Heading Abroad with Adventures For Solo travelers general trip information.
What are our trips like?
Here’s a brief overview of what to expect on our tours in general.
All trips vary greatly. We focus on a lot of cultural exposure. The detailed daily itineraries provided on our website and are written by Suzy a year in advance. For the most part, they are accurate, but occasionally they can be modified or changed.
Things differ in foreign countries. Outside of America places are not like home. (Perhaps no wash cloths, A/C. smaller rooms, no butter with bread, only one salad dressing and more.) Therein lies the joy and humor in the essence of travel as we escape from home. Inconveniences or less amenities for us are replaced with greater elements we seek like breathtaking scenery, stunning architecture, the friendliest locals and unforgettable experiences not found at home. Travel abroad always requires an open mind, a flexible attitude and an adventurous spirit. We love intrepid tourists who are willing to embrace the unpredictability and exoticism of foreign lands. The purpose of this journey is to have fun, explore, get great photos, make new friends and return home safely with memories always worthy of recollection. Let us be like Darwin’s finches, able to adapt where ever the wind blows.
Our experience over the years reveals some are not equipped to cope with travel in developing 3rd world countries. For them, it is best to tour America and Europe. Please choose your destinations wisely according to your needs and do some personal research on the country in advance.
Trip Preparation – Make a copy of your passport and travel documents to keep separate in your carry-on or with someone at home. It is wise to tape your name/address inside your luggage. Check your passport twice! Ensure it is valid 6 months after you return home. You must keep 2 pages blank for visas. If a country we visit requires a visa, we’ll inform you of the details. It’s your responsibility to obtain.
US citizens can find if they need a visa in 30 seconds here…
Trip-specific information is always given via Trip Tips. All trip tips are usually completed by late January. After you book a trip, log into site go to itinerary to see the Trip Tip tab. All important updates are emailed to the group and then posted in the trip tips.
Buy a portable phone charger and get free juice on the go. If you don’t have one, look for USB ports behind hotel TVs and airplane seats.
Backup everything. Take photos of your passport, credit cards (both sides), travel insurance, etc. and email them to yourself or save them to Evernote, Dropbox or Google Drive.
Special dietary needs – If you are vegan, gluten-free, have unusual allergies whatever, we will do our best to accommodate. Know that some countries are better suited accommodating this than others Ultimately it’s your responsibility.
Our trips can be active. You’re responsible to inform on your booking form of any special accommodations or limitations you may have participating in our daily activities. In tropical places, always protect electronics in Hefty Ziplock bag.
Take out all your wallet items like credit and bank cards. Write down on paper each card number and toll-free collect phone numbers. Then take photo of the page. Store in Dropbox or iCloud, etc. If wallet is stolen, you’ll have easy access to all the numbers.
Be Smart“ Change passwords often. Check device security settings before you leave for your trip. Back up, update and encrypt your devices and data using a virtual VPN. It’s worth the cost. In hotel room, hide iPad or laptop to avoid “evil maids” that want to clone your tech.
Money: Avoid using ATM unless it’s an emergency. If you must use an ATM, use them at airport or banks. Credit cards far safer than your debit card. I know $300 cash is plenty of money for a week for me. I convert half of it upon entry. I use my credit card for most purchases. Many cards now offer no foreign transaction fees.
Must-have Apps – Mobile Passport – to breeze through US Customs on return. Google Maps – to find virtually anything around the world. Google Translate is pretty cool to talk to locals.
For poor countries and parts of Africa – Please note some countries have poor infrastructure, unpaved roads, no A/C etc. If you cannot handle such simple inconveniences, please do not sign up for that trip. Our experience over the years reveals some are travelers not equipped to cope with travel in developing Third World countries. For them, it is best to tour America and Europe. Please choose your destinations wisely according to your needs and do some personal research on the country in advance. If visiting remote countries, we encourage you to register free with the State Dept. in case of emergency. Google “Smart Traveler Enrollment Program” (STEP).
GTL – “Gracious Trip Leader” They are not guides. You’ll have nationally licensed guides on all our trips. The GTL is your liaison to local staff and the group. They all have been on many AFS trips and are well briefed on the destination. Read their bio we email you or see on the web under About Us. Please be cooperative and offer to assist him or her.
Group Air – You may need to arrange own domestic add-on air. The recent travel trend suggests waiting 60 to 90 days prior to get air from hometown when the international schedule is more secure and less likely to change. When reserving a group air seat and later canceling, incurs a $100 penalty to cover the cost of our airline penalty.
Group air tickets are now electronic, you will only get a number emailed to you. Airlines do not provide individual receipts for groups. All you need do is present your passport at check-in to get your boarding pass. Show your valid passport to gate agent to get your boarding pass. Then go through security to meet group at gate. It is recommended that you print a copy of the e-ticket and bring with you. In some remote countries, they may ask for it. It’s best to have it just in case.
Most airlines will not assign seats in advance for groups and they usually are not upgradeable. AFS has no pull getting seats. If you must fly business class buy your own air directly with the airline and meet the group on arrival. Understand international business class seats are expensive.
Meeting the group You may see some fellow group members at the ticket counter, but more likely at the gate. Look for your trip leader with AFS badge at the gate as they will also be looking for you. By this time most people will have gathered together. On arrival, a person with AFS will welcome group outside of customs. (Don’t stress, we never lost anyone ever!)
Land only – Those doing their own air may meet the group en route or at hotel. If you are able to meet the group on arrival you are welcome to use the group’s airport transfer. Understand it is up to you to find the group. AFS cannot look or hold the group waiting for you. We do not provide personal transfers.
Adding to Trip – We meticulously design itineraries packed with local tours and activities. When there is free time, your GTL and your guides will offer plenty of suggestions. Sometimes clients want us to do this for them on an individual basis prior to departure. We ask that you google such and arrange this for yourself on arrival where locals can assist you best with their expertise.
Others may add pre or post-trip extensions to other cities or countries with our trip. You are welcome to arrange this on your own. We are not Travel Agents so do not have the tools, nor time to work with individuals. Our concentration must be focused on the trip itinerary presented for the entire group. Thank you for your understanding.
If you go early and check-in AFS hotel before group arrives, it’s your responsibility to change rooms with your roommate if necessary day one when trip begins.
Packing – Do not overpack! Pack light and comfortable. AFS luggage is usually limited to 1 large suitcase & 1 carry-on. Most carriers now limit baggage to 50lbs max per checked suitcase. They may charge you more for any additional weight (see specific airline websites for rules.) Be mindful of this with connections to your international flight. 3oz liquids in carry-on, other liquids in suitcase.
Allow space for souvenirs or pack an expandable nylon bag for your return flight. Your clothes haven’t been seen by others, so you don’t need many. Comfortable shoes are essential. [Faux your own good-ladies no expensive jewelry. Fabulous fakes travel beautifully.] Do not lock your suitcase. TSA and handlers can still open. (You may use luggage locks in your hotel room.)
Packing 101 Visit weather.com we week prior departure. For up to date currency rates see xe.com. Prepare all your gadgets, phone, iPad, chargers, foreign plugs etc.
- Always include an extra outfit with undergarments in your carry-on in case bag delayed on arrival.
- Go with neutral colors to mix and match. A good rule is to have three tops for every bottom.
- Chose light clothing. Denim is heavy and takes forever to dry.
- Know that laundry is available everywhere from remote places to the poorest countries.
- Studies prove that rolling clothes around socks minimizes wrinkles. Place rolls in packing cubes.
- Always bring a weather-resistant jacket in prep for any changes of weather.
- Electric needs – Most hotels have hair dryers. It’s wise to get a worldwide outlet adapter that will fit 150 different countries. If you’re a techie with many items (cell phone, iPod, laptop, camera etc.) Your laptop, cell phone, digital camera, tablet, and shaver do not need a converter. They automatically convert and need only the proper plug adaptor. For iPads, however, check your charger as there are different versions. How to find info for any specific appliance? The input specs appear on the appliance or charge next to model number. Our electric gadgets today are dual voltage. Don’t forget your USB charging cables or mini power strip with the correct wall plug adaptor.
- Adaptors or plugs. There are various shapes of 2 or 3 prong plugs to fit sockets, Walmart and Amazon, etc. have worldwide sets. See http://electricaloutlet.org for more details.
Meds – Travelers can diminish diarrhea risk through scrupulous washing of hands and use of hand sanitizers, especially before food preparation and eating. The greatest risk of traveler’s diarrhea is from contaminated food. Choose foods and beverages carefully to lower your risk. Eat only food that is cooked and served hot; avoid food that has been sitting on a buffet. Eat raw fruits and vegetables only if you have washed them in clean water or peeled them. Drink only beverages from factory-sealed containers and avoid ice (because it may have been made from unclean water). Bring Imodium.
Phone – Unless urgent, never make calls from the room or cruise ship. Use your cell phone, but check your carrier for coverage and rates. International data roaming can be very expensive. Use Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or Text.
Prepaid Gratuities – Please note that tips are not included, but are added to your final invoice for ease of distribution. This includes all guides, drivers, porters, airport transfers, some group meals, etc.
A tip is a gift and a bit complex to include in our tour price. We strive to procure the absolute top quality registered guides and drivers in each destination who are licensed and recommended by the tourist boards. Some are so good, we request them over and over repeatedly. Discretionary tips ensure a good relationship between our group and these local professionals and encourage good service. If service is poor, no tip is warranted (This is extremely rare.) More often, these people go beyond their call of duty to make the entire group happy and the service is exceptional. Many times, I’ve witnessed a coach driver load our 60 pieces of luggage, work an 11 hour day driving in poor conditions on difficult roads, yet mindful of our tight daily schedule. They deserve the greatest reward for their effort as our lives are in their hands and gratuities are a major part of their income. They have, however, often been ignored or forgotten by individuals in our groups and so we’ve implemented a very fair system of compensating them. Each day your GTL will distribute accordingly as sometimes we have as many as 3 different guides/drivers in one day.
It was our past groups that urged us to use a pre-pay system similar to the cruiseline industry. They found this provided them an easier vacation by avoiding the hassles of daily collections. (With some small groups, we may not collect in advance. If so, we’ ask you to bring an envelope with your name on it to present to your GTL on day one of the trip. Then your GTL will distribute gratuities following minimum industry guidelines accordingly.)
International gratuity protocols now average $8 to $12 per day per person for full-day guide or $5 half days. Drivers average $2 to $6 per person per person per day. Amounts vary accordingly to the length of tour and regions of the world. This is added to your invoice for your convenience.
Personal tipping – If you found a service exceptional, please be generous and directly tip an additional amount. Bring an envelope of US one-dollar bills. For any personal services, tip accordingly on your own. Also please leave a $1 for all group dinners included on tour. After all, the only thing we American travelers leave behind is our reputation.
Departure –Call your bank and credit card companies to tell them that you are traveling overseas or you may find yourself without access to your funds abroad. Turn down heat/AC. Cancel all deliveries or make arrangements with neighbors. Change voicemail. Unplug excess electrical devices. Leave contact info with family. Recheck passport, tips and money. Attach bag tags with your name on to all bags including carry-on. Include note INSIDE suitcase of arrival city and hotel name. Arrive at airport a minimum 2-3 hours early to clear security and relax before departure.
Prepare for your Long Haul Flight – How I love airplanes. The longer flight the better for me. Equipped with my kindle and my feedbag, I’m in Zen mode. After watching several new movies, I pop a Unisom and sleep – movie, nap, eat, repeat! Eastbound hits me worse than west, but we’re all different and must adjust our attitudes to “what is” in prep for the joys ahead. On long flights, you may want to break up the journey with stopovers, free on many airlines. (Eg. LA-Fiji-Sydney or San Fran-Tokyo-Singapore.). For flight arrivals late at night or early morning, always book an airport hotel room with free shuttle to sleep. Then Uber or taxi the next day to meet up with the group.
Enroute – To combat jet lag; sleep in-flight, hydrate with endless juice and water, pack amenities kit of eye mask, slippers, inflatable pillow, moisturizer, Chapstick, eye drops, etc. (Check TSA website). I bring snacks, peanut butter, neck wrap and the new Foot Hammock. Take an aspirin and be sure to move around to keep your blood flowing.
Inflight, try to keep your legs elevated and walk aisles when carts are clear. Over the counter sleeping pills work well. On arrival get natural outdoor light and set your body clock (and watch) to local time. If you nap, set an alarm. I can always identify inexperienced travelers because they wear shorts and t-shirts on long-haul flights. Don’t make this mistake. Cabin temps are kept cold to prevent hypoxia. Your body temp will drop, wear long pants and have long sleeve shirt available. You won’t be sorry.
Arrival – Follow the AFS leader through customs, baggage and transport. Group porterage usually includes only 1 large suitcase per person from the motorcoach to lobby, airport, etc. You transport your carry-on. If you need your wheeled suitcase portered to your room, tip $1.
For money, always convert on arrival. Do not order foreign currency in advance. You can, but it costs more to do so. ATM’s tend to give the best rate on withdrawal, however, you should check with your bank for their foreign transaction fees. To save money, limit the number of times you use ATM. Multiple ATM transaction fees can get expensive. Traveler’s Checks are nearly obsolete now. Bring 2 major credit cards and small denominations of US cash. Use currency app on phone.
Leave your passport in room or locked in the hotel safe.
Hotels – Nearly all hotels are First Class to Deluxe (4 to 5 stars), yet levels of sophistication vary per country. The hospitality of foreign hotels is centuries old, each reflected with unique traditions and standards. Comfortable, clean, yet not as modern and the rooms tend to be smaller. Due to high occupancy rate, most European hotels do not allow check-in until 2pm. Yet will accommodate groups if possible. At the hotel, please wait patiently as our escort gathers room keys to distribute. Never leave your bags unattended. Check any valuables in safe deposit box or at the front desk.
Roomies – Overall, AFS has had great success matching. You’re only in the room to sleep. Courtesy is contagious. Please be respectful of the other’s privacy. We require a no smoking policy for room sharing unless both parties smoke. This applies to vaping too. Also, please don’t gossip. “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss others.” We all live alone, but when we travel we share space in order to save money from the dreadful single supplement. Try to understand this is temporal, only at night. I spend days on each trip trying to successfully match roommates, as I know most of our clients. Many become close friends. Others remain independent but courteous. In our large groups, you’ll find many personalities to choose from. Hang with those who are similar to you. You can befriend others to share your daytime activities with. At night back in your room, give your roommate space and respect their boundaries just as you’d like them to do for you. Kindness begets kindness. In the vast sea of humanity, understand that everyone desires to be a rational, reasonable decent person. Look for their similarities rather than any differences and communicate any of your specific needs. This creates an optimum vacation experience for all.
“But I Want A Single Room!” – You can pay the dreaded single supplement, but why not put it towards something to buy to remember your trip by? AFS always books nice properties. The days are so busy touring and the lodge or hotel is only a place to sleep at night. You needn’t spend the day with roommate at meals, tours, events if you so choose. – just the room at night. Look at your “roomie” as part of your adventure. It’s not only cost reduction, but it can add companionship. It’s nice to have someone to talk to and share experiences at the end of your day and a safety factor (the roommate will miss me if I get lost, etc.) We’ve seen many roommates end up as valuable friends. If not friends, it’s a lesson in tolerance for us. The fact that both of you selected the same destination is a good initial indication that you have some interests and traits in common (Madagascar vs Paris).
It’s rare but, snoring can be an issue. You may not know it, so we cannot police this. (I do know by experience that nearly everyone snores the first night abroad from jet lag after the long flight.) If you know you’re a prodigious snorer, you should buy a single room. In the least, you should retire after your roommate is asleep. Consider asking hotel for your own room on the spot. Please purchase an anti-snoring mouthguard around $20 on Amazon! To the snoree – The group has pity on. Earplugs, sleeping med and MP3 player can do wonders. Then again, if you’re a very light sleeper, you should request a single upon booking.
After final payments are in and group is set, email your roommate or connect on the group private Facebook page to get to know each other before departure.
On Tour –AFS loves courteous clients who are ON TIME as not to hold up the group. Wakeup calls given, but some hotels are not always reliable. It is wise to us cell phone alarm clock as backup.
Group meals are usually “fixed menu” but advise if special dietary needs. Alcoholic beverages are usually not included. Please leave a small tip for the staff ($1 to 2). Dining is different abroad. Do not expect ice in drinks, butter with bread, refills on coffee, a choice in salad dressing and rarely can you get tap water with a meal.’
On motorcoach and we encourage a seat rotation system.
Be the Kind of Tourist Our Guide’s Love! Tour guides certainly don’t enjoy the whiny travelers who complain about the rain, the cell phone addict who takes endless selfies or the wanderers who get lost. Be a good citizen/Team Player. When a group works together, things go smoothly for all – we are on this adventure together. Be on Time. Come prepared. Dress appropriately for the weather in comfy shoes and bring a water bottle. Engage. Guides who sense their group is uninterested will go on autopilot and downgrade the tour experience for all. Ask questions. Laugh at their corny jokes. Gather close so they don’t have to shout. Conversely, don’t be an “AFS Guide Hog” asking endless questions as if you’re on a private tour. Consider the group size and make compromises. Yes, your guide knows all the hot cafes, bars, and local joints. Set Boundaries. At mealtimes, allow guide space to dine alone and not be bombarded with questions.
At Leisure – Blend in with locals. Grab a hotel business card and keep this info on you. It helps when dealing with cab drivers that can’t speak English. Don’t go out alone late at night. Take a pic of the hotel for an instant reminder. Use public transportation (Metro, rail, bus.) With taxis, use licensed metered cab or set price prior to departure. Ask the locals and hotel desk how to get around by city buses, underground or use ride-sharing apps.
Shopping – Use credit cards and don’t hesitate to bargain. $1200 duty-free limit for most countries. See tour escort for advice on this and VAT refund.
Dining – Ask where locals eat for better value and atmosphere.
Learn – Be patient with locals. Ask questions, most are eager to help foreigners. English is spoken in most places; please remember it is not their first language. Speak slowly and over-enunciate your words. You’ll get a better response to your questions if they can understand you. Remember, kindness begets kindness! Learn how to say hello, please and thank you.
Dress – Modesty always at religious sites (arms and legs covered for ladies, no tank tops for men.) Respect their culture!
Departure – Be a detective at hotel checkout. Open each drawer, look under the bed, empty room safe, etc. Rid all foreign currency by the last day. Foreign coins are useless to exchange back home.
We have found award miles are sometimes not awarded for group tickets. To try and claim you must give your number to the boarding agent at ticketing (AFS is unable to add for you.) Save all boarding passes and tickets stubs for 4 months after return. You may or may not get mileage credit.
Please share your “people photos” with all by Shutterfly.com, Facebook or similar. Keep in touch! After the trip, make an effort to keep in touch with each other.
The Group – The larger the group the lower the cost. Most common group size is 30 to 40. We are presenting more small groups to come to 16 to 28. We strive for a good gender balance when possible and 70% tend to be repeat clients. Solo and single tour companies travelers are majority female. They are the adventurers who like to plan ahead and book fist. AFSers are professional, educated singles from around the country that share a passion for travel. Some may be novice travelers, others have been everywhere.
Am I a good fit for your trips? Our success can only be attributed to the wonderful like-minded travelers in our AFS tribe. Cohesion and unity enhance the fun. You will not be a good fit if you are inflexible, close-minded, intolerant or tend to sweat the small stuff. “Whenever you go, go with all your heart. I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.” – Bill Bryson
When is it a good idea to buy travel insurance? It’s all about the odds and statistics. How is your health? Your family’s health? If you or a family member had a serious health problem in the last 6 months, it’s wise to get a full trip cancellation/interruption policy. Be sure to get a waiver of pre-existing condition clause. (Average cost is around 5 to 8% of the trip cost.) This can also cover unusual reasons like job loss, unforeseen circumstances (a volcano, etc.), lost bags, medical costs and emergency medical evacuation. You can purchase a “cancel for any reason” policy, but there is high premium. Be sure to inquire exact terms and what will be covered.
An affordable alternative is to purchase a “zero-trip cost” policy. This eliminates reimbursement for trip cancellations but does cover medical and evacuation abroad (evacuation can cost $100k or more.)
Warning – Adventure travel can be exhilarating and habit forming but before you take the plunge, consider a few words of advice from an expert. Travel to far-flung corners of the earth involves lifestyles and conditions far different than home. At times, Murphy’s Law tends to follow. You must come prepared to cope with unusual situations, local inadequacies and unpredictable events should they occur. With the best of will in the world, things can go wrong and a sense of humor is a bonus! Be tolerant and flexible. Although you don’t speak the language, a smile and a “thank you” is universally understood. It may be necessary to make adjustments to schedule in print due to the complex nature of travel. Hotels may be changed or the sequence of events may be modified to suit local conditions. We do all possible to minimize any effects or delays brought on by circumstances beyond our control such as weather, strike, politics, etc.
With that said, through all these years we’ve had amazing success with our life-enhancing journeys around the world! So, fasten your seatbelt and prepare for the new horizon that beckons. I sincerely hope this will be the best vacation you ever had!
10 Commandments for AFS Travelers
- Thou shall not expect to find things as thou hast at home, for thou hast left they home to find things different
- Thou shall not take anything too seriously. A carefree mind is the beginning of a fun vacation
- Thou shall not let other group members get on thy nerves, for thou art paying good money to enjoy thyself
- Thou shall not forget that doist represent America (Canada too) at all times. Kindness begets kindness, ugliness begets ugliness
- Thou shall not worry. This is for thine AFS trip leader. They who worry hath no pleasure and few things are fatal.
- Remember thy passport at all times. A person without a passport is a person without a country
- Blessed is the person who can say “thank you” in any language
- When in Rome, do as the Roman’s do
- Do not judge the people of a foreign land by one person with whom thou hast had trouble.
- Remember, thou art a guest in each land. They who treateth their host with respect shall be treated as a guest of honor
Cancellation Refund Schedule: See – Click to view Terms and Conditions