FAQ - TravelQuest International
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FAQ

This page contains answers to some of the most frequently asked questions by TravelQuest travelers. Mention of a company in this FAQ does not imply endorsement by TravelQuest International.

Travel

The Internet is full of websites offering to help you book a flight, hotel, or car for your next trip. You want a site that’s reliable, has been around for a while, and will (hopefully) back you up if things go wrong with your booking. One such site is Expedia. It’s both an aggregator (a site that searches many sources and combines them into one response) and an online travel agency that lets you book pretty much anything. Did you know that Expedia owns a number of other popular search sites including Travelocity, Orbitz, Hotels.com, Trivago, and more? One suggestion: If you collect rewards points for a specific airline, hotel, or cruise line, start your search with them just to see what they’re offering loyalty members.

Everyone has an opinion. So, of course there are reviews and rankings for everything related to travel. TripAdvisor contains ratings and reviews for many destinations, attractions, hotels, and more. With a focus on cruises, CruiseCritic has details about a variety of cruises and ships, plus cruise news, articles, and reviews. Whatever site you visit, be aware that online reviews are not always completely trustworthy. Very few people bother to write reviews, and all reviews are subjective. Some very positive reviews might be fake, and overly negative reviews often focus on one bad element that soured the whole experience. Instead, concentrate on the average. Three-star reviews tend to avoid the extremes and can offer a more nuanced view.

The phrase MAD SAM MAY ROB EVE seems nonsensical, unless you know that it’s comprised of IATA three-letter codes for various airports. IATA is the International Air Transport Association, and every commercial airport in the world is identified by a three-letter call sign. At the bottom of each page of IATA codes is more information about major world airlines and airports. And in case you’re curious: MAD is the IATA code for Madrid (Spain), SAM is Salamo (Papua New Guinea), MAY is Mangrove Cay (Bahamas), ROB is Monrovia (Liberia), and EVE is Harstad-Narvik (Norway).

On an airplane, we all have a window or aisle seating preference. But there’s more to consider when choosing a seat for your next flight. Need lots of leg room? Pick an exit row seat (but you’ll probably pay more). Don’t want anyone in front of you? Choose a bulkhead seat (though there’s less leg room and no under-seat storage). Want to sleep? Choose a window seat in the middle of the aircraft. Some seats don’t recline, so you might want to shun them, or perhaps sit behind one that’s not reclinable. If you want to avoid sitting near the galley or the washrooms, select your seat accordingly. Choose your seat when you book your flight; don’t let the airline automatically select one for you.

Yes—even if you’re on a TravelQuest group tour. The trip itself is expensive; why would you not want to protect that investment? What could possibly go wrong? Needing to cancel your trip for any reason, missing a connecting flight or having a flight delayed, losing your luggage, or experiencing a medical emergency. Your domestic health-care policy won’t cover medical issues that arise out-of-country. In extreme cases, an emergency evacuation to get you home can cost anywhere from $25,000 to $250,000. This is why TravelQuest strongly recommends purchasing a travel protection plan for your trip. We use Travelex for U.S. residents, but a variety of other companies offer travel insurance, your local health insurance provider might also have options available, and check your credit card for trip and travel insurance.

Practicalities

If you’re looking for forecasts for locations in the United States, you can’t go wrong with the National Weather Service. For a world view of weather, there are a number of different options. One is WeatherUnderground, which took over Intellicast several years ago. Another is WorldWeather, offering weather observations, forecasts, and climatological information supplied by the National Meteorological & Hydrological Services. One more is Weather-Forecast.com, where you’ll find city forecasts and weather maps. Two things to keep in mind. You’ll need to enter your destination to see a forecast for a specific location, and be skeptical about any weather forecast that extends beyond three days.

Actually, yes. The world is divided into 24 time zones, each one hour apart (though there are some half-hour oddities). The start point is in the middle of Time Zone 0, the prime meridian, which runs through Greenwich, England. Here the time is referred to as UTC or Universal Time Coordinated. The time zones fan out east and west from here. TimeandDate has a nice interactive time zone map, and their world clock lets you determine the time (standard or daylight saving) for specific locations.

The vast majority of electronics we travel with—smartphones, tablets, computers, battery chargers—are dual voltage. When plugged into an outlet, they automatically convert to the voltage available. How do you know if your device will to this? Check its charger. If you see something like “INPUT AC 100/240V 50/60Hz” inscribed on it, then it’s dual-voltage. To use it, all you’ll need is a plug adapter to match the electrical outlets of the country you’re visiting. You’ll find a list of the plugs/outlets and voltages/frequencies for every country on the World Plugs webpage of the International Electrotechnical Commission. Another country-by-country list is at WorldStandards. Consider bringing more than one plug adapter, especially if you travel with multiple devices.

The easiest way to ruin memories of a wonderful vacation is to come home to a huge cell phone bill. So before you go, talk to your service provider about any international plans they might have. Failing that, while away from home you can do things like turn off data roaming and non-vital apps, deactivate texting, and, especially important, avoid streaming. Use local WiFi whenever possible, but always assume the connection is not protected and secure. When you’re away from WiFi, activate ‘airplane mode.’ Another option is to buy a local SIM Card and local data plan, though your smartphone will have to be unlocked for this to work. Google this topic for more suggestions.

You’re out shopping and want to know the cost—in your own currency—of that lovely item in the store window. The Xe Currency Converter will tell you. The converter is available as both an Apple and Android app and works offline. Don’t forget that if you use a credit card, the company will usually add another two to three percent to the cost as a foreign transaction fee.

Documents and Health

Regardless of your nationality, there are two things to check. All countries require that your passport not expire for at least three (and sometimes six) months beyond your expected date of departure from that country. Also, your passport must contain at least two blank pages to accommodate entry and exit stamps. If you need to renew, check with your country’s passport office for renewal requirements and details. Be sure to allow enough time for the paperwork to go in and processing to occur. For U.S. citizens, the State Department has an extensive website dealing with all aspects of U.S. passports. There are also a number of companies that will (for a fee) assist with passport renewal, including PassportVisas Express and CIBTvisas.

If you’re a U.S. citizen wondering if a visa is required for your next trip, try this Visa Quick Check page for destination details. Passport Index will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about visas; click ‘compare’ and then ‘passports’ to learn if you need a visa for any particular country. Going to Europe? Schengen is the name of the European Union’s passport-free zone that includes most European countries. On the Schengen Visa Information page, you can determine if you need a short-stay visa to travel in Europe for tourism. However, by the end of 2022, the EU will introduce ETIAS – the European Travel Information and Authorization System. This electronic document will become a requirement for all travelers heading to EU countries.

Often, your health care provider has details about vaccination requirements at your destination. Start there. The CDC in the U.S. has a traveler’s health page with detailed advice about vaccines and inoculations. Be sure to also check their travel noticesPassportHealth provides country-specific advice about required and suggested vaccines, as does the Government of Canada on their travel vaccination webpage.

The U.S. State Department has a number of traveler information websites, including an extensive page on international travel and a page listing travel advisories. For a different perspective on travel issues, try the U.K. government’s Foreign Travel Advice webpageCIBTvisas’ International Entry page lists health and entry requirements and also includes in-country issues and travel restrictions.

You never plan for trouble when you travel, but sometimes, things happen. In times of an emergency, your first call should be to your country’s embassy or consulate. So rather than frantically searching for contact information in mid-crisis, locate it before you go. EmbassyPages is a good source for embassies and consulates around the globe. If you’re a U.S. citizen, you might prefer to check USEmbassy.gov, which provides a detailed list of all American Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions.

Astronomy

If you’re an avid photographer, you know that some of the best images are acquired during the “golden hour” – the period shortly after sunrise or before sunset when the Sun is low in the sky and daylight is redder and softer. To catch this special time, you need to know when the Sun rises and sets at your location. Evening shots can be enhanced by including the Moon in the background, so knowing the time of moonrise and moonset is also useful. The best lunar phase for those evening shots is a full Moon; TimeandDate’s Moon phases page is a helpful resource.

Seeing a total solar eclipse can be an unexpectedly emotional experience. And the moment totality ends, the first words on everyone’s lips are: “When and where is the next one?” It’s often said that witnessing a total eclipse of the Sun is a once-in-a-lifetime experience but fortunately, one occurs somewhere on Earth every 18 months or so. If you’d like to join TravelQuest on our next solar eclipse tour, here’s our blog that summarizes the upcoming totalities we’ll be chasing. On EclipseWise, retired NASA astronomer Fred Espenak provides predictions and details for future solar and lunar eclipses. And using Google Earth, eclipse-chaser Xavier Jubier has generated interactive solar eclipse maps showing the paths of totality across Earth’s surface for numerous past and future total eclipses.

Far in advance of eclipse day, only a general statement about the expected weather is possible. Not until a few days prior to totality can a reasonably accurate weather forecast be generated. Jay Anderson, TravelQuest’s eclipse meteorologist, has been the “go-to guy” for eclipse climatology and weather forecasting for the past several decades. His Eclipsophile website describes the general climate along the paths of upcoming solar eclipses. Closer to eclipse day, Jay sets up a “weather desk” on his website and provides more in-depth forecasting for locations along the path of totality. His is an indispensable weather-related website for those embarking on solar eclipse travel.

No photograph can ever do justice to a total solar eclipse. Words are inadequate to describe the emotional experience of watching the Sun vanish from the sky. And yet, those who have seen totality still try. Here are two examples. In a 12-minute TED talk called “You owe it to yourself to experience a total solar eclipse,” David Baron—journalist, author, broadcaster, eclipse chaser, and author of American Eclipse—describes his first total eclipse experience. And a VOX article (with a 5-minute video) is appropriately titled “Why a total solar eclipse is a life-changing event, according to 8 eclipse chasers.” Both were created prior to the August 2017 total solar eclipse that crossed the United States.

Inclusion of a company in this FAQ does not imply endorsement by TravelQuest International.