About Self-Guided Vacations
Trip preparation is an exciting part of the experience of travel and we want to help you be fully aware of everything you need to know, pack and plan for in order for your Randonnée experience to be everything it can be.
You fill find below some information, tips and suggestions which we hope will help your trip preparation. Remember that once your trip is confirmed you will receive a document we call Tour Details including extensive information on everything you need to plan and prepare for the trip you booked. For more immediate answers to the questions you may have about trip preparation please visit the FAQ section of our website.
You will need a valid passport for trips outside of your country. No visas are currently required for Canadian and United States citizens for the destinations offered by Randonnée Tours. It is recommended to carry your passport with you at all times. For most countries, passports must be valid 3 months beyond length of stay.
It is also a good idea to make a photocopy of the pages of your passport that contain your personal information and photograph and carry it separately from your passport.
Non-U.S./Canadian citizens must contact the appropriate consular office or embassy for any requirements related to their trip.
International travel rules, requirements and regulations are subject to changes; for additional information and travel status in various countries, consider these websites:
Randonnée Tours recommends purchasing appropriate travel protection which protects your travel, belongings and person from unforeseen circumstances and events that may arise before and during your tour.
Before you depart make sure that you know the insurance coverage you have and that you know how your particular health and trip insurance work. Always carry your medical insurance documents with you. Always keep your plane tickets with you - be sure not to leave them in your luggage while travelling on trains or buses.
Keep in mind that your credit card might already offer you some coverage if you purchased your airfare and trip with it. Randonnée Tours offers exclusive ‘cancel for any reason’ coverage. If you need to purchase medical and travel insurance and/or get free quote you can visit Travel Guard website. www.travelguard.com
We recommend that you stay informed of the currency exchange rates prior to travel so that you know what a good rate is when converting your money locally. Keep in mind that exchange rates change quickly, on a daily basis and that interbank rates seen on Internet may not be matched by brokers, exchanges services or credit card companies. www.xe.com
It is advisable to change at least some money at a broker or your bank before you start the tour or travel to the tour area. You can also change money at exchange counters at airports and train stations, indicated by the sign “Change”, but these tend to offer poor exchange rates.
Automatic banking machines are increasingly common, even in small towns, and they are the most convenient way to obtain local cash. If you have a PIN on your credit card, you can use banking machines to get cash advances. You can also use your bankcard to withdraw cash from your account, though not all bank machines will accept your bankcard. It is, therefore, a good idea to carry both a credit card and a bankcard, so that you will be able to use whichever machine is available.
VISA and MasterCard are commonly accepted and Amex in many places. Most of the time credit card companies add a percentage fee to foreign purchase expenses. We recommend using credit cards for purchases and cash advances considering the convenience and security they offer. However we strongly encourage you to check in advance with your credit card company the exact fees and charges associated with international usage.
The key thing with money while traveling is to always to be prepared for any contingency and not to depend on one mode of payment. Always have a backup keeping some cash in a couple of different places for additional security.
Savvy travelers like to pack as lightly as possible and with careful planning can keep their luggage to a very manageable size. Only pack what you are certain to use- leave the “maybe” at home. Aim for one medium-sized suitcase and a small carry-on bag per person. Try to ensure that your bags do not weigh more than 30 lbs each and avoid really large suitcases.
You will be glad you limited the size and weight of your luggage when you climb off and on trains and buses. Also keep in mind that some hotels and almost all B&B’s have no elevators and that in older establishments the stairs are often steep and narrow. During the course of your tour, your bags might not always be delivered right to your room, and when it is time to move on, you will probably have to carry them to the reception area yourself.
Remember to keep your final package (accommodation & contact list, maps and route descriptions…) and essential clothing with your carry-on luggage on the plane. This will avoid any inconvenience if there are any baggage delays or losses by the airline.
You have several options when it comes to make and receive calls while traveling abroad. We suggest that you evaluate which one is the most appropriate for you before starting your trip. Keep in mind that telephone communications with our staff and Area Manager may only occur in the unlikely event of an emergency or issue.
If you plan to use your own mobile phone and plan we recommend that you directly contact your provider to find out the exact costs and restrictions associated to using them internationally. If you plan to purchase a SIM card locally and use it in your phone, make sure that your phone is unlocked and will accept the new SIM card. Prepaid SIM cards can be bought in newspaper kiosks in the countries where we travel. Some online companies also offer SIM card and cell phone solutions for travelers.
If you travel to Europe it is very likely that you will have to take the train to arrive to the tour area and departure from it. The railway network is extremely developed and offers a great alternative to driving. Trains in Europe are an economical, fast and reliable way to get around.
If you would like to purchase your train tickets in advance, you can do so through your travel agent or via the national railway website of the country you will visit or by contacting Rail Europe at 1-800-361-7245 in Canada and 1-877-257-2887 in the USA or via their website www.raileurope.com. Rail Europe is often more expensive than the national railway websites.
Please note that train schedules are usually not available until 6 months prior to departure.
Czech Republic: www.cd.cz/en
Keep in mind that if you take the train the same day your flight arrives, you might want to consider a refundable or exchangeable ticket in the event your flight or luggage is delayed. You could also buy your ticket directly upon arrival at the train station although this may be more expensive than purchasing in advance. Our last advice, if purchasing or printing your ticket at the train station, is to use the ticket machines rather than the ticket windows (which often have long line-ups). The machines accept credit cards and have English language options.
If you are not familiar with taking the train here are a few essentials:
Some trains, like the French high speed trains TGV, require a reservation (you must purchase your ticket prior to boarding).
Before boarding be sure to “compost” (validate) your train ticket at the designated machine otherwise this will result in a fine.
Your train’s quay number will show on your ticket and on the board above the quay.
For weather forecast and historical weather information we recommend using:
If you are traveling to Europe and coming from North America, the time difference will vary depending on your location but jet lag will be experienced regardless. Here are some tips to avoid suffering from the time difference:
- Drink lots of water before, during, and after your flight.
- The minute you step into the airplane cabin, adopt the hour of the time zone you are traveling to. Reset your watch and start to think according to the new time zone.
- Avoid drinking alcohol or ingesting other depressants, such as Dramamine or other motion-sickness drugs, before, and during your flight.
- Eat more lightly than you are accustomed to before your flight and while you are in the air.
- Daytime naps are okay to take after you arrive, but keep them to 30 minutes or less so they do not interfere with your night-time sleep.
We have made this checklist to help you not forget anything before you leave from home. It is not exhaustive and you may want to add a few things. If some points are unclear, please review the appropriate section of the website to get more information.
I have my passport; it is valid 3 months beyond length of stay.
I have printed my medical and trip insurance documents.
I have some cash and other methods of payment.
I know how to telephone from the trip area.
My final information package is packed in my carry-on luggage.
I know how to get to the trip area and how to depart.
I have the contact of the area manager and the emergency number of Randonnée Tours.
I know where and when I meet the area manager.
I have my cycling/hiking apparel packed (including my helmet if cycling).
I am prepared and equipped for some sun and some rain.
If doing a cycling trip, I know how to repair a flat tire on a bicycle; I have already done it.
I know what to do in case of emergency or accident during the trip.
I have my camera ready to capture special moments and take a chance to win $1500 of trip credit.
I am looking forward to a great experience!