SuitCase Says:

Money

Sam SuitCase, I am heading to Canada.  How much should I tip?


SuitCase Says: Great question – there is tremendous variety in tipping around the world. In Canada, it is customary to tip 15-20%, slightly more than in the States. However, in some counties like Japan and Italy, you rarely tip. Germany has changed over the years and now it is good to leave a nominal tip of 3-5%. A good method for tipping around the world, when you’re in doubt, ask or leave 10 percent. ~Sam




Sam, when should I exchange my money for travel to Spain?


It can be painful to convert currency. Lots of places will do it overseas, especially in tourist areas. Almost all banks will do this as well, but at a price. What is worse is that some places hit you for a fee and then make money on the exchange rate as well. Just because the rate is 1 to 1.5, does not mean you’re going to exchange currency at the international rate. The fee is understandable as the are providing a service, but…..

You can you save some money? First, use plastic everywhere you can. Make sure your cards don’t have a foreign transaction fee for using them overseas. Only 25% of cards issued have no foreign transaction fee, saving you 1% - 3% while traveling overseas. Also know that you will get the international rate on the day of your transaction if you use a credit card – not some shabby fly-by-night rate in the tourist areas.

Finally, bring dollars and convert a few before you travel. If you find yourself spending cash, use large banks, which will give you the best rates. The next best rates will come from using an ATM but check with your bank on service fees.

~Sam





Lodging

Mr. SuitCase, are star ratings for hotels the same in Europe, as in the States?


SuitCase Says: Like the states, there is also tremendous variation in hotel star ratings around the world. They should quantifiable and objective. Generally, more amenities a hotel offers, the higher the number of stars it should receive. Hotels with Pools, lounges, restaurants, and elevators, should receive a higher star rating than hotels without these services. However, there is no standard rating systems - with huge variation from country to country.

~Sam




Sam, how do I select the right hotel for my budget?


Where you stay is dependent on your budget and desires. Doing a total cost analysis is worth the effort. If location is key, you may be paying a great deal more for a downtown hotel rather than staying out of town on the metro line. However, a four-star hotel within walking distance of major attractions might surprisingly be a better value than the less expensive three-star hotel that requires a subway ride to reach the attractions. This may especially be true when you add in other amenities like complimentary breakfast at the four star hotel. Add up your total costs and you might end up spending less by staying at the four-star hotel near the attractions.

~Sam





Travel

SuitCase,  Why do I need to turn off electronic devices before an airplane takes off and lands?


This is becoming less of a problem. Generally, you can leave small electronic items on in airplane mode. The standard answer is that no one desires to interfere with navigation, radar, ground communication and collision avoidance technologies. Skyscanner.com "While most mobile phones do not emit a strong radio wave, devices like Kindles, iPods, laptops and even handheld gaming consoles emit strong radio waves, especially in a compact area." ~Sam




Sam, I desire to travel very badly, but I feel like I don't have the money necessary.  What can I do?


SuitCase Says: I once overheard a man say, "Once you stop traveling, you stop living!" The great thing about travel is everyone, to some extent can go. You do not have to go far to experience a new things, culture, and lifestyle. Plus, there are many ways to make flying affordable, through flexibility, planning in advance, studying websites and obtaining credit cards with travel points. For example, Southwest will give you 40,000 points just for signing up and spending only $1000 over the course of 3 months. Conde Nast says the most affordable time to book a flight is 57 days in advance for domestic flights, 117 for international. ~Sam




Hey - SuitCase, What are essential electronic items to bring on my first trip to Europe?


SuitCase Says: Needles to say, you need an adapter. Plugs vary throughout Europe and remember - they do not convert voltage. Make sure you bring only 220~110 volt - small appliances. A small power strip is helpful for the airport. Also check out the Zolt Laptop Charger Plus (https://nexgenpowersystems.com/zolt/), a device the size of lipstick which powers/charges a laptop and other devices. Your smartphone is so versital, I do not recommend bringing a camera any longer.




Suitcase, do you recommend any on-line travel planners?


This is a great question. I recommend Visitacity.com - as it is easy to use and super informative. With thousands of destinations, numerous languages; you simply tell the site where you are going and how many days you will have at that location. The site then provides an itinerary tailored for your adventure for the duration of your stay. I think you will love this site!

~Sam





Eating Out

Sam the SuitCase, Should I be afraid of eating out overseas?


SuitCase Says: Don't travel if you are afraid to eat out. This is one of the best countries in the world to eat. I did get sick on street pizza with eels once there as a kid. So a rule of thumb for anywhere - if the food is hot (caliente) or hot (picante) you should be fine. Enjoy my firend! ~Sam




Eating out costs so much - How can I spend less money on eating out when I travel?


SuitCaseSays: Do as the indigenous folk do. Stary away from tourist traps - they are always expensive, poor service and typically not the best fare. Ask locals where the best place is to grab an affordable snack or meal. The local places, with no English menus, will provide a great value and quality local delectable treats. They will certainly provide some memorable experiences. ~Sam




How do I find good restaurants when traveling overseas?


SuitCaseSays: When I finally travelled to Spain, one of the first thing I did was have some delectable tapas and local red wine. But while I am still at home, I research the best restaurants to fit my small budget. I work hard to find out of the way places, that are unique and off the beaten path. Advanced planning allows you to stick to your budget. If you know you want to visit an expensive restaurant one night, plan to eat cheap to offset the cost. ~Sam





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