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Packing Tips – Or, Why You Don’t Need to Bring the Kitchen Sink, Too

After 25 years as a Tour Director for Starr, I’ve learned a few things about what to pack for a trip.  Like most folks, I learned them the hard way!  But practice makes perfect and these days, if I have even one unworn piece of clothing at the end of a tour, I feel like I didn’t pack correctly.

 

Here are a few suggestions I’d like to share with the hope that they make your next trip easier and more comfortable:

 

  • Used items only! Never, I repeat never, bring shoes or articles of clothing on vacation that are brand new.  You should always wear items prior to the trip to make sure they are comfortable and travel well.  That lovely blouse you thought would look great on your vacation may not meet your expectations if it wrinkles too much.  And shoes that are uncomfortable or cause blisters can ruin your entire trip!

 

  • Comfort & practicality: Don’t worry about being a fashion maven while on vacation. People traveling with you are more interested in the scenery and attractions than what you are wearing.  Comfort and practicality are much more important when choosing your travel clothing.

 

  • Color Coordinate: Pick a primary color for your wardrobe (examples: black, blue, brown) and a second complimentary color (ivory, white, beige, gray). Then, to mix things up a bit, add a bright color (red, yellow, purple) for an accent which you can achieve with scarves, sweaters, etc.  My personal choice is red/white/navy—all the pieces will mix-and-match.  Besides, working for Starr deserves a patriotic color scheme!  Everything in my suitcase can be worn with everything else—it makes packing easy and my suitcase lighter.

 

  • BYOB: (Bring your own bag!) Bring a plastic or duffle bag for your dirty/soiled clothing. If you take worn items that cannot be used again and put them in a separate bag each day, it will lighten your suitcase and keep your remaining garments cleaner and fresher.  The best part is that it will make additional room in your suitcase for souvenirs or those treasures you find along the way!  When you get home, all the dirty clothes are in one bag for you to drop in the laundry room.

 

  • Hangers make great helpers: Almost every travel writer has a suggestion as to how to pack your suitcase. I’ve probably tried them all sometime over the past 25 years.  The one trick that I personally like to use is packing my clothing on hangers.  Yes, the hangers take up a bit of space in my suitcase.  However, when I arrive at a hotel, it takes me less than a minute to unpack all my clothing and hang it in the closet.  This is also helpful if the hotel has insufficient hangers in the closet and you’re sharing a room with someone who also needs to use them.

 

  • Carry costume only: Leave your expensive and/or sentimental jewelry at home. I understand that it can be difficult to not wear your favorite pin or the bracelet you received on your anniversary.  However, I can guarantee that it will be heartbreaking if this item is lost while on tour and it will ruin your long-anticipated vacation.  I will never forget one of my passengers who took off her wedding & engagement rings in New Orleans because the heat caused her fingers to swell—she NEVER found her engagement ring.  My personal recommendation is to wear costume jewelry or none at all.

 

  • Follow this simple equation: Although it is an old joke in the tourism industry, it is still true today…when you are packing for a trip, take out ½ the clothing and put in 2X the spending money!

 

Safe travels to everyone and hope to see you on the road with Starr!

 

 

Jane Peters Estes
Starr Tour Director

 

 

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

7 Tips For Eating Healthy While Traveling

7 Tips For Eating Healthy While Traveling

It’s easy to think that traveling and healthy eating don’t mix. You’re going to a boardwalk and there’s an ice cream shop there that you HAVE to try, or your cousin raved about the food at an Italian restaurant. Traveling doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice eating healthy; you just have to know how to do it!

Here are seven key tips for eating healthy and still enjoying your vacation:

  1. Pack your own snacks. This is simple enough, right? When the hunger bug strikes, instead of jetting for chips in the closest vending machine, just pull out those yummy nuts or granola bars that you packed. Other great snacks are dried fruit, roasted chickpeas, or a single serving packet of nut butter. Make your own before you go and save money for more souvenirs!
  2. Opt for water. Sure, you can enjoy a cocktail. Let yourself live a little. But whenever you have the chance, always opt for water. It’ll keep you hydrated and it’s the best drink for you – no calories!
  3. Resist the urge to splurge. It’s easy to just say, “I’m on vacation!” and throw all healthy eating out the window. No one says you can’t go off track some, but you don’t need to order the entire dessert menu just because you’re on vacation. Which leads to my next tip…
  4. Allow yourself one treat per day. You wouldn’t go to Italy without trying gelato, would you? It’s okay to treat yourself, but moderation is key. Like tip #3, instead of splurging, give yourself one treat to look forward to. Maybe even tell yourself that today is the day you’re going to try that ice cream parlor! It gives you a treat to look forward to, making it easier to avoid the others that might cross your path.
  5. Only eat when you’re hungry. When you’re strolling along and see something yummy being sold, but you just ate an hour ago, then you probably don’t need that treat right now. If it is something you must try, buy it now and use it as a snack for later, or split it with a friend.
  6. Choose the healthy menu items. If you’re dining out, go straight to the healthy selections to avoid the temptation of other less-healthy options. If the menu doesn’t have a designated “healthy option” section, you can ask your server what their options are.
  7. Choose a restaurant with fresh foods. Lots of times, you can see the menu on the website before you even go. Look for the places that offer salads, wraps, or seafood. These are almost always healthy meal options.

 

As always, staying active is also key. Go for a walk around your hotel, or opt to stroll down the street and window shop during your free time instead of sitting in a restaurant. The more calories you burn, the less impact those extra vacation food calories will have later.

There’s no reason why you can’t have it all. You can see the world and keep your health while doing it!

Photo credit: Max Straeten

4 Tips For Making Friends When Traveling Solo

4 Tips For Making Friends When Traveling Solo

Traveling solo can seem a bit daunting or lonely, but it does not have to be! Making friends when traveling solo just requires a little bit of effort – and sometimes a willingness to try something new. It serves even the most introverted person well to get out of the box once in a while. Take your trip and dare yourself to make a new friend!

Here are a four tips to help:

seniorfriends-meeting_iakovfilimonov-photog_shutterstock_398921350-max600x600#1: Start a conversation on transit

At Starr, many of our trips require a bit of time before reaching your destination. Instead of plugging in headphones or turning to the next chapter in your book, why not start up a conversation with your fellow travelers? You already have your destination in common. With that knowledge, you can simply ask what they are looking forward to seeing on the trip, have they visited before, etc. Make the most of the drive by socializing.

 

#2: Make small talk over meals

Dining with others is always an easy entry to making small talk. A few simple conversation starters are: Where are you from? Is this your first trip with Starr? What has been your favorite part of the trip so far? Open-ended questions are always best because they leave room for the conversation to grow.

 

#3: What NOT to do

Don’t expect everyone to have everything in common with you. It’s a GOOD thing to meet new people who are passionate about different things. Be open to people with diverse backgrounds and interests, varying ages and life experiences. This gives you the opportunity to learn from each other and you might find out you have more in common than you think. Don’t be discouraged to make a new friend or let your fears hold you back. Many times, we can “clam up” if the conversation goes dry. If that happens, just ask another question!  Don’t ask personal questions too quickly or act nosy. This can deter people away.

 

#4: Forget Your Hang-Ups

This might be the most important tip. If you’re anything like me, you might make excuses for meeting people or trying something new. You might say you’re too old, too young, too scared; the list goes on.  Leave the excuses at home and meet someone new.

 

girlfriends_123rf-max200x200#4 Staying in touch

After returning from your trip with new friends, find a way to keep in touch. It may be a little awkward to say, “Hey, I really enjoyed spending time with you on this trip. Would you like to exchange numbers and meet for lunch sometime?” but put yourself out there. The worst they can do is say no. Exchange numbers and other contact info – connect over social media. Find a fun class to take together or, better yet, plan to get together again on another Starr trip! A friend you meet traveling can easily turn into a friend for life!

 

When traveling solo, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to put your fears aside and enjoy the adventure. Strike up a conversation while standing in line or step out of your comfort zone to try a new class. There’s no need to stick to the norm, especially when it comes to meeting new people. Traveling solo is all what you make of it. Make your trip a great one and make a new friend!

Researching How To Spend Time “On Own”

Many of the trips we offer at Starr include free time to explore an area “on own.” Your free time on own might include seeing the sites, local attractions, or tasting the best of the local faire. However you choose to spend it, here are some great ways to research the best of the best in the area.

 

  1. tripadvisorTripAdvisor
    TripAdvisor is a travel website boasting reviews of the best and the worst. If you go to their website, you can type in your destination and what you’re searching for, such as “Boston restaurants” or “Cape Cod attractions” for example. The website then lists the top go-to places in the area by rank. The information and reviews are always current, so this is one website that we highly recommend!

 

  1. Local Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs)
    Local CVBs are known for their tourism marketing. They always have an abundance of brochures and can recommend the best and most popular places in town. It helps that they are knowledgeable of every area of town too, so they can easily locate attractions nearby where you will be. You can either visit the bureaus in person, or simply do a Google search for the town website and contact them.

 

  1. Google
    GoogleIn any case, there’s always good ole Google! You can simply go to www.google.com and type in your destination, like “Cape Cod,” and an array of websites will appear that can give you tourism information for your specific location. If you want to get a little more specific, you can type in “Cape Cod restaurants” or “best Cape Cod restaurants.” Many times, bloggers have already written about your chosen destination with helpful pointers on the go-to places in the area.

 

  1. Smartphones
    If you own a smartphone, then it probably comes equipped with the handy little “map” app. What’s neat about this is that you can actually search for restaurants, bars, shopping, fun, and so on, all in this little app. It can give you the reviews and distance from your location, too! So if you’re just at a loss for how to spend your free time, search on your map app for what’s nearby!

 

yelp

  1. Yelp
    Similar to TripAdvisor, Yelp is another great travel website. It lists reviews for local areas and allows you to search for specific places. If you’re in the mood for Mexican, you can input your destination and “Mexican” to see what restaurants are highly rated.

 

  1. grouponGroupon
    Once you have figured out how you’d like to spend your free time, then you can look into discounts. Groupon is an awesome website that lists deals that you can snag for dining and activities. It is also available as an app for your smartphone.

 

We love offering free time during travel because it allows you the freedom to customize your trip exactly how you’d like it. These websites and apps are great ways to research and plan the perfect getaway for you!