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Travel Planner

General Travel Information

Air Tickets

Airfare is not included in the tour price.

Airport Security

Security at airports these days can be time consuming. Please arrive at the airport to allow time for security checks. There are now many restrictions on items which may be taken in your carry-on luggage, including many liquids. Since security restrictions can change at short notice, do not pack anything you are not willing to discard at the security check point. The TSA maintains a website, www.tsa.gov with current guidelines and travel tips.

Airport Taxes

Customs fees and airport or country departure taxes are not included in the cost of your tour. The exit tax for Panama and Costa Rica are currently collected by most airlines and no longer need to be paid directly.

Airport Transfers

Caravan transfers you between the airport and hotel on the starting and ending dates of all Latin American tours. Transfers are provided on most North American tours. Complete transfer information can be found on each tour itinerary page.

Announcements of Planned Activity

The schedule of most activities is indicated on the day by day itinerary. Where the Tour Director feels that additional information is required, he or she will make an announcement on the motorcoach. The Tour Director has been instructed not to post bulletins with this information in hotel lobbies, as Caravan feels that such bulletins are not in keeping with Caravan standards nor with your right to be treated as an individual guest at your hotel.

Arrival Hotels

When registering at your hotel, please identify yourself as a Caravan Tour member. Hotel rooms may not always be available for immediate occupancy. If this should occur, check your luggage with the hotel's bell captain until your room becomes available. Official check-in times vary. Normally check-in times are in the mid afternoon.

Hotel Incidental Charges

If you make any telephone calls from your hotel room or incur any extra room charges (i.e. drinks or in-room movie charges), please be sure to pay for these incidental charges before you leave the hotel. Some hotels will require you to provide a credit card imprint to the hotel before allowing any incidental charges.

Itinerary Changes

Caravan itineraries are carefully constructed to show you as much as possible at a pace you will find comfortable. Your Caravan Tour Director has been instructed to follow these departure times and route exactly. The Tour Director may deviate from them only in cases of extremely bad weather, extraordinary traffic conditions or other exceptional circumstances. Please, therefore, do not ask the Tour Director to change either departure times or route. Occasionally, events may require a change in the sequence of your itinerary. Your Tour Director will, of course, advise you as soon as possible if such changes are necessary. All itineraries are subject to change.

Laundry and Dry Cleaning

Laundry and dry cleaning service are available at most hotels. We suggest that you arrange for this at a hotel where you will be staying for more than one night. Please be sure to check the rates first!

Luggage

As noted on the General Information page of the Caravan brochure, all handling of one piece of luggage is included in your tour cost. Due to space limitations and for your own convenience, it is suggested that you bring only one piece of luggage. Most airlines limit suitcases to 60 linear inches (width plus depth plus length) and 50 pounds in weight.

A day bag (i.e. a backpack, camera bag or tote bag) may be personally carried on board the motorcoach in addition to a purse or handbag. Each tour member is personally responsible for handling his or her individual carry-on bag at all times.

For the comfort and safety of all tour members, wheeled bags are generally not acceptable as carry-on luggage, and must be checked and counted as additional luggage. Unlike an airplane, the motorcoach does not have sufficient room to store this type of luggage in the passenger area.

Meals

Meals included in the land price are indicated in the itinerary at the end of each day by B (Breakfast), L (Lunch), D (Dinner). Coffee or tea is provided at all included meals. In Latin America, bottled water is provided where specified. Where meals are not included, your Tour Director will be pleased to suggest a restaurant. While we are happy to take your special diet requests to exclude items from meals, please note that kitchens and restaurants cannot be guaranteed to produce meals compliant with your diet and Caravan is not responsible for any errors or oversights in these situations.

While Caravan will make every effort to communicate specific dietary requests to the hotels and restaurants on tour, we cannot guarantee these requests will be honored. Please advise Caravan at the time of booking, or as early as possible of any special requests.

Please keep in mind that variety may be limited, especially in remote areas. For tour members concerned about cross-contamination for vegetarian, Kosher or gluten free diets or for passengers with food allergies or sensitivities, Caravan cannot guarantee food will be prepared free from certain ingredients (i.e. nuts, animal fats, wheat, dairy etc.).

For most destinations, meals typical to the region will be served. Included meals are usually local or continental and are never Indian or other specialty Asian cuisine. In certain countries and regions it may be difficult to find Indian or vegetarian meals.

Please note that dining options for non-included meals can be limited in remote areas. If you have particular dietary needs you might consider bringing additional snacks.

Motorcoach

To ensure fair and equitable seating for all members of the tour, seating is usually rotated once or twice a day in a clockwise direction. Your Tour Director will advise you of their procedure. We regret we cannot fulfill any requests for a front seat for passengers, even when medically recommended. Please contact Caravan as soon as possible if you have any special needs, to discuss other options.

Single travellers should expect to have a "seat companion" on the motorcoach (i.e. there will be probably be another tour member seated next to you).

Non-Smoking

Smoking is not allowed while on motorcoaches. On days where motorcoach travel is involved, frequent stops are made affording time for smoking outside of the motorcoaches. Please do not smoke near the motorcoach entrance.

If you are a smoker, please request smoking rooms at the time of booking. However, please note that many hotels are now completely non-smoking. Please check with your hotel's front desk to see if there are any designated smoking areas.

It is now common for hotels to charge a considerable penalty (up to $500) for smoking in a nonsmoking room. Penalties have been charged even when the occupants smoked while leaning out of an open window or on a balcony. Caravan does not cover such penalties. Damage discovered after departure will be charged by the hotel and their collection services.

Please also note that some states or municipalities may ban smoking altogether in any public spaces.

Purchasing Real Estate and Timeshares

We strongly caution against purchasing real estate or timeshares during your vacation with us. Instead, we suggest you use the experience for the purposes of orientation and information gathering. If you are interested in such a purchase, we suggest you return for at least one more visit and seek the guidance of a lawyer.

Room Assignments

Room assignments are made by the hotel. If you have a special room request, such as king bed or smoking room, please advise Caravan before the tour begins or inform your Tour Director at the beginning of the tour. Caravan is pleased to forward your requests to the hotels. No guarantees can be made as these requests are at the discretion of the hotel. All tour members are treated equally in regard to special requests.

Security

A practical suggestion before you leave home: make photocopies of all your credit cards, airline ticket numbers, passports, etc., that you will be taking with you. Make two photocopies: take one with you and carry it separate from your luggage for your reference in case these items should get lost or stolen while traveling. Leave the second copy with a family member or friend at home -- in case of emergency or if you should lose both the copy and the items noted. It is always a good idea not to bring expensive jewelry or watches with you. Please remove all personal belongings from the motorcoach at the end of each touring day. Please do not pack your passport, it should be carried with you at all times.

Shopping

Caravan believes shopping can be a vacation highlight. Caravan does not shop-steer (bring the group to a shop in return for a payment). With Caravan you will have ample time to shop plus the freedom to choose. Caravan does not endorse or recommend any shops. Even if Caravan passengers may have repeatedly done business over the years with specific shops, those shops cannot represent themselves as being endorsed by Caravan.

If your purchases are not too large, it is best to carry them with you. When mailing purchases, please be sure to insure the packages, and obtain clearly written receipts from the places of purchase.

Single Rooms

A limited number of single rooms are available at the single rate. Single travelers should expect to have a "seat companion" on the motorcoach.

Survey Forms

We ask your kind cooperation in completing the survey forms which you should receive after your return home.

The information gleaned from these has been most helpful in maintaining the quality of our offerings to the traveling public. While we sometimes share the survey comments with the Tour Directors, we always do so anonymously.

The postage-paid form may be mailed from anywhere in the U.S.A.

If you should misplace your form, please write or call us and we will be happy to send a survey form to you.

Caravan Tours
401 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60611
Telephone: 1-800-CARAVAN (800-227-2826)
or 312-321-9800
www.caravan.com
 

Tipping Suggestions

Tips to your Tour Director and driver, are not included. Such tips are entirely at your discretion. Your Tour Director and Drivers depend on these tips. Most tour members compute these tips by allowing a certain amount per day based on service they have received. If you feel that service has been good, you may wish to leave an appropriately generous tip. We suggest the following guidelines:

US $5 to US $10 per traveler per day for the Tour Director.
US $4 to US $7 per traveler per day for the Driver.

These tips should be handed directly to the Tour Director and Driver on an individual basis. We request that no group collections be made. Tips to water craft personnel, local guides, waiters, porters and bellmen are included in the tour price.

Travel Companions - Addresses

Caravan has included a name and address section in the day by day itinerary so that you may record the names and addresses of the new friends you make among your travel companions. At the welcoming reception, Caravan distributes a list of tour member names. This list does not include addresses, due to respect for personal privacy.

Triple Rooms

Triple rooms usually offer two double beds with a cot or rollaway for the third person. In some hotels, the rooms are limited to two beds, a third bed is not available. We regret a third bed cannot be guaranteed prior to, or during your tour.

Voice or Video Recorders

Should you plan to use an audio or videorecorder while on tour, please be sure to ask the permission of any guides or your Tour Director before recording. You may find that some guides object to having their comments recorded, or they may be guiding you through a place that forbids recorders to be used. So, please, always ask first.

Water

The best way to enjoy your flight and your vacation is to drink lots of water! At sea level, the human body loses about a quart of water a day through air expired from one's lungs and through the skin. At flight levels and higher desert and mountain elevations, this loss can be up to 100% greater. This water has to be replaced. Therefore, to avoid dehydration and its symptoms, do as experienced flight crews do: drink lots of plain water. Simple, and effective. In Latin America, it is advisable to drink only bottled water.

Communications

How To Contact You on Tour

Prior to departure, you will receive a list of your hotels with addresses and phone numbers. Extra copies are provided for your friends and family. As mail delivery is unreliable, we suggest your family and friends contact you by phone. While Caravan will gladly assist in locating tour members to convey urgent messages, this service is provided as a courtesy and we ask that the caller also convey their message independently. Caravan is not responsible for any undelivered messages.

Writing Home

We suggest you purchase postage from your hotel concierge and affix it to the envelopes yourself, or you can ask your tour director for help in locating a local post office.

Calling Home

Please note that the cost of your phone calls can jump considerably for calls placed from your hotel -- whether dialed direct or placed through the hotel operator -- if you have the charges billed to your room.

We suggest that you always check with the hotel operator as to what the extra charges will be before placing any calls. Frequently, it is more economical (and easier) to use your own cell phone.

Passports and Visas

General Passport Information

For the additional and the most current information please visit the passport section of the U.S. State Department's website:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports.html

As soon as you receive your passport, please sign it as indicated. The passport is not valid until signed. Your passport is a highly important and valuable document. Record the number and date of issue to facilitate replacement in case of loss, and keep this information separate from your passport. Carry your passport with you at all times while abroad and never pack it in your suitcase. For all travel requiring a passport or visa, please make a copy of the page containing your photo on your passport and your visa.

Do You Need a Passport or Visa?

U.S. CITIZENS No visa is currently required for travel to and from Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala or Canada. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months after your date of entry.

NON-U.S. CITIZENS Travel to All Countries: Non-U.S. Citizens: You may need a passport or visa to visit one or more of the countries on your Caravan Tour. If visas are required, they must be obtained before departure. Non-U.S. citizens traveling from the United States may need a multiple entry visa for return to the United States. If you have any questions, please check with your Travel Agent or the consulate of the countries you are visiting.

How to Apply For a Passport

Obtaining a passport is a simple procedure, if you arrange it in advance. Ordinarily it takes less than six weeks from the time you apply until you receive your passport, but delays do occur, so we strongly recommend that you apply as soon as possible. Right now is the best time! It is not necessary for travel arrangements to be finalized before a passport will be issued, so even if you're not certain of your travel plans, you should go ahead and apply for your passport now. Each individual citizen must have his/her own individual passport, and must apply in person at a passport facility for a passport. Many post offices and courthouses serve as passport facilities. Passport facilities are located throughout the country. Visit the State Department website at

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports.html

for more information.

How to Renew a Passport

You can renew your passport by mail, provided you already hold a U.S. passport issued after your 16th birthday and less than fifteen years ago. Please visit the U.S. State Department's website:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/apply-renew-passport.html

for more information.

Customs

UNITED STATES CUSTOMS (as of February 2019)

As a U.S. citizen or resident alien, you are granted a $800 duty-free allowance. As of February 2019, the following requirements must be met: (1) You must have been abroad for at least 48 hours and have not used this duty-free allowance, or any part of it, within the preceding 30-day period. (2) You bring the articles with you, at the time of your return to the U.S. (3) The articles are for your personal use or for use as gifts and are not for sale. (4) The articles are properly declared to Customs. (5) The articles are not prohibited or restricted.

There is no limit to the amount of merchandise you may bring back, but duty will be levied on all amounts in excess of the $800 duty-free allowance. For further information please refer to the US Customs and Border Patrol website at https://www.cbp.gov/travel.

Liquor

If you are 21 years of age or older, one liter of alcoholic beverages may be included in your duty-free allowance.

Family Declaration

The head of a family traveling together can make a joint declaration, with each member of the family allowed $800.

Thus, a family of four has a joint allowance of $2400, even if all the purchases are made by one member only. Infants and children are entitled to the same allowance (except for alcoholic beverages).

Currency

Foreign Currency

Listed below are countries and their currencies.

Country Currency
Canada Canadian Dollar (CAD)
Costa Rica Colone (CRC)
Guatemala Quetzal (GTQ)
Panama US Dollar (USD)
 

Travelers Checks

Travelers checks are no longer widely accepted in banks and shops and are not recommended.

ATMs

Most foreign cities have ATMs which dispense local currency. You may want to check with your bank to see if your ATM system has outlets in the countries you are visiting.

U.S. Dollars

It is always useful to have a supply of low denomination bills for small purchases or in case you are short of local currency.

Credit Cards

Many credit cards are now widely accepted throughout the areas you will be visiting. In some shops, a fee may be added to your purchase to use the credit card.

Health and Medical

$99 Travel Protection Plan

Cancel for Any Reason Waiver

This optional plan provides a full refund of your tour price, less the $99 Plan fee and less a deductible of $100 per person, for tour cancellations made for any reason prior to departure. Cancellations made within 72 hours prior to departure will incur an additional $50 per person administrative fee. Refunds for missed days on tour are based on the actual cost of services not used, less any extra expenses incurred by Caravan, and are not on a per day basis. Single supplement upgrades due to cancellation by a roommate and travel agent commissions are not covered. *

Travel Insurance Coverage

This plan also includes: Pre-Departure Trip Cancellation & Post-Departure Trip Interruption; Coverage for air arrangements for covered reasons as specified in the Description of Coverage; $50,000 Medical Expense; $50,000 Emergency Evacuation or Repatriation; $50,000 Accidental Death & Dismemberment; $500 Travel Delay (maximum of $100 per day); $1,000 Baggage & Personal Effects and $100 Baggage Delay; 24 hour global travel assistance for medical or legal emergencies. *

To be eligible for the Pre-Existing Medical Condition Waiver, payment for the Travel Protection Plan is due with your tour deposit or within 14 days of making your initial tour deposit / payment. Your Travel Protection Plan is refundable within 14 days of purchase provided you have: (1) not already departed on your trip; or (2) not filed a claim. This provision applies only to your Travel Protection Plan premium and does not apply to your tour payments. After 14 days, the Travel Protection Plan is non-refundable and non-transferable.

This is a brief description of the plan. A Description of Coverage which fully details the coverages, provisions, reductions, limitations, exclusions, and termination provisions is available at:

http://www.roamright.com/plans/caravan

* Travel Insurance Coverage is underwritten by Arch Insurance Company. Cancel for Any Reason Waiver is provided by Caravan Tours. You must purchase the Travel Protection Plan with your initial tour deposit / payment or no later than your final payment to be eligible for the Cancel for Any Reason Waiver.

Vaccinations

At the time this booklet was published, no vaccinations are required for travelers from the US to any countries included on Caravan tours. This is subject to change. Immunization against tetanus, with a booster every ten years, is now universally recommended by the Center for Disease Control for all travelers to foreign countries, regardless of age.

The governments of Guatemala and Costa Rica require proof of yellow fever vaccination only if you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever. This does not include the US, but does include several South American countries and African countries. In some cases these vaccines must be administered at least 1-2 weeks before travel. Please call your airline or the consulate in question if in doubt. Caravan does not have any doctors on staff and cannot give medical advice, so please consult your doctor at your earliest opportunity if you have any concerns.

The CDC recommends that all travelers stay up to date on all routine vaccinations and consult with your personal physician if you have any questions or specific health concerns. The CDC has extensive information on their website:

https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel

or you may call them at 800-232-4636.

Prescriptions and Glasses

Be sure to carry with you (do not pack in your luggage) a sufficient quantity of any regularly used medicine, with the proper dosage clearly labeled, as certain medications may not be available locally. Please carry all medications in their original containers and do not mix them in one container. You may wish to keep an extra supply of essential medication in your luggage. An extra prescription from your physician, on your physician's letterhead, might also be handy to carry. You might also request your physician to note the generic names for your medication on the prescription, as they are recognized almost world-wide. Please bring your essential medications in your carry-on bag and do not pack these medications in a checked suitcase. If you wear glasses, a second pair, or a prescription from your eye doctor, is recommended for emergencies.

Bottled Water

Caravan includes bottled water on the motorcoach in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama.

Extended Flights

Airline seats are often small with little legroom. Over a long flight, this can lead to a decreased circulation and the onset of blood clots. In an effort to prevent this, it is recommended that you walk up and down the aisle of your aircraft once every hour.

Choose a Tour that Suits Your Fitness Level

Caravan can make no determination of your physical, mental or emotional fitness to travel nor guarantee your successful ability to manage a tour. If in doubt please consult your Doctor.

While every tour is different in landscape and activities, all tours include some walking every day. All tours include travel by motorcoach, participants should expect to climb on and off the motorcoach several times a day. The average temperature, humidity level and altitude should also be taken into account when considering whether a Caravan Tour is right for you.

Travelers Needing Special Assistance

Please notify Caravan at the time of booking if you, or anyone in your party, have any special needs that you want us to be aware of or to accommodate. Passengers needing individual assistance for walking, dining or other personal needs must be accompanied by an able companion. Companions to travelers with cognitive difficulties should keep in mind that multi-day itineraries with rapidly changing environments can increase anxiety and distress. We recommend you review the itinerary with a doctor prior to travel.

Caravan's driver, tour directors and tour members cannot offer this assistance. Caravan's tour directors must take care of a large group of other tour members and cannot offer any special supervision or monitoring of clients

Please note that certain trips and features are not fully accessible.

Please call Caravan if you have not advised us of any special needs, or if you have any special concerns.

Insect Repellent

It is recommended that you carry insect repellent on all tours. You will find this particularly useful for Latin America, however, mosquitos and biting flies can be a nuisance in all parts of the world, including the USA and Canada!

Staying Well During Your Tour

Please remember that not all travel illnesses are transmitted through food and water; some are transmitted by person-to-person contact.

Health authorities are agreed that the best way to avoid getting sick is to pay close attention to hand washing. Frequent cleansing, beyond one's usual regimen, can help minimize exposure to sickness that might otherwise spoil your tour. Please take along a good supply of moist towelettes and/or hand sanitizer for times when soap-and- water hand-washing facilities are not available. Caravan travellers also recommend packing a travel size hand lotion.

It is also a good idea to take along an over-the-counter remedy, just in case. Some travelers have found products such as Imodium or Peaceful Mountain's Stomach Rescue to be very helpful. Whilst Caravan makes every effort to minimize the possibility of tour members becoming sick during their tour, we cannot offer any refunds to clients who become sick during a tour (except where provided by our Travel Protection Plan).

It is always wise to travel with a small first aid kit - medications may be hard to find when you need them most! We advise packing something for a headache, stomach upsets and diarrhea, insect bites and sunburn, and something for motion sickness for bus or boat. It's wise to pack plenty of wet wipes and hand sanitizer. All travelers, especially those with blood sugar related conditions, may wish to take along a small supply of snacks. Occasionally the tour might experience a delay, causing the next mealtime to be delayed.

Some travelers have found Pedialyte, an electrolyte replacement drink available in drugstores in easy-to-carry powder packets, to be helpful when not feeling well or when traveling at higher altitudes.

Travelers have also recommended Emergen-C, a vitamin drink mix available in easy-to-carry packets, with vitamin C, electrolytes, and vitamins. At higher altitudes, orange juice and fresh oranges are often helpful.

Packing Tips

General Packing Tips

First, make a list of all the items you expect to take. Second, cut the list in half! The person who travels lightest, travels farthest and enjoys it most! Experienced travelers start the journey as lightly as possible, leaving room for things picked up abroad. Be sure to pack creams, cosmetics and such in a plastic or rubber-lined case to avoid spills. Always place your heavier, outer garments and shoes on the bottom of your suitcase with your blouses, shirts, etc. on top. Some people prefer packing shoes along the sides of their suitcase with the soles facing outwards -- it is a good idea to place the same number of shoes on either side of the suitcase to insure balanced carrying.

Essentials to Carry With You

  • Passport (never pack this in your suitcase)
  • A copy of your Caravan hotel list and day-by-day itinerary
  • Credit cards, ATM card
  • A pen and small pad of paper
  • Extra identification, such as your driver's license
  • Necessary medications and toiletries - please check with your airline as some liquid, gel or cream items are no longer allowed in carry-on luggage on aircraft for security reasons
  • A list of dosages and doctor's letter for travellers with special health concerns
  • Emergency/essential supplies in case your luggage is delayed or lost

Items to Pack in Your Suitcase

  • toothbrush and toothpaste
  • shampoo
  • deodorant
  • comb and hairbrush
  • wash cloth (not always available at some hotels)
  • moist towelettes or baby wipes
  • cold water detergent
  • plastic bags for damp clothes and laundry
  • razor
  • small first aid kit (Band-Aids, aspirin, etc.)
  • insect repellent sunglasses, sunscreen and hat
  • spot remover
  • sewing kit
  • traveling alarm clock (helpful back up to wake up calls!)
  • binoculars (essential for birdwatching, such as Latin America Tours)
  • flashlight (essential for Costa Rica tour)
  • power cords for your phone, tablet or laptop
  • external battery for your phone, tablet or laptop

Electrical Appliances Voltage

Electrical appliances built for use in North America are designed to operate on 110-120 volts. Most of Latin America, including Panama, Costa Rica, and Guatemala, also operates on 110-120 volts.

Clothing Tips

General Clothing Tips

Caravan recommends bringing at least one sweater or light-weight jacket on all tours. Even in hot climates, the temperature may be cooler at nighttime. A sweater is also useful in an air-conditioned motorcoach. You want to pack as little as possible, so please pack versatile clothing -- things that can be mixed-and-matched and layered with each other to meet any weather situation. Casual wear is fine for sightseeing and daytime traveling. Jackets or sport coats are not required for any meals provided by Caravan.

Comfortable Shoes

The best friend you can have while sightseeing is a comfortable, sturdy pair of walking shoes. Delicate sandals or high heeled shoes should be limited to evening activities. Be sure to bring your favorites with you. If you buy new shoes be sure to break them in before your trip. Caravan recommends 2 pairs of shoes.