Island Dreams Tours &
With decades of experience in international travel, we have compiled a number of tips to make your Island Dream go more safely and smoothly. So read on and learn from our mistakes, or drop us an e-mail and share some of your own travel tips with our readers. Together we can do out best to keep the joys of travel from being tinged with too much sadness.
- Travel Tips for the 21st Century
- Changes in Attitude - Learning to Go with the Flow
- Replacing a Lost Passport...or better yet, Not Losing It
- Money, Money, Money - Don't Leave Home Without It
- Yen for Dollars - A Cool Currency Converter
- Avoiding the Heartbreak of Lost Luggage
- Disaster Proofing your International Airline Connections
- Dining Cayman Style - It Doesn't Have to be Expensive
- Indonesia Travel Tips
Changes in Attitude
Jimmy Buffet said it best when he sang about the peculiar relationship between latitude and attitude. Experienced travellers soon learn that the farther afield they wander, the more the "manana" philosophy seems to apply. One need not go any further than the TACA Airlines counter at the nearest airport to see what I mean. This sense of sans souci (no worries, mon) can prove quite aggravating to the typical fast track American. But the fact is, you can't beat it, so try to relax and go with the flow rather than getting high blood pressure on your own vacation. The following suggestions ought to help you make your next trip an Island Dream, rather than a nightmare.
Airline Flights and SchedulesTo beat overbooking, arrive at the airport at least two hours early, even more at holiday times, and don't expect the rapid efficiency of Southwest Airlines. Get in line, keep an eye on your luggage, and relax, you'll get checked in in due time. Then be sure that the agent pulls only the correct coupons from your ticket and returns all the rest. Take note that your luggage has been tagged accurately and you have the claim stubs. As for schedules, don't be surprised or dismayed if your flight is not precisely on time. Find a comfortable spot in sight of the gate, and if you arrive at your chosen destination on the correct day with your patience and all your gear intact, consider yourself fortunate and go on about enjoying your holiday.
AccommodationsAssuming you've booked well in advance with a reputable operator, you should have pre-paid reservations and travel vouchers in hand. Your vouchers should include a confirmation number or name and clearly indicate the correct duration of stay and the class of room and other services for which you have paid. Nonetheless, many resort hotels expect a certain percentage of "no-shows" and overbook in retaliation. In that case, it can all boil down to first come, first served. Get to the hotel as soon as you can and stake your claim. If there simply is no room at the inn, be sure that the offending hotel arranges for your lodging at a property of equal or better quality, and have them provide your transfers as well.
AdjustmentsDon't like your room, your rental car, your moped, the color of your scuba tank? Prefer ground-floor, oceanview, penthouse, quieter, nearer the elevator, diveshop, bar, etc.? Don't wait until you get home to complain. Whatever it is, take your problem to the people who can improve the situation immediately. It the clerk does not have a satisfactory solution on the first try, politely ask for the manager. Explain the problem, and its solution, clearly. Be friendly and reasonable, but firm. Yelling should not be necessary and generally makes things worse, not better. Remember, it's your vacation, but you're a guest in their country. If all else fails, tell them you're writing a story for a magazine...or better yet call your wholesaler and put them to work on your behalf.
Proper planning, adequate lead-time, and the aid of a knowledgeable agent can spell the difference between paradise and calamity. Then relax, take your time, and go with the flow. Prepare yourself and your holiday correctly and all you'll need is a bit patience, a pina colada, and a smile to make your personal Island Dreams come true.
Replacing a Lost Passport
Should your passport become lost or stolen while traveling, and you find it necessary to file for a replacement passport, be prepared in advance by carrying a "Save a Trip Kit" containing the following documentation and support items:
- Three passport photos
- A notarized copy of your birth certificate
- A photostatic copy of the photo page of your passport, indicating passport number, date, and place of issue
- Your social security number
- A $67.00 passport renewal fee
- An additional photo I.D., and
- Plenty of cash, traveler's checks and a credit card or two
- Keep your passport on your person and a duplicate copy of your I.D., as described above, either in your luggage, or in the hotel safe.
- Maintain an additional set of these documents with your home or office, stateside, ready for immediate express mailing.
- Know where the nearest U.S. Embassy is located when traveling abroad.
- Remain on your guard at all times. Safeguard your I.D., airline tickets, and other valuables. Be prepared for emergencies in advance.
President, Island Dreams Travel
For more information visit: U.S. Department of State - Passport Services
Money, Money, Money
In earlier tip I touched upon the importance of protecting your passport and suggested that travellers carry a "Save a Trip Kit" with copies of the documents required to obtain a replacement passport. Equally important to guarding your passport and proof of citizenship is the need to keep your money, airline ticket, and other valuables safe when on the road. Please consider the following:
Maintain a special wallet just for travelling, leaving your regular wallet safely at home. Your travel wallet should be large enough to accommodate foreign currencies, coins, Scuba C-card, proof of medical insurance, international drivers license, passport, visa, and tourist card. Always keep your travel wallet close at hand, but don't store all your funds in one place. An innocuous envelope stored deep in the recesses of your gear should have back-up funds (in cash or travellers checks) and an extra credit card in the event of emergency. If possible, maintain a couple of credit cards solely for use when traveling, the better to monitor foreign purchases and more quickly identify and curtail credit card fraud, which is quite common outside the U.S. Obtain a credit card which is authorized in the Cirrus network and you'll be able to obtain cash from money machines world-wide.
I also highly recommend the use of a money clip. Don't pull out your main wallet to make small purchases. Whenever possible, keep your "big money" out of sight and work from the money clip equipped with a good supply of small bills. Travellers checks are certainly advised, but do a bit of research to learn which company's checks are most readily cashed in the countries you'll be visiting. In some instances it's advantageous to purchase your travellers checks in the foreign currency, thereby locking in the rate of exchange. It's also often helpful to obtain a small supply of the applicable foreign currencies before leaving home. Finally, when assembling your resources, be sure to pack a stack of good old U.S. one dollar bills. You'll find they spend universally well and come in handy for small purchases and tipping porters, maids, etc.
The Beatles, all multi-millionaires, said that "money can't buy you love," but it will get you a gourmet dinner in Paris, an exotic hotel room in Kuala Lumpur, or a fabulous day of diving in Cozumel, so don't leave home without it, and make a point of not losing any along the way.
For your convenience, try this complimentary currency converter, supplied by gocurrency.com
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Dining Cayman Style
Many people think that the Cayman Islands are expensive, but as a wholesaler for Cayman Airways and the Cayman Islands, Island Dreams Travel is proving otherwise. We asked Island Dreams' employee Susan Young, who lived in CAyman for 15 years, to share with us her favorite dining values on Grand Cayman.
Monday Almond Tree All you can eat lobster tails Bid Daddy's Steak special Lone Star All you can eat fajitas
Tuesday Cracked Conch All you can eat conch West Bay Polo Club Sushi specials
Wednesday Almond Tree All you can eat fish Big Daddy's All you can eat ribs Cracked Conch All you can eat conch
Thursday Almond Tree All you can eat lobster tails Lone Star All you can eat fajitas West Bay Polo Club Soft tacos CI $1 each
Friday Almond Tree All you can eat fish West Bay Polo Club Prime Rib special
Saturday Almond Tree All you can eat lobster tailsAnd...
Hog Sty Bay Cafe has 1/2 price lunch specials throughout the week, and a dinner special nightly. Island Taste has all you can eat shrimp nightly for CI $14.95. Holiday Inn has a great breakfast buffet daily for only CI $6.95. West Bay Polo Club offers awesome stir-frys nightly. Other highly recommended restaurants include Crow's Nest, Champion House, DJ's, Eats, Liberty House, Seaview, and the White Hall Cafe. (CI = Cayman Island's dollar). Here's wishing you great diving and dining in the Cayman Islands.
Avoiding the Heartbreak of Lost Luggage
When connecting from a domestic U.S. flight, to an international flight on another carrier, check your luggage only as far as the international gateway, then collect if from your domestic airline, roll it over to the International Terminal on a baggage cart, and check it in yourself with the international carrier. There's a much better chance that your luggage will arrive at the same time and place as you do...and if luggage is misplaced, you'll know exactly who to blame. Hedge your bets and take the extra step to assure that you and your luggage travel together...and be sure to allow sufficient connecting time between flights to do it.
Here's a special tip for those returning back to the Unites States with Los Angeles International Airport as port of re-entry. After clearing immigration and getting your luggage through customs, prior to exiting the LAX International Terminal you have an option of rechecking your bags for domestic U.S. connections. It appears like a great convenience, but think twice before making use of this service. I've been told by those who've been burned, to shun this opportunity and rather go to the extra effort of hauling your gear back to the domestic terminal and checking it for home.
The reason? This luggage goes down a conveyor belt served not by your airline, but by an outside contractor. Divers have recently experienced the loss of equipment, cameras, and housings at this very juncture. They were in the bag when claimed at International and inspected by customs, but missing when they reached home. The extra hassle of hauling your gear over to the domestic terminal may well make the difference between home safe...or sorry.
Disaster Proof your International Airline Connections
After years of delays, and racing through airports to narrowly avoid missing a flight, I have learned to allow a minimum of three (3) hours, preferably four or more for connections from domestic to international flights, especially when transiting via Los Angeles or Miami. You should be at your international airline's check-in counter at least two hours prior to flight time. As I'm sure you have, I've often experienced a 45 minute wait between flight arrival, and baggage actually coming off the carousel. After that, plan on spending at least 15 minutes wheeling your luggage over to the International Terminal, and who knows how long waiting for your homeland security inspection. So play it safe, just schedule an earlier flight and hedge against disaster. Those couple of extra hours hanging around the International Terminal, can also be the difference between making the connection to your exotic island paradise, and having your holiday turn to disaster before its even begun.