General Tips Archives - Starr Tours & Charters
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How Not to “Pack It On” When Getting Away For a Week or a Day

You’ve been doing your 10,000 steps each day, eating healthy, and just moved your belt buckle in two notches.  You are feeling good and looking even better!  Then your calendar reminds you that you are booked on one of Starr Tours fabulous day or overnight bus trips.  No need to panic!

 

You can still maintain your weight and exercise regimen with a tiny bit of planning:

  1. Weigh yourself before the tour date. This will be the guide to help you stay on track, especially when you get back home and see that you are the same weight or even less.

 

  1. Carry some snacks with you. Those, of course, that will give you energy and fill you up between meals – protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Dried unsweetened fruits, nuts, packaged cheese/crackers don’t take up a lot of packing space.  Be sure to make smart choices when choosing snacks at rest areas, too. Many rest areas will have packaged fresh fruits and vegetables for those mid-day munchies.

 

  1. Drink plenty of water. While it will definitely hydrate you, it will also put the brakes on hunger.  Remember, you may be moving a lot more while on tour which means your body will need more of boost.

 

  1. Eat foods that you know aren’t too caloric. It’s probably not a good idea to experiment with large volumes of high fat foods. These foods may also slow you down on tour. Eat light and feel better!

 

  1. Pace yourself. Most hotels offer a buffet breakfast.  A trick is to walk around the buffet table first.  See what looks appealing and then go back in line to make your choices.  You are bound to eat less.  If you’ve had a substantial breakfast, you may want to eat a salad and/or soup for lunch.  When dinner is plated with large portions, it is a good idea to divide the food in half and ask for a “to go” box or share with your dining partner. Even though you are on the road, some hotels have microwaves and/or mini fridges that can safely hold your food perhaps for the next day’s lunch.

 

  1. Move it – of course at your own pace!  The team at Starr do an excellent job of planning multi-level attractions.  Some have opportunities for a lot of walking while others have a minimum amount of walking.  When stairs are available and you feel comfortable, take them.  Most hotels have small gyms with treadmills, bicycles, and weights.  Some hotels offer indoor/outdoor pools and hot tubs.  Even if you are not a swimmer just walking in the pool will work wonders for your joints and muscles while burning calories.

 

As the 2019 bus touring season revs up, I’m lining up my healthy snacks. . . see you on the road!

Christine Durling
Starr Tour Director

Great Expectations! (NOT written by Charles Dickens)

Everyone looks forward to a vacation and many of us expect that our travels will be absolutely perfect and without a care in the world. We envision the destination, often disregarding the journey required to reach it. While no amount of preparation, planning or detail-checking can ensure a seamless travel experience, here are a few tips to help you maximize your travel enjoyment:

 

Know where you are going. This may sound simple, but some people choose a destination without much thought, research, or investigation. This can lead to disappointment. For example, I once had a tour guest on a Vermont fall foliage bus tour who asked me, “When will we get to the casino?” I explained that there are no casinos in Vermont to which she responded, “Well, I can’t stand to look at any more trees!” Unfortunately, my passenger was not happy with her experience on the trip. In this case, the situation could have been avoided if she had simply read the itinerary.

 

Put down the camera. Once in a while, put down the camera and actually sightsee. You may think that taking a picture of that spectacular view, attraction, or sunset will preserve the moment forever. However, did you know a recent study found that people had more trouble remembering details of a scene if they photographed it? Those who just looked at it remembered 90% of the details; the ones who took a picture remembered only 78%.

 

Getting to know you! As society has become more fast-paced, and electronic equipment has taken over our communications, conversation between strangers has dwindled. But you never know who you may meet while traveling. On a recent bus tour, two couples reluctantly shared a table at lunchtime. During their conversation, the women discovered that they had been childhood friends, attended the same elementary school, and grew up in the same Philadelphia neighborhood! They had a wonderful time on the rest of the trip, reliving old memories and making new ones.

 

Expect the best; but prepare for the worst. Just because it is sunny on the morning your tour departs, that does not mean it cannot rain later. Basic essentials like an umbrella (I prefer disposable raincoats from the dollar store), sunscreen, a hat, bug spray, Band-Aids, aspirin, etc. are important items to pack and can easily prevent small annoyances from ruining your day.

 

Be flexible. While driving in Hawaii (before GPS was available), we missed a turn and ended up lost for quite some time. On the surface, this seemed like something “bad” had happened. But we ended up viewing the most beautiful scenery on Oahu’s northern coastline due to our unintentional detour. We all agreed it was the most breath-taking view of the entire trip!

Embrace optimism; it is your best travel companion! The definition of “optimism” – A cheerful frame of mind that enables a tea kettle to sing though it’s in hot water up to its nose!

 

Happy travels and I hope to see you on the bus this year!
Jane Peters Estes, Tour Director

Bus Travel Accessories Make Great Gifts

‘Tis the season for gifts in all shapes and sizes! With travel always on our minds, we’ve put together a list of some of the best travel gifts for any world traveler on your list this year. If you’re traveling by bus or plane, this list is great to share with friends and family or to just treat yourself. If you or someone you know loves to travel, look no further! Their perfect gift is just a few clicks away!

 

 Here are our 13 travel accessories suggestions for the traveler in your life:

 

  1. Personal Organizer Toiletry Bag – this hanging toiletry bag or organizer comes in 4 sizes – small, medium, large, and family – and many fabric colors and patterns.  I love this bag because it saves counter space when traveling and has lots of pockets to section off items.  It hangs easily from a towel bar, shower curtain rod, or bathroom door.  With over 600 five-star reviews on llbean.com, it’s worth checking out.

 

  1. Vitamin Pill Case – this handy case is perfect for taking those vitamins or medications on the road with you! 16 pill envelopes can be used in a variety of ways (AM/PM for 8 days, one dose for 16 days, etc) and can be removed from the case to discreetly slip into your purse or pocket.

 

  1. Portable phone charger – There is nothing worse then having your phone die on the go. With this little gadget, you can save yourself a huge amount of stress. Plus, it’s super small and extra portable.

 

  1. Subsorb SPF 30 Lip Balm – for your traveler hitting the slopes or the beach, this is a terrific lip balm due to its SPF30 protection. Even for those not needing sun protection, (travelers often lament about dry lips on the plane or on vacation) this lip balm is ultra-moisturizing and full of aloe vera and antioxidants.

 

  1. Aquis Adventure Towel – this fast-drying towel is incredibly lightweight. It folds up really small, is quite absorbent, and dries quickly. Some travelers are known to keep one in their carry-on; it doubles as a light blanket on long bus trips.

 

  1. Travel Clothesline – a “must-have” for a world traveler who is known to do some laundry in their hotel sink. Also great to hang wet swimsuits and towels if you take advantage of the hotel pool. No clothes pin needed, this stretchy, braided line hangs nearly anywhere.  For our family of four, we travel with two and wouldn’t consider leaving home without it.

 

  1. Portable water bottle – Staying hydrated is essential, especially when on the go, and this cute little gadget can stay in your pocket, allowing you to whip it out when you need it. As a bonus: it comes in many fun colors.

 

  1. Road ID – simple, wearable identification for your next adventure, Road IDs hook to your shoe or come in bracelet form. First Responders are trained to look for these IDs, which are often faster to access in an emergency than finding a loved one or locating the victim’s wallet. Road IDs include contact info and health information (ex. diabetes, allergies) – vital information in an emergency.

 

  1. “Smart” luggageawaytravel.com has created a line of “perfect” suitcases. Features include a built-in battery to charge any device, integrated TSA-approved lock, lightweight design, impenetrable exterior shell, and easy-to-pull wheels. The best part?  100-day risk-free trial and a lifetime warranty.

 

  1. Compression socks – These socks are great for long walks or hikes, and are ideal for any day when you’ll be on your feet a lot. They are designed for flights three hours or more, but are perfect on and off your feet. They’re fun, come in a three pack and have lots of nifty colors to choose from.

 

  1. Noise cancelling headphones – There is nothing worse than that annoying plane sound or listening to someone cough or even worse, a baby’s cry. It can be fine for a few minutes, but after a few hours it can really get on your nerves. Plus, some people next to you are just such loud breathers. Well, luckily Bose has you covered. These headphones can be a little pricey, but they are specifically engineered to tune out excess noise, giving you some well deserved rest.

 

  1. Eye Mask – When you travel often, you learn to sleep almost anywhere, but it never hurts to have a little something help you out. These Kamossa sleep masks are incredible, and they are made of the softest memory foam, which can fit and form to your face. They keep their shape when folded and they come with their own carrying satchel and ear plugs!

 

  1. Slippers – Sometimes you would love to take your shoes off after a long day of traveling, but do you really want to walk around in bare feet on hotel room floors? Invest in a pair of lightweight, portable slippers like these to keep your feet clean and happy. They come in a variety of colors, are easy to slip on and off, and are machine washable! Be sure to check out their men’s designs, too. It’s great here and away from home.

 

So, that’s all folks! Enjoy these great holiday gift ideas, perfect for someone who travels often for work, or just loves exploring new places. I hope you enjoy some of these items on your next Starr Bus Tour!

What’s your favorite, must-have travel item?

Honoring Our Veterans Through Donations

Doc Hastings once said, “We owe our World War II veterans, and all of our veterans, a debt we can never fully repay.” This November 11th is Veterans Day, a day when we remember and honor those that have fought for our freedom. This Veterans Day, keep in mind the privileges we hold as Americans, and help to empower those that have served our country.

Here are some ways we can help our veterans, no price tag attached.

 

Donate Candy:

Have a lot of leftover Halloween candy? Or, can you just not stand the taste of Twizzlers? Either way, your Halloween candy rejects can go to a good place, and brighten up the day of a soldier. Soldier’s Angels is a charity that, “provides aid and comfort to the men and women of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and their families.” Their mission is to make no soldier go unloved, and you can help them do just that. As part of their Treats for Troops Program, you can donate candy through the mail, or visit or start a registered collection site. They have a goal this year of 17,000 pounds of candy, so drop on by and give some soldiers some sweets. In the event you don’t have any candy, they also accept donations year round, or join their Adopt-A-Soldier Program, and change the lives of some heroes.

 

Send a Thank You Letter:

Nothing can make people smile more than a nice handwritten letter to make you feel more at home. Through Operation Gratitude, you can send letters and thank yous to soldiers that will be sent in the care packages the company delivers. They encourage to include your child on this journey with you, make it happy and colorful, and get ready to make a veteran’s day. Maybe you’ll even make a new friend in the process.

 

 

Donate Your Old Cell Phone:

Sometimes just hearing the voice of a loved one, even if they’re a million miles away, is all you need to feel a little bit closer to home. Sadly, many veterans do not have this opportunity. In 2004, Minutes That Matter was started by two young kids who wanted to change the lives of soldiers. They started this charity and have provided 300 million minutes on the phone for soldiers to talk to their family and friends. To help out Minutes That Matter, donate any old flip phone, smartphone or tablet, even if its cracked. Your donation will help connect families.

 

 

How Starr Honors Veterans:

Starr values veterans, and would like to formally salute anyone who has risked their lives for our country. We honor their sacrifices and they will never be forgotten. Starr’s bus tour division gives a 5% discount to all active or retired military, disabled veterans, and military reservists. When making a reservation for a bus trip, please provide Military ID and Starr’s Travel Advisor will be happy to offer the discount.

 

Be sure to check out last year’s post for more charities to check out to support our veterans!

Creative Ways to Save Money for Your Next Vacation

You need a vacation now more than ever, even if you are retired and no longer have to worry about the stresses of the daily grind. But vacations cost money and everyone is on a budget these days, so how do you find the extra money to fund your vacation? Start saving now! Even if you are living on a very limited budget, it’s not impossible, you just have to get creative. By adopting a few new creative practices to start saving, over time you can afford a vacation to your dream location. Plus, the reward will be even sweeter knowing all of the work you put into earning it!

First things first, decide where you want to go and calculate how much you’ll need to save to get there! Then, keep your dream vacation at the forefront of your mind. Label your change jar with the destination. Print out and post pictures of the sights you want to see all around your house. Read travel magazines, start doing your research and planning for it. By keeping your vacation at the forefront of your mind, it will be easier to make small sacrifices along the way to make your dream a reality. Oh, and be sure to designate a separate account just for your vacation savings!

Here are a few suggestions for creative ways to save money for your next trip!

Purge and then say “No” to more stuff:
Stop collecting and start selling! Purge your closets and shelves to clear out the clutter and then sell them at a consignment store, a yard sale, Craigslist, ebay, Facebook, or Amazon (be sure to go with the “Sell as an Individual” option). You’ll be surprised at how much money you can raise when someone finds a treasure in your “trash.” Then, once those shelves are cleared off, don’t fill them up with more things! Before purchasing an item, ask yourself, “do I really need this?” Even more fun, “what creative solution can I come up with from things I already have to create what I need?” Prioritize your spending on experiences and memories over things.

Turn your extra savings into actual savings, and round your expenses to the nearest dollar:
– Most stores these days have a line at the bottom of the receipt that tells you how much you saved on your shopping trip for that day. Challenge yourself to find extra coupons and sales to see how high you make your savings. Then take that amount at the bottom of your receipt and immediately transfer it into your vacation account. Money saved is money earned.
– Many banks now offer the opportunity to round all of your purchases to the nearest dollar by placing the “spare change” into a separate savings account. Say you spent $47.23 at the grocery store – your bank would round your charge up to $48 and place the spare 77 cents change into a separate savings account. It’s like a virtual spare change jar, and just like the real life counterpart, a little bit can add up to a lot over time.
– Don’t forget the timeless spare change jar. Label it with your dream vacation and empty your pockets every evening!

Small sacrifices can add up to big savings:
– Time yourself and see if you can gradually decrease your shower time.
– If you’re in the habit of falling asleep with the TV on, set a timer on your TV so that it shuts off shortly after you shut your eyes.
– Avoid phantom energy loss by unplugging items when not in use. Even a charging cable that isn’t connected to your device drains a small amount of energy while it is plugged in; use a power strip with an on/off switch to make turning off these items even easier.
– Cancel unused subscriptions. That magazine you never seem to get around to reading, the club membership you never actually advantage of,  it’s time to get rid of them. Those monthly membership fees can add up, as you’ll soon find out as soon as you start channeling the subscription fee you would have spent on them into your vacation savings account. You can always resubscribe after you get back!
– Switch to generic and store brand items of your favorite products. They’re always cheaper and if you don’t like them, you can always switch back next time you need to restock.
– Downgrade your cable, phone, and internet. Cancel that premium channel subscription that you only seem to watch once a month. Visit your local library to rent movies and TV shows.

Put your money where your mouth is:
– Eat in more and get creative with your meal planning. How many meals can you plan that do not include meat? What is the cheapest meal you can create? What can you put together using only the foods currently found in your pantry?
– Invite friends over for a potluck instead of going out to dinner.
– Plan your meals around your grocery store’s sale flyer and base your recipes only on what you can purchase on sale and what is already in your pantry.
– Take a list with you to the grocery store and stick to it. No extra purchases because something caught your eye.
– Brown bag your meals and take full advantage of leftovers.

Get creative:
– Sell what you’re good at. If you have a crafty hobby that you love to do, consider making it work for you by selling your items to friends or online.
– Cut back on gift spending by giving homemade items such as that crafty item we just mentioned, or something you cooked. Gifts made by your hands, from your heart, are better than anything you could possibly find in a store.

 

 

Try keeping track of all of your spending for a month to see where you can cut back. You may think that your trips to Starbucks are just an occasional treat until you look at your monthly record and realize you go there three times a week! Budget your spending and keep your eye on the prize!

Packaged group travel such as Starr’s bus trip offers can save you a lot of money in the long run! We shop around for the best deals on hotels and get discounts only accessible to groups and tour providers. Take a look at what Starr has to offer!

 

What ideas do you have for saving money for your next vacation?