General Tips Archives - Starr Tours & Charters
  • Call us, we’re here to help: 800-782-7703

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?

The Importance of Traveling With Your Children

The Importance of Traveling With Your Children

One of the greatest gifts you can give your children and grandchildren is the opportunity to get out of their comfort zone and experience the myriad of adventures that await them beyond their hometown. Travel provides not only the opportunity to see new and exciting things, but offers many valuable life lessons and skills as well.

Here are just a few ways that traveling with your children will enrich their lives:

Taking your kids on a trip with you demonstrates their importance to you.  When you actively show that you want to spend your time with them by choosing to take them along with you, they begin to understand their own value as individuals. Children learn more through your actions than your words and demonstrating that you are willing to spend your most valuable resource – your time – with them conveys their importance far more than the habitual “I love you.”

Travel teaches kids about diversity. Simply traveling to another state gives children insight into how others’ lives differ from their own. They get exposed to different foods, different living situations, even different accents and people. Interaction with a diverse population of people over the course of their childhood helps them become more accepting and open minded adults.

Travel helps kids overcome their fears. Venturing out of your comfort zone and into a new place can be daunting to anyone. Imagine doing so as a child with endless wonder and imagination. Children are safely led to confront all sorts of new experiences while traveling from new foods to new places to sleep and everything in between. When they safely confront and conquer a new experience, their confidence grows and their willingness and capability to tackle new challenges increases.

Engaging them in the planning process is a fantastic learning experience. Problem solving skills, map reading, decision making, budgeting, and scheduling are just a few of the lessons your children can learn as you include them in your trip planning and these are all important life skills that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Including your children in the planning process helps them become engaged with the trip and the itinerary. They have a hand in the adventure and learn what is possible, how to make things happen, and then to embrace the outcome.

Traveling fosters independence. Allowing your children to be responsible for packing their own bag (with supervision) enables them to plan out what they need and what they don’t. Holding your children accountable for keeping track of their own belongings, making sure that their luggage isn’t too heavy for them to carry, and packing efficiently fosters critical decision making skills and living with the outcomes of your decisions. Helping them to plan ahead to save money to buy their own souvenirs and perhaps leaving one or two items behind to save room for those souvenirs also fosters these skills.

Traveling with your children builds communication. Getting away from the regular routine of school and extracurricular practices and into new and different experiences brings up a vast array of conversation points. Instead of asking about their day at school, you can actively engage them in a conversation about what they learned that day at the museum, or the aquarium, or the battlefield, etc. You can ask them how they felt to learn this, if it changed their minds about what they thought about life, how they will describe the experience to their friends when they get home, their favorite part of the day, the guide they met. The opportunities are endless and the value of having a deep and meaningful conversation about new discoveries is priceless.

 

Traveling with your children is an invaluable experience for them and for you! While traveling with little ones can be stressful, it doesn’t have to be. Starr offers a Kids Sale every summer that makes traveling with your children and grandchildren even more affordable and we offer great bus trips with a mix of planned activity and opportunity to explore on your own. Call us, or check out our website for more information on all that we have to offer! We look forward to welcoming you and your children on our bus trips!

For tips on Preparing Tiny Travelers for Big Adventures, check out our blog post!