Archive for the ‘Travel Tips’ Category

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Help for the Novice Traveler

Sometimes, members of your mission group are new to overseas travel, or simply haven’t traveled for some time. Here are some ways trip leaders can help team members who are travel novices.

Don’t make assumptions about your team when it comes to their level of travel experience. You probably will have team members who fly only occasionally, or who haven’t flown in a significant period of time. So, early in your team interactions, try to get a feel for each team member’s travel comfort level.

Talk through the travel process with your team. Make sure you address things like luggage weight and size limits, as well as the importance of making sure the gate agent puts the right tag on the bags. Explain the security screening process and the need to keep liquids in three-ounce containers inside a clear, quart-sized, plastic bag. Also discuss the boarding process.

Have a travel interruption contingency plan, especially if your team isn’t traveling in one group. You should have this plan even if you have a team of experienced travelers. For the infrequent flyer, this is vital.

Discuss what to do if a flight is canceled or delayed (see our past blog posts on Dealing with Airline Gate Agents and Avoiding Weather Delays for tips). If you purchase travel insurance through Ministry Travel, make sure that your team has the policy information and contact numbers. This insurance usually covers trip interruptions and provides 24-hour travel assistance.

Enlist travel buddies, especially for older travelers or those who are nervous about flying. Pair a team member who is an experienced traveler with someone who is not.

Explain how passport control and customs work, both for the country you are traveling to and for the U.S. on your return. These tips will help you greatly improve the rookie traveler’s experience.

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Essential Travel Gadgets

If there’s one thing that modern travelers can’t live without, what would it be? Not their clothes, maps, guidebooks or backpacks. No, it would be the gadgets and gizmos that they bring with them, the iPods, digital cameras and GPS trackers. Some can be very useful on your travels.

Consider using these for your next international trip:

The hardworking multi-tool: Essential on any outdoorsy trip and even in indoor situations, a multi-tool is handy in a multitude of situations. The Swiss Army knife has blades, scissors, bottle and can openers, screwdrivers, tweezers, toothpick, nail file and hook, among other accessories.

The illuminating flashlight: A flashlight is indispensable to your travels. LED flashlights are small, light, powerful and battery-efficient.

The secure money clip: Leave the wallet at home. Bulky, flashy and a magnet for pickpockets, chunky wallets and fat purses are no help to the gadget traveler. Instead, use a money clip, which is slimmer and more secure. You can keep your cash in the front instead of the back pocket, reducing the risk of falling prey to thieves.

The handy adapter and power strip: When you’re jumping continents, keeping track of which adapter to use in which country can be a nightmare. Pack a universal international adapter that will let you access power points all over the world, and a power strip with at least three outlets. Look for a surge protector that also has USB jacks that can be used to charge iPods or mobile phones.

The healing first aid kit: First aid kits are a must for travelers. Even though every traveler hopes for the best, it’s best to prepare for the worst. Travel first aid kits don’t just provide bandages, painkillers and anti-bacterial creams; they also supply you with useful-in-a-pinch items like safety pins, rubber gloves, sterilized wipes and tape.

So along with the iPod, make sure you include these great gadgets on your next trip. You will be glad you did!

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Insurance Helps You Face the Unexpected

Halfway through your trip home you hear news that the mechanics for the airline you are flying have gone on strike. Now you’re stuck in an airport with your team. What do you do?

If you had taken out travel insurance, then your hotel expenses, meals and some miscellaneous expenses would be covered. What if a volcano erupts and impacts your trip? Travel insurance can cover that as well.

While some might consider travel insurance a luxury item, savvy travelers know the importance of being protected. In fact, many international missions and relief agencies require their staff to carry insurance any time they leave the country. The risks of not having insurance are too great, especially when you’re traveling with a team.

Good insurance includes medical assistance, with 24-7 access to doctors who can advise you in case of an illness or injury. It will also provide emergency medical evacuation and other services that could easy cost tens of thousands of dollars without insurance.

Beyond the tangible benefits, there are a lot of intangibles. In fact, providing insurance for your short-term teams is an effective marketing tool. With global terrorism and natural disasters like earthquakes and volcanoes, many people are hesitant about international travel. Others are concerned about getting sick abroad. Knowing that their trip includes comprehensive travel and medical insurance often gives them the peace of mind they need to join your team.

Terrorism coverage is now included in many policies, covering cancellation costs should an act of terrorism occur in a city you are flying to or through. If you are delayed from volcanic ash, insurance can be a financial life-saver. During the ash-caused flight interruptions in Europe in 2010, for example, we had some clients delayed 12 days. That was 12 days of unexpected expenses for lodging and meals!

Here are some tips for when you do take out insurance:

  • First, read over your policy to make sure you thoroughly understand it.
  • Second, make sure all your team members have the policy number and travel assistance phone numbers, as well as an outline of coverage.
  • Finally, contact the company immediately for guidance should your trip be delayed or canceled, or if your bags are lost or stolen.

For more information about travel insurance, as well as answers to frequently asked questions, check out the insurance page on our website.

By securing travel insurance when you make your flight arrangements, you may save yourself or your organization a lot of headaches down the road.

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Help for the Novice Traveler

Sometimes, members of your mission group are new to overseas travel, or simply haven’t traveled for some time. Here are some ways trip leaders can help team members who are travel novices.

Don’t make assumptions about your team when it comes to their level of travel experience. You probably will have team members who fly only occasionally, or who haven’t flown in a significant period of time. So, early in your team interactions, try to get a feel for each team member’s travel comfort level.

airport screeningTalk through the travel process with your team. Make sure you address things like luggage weight and size limits, as well as the importance of making sure the gate agent puts the right tag on the bags. Explain the security screening process and the need to keep liquids in three-ounce containers inside a clear, quart-sized, plastic bag. Also discuss the boarding process.

Have a travel interruption contingency plan, especially if your team isn’t traveling in one group. You should have this plan even if you have a team of experienced travelers. For the infrequent flyer, this is vital.

Discuss what to do if a flight is canceled or delayed (see our past blog posts on Dealing with Airline Gate Agents and Avoiding Weather Delays for tips). If you purchase travel insurance through Ministry Travel, make sure that your team has the policy information and contact numbers. This insurance usually covers trip interruptions and provides 24-hour travel assistance.

Enlist travel buddies, especially for older travelers or those who are nervous about flying. Pair a team member who is an experienced traveler with someone who is not.

Explain how passport control and customs work, both for the country you are traveling to and for the U.S. on your return. These tips will help you greatly improve the rookie traveler’s experience.

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Check Your Health Before You Check Your Luggage

Before starting a long trip — especially a trip overseas — it’s important to take time to consider your health. In the coming months, we will be publishing excerpts from the book Healthy Travel by Michael P. Zimring, M.D., and Lisa Iannucci. Dr. Zimring is an internist and Medical Director for the Center of Wilderness and Travel Medicine at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD.

The book provides a comprehensive look at staying healthy while traveling: everything from stockpiling prescription medications and dealing with jet lag to handling medical emergencies away from home. Here is some good information from Chapter One, “A Pre-Trip Checkup.”

About six weeks before departure, you, your spouse, and your children — anyone who will be traveling — should have a medical checkup. This is especially important if you are traveling internationally, if you have any pre-existing medical conditions including heart disease, hypertension, or any other chronic condition, or if you have recently had surgery or a heart attack.

For trips outside the United States, you should also visit a travel clinic. Your physician might not be up-to-date on conditions around the globe. The travel physician will assess your current health and immunization status in light of risks you may face at your destination(s). After completing the assessment, the travel physician will recommend any immunizations or preventive medications you may need, as well as suggest treatments for minor illnesses, such as traveler’s diarrhea, that you may encounter.

In addition, a full-service travel clinic can make emergency arrangements so that you have someone to call if you should develop a serious medical problem or injury while traveling. Find a searchable list of travel clinics near you here.

In our next post, we will discuss researching your destination, purchasing travel health insurance and managing your medications.

Michael P. Zimring, M.D., is an internist with more than 30 years of experience in internal medicine and primary care. In addition to his private practice, he is Medical Director for the Center for Wilderness and Travel Medicine at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD, and serves as Regional Medical Adviser to Medex Assistance, a company that coordinates care for travelers to foreign countries.

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Use Timeline, Checklist to Plan 2012 Trips

Next summer’s mission trip abroad will be much more successful and enjoyable if you start planning right now, and follow a careful timeline. Travelers who plan ahead and allow sufficient time for paperwork to be processed find fewer inconveniences and unwelcome surprises along the way.

For best preparation, follow this timeline to get ready for your trip.

Six to nine months ahead

Book air travel: This is the time to confirm your travel details with your destination office. Contact Ministry Travel so we can obtain the best airfare and other rates for your group. Discuss your needs for travel insurance with your agent.

Pay deposits: Your agent will provide specific details for your group, but deposits will be required not long after reservations are made. Refund terms vary depending on whether payment was made by check or credit card.

Review visa requirements: Your Ministry Travel agent will advise you how to determine the visa requirements for the country or countries you plan to visit, and assist you in obtaining any necessary documents.

Determine immunization requirements: Check with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find out the most current immunization requirements for the country or countries you plan to visit. Then, receive the required immunizations. Check with your physician about whether you should update your tetanus, polio and other standard vaccines as well. Obtain proof of all immunizations for the visa process.

The CDC provides information and printable forms for recording what vaccines were received and when.

Four to six months ahead

Apply for visas. Complete visa applications and gather signed passports and photos for submission. The U.S. State Department’s website provides detailed visa information, searchable by country.

Two to three months ahead

Submit final list of travel group. The airline will want a final list of the members of your group several months before departure. This will vary depending on the destination and the airline. Also, remember that the names on the list must be identical to the names on their passports.

Update group members. This is the time to remind fellow travelers of the due date for the balance of the trip expense and the final amount due. Double check the names on tickets and itineraries for accuracy, and contact us at Ministry Travel if there are any discrepancies. Also, if you have not bought travel insurance for this trip, you may still do so. Your agent can explain the various options available to you.

Consider baggage regulations. Check with your airline or agent about current baggage rules and regulations. You need to know what is allowed for free and what additional baggage charges will be. In addition, it’s good to know about restrictions on imports, so you don’t bring anything with you that is not allowed into the country you are visiting.

Two weeks ahead

Check in with field office. This is the time to check with those at your destination about who is meeting your group at the airport, and obtain phone numbers for your contacts there, in case of emergency. In a safe place, record the addresses and phone numbers of the American embassies or consulates in the nations you are visiting. You can find a list here.

Double check credentials. It’s important to make sure everyone in your group has passport and visas, plane tickets, immunization records, a copy of the passport in case of loss or theft, and any applicable missionary credentials.

One week ahead

Secure transportation to the airport. Make sure your plans allow adequate time for traffic delays and airline check-in — note that international flight check-in takes longer than domestic check-in — and adequate space in the vehicles for everyone’s luggage.

Three days ahead

Confirm flight plans. Call the airlines to confirm flights for departure and return.

Day of departure

Final credential check: Before heading to the airport, make sure every passenger has his or her airline tickets, passport, visas, medical documentation and other necessary credentials for foreign travel. Check to see that all luggage is properly identified.

 

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

The Mission Trip Countdown

It’s the moment of truth: What originally seemed so far away has finally arrived. The calendar says you’re just days away from leaving on your short-term mission trip.

Those final few days can either be filled with stress, or they can be enjoyable as you anticipate the experience. The difference is often determined by how you tackle that final week. Here are some practical tips to help you make the most of the days leading up to your international mission trip.

Create a preparation list. Start working through it the final two weeks before your trip. This is a list of everything that needs to be done before you go. It includes actions such as scheduling lawn care, arranging pet boarding, paying bills, withdrawing cash from the bank, stopping the mail and, of course, packing. Try to get as many of these tasks done early, so you have time to handle any unplanned issues that might arise.

us passportBegin preliminary packing. Start early, at least a week before departure. For me, this begins with laundry. I find it easier to plan the trip wardrobe if I can see all of my clothes either hanging up in the closet or folded in dresser drawers. I then create a mission trip staging area — usually a corner of the bedroom — where I can assemble the clothes and other articles I will take. My passport is always one of the first items that go into the staging area.

Work from a packing list. Check the items off the list once when you put them in your staging area, and then again when you actually place them into your luggage. Inevitably there are things on the list that you realize you don’t have. Starting your packing early allows time to purchase those items without feeling rushed.

Finish packing several days before departure. Remember that packing often takes longer than we expect. Completely pack your suitcase and have it ready to go. Also, be sure to luggageweigh your suitcase to make sure it fits within airline requirements.

Overweight and extra bag fees can run into the hundreds of dollars on international flights. Your carry-on bag should be mostly packed by this time, with the exception of any medicines or last-minute items.

Schedule extra family time. This may mean lunch with your spouse or a special activity with your children. Your family will appreciate this, and it will ease the burden of you leaving.

What often happens before a mission trip is that the traveler is preoccupied, rushing to tie up loose ends, and thus spends even less time with family. Emotionally, this is the equivalent of being gone an extra week. By preparing ahead, you can reduce the stress on your family and make the time before your trip more meaningful.

praying handsPrepare spiritually as well as physically. Carve out some personal prayer time, enlist a prayer team and don’t neglect daily Bible reading. These activities also help reduce stress and enable you to keep the trip in perspective.

Review travel details carefully. In the final few days before departure, review all the information for your trip, paying close attention to departure times, airport instructions, meeting locations and so on. Make sure that you have your team leader’s cell phone number, in case there are any problems the day you leave. If you are the team leader, be sure you have each team member’s phone number and that everyone knows when and where to meet that day.

Information review also means checking the conditions at your destination as well as any places through which you will be traveling. Are there any weather concerns that could impact your travel? Are there any new security or safety issues?

Assess current situation at your destination. It is always good to check the travel section of the U.S. State Department’s website right before a trip. At the site, find your destination country and look for the link to recent embassy notices. Next, click on the link for warden messages. These will be the latest updates from embassy officials about any travel concerns.

airport check-inPrint out your boarding pass. You can reduce stress by printing out your boarding pass 24 hours before departure. This saves time at the airport and can make your check-in process much smoother. International flights typically are larger planes carrying a significant number of passengers, so the check-in lines for these flights can get quite long.

Will the week before your next mission trip be enjoyable or stressful? Much of that depends on how well you plan and how early you begin your preparations. By incorporating these tips into the final days before your trip, you will experience less stress and be better prepared for the incredible adventure of international ministry.

______________________________

Frank Banfill is president of MaxPoint Ministries and regularly leads mission teams. His work has taken him across six continents. He writes on behalf of Ministry Travel, the world’s source for missionary travel.

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Storms Impact Mission Teams–What to Do If It Happens to You

Heavy rains and flooding in Central America over the past few days have short-term mission teams there scrambling to adjust. Mission Network News (MNN) is reporting on one short-term mission team in Guatemala that was stuck in the storm and unable to continue the medical clinics it was conducting. The rains were so bad that people could not get to their clinics, and washed out roads made team travel difficult.

On Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City issued an emergency message to U.S. citizens advising against all in-country travel until the weather improves and landslides are cleared. “The recent heavy rains mean that water saturation in the mountains is high and more landslides could occur,” said the advisory.

Honduras has issued a “state of red alert” according to the British Foreign Office. The situation there is similar to Guatemala with travel also disrupted by landslides and flooding. Reuters is reporting 81 people dead and thousands of people have abandoned their homes across Central America. In El Salvador, more than 13,000 people were forced to flee the rising waters. Humanitarian groups there are concerned about long-term food supplies as the floods have wiped out much of this season’s harvest.

What should you do if you are on a short term mission trip and your ministry team faces natural or other disasters? First, make sure that you get good information. That starts before you go by registering your team with the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at http://bit.ly/ptDdL9. This will enable the local U.S. embassy to get in touch with you in case of an emergency or advisory condition. Also, monitor local news and stay in touch with local authorities for information about road closings.

Second, don’t take chances. Roads in developing countries can be treacherous under normal conditions let alone during severe storms. Also, many of these nations do not have the resources to quickly respond to multiple emergencies and road closures. It often is better to extend your trip a couple days and allow for the situation to stabilize. If you do that, however, be sure to contact your Ministry Travel agent so that we can notify the airlines and work on re-booking you. Failure to do so may result in losing the entire value of your ticket.

Finally, look for ways to serve in the midst of the crisis. In the case of the Guatemalan medical team, a hospital near where they were stranded asked for their assistance. Flexibility is always important for these trips, especially when hit by unforeseen events such as severe weather.

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Preparing Mission Teams for 2012 Airfare Increases

The continued soft global economy has airlines cutting flights and raising prices, and that could have a major impact on missions teams and their 2012 budgets. In addition, with the Olympics coming to London next year (a major transfer airport for missionary teams) airline prices are being driven up even more.

USAToday reported that airfares rose in the U.S. nearly 10% for the 12 months ending in August compared to the previous 12 months, and the major U.S. airlines will cut capacity 2%-4% next year. This means 2012 airfares could go up even more. Baggage and miscellaneous airline fees are also on the rise.

In addition to fare increases, travelers can expect tax increases in 2012, especially on international trips. The White House has proposed travel tax increases, the UK is threatening increases, and various individual countries have already raised their taxes. Bulgaria, for example, just raised one of their travel taxes by 8%.

What does all of this mean to the mission traveler? Here are four things to keep in mind:

You can’t use last year’s mission trip budget. If you base your 2012 trips on what you paid for your 2011 trips you can expect to be greatly disappointed. Instead of guessing, call us and let us give you a no-obligation quote so that you can work with realistic numbers.

You may need to alter your trip dates. It is always true that flexible travel dates often lead to substantial savings; this is especially the case for 2012.

Consider alternate airlines. Some frequent missionary travelers have their favorite airlines and will stick with them even if they have to pay a little more. In 2012, however, you could be paying a lot more. Be open to considering other airlines. Your Ministry Travel agent can give you all the details and let you make apples to apples comparison of airlines.

Watch the luggage weight. It is reported that some airlines are charging as much as $450 for overweight bags on international flights. Pay attention to the airline weight rules and know that if your trip involves different airlines, there may be different weight restrictions. This is especially true if you are transferring to smaller regional or national airlines. For example, with certain tickets a team traveling to Tanzania from the U.S. can have three 50-pound bags, but if they take an in-country flight the national airline limits them to one 44-pound bag. Again, contact us for details on luggage rules and for information on our special tickets that allow for free extra bags.

As always, the earlier you can plan your trips and purchase your tickets the better off you will be, especially going into a volatile 2012. Contact Ministry Travel today at 1-877-541-5726 or www.ministrytravel.com and find out about our airfare discounts for your 2012 international mission trips.

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

A Shout-Out from a Missions Newbie

It is easy when you do something all the time to assume that everyone else knows how to do the same thing, when they really don’t.

Take travel, for example.

For those of us in the business, navigating complex itineraries, adjusting to airline changes and enduring airport security screenings are old hat. It is easy to forget that most people travel very little, and many have never traveled internationally. At Ministry Travel, however, we strive to treat every client with care remembering that many of our clients come to us as travel novices.

So it is exciting when we hear back from “newbies” about their first ever mission trip and we enjoyed reading on our Facebook page Ric’s story about his first trip:

A big shout-out to Ministry Travel for their help in making our first foreign mission trip a breeze…Arriving in Nairobi late in the evening and looking at this lively metropolitan city of a few million people, I said to myself, ‘this is not going to be too bad’. This was, of course, before the 10 hour bus ride across the Kenya countryside getting to our final destination of Mumias, Kenya. What a ride. We started our pastor and leaders conference…then were able to travel to six village churches and share God’s precious word. We were able to hand out over 300 Bibles and make a large donation to help with several orphanages…TO GOD BE THE GLORY!

We appreciate Ric’s compliments, but most of all, we appreciate the fact that another person had the opportunity to experience international missions first-hand. Ric is already preparing for his next trip. He wrote, “The Story doesn’t end there, it’s only beginning. That was the first mission trip; we now are gearing up for a trip this year into India.”

Whether you are like Ric and preparing for your first-ever mission trip, or you are a seasoned pro, Ministry Travel looks forward to helping you! We not only provide discounted flights for missionaries, but we help you sort through the maze of international travel. Contact us today on the web at www.ministrytravel.com or by phone at 1-877-541-5726.