Duty free rules, know before you go

Duty Free. It sounds like such a good idea. Duty Free shops and zones in airports and other places common to travelers beckon us to save money . Quick and convenient, we find savings of up to 50 percent just after passing through security on the way to our plane, train or ship. But buyer beware, you may not make it to your final destination with that great deal.

Duty free shop personnel often lack import knowledge for destinations other than their own. They can get you going from where you are, but often laws of other lands will prevent bringing your duty-free items in.

Australian Customs, for example, has a section on duty-free in its ”Know Before You Go” guide for travelers that states: ”If you are aged 18 years or over, you can bring 2.25 litres of alcohol duty-free into Australia with you” – without mentioning that it is subject to regulations about liquids and must be purchased or carried according to strict rules reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

Travelers commonly find out the hard way that security rules concerning liquids vary from country to country. Some require bottles to be in tamper-proof packaging, others don’t. If where you buy and your final destination include a stop in a third country, even a short layover, your duty free purchase could be confiscated.

It’s a good idea to know before you go and online source dutyfree.com tells us “Duty-free rules vary by country, with policies ranging from simple and flexible to complex and rigid. To learn about a country’s duty-free laws, try contacting its customs or border patrol agency. Or, call a travel agency, duty-free shop or airline located in that country.”

Catalyst Creative: Duty Free Stores from Catalyst Creative on Vimeo.

Don’t pay in dollars – International travel tip

Like it or not, the gold standard for international currency payment is now the Euro.

The United States Dollar is still being used, but it doesn’t hold the prestige it once did. There was a time when you could purchase goods at a great discount if you paid with hundred dollar bills. However, nowadays, merchants will increase their base price and round up figures to give you can even dollar amount. Merchants do not want $5 dollar or $10 bills. Whatever you pay will be rounded to the next $20.

So pay with local currency — or pay with Euros.

Counterpoint: Bring American dollar bills – International travel tip

Hotel plates increasingly filled with free grub

There’s plenty of seating in the upscale hotel restaurant right now – wherever you are. Guests are tending to choose the free breakfasts and buffets over the pricier (and often far better) paid offerings. Free meals and snacks eaten ticked up 1 percent as of the end of the third quarter, which isn’t much … until you figure in that hotel occupancy is down severely. So, the effective number of freebies chomped is actually much higher than the 1 percent, as fewer people must be eating more. The number of paid meals in restaurants is off 14%.

The rise in free meals consumed may suggest that travelers are skipping the luxury (and even mid-range) hotels and turning to budget-friendly alternatives. Full-service restaurants are giving way to free breakfasts and fast food later in the day.

When the travel biz finally kicks around to a recovery, this sort of tradeoff will become less necessary. But, for now, being able to travel means finding the ways to do it on less.

Hotels in the U.S. Virgin Islands offer 25 cent nightly rate

The U.S. Virgin Islands are going to be featured on a newly designed quarter and to celebrate, hotels around the islands are offering up rooms at 25 cents – yes, just 25 cents! – per night.

Of course, there is some fine print to the offer. Guests will still be responsible for taxes of 7%, resort fees, and government taxes of 8%, so the total ends up being a litte more than the 75 cents you might immediately assume when learning of the offer (packages I checked totaled around $100 in taxes and fees). Nine different hotels are participating in the promotion, including the Bolongo Bay Beach Resort and the Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort and Spa.

The offer is valid for travel now through December 15, though each resort may have its own blackout dates. There is a three night limit for the 25 cent rate and air-inclusive packages must be booked through the BookIt website. Guests who book the package do get a few perks – they’ll receive a $25 activities credit, $25 dining credit and a commemorative quarter.

The other caveat: you’ve got to act fast. There are a limited number of rooms available and you must book by November 2.

[via Budget Travel]

Family Package at Naples, FL Ritz makes luxury attainable

I love the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort. I spent a weekend down there just shy of a year ago, and it’s become my mission in life to get back there. Until that happens, though, you may ant to see it for yourself. Even if you don’t play golf (personally, I hate the game), there is plenty to enjoy.

The Family Summer Package, which starts at $239 a night, is available from the first day of May to the last of October this year, and it comes with enough perks to make that seem like pocket change. In addition to the roof over your head, you’ll get breakfast for four, a free kids’ menu meal with each adult entrée you purchase, a $50 resort credit and a $50 gift card which is good at the resort’s retail shops. A similar packages is available at the golf resort’s sister property (which is on the beach) for $299 a night.

I know … free meal offers make me skeptical, too. What do you get? At the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, you’ll have breakfast at Lemonia, which, I assure you, is outstanding. Also, make sure you get over to the spa at the beach resort. I received the best massage of my life there as part of the Elements treatment. Don’t miss it.

While you hit the links (36 holes in total), your kids can take advantage of the Nature’s Wonders program, which is on the beach resort property. It’s an environmentally-focused program that is conducted by a team of certified Master Naturalists who can give some great insights on Florida wildlife. The Ritz-Carlton does take its environmental seriously, as I found while participating in the “Giveback Getaway” program last summer.

If you need to dash off for a few days this summer, the Family Summer Package gives you an affordable option to have an upscale experience. My only hope is that I get back there before you do (I miss the place).