Save money. Pack lighter. Rest easier. Take a look at these insider tips to help ensure all your vacations are Dream Vacations.
By land or sea
Whether you're deciding between a cruise, land tour or a resort vacation, the first decision is choosing the destination. Next, how long can you get away? And when? These questions will help steer your decision. Exclusive deals, perks and upgrades that your Independent Vacation Specialist has access to might just sway you as well.
When to book a cruise
Insiders know about Wave Season. It starts in January and ends in March, and it's when cruise lines offer up some pretty amazing deals. It's also when most of the country is feeling the effects of winter, so it's no coincidence that they want you daydreaming of white sand beaches and sunshine. But it's not just the warmer destinations that are discounted, think great deals on Alaska, Europe, fall cruises and holiday travel.
If you're more of the spontaneous type, you're in luck. Last minute deals offer big savings, even better than Wave Season. One more tip, keep your passport up–to–date.
Choosing your stateroom
Just like real estate, staterooms are all about location. Here are the main factors to consider when choosing your stateroom:
Which type of stateroom
Where your stateroom is located (forward, mid–ship or aft)
Of course, your choices will determine your cost, but your Vacation Specialist can help you find the right stateroom for your needs and budget.
Which deck – While every cruise line and ship is different, keep your likes and dislikes in mind. Prefer to be close to the action? Consider a deck near the pools, or bars and restaurants. If you travel with children, being close to the kids' club offers convenience since you'll be back and forth frequently.
Which type of stateroom – From a luxury suite complete with your own butler to a comfy cabin that provides all the necessities, but offers an obstructed view, the type of stateroom you choose determines your price. You may also want to keep your destination in mind. We highly recommend a balcony/verandah when cruising Alaska! Some cruise lines also offer specialty staterooms. For instance, spa staterooms and suites are in close proximity to the onboard spa, offer a soothing décor and special in–room amenities.
Where your stateroom is located – Forward, midship or aft, and whats the difference? Every ship is divided into forward, midship and aft (front, middle and back). Because of the way that most ships are built, you will experience the least amount of movement in the lower and more central area of the ship (midship). However, you may experience more foot traffic from other passengers at midship as well, especially on the upper decks.
WHAT TO PACK
Use this handy checklist when packing for your next vacation.
essential toiletries including razors
electronic device chargers
waterproof phone case
digital camera/extra memory cards
small umbrella/small first aid kit
small back pack or zippered shoulder bag for excursions
General Women Essentials:
purses (day and evening)
swim suit cover-up
Dont Leave Home without:
all required travel documents
passports and visas/ proof of citizenship along with photo ID
medical insurance cards
credit cards / cash(singles)
General Men Essentials:
WHAT NOT TO PACK FOR A CRUISE:
For safety reasons, many cruise lines prohibit the following items onboard.
Any weapons (including firearms, knives, ammunition, etc.)
Non prescribed Illegal drugs
Candles, incense or any scent burning device
Decorative souvenir canes/ walking sticks
Electrical appliances such as coffee makers, hot plates, hair dryers and electric irons
Any sporting equipment ( including scuba equipment, skateboards, hockey gear, surfboards, etc)
Self–Defense Gear (including handcuffs, pepper spray and night sticks)
Flammable liquids, chemical and explosives (including lighter fluid, bleach, paint, fireworks, etc. )
WHO AND HOW TO TIP
On cruises – Most cruise lines add tipping, also called gratuities, to your shipboard account or tipping is included in your all–inclusive experience. Some still leave tipping up to your own discretion. In that case, plan to tip $2 to $3 per person, per day (for a total of $84 on a seven–night cruise) for each person in your stateroom. On shore excursions, tip $2 to $5 for the tour guide, and $1 to $2 for the driver.
At resorts – It is customary to tip for good service in the U.S. Most tip 15%–20% on food and beverages. For exceptional service, tip up to 25%. When staying at an all inclusive resort, tipping is already included. However, your favorite bartender or server always appreciates a little extra, especially at the beginning of your stay.
At airports Tipping your skycap is a good thing. If they check you in curbside, tip $1–$2 per bag. If they take your bags inside for you, tip $2 per bag. If your bags are extra heavy, add in a little extra. If you don't have any small bills, ask if they have change. Chances are, they have a pocket full of singles and can gladly make change for you.
Whether it's horseback riding on a beach, scuba diving the reef or trekking across a glacier, when your ship pulls into port, there are so many ways for you to experience the best of the local culture. To ensure you won't miss out on what many consider the highlights of their trip, book your excursions in advance, ideally BEFORE you set sail. Your Independent Vacation Specialist can help you choose the excursions that best match your activity level and interests.