General Tips Archives - Page 2 of 3 - Starr Tours & Charters
  • Call us, we’re here to help: 800-782-7703
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!

All is Not Lost!

Traveling on a bus trip with Starr is an exciting experience, and you’ll want to bring all sorts of things to help you enjoy it; cameras to capture the scenery, hats to shield your eyes from the sunny skies, iPads and e-readers to pass the time, and of course souvenirs to remember your Starr Vacation!

 

Sometimes, however, these items don’t quite make it home with you, whether they fall out of a pocket, get left in a hotel room, forgotten in a theater, or fall to the back of a Starr bus’ overhead bin. That’s where Starr’s Lost and Found comes in. We see a vast assortment of items including souvenirs, shoes, alcohol, and laundry, which could be returned to their owners if a few simple steps had been taken before the traveler left for their trip. Here are some tips which could help return your belongings to you after a Starr Vacation!

 

Before Your Trip

  1. Label Important Items
    Print out a small piece of paper with your name and phone number, and attach it to important belongings, such as a phone, iPad, camera, book, glasses case, car keys, a medicine bottle, or wallet. This is the easiest way for us to contact you. Alternatively, attach an address label to each item.
  2. Bring Labels with You
    Pack a sheet of address labels, a stack of business cards, or several pieces of paper with your contact information in your luggage. These can be used to label your water bottles, souvenir bags, etc.
  3. Take Photos of Your Belongings and your Driver’s License
    In the event that you’ve lost or misplaced something, you can send us a picture of the item so we know exactly what to look for. You can ALSO take a picture of your driver’s license! As we scroll through the pictures on lost, unlocked devices, we are looking to see if we can recognize anything, and a driver’s license is very recognizable.
  4. Tell Siri/Google Who You Are
    Sometimes returning an iPhone is as easy as asking “Call my wife!” If your iPhone, iPad, tablet, or Android device can connect to the internet without wifi, leave that function on. Even if we can’t unlock your device, we can use a few smart built-in features like Siri or the Google Assistant to ask who the device belongs to! To help this work, make sure you have told Siri or your Google contacts who you are, who your spouse is, who your children are, and your home phone number.
  5. Find My Phone Function
    If you have an iPhone, consider activating the “Find my iPhone” function; and if you have an Android device, activate the “find my device” function alongside your GPS. Both of these can allow you to remotely lock and locate your phone should it be lost.¹

 

During Your Trip

  1. Look Around
    As you get on and off the coach, check on your seat, under your seat, and in the overhead bins carefully to ensure you have everything that belongs to you.
  2. Souvenir Bags
    If you purchase souvenirs, place a business card, address label, or slip of paper into the bag along with the souvenir. If that is not immediately possible, write your name and phone number on the receipt. Consider putting the souvenir directly into a carry on or luggage if possible.

 

At the End of Your Trip

  1. Look Again
    Check again on your seat, under your seat, between the seat, in the seat back pocket (if your bus has them), in the overhead bin, and into adjacent seats. These are also checked by your escort and the driver at the end of the trip, and by the cleaners when the coach returns to our garage.
  2. Is That Your Bag?
    If you did buy souvenirs, check your bags to make sure they are YOUR bags and not someone else’s! We have had situations where people have taken the wrong souvenir bags home—and yes, they did get back to their original owners!
  3. Where Did You Sit?
    Remember the bus number and where you were sitting, the dates of your trip, and where you were going. If you were part of a large group of buses, perhaps for a charter, try to remember your driver’s name or some of their identifying attributes.
  4. Was there a Shuttle?
    If you have to take a shuttle to your final destination, take note of what kind of shuttle you have: whether it is a car limousine, a Starr van, another Starr coach, etc.

 

Where did my Item Go?

If you did leave something on the bus, it would be seen one of two different groups of people.

  1. Driver/Escort: They check EVERYWHERE before they get off the bus. They may even contact you before you get back home. If they can’t reach you, they’ll label which coach it comes off of and deliver it to the office along with their tour materials.
  2. Bus Cleaners: If the cleaners find it, it goes into a bag along with items from other coaches. A day or two later, it is delivered to the Starr Receptionists who handle the cataloging and processing of lost and found. Oftentimes, these items have no identifying information, which is why labeling your items is helpful to us!

 

Finding your Items

When you call our office to ask about your lost item we will ask you the following:

  • Give us a detailed description of the item
  • The dates of your trip
  • The coach number (or the driver’s name)
  • The group, the charter number, the trip, or where you were going
  • Your seat number, or where you were sitting (and if you changed seats during the trip)
  • If the item was on/under your seat, in the overhead bin, in the baggage compartment, or the seatback pocket.
  • If the item was in a paper or plastic bag
  • And if the item was a cell phone, what the number is so we can call it and listen for the ring

 

Please also keep in mind:

  • Our coaches have a high turnover rate in the busy season, and there is a chance that the coach you rode on over the weekend was cleaned overnight and is already out on the road again and can’t be checked right away.
  • We will make every effort to look for each item that you call for, but we are not responsible for items you have misplaced while on our coaches, and you may not get a call back from us if we are unable to locate your item.
  • If we DO find your item, we will call you back. It is then your responsibility to call us and arrange how you wish the item to be returned.
  • We keep all lost and found items that come to us for several months, and document them as they come in. If you realize a month after your trip that you lost an item, there is no harm in calling the office and asking if we have it.

 

Don’t let a fear of losing your items keep you from traveling. More often than not, Starr travelers are very proactive about keeping tabs on all of their belongings! The moral of the story is, LABEL your important things with your telephone number and your name at the very least.

 

Bon Voyage!
Ally Berger, Starr Receptionist

 

¹The author of this article has used Google’s function on a recent trip abroad to locate and erase a stolen smartphone, and can confirm her information was not compromised!

What to Pack In Your Carry-On

As a Tour Director with Starr Tours for the past thirteen years, and living by the Girl Scout motto of “always be prepared,” I have increasingly added travel “must haves” to my onboard travel list.

Here is a list of what I pack whether on a day trip or multi-day bus tour which may prove helpful to you as well!

IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS — Perhaps it goes without saying that you should always have your driver’s license/photo id, medical insurance card, prescription medication information, medical id (if needed) and doctor’s phone number, credit card numbers and financial information (in case a card is lost or stolen), and travel documents and travel insurance (when necessary). Keep these items on your person at all times and leave a copy of these items with a family member or a friend back home.

MEDICINE — If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medicines, it is always a good idea to keep them near at hand whether at your seat or in the overhead compartment. Over-the-counter medications such as headache/pain reliever, motion sickness pills, and antacids are worth having with you on the road.

WATER — I can’t emphasize enough about bringing along a bottle of water or two.  When medicines have to be taken at specific times during the day, and a rest stop is some time away, it is convenient to have water at your side.  Also, dehydration plays a major role when you are traveling.  It’s the change in climates, altitudes, and the amount of walking/exercise you may not be accustomed to that will make you feel thirsty sooner than if you were home.  The minute you are thirsty you are dehydrated!

SWEATER/JACKET/HAT/SOCKS — We do our best to control the temperature inside the bus for everyone’s comfort; however, there may be times when you will feel more comfortable wearing a sweater or throwing a jacket over your shoulders.  Likewise, if it proves too warm to your liking, removing your outerwear might just do the trick!  It is also not uncommon for outside temperatures to fluctuate from the time you board the bus to your destination.
Along these same lines, you may want to throw in a pair of socks in case your feet get cold and you are wearing sandals.  A hat can come in handy on those bright sunny days.

RAIN GEAR/UMBRELLA — As much as no one likes to carry an umbrella, you just never know when it will come in handy.  The skies could be clear as we make our way from the departure points, and it could be pouring at our first rest stop.  There are multiple stores that sell plastic ponchos for a few dollars and they don’t take up much room in your carry-on.

SNACKS — Just like the ocean air at the beach,  the excitement of traveling on a bus can make you feel hungry!  Although we do make rest stops approximately every two hours, it doesn’t hurt to have your favorite breakfast bar, piece of fruit, pretzels, crackers or candies only an arms reach away!  Tea, coffee, juice, and sodas are also welcome as long as they are in a container with a lid. You may want to throw in a couple of plastic baggies just in case. They come in handy for leftovers, etc.

SANITIZING WIPES/TOILETRIES — There will be many times when you will be in touch with grab bars, railings, door handles, etc.  It is always a good idea to keep sanitizing wipes, gels, sprays, etc. nearby to keep those germs away. Also, keeping a few essential toiletries with you comes in handy when you want to freshen up at a rest stop or when we get to the hotel. Sometimes it takes the hotel a few minutes to sort and deliver luggage to everyone’s room so having these items with you is a nice convenience.

SMALL NECK/BACK PILLOWS — Our seating is ergonomically comfortable!  The seats are fitted with handrails, headrests, and recline with footrests, but if you need a little extra comfort, bring a small pillow for your neck or back – I do! Ear plugs can also come in handy if you want to take a nap.

READING/GAME MATERIALS — There is so much to do while riding on the bus — catching up with your friends/family, making new acquaintances, looking out the window and enjoying the beautiful scenery while listening to soothing music, taking a cat nap, engaging in the fun games your tour director is playing or watching the pre-selected movie.  Our buses are equipped with secure WiFi connections. So, even with all of that to do, there is always time for you to relax using your personal electronic devices to check email, Facebook, play games, read your favorite book or magazine, and do word and number puzzles — don’t leave home without them and be sure to pack your charging cables and headphones!

EMPTY SATCHEL/BAG — There are so many opportunities to bring back souvenirs that it may help to have an extra empty bag or two to protect your new found treasures.

Oh, one more thing—make sure you pack your enthusiasm for another great adventure with Starr!

I look forward to sharing your list of onboard items when I see you on the road again!

Happy travels,
Christine Durling, Tour Director

5 Best Practices I Learned When I Acted as a Tour Director

Managing a group of valuable Tour Directors is a responsibility I take very seriously. After taking on this responsibility in 2005, my only prior experience in Tour Directing was as a college student, home for the summer, and helping out a couple times at the last minute. Yes, I grew up hearing “on the road” stories from my dad at the dinner table and yes, I was quite familiar with public tours in general, but I had never regularly escorted them. Accordingly, I asked lots and lots of questions and learned as much as I could in a short time. But nothing educates you like “on the job experience.”

Here’s what I learned when I (officially) escorted my first public tour.

Tour Director, Carole with two other Caroles!

Get to know your guests!

One of the most rewarding facets of being a Tour Director is getting to know new people. It starts with the basics: Learning to recognize everyone – this is especially important since we don’t require name tags for our passengers and people change clothes each day so you can’t  try to memorize who they are by what they are wearing! I got to know my guests by sitting with them at meals, interacting with them on the bus, chatting with them in the hotel lobby, or spending time while on tour with them. People are all so different and each person has a story to tell.

Beat them to breakfast

If you tell our guests that breakfast is at 7am, expect them to be ready and waiting at 6:30am or before! If you get there before them, you can make sure the hotel is prepared with food, plates/utensils, seating and plenty of coffee! There is no “sleeping in” while you are on tour with a busload of guests who are used to waking up early!

Confirm, confirm, confirm!

You know the saying… “The best laid plans…” At Starr our Operations department crosses every “t” and dots every “i” but when you are on the road, anything can happen. Hotel contacts may forget to tell the front desk an arrival time, restaurants sometimes “lose” reservations and attractions may even “forget” to unlock their doors! All of these things have happened! So the most helpful thing I learned as a Tour Director is that you should always confirm (and sometimes re-confirm) all aspects of the itinerary. “Better Safe than Sorry!”

Driver, Tom & Tour Director, Chris on our 2011 Cross Country Tour

Build a rapport with your driver

Tour are most successful when the Driver and Tour Director work together. This starts with some pre-planning before the trip departs and continues all the way through the entire tour. Communication and mutual respect are the key ingredients. If the Driver sees a Tour Director is working hard and smart, s/he is more likely to do the same. Working together will make both the Tour Director and Driver have easier and more successful trips.

 

Balance your talking and quiet time and make the talking worthwhile

It’s 2017 and let’s face it, tour guests not only need some quiet time but lots of them bring their own personal electronics to keep them occupied. This means that a good Tour Director should know how to balance his or her time on the microphone.  In the morning, after a brief orientation, let the guests rest. After the first rest-stop it’s time to start talking and sharing the plans for the remainder of the day. Tour Directors should do their homework on their destinations so they can educate their guests. Story-telling is a great way to convey information as it has been proven that stories are more memorable than just plain lectures. Add in some games for the guests to have some fun and maybe get to know each other. On a full day’s drive, after lunch is another good time for quiet.  It’s all about the balance!

And of course I couldn’t just end at 5 so here’s my 6th and final Best Practice:

Have fun! You only live once so this should not only be fun for our guests, but for our Tour Directors too! Shared travel can lead to wonderful experiences and if you’re having fun, your guests are more likely to have fun, too! There’s nothing like seeing a destination through the eyes of 50 different people from all different backgrounds.

 

Being a Tour Director was extremely rewarding for me, both professionally and personally. Even though it’s lots and lots of hard work and preparation, the memories and experiences make it a wonderful experience.

Sandy2013-768x514-cropped

 

Sandy Borowsky, VP Marketing

 

Hotel-Friendly Meals

Hotel-Friendly Meals

Traveling is always fun and exciting, but dining out can take a large bite out of your wallet (pun intended!). Trying new restaurants is always a great way to experience new places and cuisines, but when you want to save money (or not spend it!), what do you do? On most of your multi-day trips with Starr, you will have either a microwave and a small fridge in your room or even a small kitchenette. While microwaveable meals can be quick and convenient, they aren’t always the healthiest options. Here are some meal ideas for when you’re in your room and the hunger-bug strikes!

If you have a small kitchenette in your room, it will most likely come equipped with standard pots and pans. In this case, you can make:

Honey Sriracha Chicken
  1. One-pan pasta! We all know that we can use pasta from a jar, but this delicious recipe from Martha Stewart is fresh, healthy, and ready in under 30 minutes!
  2. Sweet and spicy baked honey sriracha chicken. This recipe is better than take-out and is still ready in less than 30 minutes! Boil some rice to go with it and you just made one incredible meal in your hotel room.
  3. Classic grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. You can spice up your grilled cheese by using pepperjack cheese. To give it a little more flavor, slice a tomato and throw some spinach on it. Yum!

If you only have a microwave and small fridge to work with, that’s okay too! You can still have some scrumptious meals without the mess of pots and pans.

  1. Cold-cut sandwiches with a side of fresh veggies and fruit.
  2. A cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store can go a long way!
    Chicken wraps! These are a go-to for me at home or when traveling. I take a wheat wrap, spread some hummus on it and add rotisserie chicken, grape tomatoes, and spinach. It’s so good!
    Chicken salad: mix with enough mayo to coat and add in your favorite ingredients like celery, chopped nuts, and quartered grapes. Or try these recipes for Italian Chicken Salad, or Vietnamese Chicken Salad. Chicken tacos: mix with enough salsa to coat, microwave for one minute and add your favorite taco toppings
  3. Garden salad and baked potatoes. If you poke holes in the potato and toss it in the microwave for about 7-8 minutes, you’ll have a baked potato in less time than it would take to cook in the oven! You can do the same thing with sweet potatoes too. (Did you know that peanut butter adds a great flavor to sweet potatoes?)

Remember, you can easily bring these ingredients from home. They don’t take up a lot of space and you can keep them cool in an insulated container.

Meal time should never be a stressor, especially when traveling! Whether you resort to a simple peanut butter sandwich or try something new like the sriracha chicken, do what appeals most to you. If all else fails, there’s always take-out!