Travel Tips & Advice

Don't believe everything!

Don't belive all you read or see on a website or brochure. Remember, the ultimate goal is for them to SELL you THEIR resort, location, ship or what have you. They are going to make it look and sound as good as they can. Pictures are 'doctored' or taken when the place is new. They may be completely different when you get there yourself. Just think of those old motels you stayed at: You walked in and it smelled 'musty' or like mothballs. You can't see that on a website picture and they surely won't tell you that in the literature! This is where your travel agent is worth their weight in gold!

Why should I use a travel agent?
Having a Travel Consultant / Travel Agent on your side is a win-win situation. Booking yourself on the internet seems like a good idea, but you will sacrifice the experience and expertise of a professional. You may book yourself onto an 'old folks cruise' when you wanted a 'party cruise.' You may end up at a resort that doesn't fit you or your vacation style. A travel agent will interview you to find out what YOU desire from your vacation and put you there. Agents are with you all along the way. Big Box companies like Expedia make you do your own research and booking, then take all your money up front. Try calling them when your luggage is lost, or you miss a connection because of a delay. See what they do to help you. Using a Travel Agent equals personalized service from start to finish. Why take chances with your hard earned money when you can use a pro instead?

Destination Safety changes from time to time. A good travel agent will KNOW the safety of your destination and recommend SAFE areas. For example: There are some places in Mexico that I would NEVER send my clients. There are also many locations in Mexico that are completely safe and I recommend them highly! Crime can happen anywhere, true. Awareness, current events and overall safety of your destination is your best bet in avoiding a place where a tourist could be at high risk. Here at JMV, we keep abreast of the current safety at the locations we send our clients. Knowledge is king, and we have access to inside information that the public will not. (specific cruise ship crime or safety, specific resort safety or crime, current tour company accidents, insurance claims, etc) Our clients safety is first and foremost!

Las Vegas:
We book lots of clients at this ever-changing destination. We offer our clients the best prices available. Get our FREE LAS VEGAS TIPS GUIDE (PDF format). We'll send you one too, just for visiting our website. Ask for it on the SUBSCRIBE TAB above.

We know the best hotels for your budget or your preferred location. Shuttle costs, taxis, buses, entertainment tickets, restaurants, free stuff to do, resort fees...we help you with it all. My best Vegas tip is....wear comfortable shoes. YOU WILL DO AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF WALKING IN THIS CITY.

Don't have a US passport, but you still want to have an 'island experience?' How about a trip to the US Virgin Islands, Hawaii or Puerto Rico? These are great islands to visit and none require a US Passport. While there are no 'true' all-inclusive resorts in Hawaii or Puerto Rico...there are a couple in St. Thomas, USVI. Contact us for shoes, no shirt, no passport required.

Why it matters
: Without a U.S. passport, you won't be able to return to the country. (Vacations are nice, but who wants to become an accidental expat?) How to deal: Passports can often be issued at a U.S. embassy on the same day if you can prove your identity (the U.S. Department of State has a full list of embassies and consulate offices around the world). Of course, it's hard to prove your identity when your wallet—and everything in it—is MIA. The best first step in this situation is to go to a police station to get a statement declaring your situation. Take this statement to the embassy, and they should be able to retrieve your information in their system. You will need to pay a fee (around $135) to replace your passport.
Trick to avoid the problem: Stash your passport in a hotel safe or stuff it in a security pouch, such as the Rick Steves Silk Money Belt, which you can wear under your clothes (from $10, Amazon).

​Insider tip: Before you depart, sign up for the U.S. Department of State's free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Store your passport number and other details in its online database, making it easy for you to receive emergency assistance from a U.S. embassy or consulate during an emergency. Alternatively, e-mail a scan of your passport to yourself at a Web-based account, which you can access if you lose your passport and you need to look up its number and issue date to request a new one. Flying that long over the Atlantic Ocean...wear comfy clothes, ear plugs, neck pillow iPod, ear buds and drugs! Going there, you are so excited that time may just fly by. Arrival the next day early in the morning you may be super tired. I'd advise you to take a small carry on with at least a day's worth of clothes, etc just in case your luggage gets misplaced. The best cure for jet lag is to just carry on with the local time wherever you are at (i.e., get there in the early AM, stay up all day and just go to bed when you normally would). Customs will be when you arrive and then when you come back you'll go through customs where you change planes in the U.S.

How to Plan a Cruise Vacation:
First you should know that planning a Cruise takes a lot more than just sitting down in front of your computer, and choosing a cruise that appears to be offering the cheapest deal you can find. It requires a great deal of thought, along with proper planning and execution (knowledge of the cruise lines and their fleets is also a must) if you wish to plan on getting things right, as compared to; just getting it!

We offer clients a free PDF we've written called, A GUIDE TO CRUISE VACATIONS. Be in 'the know!'

Using Expert Advice:
Secure a knowledgable travel agent/consultant. Someone who is able to negotiate through all of the cruise line offers, specials, and incentives taking place out there (especially with the web), as well as the vast differences between cruise lines, and even ship changes, it’s really a lot to stay on top of. It requires a professional to be able to distinguish the true offer(s), and the best alternatives so the cruise customer can be able to compare apples to apples. For these reasons it’s not only good to have/use the services of an expert, but to be sure the expert is one who is an avid cruiser themselves, possessing the requisite knowledge about the Industry as well as its ever-changing products and services. We here at JMV cruise on ships and inspect them each and every year.

Foreign Customs:
​Be pleasant and polite to the Custom's officer, get your passport stamped, turn in your declaration and head for the luggage carousels. Make sure you have your own luggage and find the ‘currency exchange’ if you need local currency. Change enough money to last you a day or two. ATMs are conveniently located around the world, so a debit card is the easiest way to get local currency. It can be a little more risky using a credit card. Get your money and head for the exit. Be‘street smart’ in other countries because there can always be people looking to take your valuables. Safeguard your ID, passport and wallet! Be aware of people that may be trying to distract you while they take your things. It can happen anywhere, so be mindful...especially in crowds. They often work in teams to distract and take.

Packing Advice:

Humor: Lay all the clothes you want to take on your bed next to your suitcase. Lay your money there too. Now put half the clothes back in the closet and take twice the money! You will see what I mean after your trip!

1. Make a packing List

The easiest way to ensure you don't over pack or under pack is to make a list. Figure out what you need for each day and list it. Type it, print it, check it off. You can always ask Jolly Mon for a copy of his own trip packing list!

2. Choose a method

Your goal is to have what you need, meet flight requirements and get it there safely. I firmly believe in two packing methods. One is called, 'packing light' and the other is rolling. Please view the video below for the 'packing light' method. Rolling clothes is another way to save luggage space. Many videos can be found at on this method. These methods can save you a lot of space and cause less wrinkles! Choose a method that works for you.

3. Know before you go

Know your airline/cruise ship and TSA baggage rules. You can find out by checking your documents, the airlines website FAQ, and the TSA's site. Know your weight restriction and baggage sizes BEFORE you pack. Nothing is more frustrating than being over the weight limit at the airlines baggage scale and shuffling clothes or paying enormous extra fees! Your travel agent can help you with this.

4. Layers and dual purpose garments

Pack for wearing clothes in layers according to climate. Instead of a bulky coat, you can pack a couple of garments to 'layer' for warmth. This gives you more items to wear and cuts the bulk during packing. Dual purpose garments are something you wear with multiple other garments or pants that turn into shorts. Safe space while offering more options.

5. Never check essential items

Valuables, medications, passports, money, credit cards, electronics, important documents and such should always be brought onto the plane with you. Keep them secure and close to you.

6. Extra bags

Pack an extra tote bag into your luggage. They squish flat and come in handy for trips to the beach, a shore excursion, bringing towels to the pool or keeping your things together and secure. They can also come in handy if you buy some souvenirs at your destination and run out of room to pack them in your luggage. You can put them in the tote bag and use it as your 'personal item' to be carried onboard the plane and tucked under the seat in front of you. Smart packing!

7. Mark it

Tie a colorful ribbon to the handle, or mark your suitcase with colorful tape if it doesn't stand out in a sea of other suitcases. Remove all old airline or cruise tags. Attach a luggage tag with your cell phone number/name so that it can be identified. I like to put that information INSIDE the case as well. If the tag gets ripped off, they can still find you.

8. Purchase and protect

Luggage is a personal choice but there are things to consider. No matter what amount of money you spend on a suitcase, it is going to get beat up. Cheap luggage won't last long. Plastic gets broken, soft sides get ripped and it doesn't hold up well. Many larger suitcases are simply too big. If you pack them full, it will be over the weight restriction. Buy the size that fits your needs and purchase the best you can afford. A well made suitcase will hold up longer, protect your things and pay you back in longevity. Keep a close eye on your luggage during travel.

BONUS TIP: Use your smartphone to take a picture of the items inside your suitcase before you close it up and again once it's closed. If the luggage goes missing, can show the airline staff what it looks like and you will also have proof of what's inside for any claims that need to be made.

Packing Light...this is genius! Watch the video:

​If each couple is bringing more than 1 checked bag, I suggest you cross-pack your clothes. That way…if one suitcase goes missing each of you still have something to wear. Never hurts to plan ahead.
​Remember when packing your carry-on for the plane: put all your important or electronic and expensive stuff in there. Also, any prescription meds in their original container go in the carry-on. No liquids, unless it meets the tiny TSA guidelines of less than 2oz in a plastic bag. They won’t let you board with liquids. Keep passports, money, travel documents and stuff with you and NOT in your checked bags!
​Don’t take your eyes off your carry-ons while at any airport. Leave them with each other when you need to grab some coffee or use the restroom. Thieves know you pack good stuff in carry-ons.

​If you are going to a tropical climate. It's going to be hot during the days with maybe a little rain. Humidity is generally higher than you will be used to as well, so keep hydrated. People tend to drink a lot of alcohol at all-inclusive resorts and forget to drink water.​You will quickly dehydrate if you don't drink a lot of water.

​Get to the airport EARLY!

This is very important, especially on international flights.
​Lines are always longer than you expect and missing a flight or connection can be a big pain!
​Wear comfortable clothes onboard the aircraft. Earplugs, eye mask, gum, reading material, iPods, magazines, snacks, slippers, neck pillows come in handy on long flights! The trip will seem to go faster when you entertain yourself. Get up and walk around regularly to circulate your blood in your legs and lower body. Sitting too long is not good.

​Deceptive Marketing is all around us. It's on billboards, your hometown newspaper, on TV and the internet. When a company intentionally leads you to believe something that is false,  is over-promising something, or burying things deep within the 'fine print' so that you don't understand what is occurring is being deceptive.Travel is a business where this type of deception runs amok. They bait your interest with the promise of these incredible deals and low prices. They add all sorts of restrictions, cut away the value and confuse you with endless fine print. You end up with a hollow shell of what was promised, and your hard earned vacation ends in disappointment. Professional assistance like ours can alleviate this problem.

Q:  What can a travel agent do for me?
​A:  A good travel agent will bring the desired vacation experience to meet the clients needs at the best value possible. We act as your 'vacation broker' so to speak. Jolly Mon Vacations always starts with a good client interview to find the needs and desires of the client. We match our clients using our expansive knowledge on travel, destinations, resorts, hotels, cruise lines, ships and other things. We have special relationships with vacation vendors that will package up your vacation needs at special prices. Often times our buying power can help us obtain a better price, amenities, upgrades or a host of other promotional benefits. The travel agent saves you both time and money! Go ahead, type "cruise" into Google…228 MILLION links! Do you have time to sift through that to find a trustworthy source for a good price with great value?

Q:  How do I know I can trust them to find me what I need?
​A:  Travel Agents are educated and certified in destinations, cruise lines, resorts, vendors and travel. Experience is also a great teacher and yet another way we can assist you. Our knowledge is backed by actual hotel, resort, destination and ship inspections. We travel to these destinations and tour them ourselves to assist in placing our clients. Nothing backs up a good education like a real life experience! A legitimate Travel Agent will be accredited by a major agency such as the IATA, IATAN, ARC, TRUE, CLIA or a host agency. You can check their credentials to ensure they are valid agents in good standing that hold proper accreditation.  Don't hesitate to ask about accreditation to protect yourself.
Q:  I don't need an agent, I can just book it direct with the cruise line or resort.
​A:  Not so fast! Did you know each ship, cruise line, itinerary, port, resort can be COMPLETELY different from one another? You may be climbing on a 'floating old folks home' when you are looking for a party. You could be getting on a ship or a cruise line that totally misses the reasons you need a vacation. A good Travel Agent knows the ships, the ports, resorts and the overall 'vibe' of where it is you are going and how you are getting there. A Travel Agent works for YOU, and looks out for YOUR best interest. The people at the other end of the direct booking look out for THEMSELVES.

​Travel insurance is a wise investment, especially in winter or hurricane season and especially if the trip is an expensive one! Insurance costs vary, but most packages are between 5 and 12 percent of the total trip cost. Two factors can increase this price: age at the time of purchase and trip cost. Coverage is generally inexpensive or even free for children 17 and under.Most comprehensive travel insurance policies cover "acts of God" including snowstorms and other extreme weather.The types of coverage to look for are:
• Trip cancellation and interruption, which will reimburse you for non-refundable travel expenses such as prepaid tours, cruises etc.
​• Trip delay, which reimburses you for expenses incurred while you're stranded, such as hotel accommodations, meals etc.There are usually limits on the amount of reimbursement - depending on the level of coverage.Insurance, like contracts of carriage, has plenty of legalese and fine print. Some points to look for:
• Check for how the coverage defines "delay" - what is the minimum number of hours?
​• There will usually be a time frame for purchase of the insurance - and if you buy your policy after a storm is predicted, it won't cover expenses caused by that storm.
•Remember that travel insurance will reimburse you for incurred expenses in case of delay or cancellation, but you'll still have to front the money. (Travel medical insurance allows doctors and hospitals to bill directly.) Make sure your credit card balances/checking accounts are prepared for winter travel emergencies.
​• Travel experts in general advise using independent travel insurers rather than those pinned to a cruise or airline. Ask your travel agent for more information. We send a third party travel insurance quote to clients that best fits them.One additional perk of travel insurance: It provides emergency assistance for stranded travelers - including help in rebooking flight arrangements, finding hotel accommodations, facilitating money transfers, notifying your contacts and more.

Fly early in the day. This decreases your chances of getting caught up in a cascading effect of weather delays or canceled flights. Statistics repeatedly show that airlines and airports operate most efficiently in the morning. There are also more chances to rebook during the day if there is a disruption.
• Go non-stop whenever you can. Even if the fare is slightly higher, the difference might be worth paying if you avoid getting stuck somewhere because of bad weather or other problems.
​• If you're flying to your cruise's departure port, build in time for delays and other snafus. Consider flying in a day early; even if you have to pay for a night at a hotel, the peace of mind could be worth the cost. Cruise lines expect you to get yourself onboard in time for departure: If you miss a connection and miss the ship, well, you've missed the boat.