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Don't let the vacation of your dreams turn into a nightmare

By Amy Leap, Pocono Record, Stroudsburg, Pa.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Feb. 05--You are retired and can take the vacation of your dreams. Finally!

For some, it might be a luxurious cruise. For others, perhaps a cabin on the lake or climbing the Eiffel Tower.

No matter what your dream vacation is, you can do things before you go to make sure the dream doesn't turn into a nightmare.

A word of caution

For anyone planning a vacation without the help of a travel agent, you need to keep a few things in mind, said Lisa Payne, travel counselor at AAA North Penn Travel Agency, Stroudsburg.

The thing about planing your vacation from an online company, especially if you are traveling outside the United States, "if you should run into a problem, it can be very difficult to contact the company you booked the trip through," she said.

Also making sure you have the proper travel documents can be tricky.

"If you don't have what you need, you won't be getting on the plane or ship," Payne said.

However, if you are Internet savvy, have previously planned a vacation on your own and are confident you can handle any situation that might arise, it is possible to find great travel packages that include all essential costs, or even all-inclusive deals, which take care of absolutely everything on your itinerary, even meals and drinks.

When to travel

Being retired offers the benefit of traveling at your convenience and taking advantage of the lower prices during the slow season.

"Off-season travel benefits usually include lower rates and often more personalized service due to the smaller number of guests booked during off-season times," Payne said.

Some of the negatives travelers might encounter during the slow season could include: less than perfect weather, closed tourist attractions and renovations.

"It is really a matter of what you are looking for," said Neil Goodrich, also a travel consultant at AAA North Penn Travel Agency.

If you want to have a quieter vacation, then off season may be the perfect choice.

But, if you want to hit all the main attractions and see everything, the slower season is probably not what you want, Goodrich said.

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What to pack

When it comes to clothing, bring less with you and do laundry while on your trip, Payne said.

Several travel wear companies offer mix and match with layers, that can create a variety of outfits.

The U.S. Travel Association recommends getting by on nine to 10 pieces of clothing that include three bottoms, four shirts and two jacket/sweaters.

Wear your sneakers on the plane to reduce bulk and pack no more than two more pair of shoes in your suitcase, suggested the association.

If you wear glasses, carry an extra pair and bring along a magnifying glass to read maps and small print.

It is always good to carry a notebook for jotting down reminders, such as your hotel room number and other information you might need while away.

Before you go

Stop the newspaper and mail and be sure to tell your bank you will be traveling, especially if you are going out of the county, Payne said.

It is also a good idea to have a few interior lights set on timers at different intervals, so it appears someone is in the home, according to consumerreports.org.

You might want to add a temporary daily cash withdrawal limit on your debit card, Payne said.

"That way if you lose it, someone else can't take out all your money," Payne said.

At one time, traveler's checks were popular. You could buy them with cash and use them to pay for every thing in and outside of the United States, but according to Payne, they are seldom used anymore.

"We have a travel debit card that we can issue that is safer than the checks," she said.

Know your options

This time of year, most of the people who sit across the desk from their travel consultant are looking for a warm, sunny place to visit, Payne said.

Clients have to chose whether they want to take a cruise or fly to an island.

Depending on the cruise they choose, it would mean flying out of New York, New Jersey or California, she said.

Not everyone wants to go on a cruise or fly to an island, "and that is perfectly fine," Goodrich said.

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"Whether it is a two-night stay, a trip to Yellowstone National Park or help with a car rental, if you take the time to plan in advance, the outcome will go smoother," he said.

A word about travel insurance

Lisa Payne, traveler counselor at AAA North Penn Travel, said she can't stress enough how important it is for clients to purchase trip insurance.

"What I can't understand is why someone would want to risk losing the entire cost of the trip, just to save money on trip insurance," she said.

Things happen in life. When the trip was booked last year, everything was fine, but a lot can happen in a year, she said.

Payne said if you become ill or injured and have to be flown off the ship, not only will you have the cost of that, but you also lose the entire amount you paid for the trip.

If you are traveling during hurricane season, if you purchase the insurance, you can be refunded your money if the trip is compromised by a storm, according to Payne.

The cost of the insurance is based on the of your trip, but you only need to use it once to appreciate how important it is to have it.

___

(c)2014 the Pocono Record, Stroudsburg, Pa.

Visit the Pocono Record, Stroudsburg, Pa. at http://www.poconorecord.com/

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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