Insider Travel Tips and Myth Busters from Contiki
Studying abroad and looking to tack on a few trips? Great idea! There’s so much to see and explore, make the most of your time abroad. But before you start planning your next vacation, be savvy about where you’re getting your information.
Contiki Holidays is an expert on youth travel, operating over 300 trips across the globe each year. Below, find Contiki’s trip travel myth busters to help make your next vacation easy and fun!
FACT: In many popular tourist destinations, like Europe, drinking tap water is a-ok for Canadians.
- General rules about safe drinking water:
- Research – look into water safety for the regions you’re visiting, since it might be perfectly safe and you can save money by drinking tap over bottled water.
- Be Extra Cautious – if you need to avoid tap water, you have to avoid uncooked fruits and vegetables as well. In fact, it’s recommended to brush your teeth using bottled water for the same reason. Tour operators, like Contiki, will inform travellers about water and other health regulations in regions they’re visiting before leaving, which can help clear up any confusion.
TRAVEL MYTH: As long as I can cram all my stuff into one suitcase, I’m good!
FACT: Airlines have introduced new guidelines, and in some cases you’ll be charged for checked luggage (even one bag!), especially when your ticket is booked on the lowest booking class.
Brad’s general rules of thumb about luggage:
- Pack 1 Bag (under 50 lbs) – Most international flights provide complimentary first checked bag, and sometimes a second checked bag if it’s under 50 lbs and 62 inches in length. An overweight bag (50-70 lbs) or oversized (63-115 inches) will cost an extra $100 per direction.
- Avoid Checking Luggage and Use a Carry-On Suitcase – Short-haul flights (such as Toronto to New York) on certain airlines will charge $25 or more for one checked bag and $35 or more for a second on the lowest fare ticket, as well as $100 for overweight or oversized luggage per direction.
- Ditch the Backpacker Bag if You Have a Great Suitcase Already – The ‘old school’ backpacker bag isn’t always necessary. Many Contiki passengers are surprised to find out that a rolling suitcase can be cheaper to transport and more convenient because it fits within the luggage size guidelines – plus, it’s easier to stack on Contiki coaches, but of course, it’s always up to the traveller to do what makes the most sense for him/her.
TRAVEL MYTH: Two hours is more than enough time to make my flight
FACT: Nope! Your seat isn’t guaranteed. Airlines often oversell seats assuming that some passengers won’t show up. In fact, if you haven’t checked in for an international flight more than 120 minutes before departure, or dropped off your bags 60 minutes before flight departure (and even longer for regions requiring secondary inspection) you risk missing the flight altogether.
Rules of thumb about arriving on time:
- Use Online Check-in – If you have the option to check-in online 24 hours before your flight, do that. Usually you are able to pick your seat at that time as well. You still need to arrive early prior to departure, but you are in better shape not to be bumped from an oversold flight.
- Get to the Airport Early – Arrive at the airport two to three hours before flight departure on international flights, grab a meal at a restaurant near the gate and relax. There’s nothing worse than stressing before an epic trip.
- Be Conservative with Flight Connection Times – Be mindful of tight connection times when you’re booking your flights. For many international airports, you can’t schedule a connection with less than two hours in between flights, and even that is cutting it close. Anytime you’re checking luggage, leave yourself more time as well.
- Use Travel Apps to Help – SeatGuru is an incredible app that gives realtime flight departure and weather updates and shows you where you’re seated on the plane. It connects directly to TripIt, so if you need to find your way through a new airport, you can follow the route directly, which is great in cities where English isn’t the first language.
TRAVEL MYTH: Food in Europe is expensive, so fill up on the free table bread
FACT: In Europe, bread served before your meal isn’t free and can quickly add up.
General rules of thumb about finding cheap eats:
- Nix The Bread – Ask the server if the bread is free. If not, tell your server you’ll skip the bread, unless of course you DO want it!
- Make Lunch Your Big Meal of the Day – It’s often a bit cheaper than dinner, plus you can take any leftovers with you to snack on later.
- Happy Hour = Appy Hour – Local bars and lounges often serve snacks or lighter fare with early evening drinks, and travellers can score some great deals by starting their nights a bit early. Brad loves tapas in Spain for exactly this reason – this tasty tradition of smaller, shared plates can help your wallet go a longer way.
- Grab Food To-Go – Contiki passengers are encouraged to pick up baguettes and cheese in France, cured meats in Spain, pizza by the meter in Naples, pad thai in Bangkok, and enjoy these local delicacies in outdoor parks or along nearby waterways. Chowing down on take-out can make for a fun experience, especially when you’re eating the local specialties. On Contiki trips, local guides can lead passengers to hidden gems as well.
TRAVEL MYTH: I’m vegetarian/vegan/paleo/etc., they’ll understand what that means
FACT: In different regions, dietary restrictions or intolerances are easily misunderstood, so proper communication is key to a tasty meal.
General rules of thumb about food-related language barriers:
- Be Proactive About Dietary Restrictions – Travelling will expose you to new foods and different ways of cooking, but if you have a serious dietary restriction, allergy or intolerance, make it known. Create a wallet-size card explaining your dietary restriction in the local language, to be shared with servers before ordering.
- Decline Local Meals Respectfully – Food is a huge part of local culture, so you want to be sure that you decline dishes in a way that doesn’t offend the server, cook or even home chef. Letting it be known that you cannot eat a certain food, rather than just being a ‘picky eater’ is important as well. On Contiki trips, a happy, full belly is almost mandatory and we love turning ‘picky eaters’ into true foodies. There’s no better place to enjoy an aromatic cup of coffee than on a coffee plantation in Costa Rica, a crisp pint in one of Munich’s beer halls or pizza from a wood oven than in Italy, so we make these experiences part of our trips
TRAVEL MYTH: Vacations mean kicking back and not lifting a finger
FACT: Yes, vacations should be relaxing, but a good traveller is someone who can hold himself/herself to the same standards of cleanliness and respect as he/she does at home.
General rules of thumb about travelling mindfully:
- Recycle– Those travel-size cosmetics, empty bottles and even price tags on new clothing and souvenirs can often be recycled. Look around, or ask your hotel and hostel where to recycle.
- Proper Hygiene – Hand sanitizer can go a long way. Use it to wipe down the arm wrests of your airplane seat, as bacteria are commonplace on planes.
- Beach Garbage & Park Garbage – Hopefully you’ll have some time to relax in a beautiful outdoor space, like a beach or park. And after a few hours, you’ll probably accumulate a few pieces of garbage. Not only is picking up after yourself appreciated, it’s sometimes the law. Certain regions can fine travellers for leaving garbage behind, so even if there is no garbage can in site, compile yours into a plastic bag to toss back at the hotel.
- Look for Trips that use Sustainable Suppliers and Give Back to Local Communities to Offset Damage – Each year, Contiki partners with Céline Cousteau (environmental activist & granddaughter of Jacques Cousteau) and The TreadRight Foundation (a not-for-profit foundation to encourage sustainable travel) to support an environmental project. In 2012, it was exploring Mexico’s meso-American reef system, in 2013, it was taking closer look at the Galapagos Island’s bio-diversity. This past month, it was a trip to Costa Rica to work with the Sea Turtle Conservancy to help protect nesting turtles in Tortuguero National Park. Contiki’s ‘Costa Rica Unplugged’ trip also takes travellers through Tortuguero, exposing them to the area’s rich wildlife and increase consciousness about travelling mindfully in the hopes that this message will be shared with others as well.
Contiki is the world leader in youth travel experiences, a brand that is all about discovery, epic moments and making every second count. Our journeys unlock the local way of life in each and every destination we visit, and with over 300 trips in more than 50 countries, we see every day as the start of a new adventure. Having been in operation since 1962, Contiki’s been around the block. And with all this travel wisdom, it’s only fitting to share it with others. Visit http://Contiki.com to learn more.
Created as a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation’s family of brands, including Contiki, the TreadRight Foundation is a not-for-profit working to ensure the environment and communities we visit remain vibrant for generations to come. To date, TreadRight has donated more than USD 2.5 million to sustainable tourism projects worldwide. The Foundation’s guiding principle is to encourage sustainable tourism development through conservation, leadership and support for communities. Foundation priorities are set by the Steering Committee, which includes sustainability leaders like Céline Cousteau and Costas Christ.
To learn more about our past and current work at TreadRight, please visit us at: http://treadright.org
416-322-8468 ext. 7297