Welcome to the third of our blog posts dedicated to getting my mother ready for her custom culinary vacation to Spain and Portugal! We’re here today to answer her questions – and yours – about what to expect upon arrival.
1) At the Airport
When you arrive at your European destination, you’ll first need to clear passport control. If you’re a US citizen, head to the “non-EU” line and wait your turn. It’s pretty easy, although sometimes the lines are annoying. After that you head to the baggage claim to collect your luggage, then clear customs (which usually just means walking through the ‘nothing to declare’ door and passing into the arrivals hall).
Once you’re in the arrivals hall, start looking for your driver. There is usually an area where all the drivers stand holding signs with their passengers’ names. If the airport is busy, there are a lot of drivers and a lot of passengers – don’t panic if you don’t spot your driver right away. Look around, look around again if necessary, he or she will be there! If for some reason you do not see your driver, you will have a local contact number to call to track them down. (To be clear, this is almost never necessary, but you’ll have a number to call just in case!).
What if you’re delayed? Good question! As soon as you know of a delay that will make it impossible to meet your transfer, you should contact the local contact as well as The International Kitchen. Because of the time difference, if it is morning in Europe you should first call the local contact – that’s the fastest way to get things sorted. Explain who you are and why you are calling, including identifying yourself as a traveler with The International Kitchen. If the delay is small the driver will almost always wait, but for longer delays a new transfer will have to be arranged. This will usually incur an extra cost paid locally, which you can usually get reimbursed by travel insurance if you have it (so keep any receipts). Delays are an annoying way to start a trip, but we’ll get you where you need to go!
2) At the Hotel
When you arrive at the hotel they will ask for your passport and a credit card. Your accommodations will be prepaid (except for the small, nightly local tourist tax that is almost always paid locally), but they need a credit card for any incidentals and as security against damages. If you arrive early, as many travelers from the US do, you may need to wait for your room to be prepared. In that case leave your bags with the front desk and take a little time to explore or to have a coffee or a snack after your long trip.
3) What if I Have Questions?
If you’re my mom, you’ll probably text me first with any questions you have! Certainly we encourage all of our travelers to reach out to us via phone or email with questions or concerns while they are traveling. Often though, the quickest way to get answers is to ask our local partners. The front desk staff of your hotel will be your best friend, providing information and suggestions about getting around, finding places to eat, where to shop, etc., for any free time you have (and depending on the specific culinary tour you might not have a lot of free time). If you need to know when breakfast is served, how to connect to the WiFi, or if you need additional towels, ask them. If you need them to call you a taxi, just ask! Don’t know where to get bus tickets? Ask! Need advice on interesting things to see? Ask!
Your travel documents will also have local contact information telling you whom to contact about specific transfers, classes, or tours. Sometimes there will be one person to contact for any questions, at other times there will be different contacts for different activities.
Regardless of where you’re traveling on our culinary tours, we know you’ll be well taken care of – even if you’re not my mom!
By Peg Kern
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