leave without a copy of the report and the toll-free airline telephone number to their claims department.

Ask about the airline's immediate reimbursement policy. Airlines usually have leisure travelers buy a new wardrobe at their own expense and then file for reimbursement. This process can take weeks or months. However, if you need to make a major purchase immediately, the airline may advance you some cash. For example, if you arrive at night, and the suitcase containing the $500 suit you planned to wear the next day for an important presentation doesn't show up, the airline may give you money to replace it in time for your meeting.

If your bag is missing or significantly delayed, you'll probably need to buy more than just a suit. Many airlines offer a daily stipend in the neighborhood of $25-$50 to buy things like toiletries. The airline may also have toiletry kits to give out--be sure to ask, because not all airline officials will be forthcoming about freebies.

Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The best way to lessen the chances your valuables will be lost is to carry them with you. Although many airlines are tightening carry-on restrictions, many airlines will still allow business passengers to carry two items, especially if they do not check any other bags.

If you do check baggage, be sure to check in as early as possible to make sure both you and your luggage make the flight. Try to schedule a reasonable amount of time--at least 45 minutes --between connecting flights.

Consider buying additional insurance--without it, airlines are only liable for the first $1,250 worth of lost items on domestic flights (and even less internationally). Additional coverage typically costs $1 for every $100 in value declared over $1,250.

Traveling With a Laptop

These days, being a business traveler means lugging around a lot of expensive equipment, including cell phones, electronic datebooks, laptop computers, and more. Here's a few suggestions on how to keep one of your most valuable business-related items safe and secure.

To help keep thieves at bay, it's always smart to keep your laptop in a case that doesn't immediately identify it as a computer. The same advice holds true for cameras, VCRs, and other expensive equipment you might take on your business travels.

When entering a metal detector at the airport, do not put your laptop on the conveyor belt to be x-rayed. Rather, ask the security guard to conduct a manual search of the computer and any other electronic equipment you may have with you.

Once on the airplane, keep your laptop nearby. Don't store computers in overhead bins because they can get thrown around during the flight. So when you're not furiously typing away on a business proposal--or playing solitaire--keep your computer underneath the seat in front of you.

Once on the airplane, keep your laptop nearby. Don't store computers in overhead bins because they can get thrown around during the flight. So when you're not furiously typing away on a business proposal--or playing solitaire--keep your computer underneath the seat in front of you.

Always travel with extra batteries and call the hotel ahead of time to make sure it has modems and data ports available in guest rooms or in the hotel business center. Also, if you plan on doing a lot of work in your room, pack an extension cord so you can use the laptop from your preferred spot, regardless of where the outlet is located. In a pinch, move the furniture to suit your needs.

Keep in mind that outside of North America, you may encounter phone jacks that are incompatible with your modem. Be sure to check out what kinds of adapters you may need before you go.

More Gift-Giving Dos and Taboos

Gift giving, hard enough in a familiar culture, can be daunting when traveling on business. Keep in mind that in many cultures, a lavish gift will embarrass the recipient. Also remember that in the United States, the Internal Revenue Service will not allow you to deduct more than $25 per gift as a business expense.

It is also important to consider the local culture, as Americans are notorious for accidentally offending foreign hosts. The following tips should help you get your business relationships off on the right foot while traveling overseas.

To the Chinese, clocks symbolize the passage of time, and, by extension, death. As Chinese gift giving etiquette, then, timepieces are sometimes seen as a morbid gift.

Because the Chinese language is difficult to type, the Chinese often write by hand, and pens make a welcome gift. As in Japan, two is a lucky number, and gifts should be presented with both hands.

In many Asian countries, white is the color of mourning, and gifts in this color should be avoided. Red and yellow are considered to be auspicious colors.

While a bottle of wine would be a welcome gift in many countries, such a gift should be avoided in Muslim countries, which have strict religious prohibitions against alcohol.

Crystal, linen, and leather goods are all appreciated in Arab countries--just make sure the leather isn't pigskin!

Another thing to keep in mind in Muslim countries is that gifts should be presented with the right hand only--the left is considered unclean.

If you are invited to someone's home, flowers for the host (followed by a thank-you note the next day) are usually appreciated the world over.

However, in much of Europe, chrysanthemums are associated with funerals, and red flowers have a strong romantic connotation. These should both be avoided. In Austria and Germany, even numbers of flowers are considered unlucky, as is the number 13. (It might be safer to offer candy instead!)

Using Hotel Telecommunications Facilities

While most hotels appreciate their professional guests, not all of them make it easy or inexpensive to telecommute from their rooms. The following tips can help save you money--and keep your blood pressure down--when using phone and data lines away from home.

If your hotel has a dedicated business floor, make every effort to stay there as these rooms are set up with the business traveler in mind. These rooms are more likely to offer dual telephone/modem lines, fax machines, and free local calling than other rooms. You are also less likely to have punk rockers or screaming children for neighbors.

Hotels often charge guests high service fees for making long-distance calls from their rooms. However, in the United States, hotels are required to provide a connection to any long-distance company's access number for the same charge as a local call. So use your calling card and save money by placing your calls through your own long-distance carrier. Or, just go downstairs and use a lobby pay phone.

Hotels usually charge hefty fees to use their fax machine. If you need to send or receive a fax and it's impossible to do so from your room, a cheaper option might be to use one at a nearby store or business center.

Remember that many parts of the world--including most of Europe--use a different voltage system. This means that you'll need adapters for anything you plan to plug into the wall, including your laptop. Also, some European countries (notably Germany and Austria) have noise on their telecommunications lines called "tax."

This noise, used to monitor rates of usage, can be very disruptive to modem communications. Consider buying a filter.

Tips to Maximize Your Frequent-Flyer Rewards

Most airlines offer some sort of reward program to their frequent flyers.

Some programs reward travelers based on the number of flights taken in a 12-month period while others reward frequent flyers based on the number of miles traveled. Frequent work-related travel can really pay off with free flight coupons, pre-boarding privileges, and upgrades. These benefits become yours to use as you please, whether you use your frequent-flyer miles to visit the Italian Riviera or the in-laws.

Here are some tips that will help you maximize your frequent-flyer benefits:

Focus on one frequent-flyer program If you are not already a member of a frequent-flyer program, there's no time like the present to sign up.

If you belong to one or more programs, try to concentrate on one. Focusing your energy into one program will yield considerably greater perks than accumulating miles all over the place. While new services are popping up to consolidate and trade miles, it is still faster, easier, and simpler to choose one program and milk it for all it's worth.

Collect miles aggressively. Read your frequent-flyer program's newsletters, sign up for the airline's newsletters, and check the Web sites of both the program and airline for special offers. You can also collect extra miles through your frequent-flyer program's partners. Car-rental agencies, hotels, long-distance companies, and other retail operations are often eager to help you accumulate more miles--as long as you are willing to try their products and services. Use these specials to your advantage--but before signing up for a special offer, make sure the benefits outweigh the costs.

Get a credit card linked to your program. Earn miles for the credit-card purchases you're making anyway! Find out if your frequent-flyer program offers a credit card that gives you free miles for the dollar amounts you charge. Many of these cards have annual fees, but the fees pay for themselves if you use the card strategically.

If you have yet to join a frequent-flyer program, be sure to check out the fees and benefits of each card and the program it is linked to. Since credit cards are offered through various banks and have different interest rates, annual fees, and mileage accrual programs, choose and use the card wisely.

Keep track of your miles. Upgrades, flight coupons, and elite status depend on your mileage accrual throughout a 12-month period. Make it a personal goal to stay on top of programs and special offers run by your frequent-flyer program and its affiliates. Many programs offer e-statements, which can be accessed through the Internet, making your account available to you wherever you are.

Whether you use electronic statements or good old-fashioned paper ones, be sure to save your receipts and statements and check them against your own records. Keep track of your mileage and contact your program if there are any discrepancies. Monitor expiration dates. Be sure to use your miles before they expire. If they are close to expiring, plan that trip! Changing the dates will cost a nominal fee, but it's better than losing the free flight.

Also, if you are within a few thousand miles of reaching elite status towards the end of the year, it may be to your advantage to take an extra trip just to rack up a few more miles. Special

boarding privileges and free upgrades are granted to elite, premier, and platinum members.

Claim your rewards. To avoid losing your hard-flown miles, check your mileage statement and try to redeem your miles for travel awards before they expire. Remember, travel awards are not the same thing as tickets. You usually have a year to turn in your travel awards for a ticket to a specific destination. Save your frequent-flyer numbers .

Remember to enter your frequent-flyer numbers into your Travelocity travel profile along with your other travel preferences. Your account number will automatically be sent to the airline whenever you purchase a ticket.

When you fly, double-check that your frequent-flyer account number appears on your boarding passes so that your mileage will be credited to your account promptly.

One last note about mileage: Don't ever try to buy or sell frequent-flyer miles. If you're caught, you could have all the miles in your account revoked--even legitimate ones.

Staying on top of your program and your mileage will pay off, especially if you travel frequently for business. Elite, premier, or platinum status awaits--as do those coveted flight coupons.

So, get out there and rack 'em up!

Staying Sane While Traveling

Sooner or later, just about every frequent traveler begins to tire of life on the road. No matter how adventurous your spirit, loneliness, airplane food, and general disorientation have probably made you a little blue on at least one occasion. While this is normal, the stress of being away from home doesn't have to overwhelm you. The following tips can help you stay happier and healthier on your next business trip.

Paying attention to your diet--whether you have a tendency to overeat or skip meals while traveling, can make you feel a lot healthier and happier. One healthy hint is to call ahead and order the vegetarian or low-fat meal on the plane, even if you're a meat-eater.

These meals are often healthier (and tastier) than the standard meals. If the hustle and bustle of air travel gets you down, try stopping in at the airport chapel. You don't need to claim any religious affiliation, and you may find the quiet, reflective atmosphere soothing.

Remember that attitude is everything. When you're alone in your hotel room, you may find yourself missing loved ones at home. If this happens, try to make the best of the fact that you're alone: Read a novel, take a long bath, indulge your secret love of Gilligan's Island reruns.

Do any of those things you never seem to find the time for when you're at home. Make your hotel room as homey as possible. Stave off homesickness by bringing along photos, candles, or mementos of home.

One of the best ways to combat stress is to make sure you get enough sleep. This can be hard on the road, especially if you have crossed time zones.Bring earplugs and eye shades. Go easy on the caffeine. Alcohol, too, can disrupt sleep patterns and should be consumed moderately, if at all. Some travelers report that the hormone melatonin helps them sleep better. Exercise can also combat stress.

Many hotels either have their own exercise rooms, or can provide a temporary membership to a nearby health club. Be sure to ask if your hotel has any such arrangement.

Treat your business trip as much like a vacation as possible. Make time for something you would normally save for pleasure travel, like a fancy dinner, or an afternoon at a museum. Or treat yourself to a night in your hotel's best room. Even if you have to pay for it out of your own pocket, treating yourself like a king or queen for a night might just give you the lift you need to get through another night away from home.

Making the Most of Your Time in the Airport

With flight delays rippling across the nation, many business travelers themselves find stranded in airports with work that needs to get done. For every minute a flight is delayed, the pile of work left waiting back at the office can seem to grow commensurately.

Surprisingly, in the midst of all the airport hustle and bustle are several convenient possibilities for those who need to engage in business-related activities.

Here are some tips on how to take advantage of airport services to get your work done in the most efficient manner:

If you're tired of trying to plug your laptop into a public payphone, look for one of the many Aerzone Business Centers that are popping up in airports all over the world. Formerly known as Laptop Lane, these centers contain virtually everything a business traveler needs to work in a quick, efficient, and productive manner.

Here, you can check your e-mail, send a fax, make a phone call, and much more. Features include T-1 Internet connections, faxes, phones, copiers, printers, and support staff.

Some even have meeting rooms available and facilities for Web conferencing. You pay a fee for the use of the office (usually $5 for the first minute and $0.65 for each additional minute), so it helps to be organized.

All calls in the U.S. are free.

Similar to the Aerzone Centers, but with extra amenities like cozy couches and tempting treats, most airlines have special members-only clubs or lounges in the airport. Serving as comfortable oases in the midst of busy terminals, most come with fax, phone, power outlets, and other tools you need to get the job done.

As an added reward, most have complimentary snacks, sodas, and juice. Some also have fully stocked bars, conference rooms, and meeting facilities.

Perks like these often come with a price, or are awarded to travelers who log a certain number of miles per year with a particular airline. Check with your airline to see if you qualify for any of the programs they have in place.

Restaurants and bars can provide a more relaxed setting to work in--as long as the Super Bowl isn't showing on the big-screen television. If you're in a time crunch, you get the added bonus of taking care of your appetite and your work at the same time. If you want to check your investments, some airport restaurants and bars have televisions that display stock-ticker symbols across the bottom of the screen.

You might also be able to use this time to make important business contacts with other stranded travelers.

Although the bar may look tempting, you may want to avoid alcoholic beverages as they will make you both dehydrated and lethargic.

Specialty stores and boutiques are increasingly setting up shop in airports both large and small. Since you are already stranded in the airport, they can provide a good venue for you to buy a gift for a business associate or client.

Your family back home might appreciate a gift or souvenir as a momento of your trip as well. Since there is nothing you can do about flight delays, another option is to take advantage of this time to relax.

Allowing yourself a few stress-free moments can actually help increase your productivity later on. Read the paper, do the crossword puzzle, take a nap, or just settle in with a good book.

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