You may be hearing about flight cancelations, long lines for tourist attractions, understaffing at hotels, and a host of other hassles that might affect your trip. We have a lot of culinary travelers on the ground these days in Europe and beyond, and so far (knock on wood!) the reports of travel catastrophes has been hugely exaggerated.
There is always the chance of flight schedule changes, delays, cancelations, and other issues, but that does not mean you can’t plan a wonderful and hassle-free trip, especially if you do it with The International Kitchen! The trick is to stay calm and to plan ahead by using our handy list of 10 tips for a hassle-free holiday.
10 Tips for a Hassle Free Vacation
1. Purchase Trip Insurance
There is no bigger piece of advice we can give our travelers than to purchase a travel protection plan. It is hands-down the best way to protect yourself against the unexpected. We know it’s not a sexy way to spend money. Insurance never is. But you don’t drive without it, right?
Besides the obvious benefit of cancelation in case an unexpected emergency prevents you from travel (or interrupts your travel), travel insurance can also provide coverage for trip delays (flight delays and cancelations), lost luggage, and a host of other irksome challenges.
Most travel insurance companies also offer 24/7 concierge services and hotlines to help you in case of an emergnecy.
2. Keep the First Day Free
You might notice that most of our trips do not have activities scheduled the first day apart from dinner. This is for a variety of reasons: to help with jet lag, because check in times are usually in the afternoon, because our travelers arrive at different times during the day…. these are all valid reasons.
But it also provides a buffer in case of delays. It gives our travelers time to arrive and settle in for their stay. And if there are significant delays to their arrival, it mean you don’t miss much. It is one thing to miss a dinner because you have to catch a flight a day later than planned. It is another to miss a cooking class or a full-day excursion.
3. Be Flexible… and Patient
Remember that there is no way completely to prevent hassles. Especially after two years of very low numbers of international travelers, everyone is shaking off the rust, as the saying goes. The trick is to lessen the likelihood of hassles and to know how to handle them when they happen.
If you do run into issues while traveling, there is very little to be gained by anger and impatience. If there is an issue, you may have to wait in a line or talk to a harried employee. We hope it doesn’t happen, but if it does, think of it as being part of travel. The alternative? Staying home. And, as Saint Augustine said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”
4. Follow the Advice of the Experts (aka Us!)
One way to make a hassle-free trip is to trust the experts to help you plan. Yes, I mean us at The International Kitchen. Paying for expertise is always more expensive than winging it on your own. You would probably pay a lawyer to handle a court case versus doing it yourself, but many people don’t take the same attitude when it comes to planning travel.
If you have only a week or two of vacation in a year, and if you are spending thousands of dollars on a trip, letting a professional with decades of expertise help you just makes sense, even if the trip costs more in the end.
And if you are planning a trip through The International Kitchen, please listen to our suggestions and advice. If we are suggesting a train instead of a transfer by car, there is a reason. If we suggest an extra night at an airport hotel, there is a reason. Just ask and we’ll explain it to you!
5. Pack a Change of Clothes in Your Carry On
I have had luggage delayed many times. And with travel insurance, it’s not too big of a deal, as if the luggage is delayed more than a certain amount you can buy replacement items and file a claim. (A hassle? Sure. But try to see the silver lining: new clothes!).
But even if you can go out and buy replacement items, you aren’t going to want to do it upon arrival. One change of clothes will buy you time for your luggage to catch up to you, or for you to go out if necessary to do some shopping. With an extra set of clothes, you can even send one set out for laundering if necessary to buy yourself more time.
6. Don’t Suffer in Silence….
We honestly don’t expect hassles on our trips. We work hard to minimize the chance of any issues arising. But sometimes, due to unforeseen circumstances, it happens. We ask our travelers to talk with their hosts and to let us know if there is something they are not satisfied with. Sometimes, our travelers instead opt to suffer in silence. Usually this is because it can be awkward to bring issues to the attention of their local hosts. But if you don’t let us know there is a problem we can’t fix it. And if you do let us know, we frequently CAN fix it!
So don’t suffer in silence. If there is a problem, we want to know about it as soon as possible in order to resolve it and let you continue your trip fully satisfied.
7. …But Be Kind
This goes hand in hand with being flexible and patient, but if you do have any issues arise during your trip, please be kind. We work hard and we care about your trip, and so do our partners. We take things to heart just like everyone else.
After two years of a pandemic decimating the travel industry (and in particular the international travel industry), everyone involved in travel needs a little extra kindness. Your driver is late? He might be new, having been hired on by a company that had to lay off all their drivers for two years. The hotel seems understaffed? It probably spent most of the last 2 years closed, and they are just getting staff back. Your host or hostess seems a bit harried? They are trying to handle new bookings and two years’ worth of rebookings while maintaining pricing in the midst of world-wide inflation, instituting new cleaning and safety protocols, and keeping or hiring staff … all after two years of unrelenting stress.
So be kind. Especially this year.
8. Check the Entry Requirements
There is no worse way to start a trip than to arrive at the airport and find out that you don’t have what you need to board the plane! Although many of our destinations have eliminated COVID-related entry protocols like testing and proof of vaccination, that is not true of all our destinations. In addition to your passport (valid for 6 months past your return date), make sure you are up to date on any additional entry requirement for your destination. Not sure how to find out? Ask us!
9. Plan (and Book) Ahead
We never recommend just “winging” it, but particularly this year, we suggest you plan ahead and book in advance in order to avoid unnecessary hassles. We are finding availability is tight at most of our destinations, and in particular Italy. This is likely due to people being cooped up for so long and now able to travel, as well as due to two years of postponed trips that are finally able to happen.
If you plan to visit any major tourist sites like the Vatican, the Eiffel Tower, the Alhambra Palace, you must book in advance. But if you want a hassle-free trip, we recommend you also book all your services in advance, including your hotels, tours, and transportation. If you don’t, you might find your options severely limited.
10. Leave Some Time for Spontaneity
Planning and booking ahead does not mean accounting for every minute of your trip. We always recommend building in some free time. Not only does it provide a bit of cushion in case any issues arise or in case any activities need to be rearranged at the last minute, but you also might simply want use that time to take a stroll, take a nap, or take a taxi to the some site you heard about the night before. So make sure you leave some time for spontaneity. It is vacation after all!
If you follow our tips for a hassle-free vacation, you will find you have minimized the chance of issues arising that might negatively impact your trip. A nd you will have set yourself up for a most successful holiday!
By Peg Kern
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