Hello from Stockholm, Sweden –

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I am writing to you today as I am flying home from a 12 Day trip to Iceland, Norway and Sweden. This is a delightful time to be in Scandinavia as there is almost 24-hour sunlight and usually mild summer temperatures. This year saw record-setting heat in Sweden and Norway as the temps rose into the high 80’s many days.

Here are my 10 tips when traveling to Norway and Sweden (I provided my Iceland comments last week)

#1 – You can travel without cash in Scandinavia –

Credit cards are the preferred payment for everything from taxi cabs to coffee houses. Some places will only accept credit cards for payment. Be sure to bring two credit cards as sometimes you might have trouble with one credit card being accepted but the other one works. Many stores do not accept American Express cards for payment. I used to always recommend to bring some local currency but the mass movement to credit card payment makes using local currency more pain than it is worth.

#2 – Hotels in Norway and Sweden are not up to American standards –

Many national and regional hotels in Norway and Sweden do not meet Americans standards. A four-star hotel in Norway would be 3 stars in the U.S. Rooms are small, bathrooms even smaller, and showers even smaller. They are hotel chains like Hilton and Sheraton that offer options American are used to.

#3 – Hotels have no air conditioning –

Many hotels do not have air conditioning and you will bake when the weather gets in the 80’s. Many of the hotels in Scandinavia were built when the summers never reached 80 degrees so they don’t have air conditioning. Your only way to cool your room is to open your window which also brings you street music throughout the night and makes it very difficult to rest. Be sure to ask the front desk for a fan for your room.

#4 – Shampoo is in a wall dispenser –

Many of us have gotten used to having small bottles of shampoo and hair conditioner at the hotel. Many hotels in Scandinavia have wall dispensers that are filled with bulk shampoo. My mamma always told me to never bathe with anything poured from a 55-gallon drum.

#5 – Don’t forget to put out a door sign to clean your room –

If the housekeeper does not see the sign on your door they will often just not make up your room that day.

#6 – No washcloths in the bathrooms –

Americans often bring their own washcloths when traveling to Europe and Scandinavia as not many hotels offer washcloths in their bathrooms.

#7 – Your dinner could last for 4 hours unless you ask for the check –

Unless you ask for the check they will not bring it. Unlike the U.S. it is considered rude to bring a check until you ask for it.

#8 – You need your room key to turn on the room lights –

Scandinavians take their energy efficiency very seriously and almost all hotels require you to put your room key in a slot inside the door to turn on the lights. When you leave the room and take your key all the room lights shut off. Many hotels around the world use this method to control energy cost today.

#9 – Great cell service even when driving through tunnels –

I could not believe it when I was riding a bus through a 5-mile long tunnel and never lost my cell phone connection for a conference call I was on.

#10 – The U.S. dollar is still the gold standard for tipping –

Almost everyone has a big smile when you tip them with USD. The dollar is still the best currency to have in your wallet around the world.

Bonus tip #11 -New European security rules limit access to websites using wi-fi-

I was surprised to find that I could not access several websites using wi-fi but was able to access using my cell service. Apparently, this is related to the new personal data security rules of the EU. I usually like to read my local newspapers from back home and my Wallstreet Journal when I am traveling along with Facebook.

 

Need information on any of the above?
Call our friendly travel advisors…
Lincoln – 402-435-8888 Toll-free 800-737-0582




Hello from Oslo, Norway –

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I am writing you this week from Oslo, Norway as I am in the middle of a 12 day trip to Iceland, Norway and Sweden. This is the perfect time to visit Scandinavia as the weather here is anywhere from 15 to 40 degrees cooler than the temps back home (90 degrees +). Our first stop on our tour was Iceland and I was really excited as I had never been there before.

Here are Steve’s 8 tips for travel to Iceland.

Tip #1 – Iceland is the perfect stopover on your next flight to Europe –

Many people don’t realize that they fly right over Iceland on their way to many destinations in Europe so stopping over in Iceland is not out of the way. One of the new low-cost airlines is called Icelandair and is based in Reykjavik, Iceland. They are really smart marketers and started offering free stopovers in Iceland. This is a great way to relax and break up a long flight over the pond (Atlantic).

Tip #2 – Two or Three days is enough time to visit Iceland –

Many flights from the U.S. arrive early in the morning. This allows you time for a half day city tour before you check into your hotel. The second day you can relax with a visit to the world-famous Blue Lagoon thermal bath and spa. The final day is for the glorious grand circle tour of volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, geysers and thermal spas. Glorious!

Tip #3  Iceland is really crowded in the summer months –

Just like me, many people want to take advantage of the cool weather of Iceland during the hot summer weather in America. Iceland has long been ignored as a destination until about 10 years ago. Today it is so busy some are complaining it is close to being at capacity for tourists.

Tip #4 – Surprisingly, Iceland is also very busy during the cold winter months –

People from all over the world travel to Iceland from October to March to see the northern lights and enjoy the thermal spas.

Tip # 5 – April and May are the only low season months in Iceland –

Talking to the front counter clerks at the hotels, they advised that the best deals and lowest tourism takes place in these two months between the northern lights and high summer season.

Tip # 6  It never gets dark in the summer in Iceland –

It is really weird to wake up at 2:30 am and look out your window and it feels like 2:30 pm in the afternoon. Many hotels do not have curtains that keep the room dark. If you need total darkness to sleep, you better bring a sleeping mask.

Tip # 7 – Half of Iceland is beautiful and half is ugly –

When you arrive at the airport you will feel like you landed on the moon. This area is all volcanic rock, similar to the Big Island of Hawaii. The other half of the island is beautiful mountains, streams, lakes, cabins and an amazing number of steam geysers from underground heat sources.

Tip # 8 – The people of Iceland are very friendly –

Most offer big smiles and seem quite happy. Tourism is their bread and butter so they want you to feel welcome. I think I will come back someday soon.

If you have Iceland on your bucket list, be sure to call one of our friendly travel advisors at (402-435-8888) and they can provide you with ideas and great value.




Here are my annual TOP 10 TIPS for using frequent flyer miles and credit card points –

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# 1 – American and United have the best frequent flyer programs –
Of the big three domestic airlines, AA and UA have websites that are pretty easy to use to find freebie space. They appear to have a lot more “saver award” space that allows for redemption for a reasonable amount of frequent flyer (FF) miles for both domestic and international free tickets than does Delta. DL freebie space is easy to find but often requires twice as many miles as other airlines. Perhaps their planes are so full they don’t have enough empty seats to redeem for freebies.# 2 – Book your free tickets very early or very late –
A lot of airlines open up frequent flyer seat inventory very early (11 months in advance) or very late (7 to 10 days prior to departure).

# 3 – Don’t use miles for upgrades but for free premium class tickets –
It is a much better deal to use your miles for free tickets and not for upgrades. Most airlines today charge a very high number of miles plus cash to upgrade a seat domestically and internationally. You are much better off simply using all miles for a freebie premium seat ticket than messing with buying a ticket and then using miles and cash to upgrade and in some cases not being able to confirm your upgrade until the day before travel.

# 4 – Use your miles for international business and first class –
This is how you get the biggest bang for your buck. It is pretty easy math. Saver award space (low season) takes about 25,000 miles for a domestic round-trip ticket ($400 value or 1.6 cents per mile). International economy class to Europe is 60,000 miles ($1200 value or 2 cents per mile). International business class is 90,000 miles ($4500 value or 5 cents per mile) and international first class is about 140,000 miles ($9000 value or 6.4 cents per mile). You can easily see the value in your miles is using them for international business and first class seats.

# 5 – Airline partners often have easier and cheaper freebie tickets than the major U.S. Airlines –
United, American, and Delta all belong to airline alliances that allow you to redeem airline miles on multiple airlines. There are 28 airlines in the Star Alliance with United Airlines. It is often much easier and a lot cheaper to find a premium (business or first class) freebie seat on a United partner airline like Lufthansa, ANA, Korean Air, and Asiana than on United Airlines. You are still using UA miles, just flying on a partner airline.

# 6 – Beware of airline fuel surcharges on free tickets –
Three cheers for AA, DL, and UA as they don’t charge fuel surcharges on freebie tickets. International airlines like Lufthansa and British Airways can charge $1000 or more in fuel surcharge fees on free tickets.

# 7 – The best credit card with the easiest to use points is the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Card (SPG) –
This is my favorite as you can redeem for hotel room nights as low as 2400 points a night (5 cents a point) at Starwood hotels like Westin, Sheraton, and Four Points. You can also use your SPG points and transfer them into airline miles. Here is the best part. For every 20,000 points converted to airline miles, you get an extra 5000 miles. So 20,000 points = 25,000 airline miles. This card may be going away as Marriott has purchased Starwood and I am afraid this great card will soon be history.

# 8 – I put the majority of my credit card miles into Air Canada’s Aeroplan –
Air Canada is a member with United Airlines in the Star Alliance so I can use my Aeroplan miles to redeem for UA tickets. Sometimes I can find UA tickets cheaper on the Aeroplan site than on the United.com. This makes no sense but it happens a lot. I also seem to be able to redeem miles for premium seats on foreign airlines much easier and cheaper on Aeroplan than at United.com.

# 9 – Secure your airline tickets first when planning a vacation using FF miles – 
The more flexible you are the easier it becomes to find freebie seats using your FF miles. Always start your vacation planning by securing your freebie airline tickets. It is much easier building your hotel stays around your freebie tickets than the other way around.

# 10 – Complimentary upgrades are fast going the way of the dinosaur –
Airlines are dramatically lowering the price of first and business class seats in certain markets to try to get people to buy the seats rather than have all the premium seats filled with non-revenue complimentary upgrade customers. The airlines have figured out in the past that they might sell 4 out of 20 seats in first or business class and the rest were given as complimentary upgrades to their best customers. Now they are trying to lower the price of premium service so that people actually pay for the premium service.

BONUS – #11 – Executive Travel has a program to help you get the most out of your miles and credit card points – 
Points Simplified is Executive Travel’s newest service that uses your airline, hotel, and credit card points to book you the best deal for the least amount of points. We specialize in helping you use your frequent flyer miles and points (air, credit card, hotel) to find international business class tickets and upgrades as well as coach airline seats around the world. We also can help you convert your credit card points to maximize your points for any type of air, hotel or car travel. Our experts make using your points easy. Visit www.PointsSimplified.com for more information.

Our private “Boat & Bike” tour to the Netherlands is filling! –
Our first and very popular “Boat & Bike” tour is taking off in August and will ride along the Danube river, and an awesome journey through four European countries. Our second tour – the “Tulip and Windmills Cycling Tour” – is already half full. This trip is the ultimate European “Boat & Bike” tour to a cycling paradise, the Netherlands. We travel May 1-11, 2019 and our journey begins with three exciting days in Amsterdam, followed by eight fantastic days on board our privately chartered boat. An exclusive group of 24 travelers are welcomed, so do not hesitate to secure your spot. You ride at your own pace, and we have secured e-bikes for those who wish to join us at a more laid back speed. Read all the tour details HERE and reach out to our friendly Group Department for more information. Call 402-435-8888 today.

Need information on any of the above?

Call our friendly travel advisors…

Lincoln – 402-435-8888 Toll-free 800-7 37-0582



Hotel ratings on TripAdvisor can be a joke –

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If you are using TripAdvisor as your primary source for hotel ratings you might as well roll a pair of dice to rate the hotel. To show you how wacky TripAdvisor ratings are, a travel magazine pointed out how the famous Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado is rated 4.5 on Trip Advisor. And at the same time, TripAdvisor rates the Staybridge Suites, Hampton Inn, and the Radisson Hotel the same 4.5. Give me a break. The Broadmoor is one of the iconic and historically significant resorts in the world and TripAdvisor says it is the same quality as staying at a Hampton Inn. At best the Staybridge Suites and Hampton Inn are 3.5-star hotels. Some could argue that The Broadmoor is either 4.5 or 5 stars, but comparing it with a Staybridge or Hampton Inn makes the ratings of TripAdvisor a joke at best or at worst make someone wonder if there are not some financial shenanigans going on with TripAdvisor.

Hidden Resort fees can add up to $45 a night to your hotel bill –

A majority of hotels and resorts in tropical destinations today are charging daily resort fees on top of your daily room charge. In theory, these fees pay for access to the pool, sauna, workout rooms and other hotel amenities whether you use these services or not. Hotels in Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean and even Las Vegas have for years been adding these fees as travelers check into the resort. Resort fees can range from $10 per room, per night to $45 per room, per night. Just recently hotels in New York City started charging a mandatory $25 a night “destination fee”. If the truth be told these fees are just one more way to extract money from hotel customers similar to the wi-fi fee that everyone hated. Now that the wi-fi fees are beginning to die the slow death they deserve perhaps this will allow the consumer to focus on how outrageous it is that hotels charge a resort fee and someday make it become as extinct as the dinosaur. CLICK HERE to read more on the new Destination fee in NYC.

In travel, You get what you pay for –

One of my favorite travel writers is Richard Turen who is a writer for Travel Weekly. His recent article really hit the nail on the head when we pronounced that in travel, you get what you pay for. It is that simple. He does a masterful job of explaining why you do not want “cheap” when it comes to travel, especially hotels. There is a big difference between “Cheap” and “Great Value”. His article takes only about 3 minutes to read so CLICK HERE to read more.

Enforce Your Travel Policy, Or Get Rid Of It –

This past week I wrote an article that appeared in the travel trade publication called “The Company dime’. The title of the article was “Enforce your travel policy, or get rid of it”. My article provided eight things that companies should consider to make a travel policy enforceable and adhered to by travelers. CLICK HERE to read the article.

Book your holiday travel now –

I know this sounds crazy but we are already seeing an amazing amount of early bookings for airlines and hotel reservations around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Even finding a hotel in a sun and fun resort destination between Christmas and New Years is starting to get very difficult to locate. If you are looking for bargains please don’t hold your breath. When things start to fill up this early prices go up even faster. Call one of our friendly travel advisors at 402-435-8888 and let us help you find your holiday vacation getaway.

Germany Brewery Tour and Oktoberfest – Final Call –

Join the most fun tour ever! Travel with us to Germany this September 26 – October 4, to tickle your taste buds as we visit some of the most spectacular breweries in the world, and enjoy a day at the Munich Oktoberfest. Our journey begins in Frankfurt and ends in Munich taking in some of the greatest sights of European culture and history while enjoying fabulous beer and food. Limited space available, see all the details HERE and call our friendly Group Department at 402-435-8888 to sign up today.

Need information on any of the above?
Call our friendly travel advisors…
Lincoln – 402-435-8888 Toll-free 800-7 37-0582




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