Important news before you travel:
If you are in the United States you should be aware of certain Travel Advisories which are given to citizens who choose to travel abroad. These advisories can affect you and may even change your travel plans. So before you go to the airport you should always check to see if your destination country is on the List of the United States Government Travel Advisories.
For more information: Check out the link below which will send you to the US Governments official website.
TIPS ON MAKING HOTEL RESERVATIONS:
When traveling for business or fun, there’s nothing worse than thinking you have a reservation and learning your hotel reservations been lost, your room has one bed and not two bedrooms, or you thought your check-in time was noon, only to find out it is really 3:00pm. To help avoid these things from happening, there are a few helpful hotel reservation tips seasoned travelers recommend:
Always use a credit card when making a hotel reservation. A credit cards offers the guest some level of protection should the hotel stay go awry. Any disputes a guest may have with the hotel, or with the billing can more easily be rectified through the credit card company. The card company will act as a mediator once their client can show effort to resolve the dispute. Additionally, if a dispute cannot be resolved, the credit card company has the authority to remove the charge from a client’s bill. If cash were paid, a hotel guest would have no recourse. Note: If you don’t use your own credit card to secure a reservation, be aware that the person whose name is on the card will be responsible for showing the card and signing at check in. If the card does not belong to the person staying at the hotel, notify the desk before leaving home (prior to arrival) and ask what their identification procedure is. They may accept a letter from the credit card holder authorizing use, and a copy of both the front and back of the card.
Ask for deals/discounts at each hotel. Many hotels offer corporate, AAA, senior, or even mid-week/off-season discounts. If one is not offered - ask about them. Many hotels now offer ‘rewards’ programs and some hotels reduce rates by $50 or more, for simply signing up for their program. If making reservations online, look for internet-only rates and shop various websites to find the best deals. Travel agents can often secure unadvertised specials or late check-in opportunities which can translate into huge savings.
When making reservations speak clearly and repeat spelling of all names. There have been many reservations lost because of inaccurate spelling and guests have been told they did not have rooms when a hotel or an entire city was booked to capacity. If any special requests are made, verify them and if possible get them in writing. Also make sure to get the name of the employee. Verify everything spell names and verify information/requests etc. Double check reservations prior to leaving for hotel and make sure names of all hotel employees you’ve spoken to are taken.
When reservations are made, changed and cancelled-confirmation numbers are given. Make sure all numbers are kept in a safe place until credit cards are billed and all charges are verified. Cancellation and confirmation numbers are often the difference between being charged for a hotel reservation that was cancelled, the possibility of a free upgrade when the hotel overbooks and you can prove when your reservation was made, and being stranded away from home without a room for the night.
Discuss hotel policies prior to making reservations, and verify them at check-in. Some hotels require credit cards at check in for any hotel charges, such as telephone usage, room service, meals in the hotel, or even take -out arranged through the hotel with area restaurants, etc. If a credit card is not available, a cash/check deposit maybe required for any services/fees that may accrue during the hotel stay. Determine when check-in/check-out times are, when cancellation policies go into affect and verify occupancy limits if staying in a room with multiple occupants.
Remember these hotel reservation tips when scheduling your travel plans. Whether by internet, through a travel agent, or by telephone, it pays to research the hotel and be meticulous when making arrangements. A little pre-planning when making reservations can save major headaches when traveling away from home.
AIRPORT TIPS YOU CAN USE
To make your way to a flight on time and to get throught security as quickly as possible you can try the following tips:
1) Sign up. The TSA's PreCheck, a trusted traveler program, has spread to more cities across the U.S. and is now available at some 40 airports. Members of the program are pre-screened and can then whiz through security, sometimes without having to take off their shoes or remove laptops from cases. The U.S. Customs Department's Global Entry program is another shortcut for frequent international travelers, especially as the federal government contracts and customs lines potentially get longer.
Critical Security Checkpoints:
To make clearing security as easy as possible...
-Review the guidelines for liquids and gels on your Flight carriers Carry-On Baggage page before your flight.
-Have your government-issued photo identification and boarding pass ready for inspection.
-Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off, since all footwear must be x-rayed.
-Remember to place all coats and jackets in a bin for x-ray screening.
-Make your laptop easily accessible for inspection.
-Avoid wearing anything metal or place these items in your carry-on baggage for screening
2) Check flight status. Although this is obvious, many people often fail to do this one simple but critical thing.
I recommend doing the same before abandoning your ride or your car just before you head to the terminal; flight status updates change by the minute, so a last-second check is always a good idea.
Most airlines will text you flight status updates if you sign up on their Web sites, and sites like Flightaware.com do the same by text, on the Web and through smartphone apps.
4) Check in online. Especially if you are not checking bags, this can save you a heap of time. I have found that when checking bags, having the pre-printed boarding pass in your hand doesn't help all that much, and check-in agents often reissue another boarding pass when you check in your bags -- but it sure doesn't hurt.
5) Before you leave for the airport, put your ID, credit card and boarding pass (if applicable) in an easily accessible part of your wallet or bag. There are two reasons for this: one, by going through this exercise, you make sure that you don't leave home without these crucial items. Two, you don't waste your (and other people's) time fumbling around for them at the moment you need them.
Check the airport parking situation online. Knowing ahead of time where to park, which lots are open and how far they are from the terminal can save you a lot of anxiety on your drive in, as well as keep you safer as you navigate tortuous and almost always poorly marked airport ring roads. Additionally, during peak travel periods, lots fill up quickly, so you will want an alternate parking plan.
When you are ready to board always take inventory of what you will need to do when you get to the front of the security line. Do a quick mental review of everything you are wearing that you will need to remove (such as shoes, jewelry, watch, jacket), and what you have inside your carry-on bag that might need to be taken out (liquids, electronics). When you get to the front of the line, blast through your mental inventory and make it happen. Done well, you can go from fully clad for winter weather, with laptops and iPads in your bag, to a T-shirt, pants and socks, and all your sensitive electronics in their own bins, in seconds.
Using these tips will get you through the airport, on your flight and towards your destination as quickly as possible.
more traveler informaiton tips available at the TSA website:
THINGS YOU SHOULD DO WHILE IN MADRID
Vacationing in a city as big as Madrid and managing to see and do everything is no easy task. From sprawling museums to traditional restaurants and bars, every corner you turn uncovers a spot that draws in tourists and locals alike.
The city's main tourist artery runs the famous Metrópolis building to the Plaza de España. Shops, bars and even a casino line this wide street that stretches for more than a kilometre. If you start walking at the Metrópolis building, with its stunning dome crowned by a bronze statue, the next landmark you'll come to is at Gran Vía 1, the address for Grassy jewellers since 1952. A bit further on, the Hotel de las Letras deserves a peek inside before you're wowed by the window display at the Loewe shop or stop to have a drink in the legendary Museo Chicote, which, despite its name, isn't a museum at all, though there is some art on the walls in the form of photos of celebrities who have passed through the swinging doors.
Madrid possesses a modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighbourhoods and streets. Its landmarks include the Royal Palace of Madrid; the Royal Theatre with its restored 1850 Opera House; the Buen Retiro Park, founded in 1631; the 19th-century National Library building (founded in 1712) containing some of Spain's historical archives; a large number of National museums, and the Golden Triangle of Art, located along the Paseo del Prado and comprising three art museums: Prado Museum, the Reina Sofía Museum, a museum of modern art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which completes the shortcomings of the other two museums. Cibeles Palace and Fountain have become the monument symbol of the city.
Central and bustling, Puerta del Sol is one of Madrid's best known squares. Several busy historical streets, such as Calle Mayor, Calle Arenal, Calle Alcalá and Calle Preciados, converge here and it contains several of the city's best known landmarks.
One of these is the famous clock at Casa de Correos, the headquarters of the regional government of Madrid. On 31December each year thousands gather in front of the clock and follow the tradition of eating twelve grapes as it strikes twelve, in a televised ceremony viewed by millions of Spaniards.
In the same place, opposite the Casa de Correos doorway, is the plaque marking Kilometre Zero, the point from which the country’s radial roads are measured and alongside which many Spanish tourists have their photos taken every day. The Puerta del Sol also contains the statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree, much loved by locals and a popular meeting point. The same image appears on the city's coat of arms.
On the opposite side, at the entrance to Calle Arenal, is the "Mariblanca" statue of Venus, a replica of the seventeenth century original that used to adorn a fountain located here, now held at the Casa de la Villa. Very near to the statue, in the centre of the square, is the equestrian statue of Charles III, the king who modernised Madrid in the eighteenth century with a series of improvements to the city's infrastructure.
The Plaza Mayor is an arcaded square which is the heart of Hapsburg Madrid, the historical centre of the city and one of its most charming neighbourhoods, full of small streets and passageways that were once frequented by swordsmen and rogues. Various stores selling craftwork and traditional products and the area’s typical restaurants recall the colourful market held here from the end of the 15th century to the mid-19th century, where meat, vegetables, fruit, groceries, clothes and fabric were on sale.
Over the centuries it has also been the scene of popular festivals, bullfights, beatifications, coronations and the occasional auto-da-fé, but today the arcades provide shade for artists producing paintings, drawings and caricatures, while on Sundays there is a small fair for collectors of stamps and coins. Before Christmas, the Plaza Mayor holds a traditional market specialising in nativity figures.
Notable among the buildings is the Casa de la Panadería, today the Madrid Tourist Center, whose 20th century decoration contains mythological figures related to the history of Madrid. In one corner of the square we can find the Arco de Cuchilleros, the most famous of the arches built after the fire in 1790. Adjoining the arch are some picturesque buildings that are notable for the height and inclination of their façades, which recall buttresses. This arch was the location of the workshops supplying knives to the butchers in the square, where the Casa de la Carnicería, an old warehouse for meat, was also located. The central statue of Philip III dates from 1616 and for centuries guarded the entrance to Casa de Campo.
The Prado Museum presides over one of the most-visited tourist itineraries of the capital: the Art Walk. As well as Las Meninas by Velázquez and the Third of May 1808 by Goya, one can see in its galleries masterpieces of the Spanish, Italian and Flemish schools. The Prado has a priceless collection of 8,600 pictures and more than 700 sculptures.
The museum can only display part of its vast collection, and in 2007 an extension to its premises, designed by architect Rafael Moneo, was opened. It consists of a building around the old Jerónimos cloister, which is linked to the main building. As well as holding one of the best collections of 16th and 17th century painting, with works by by artists of the stature of Hieronymus Bosch, Titian, El Greco, Murillo, Rubens, Goya and Velázquez, the museum houses important collections of decorative art, drawings and engravings, which are less well known but of great value.
The collection of Spanish Painting is what gives the Prado added value compared to other famous art galleries. In its halls one can contemplate works ranging from romanic murals dating from the 12th century to paintings created by Francisco de Goya in the 19th century. In these halls - distributed between the ground, first and second floors - one can find canvases by El Greco, such as Gentleman with his Hand on his Chest and The Adoration of the Shepherds. Art lovers will appreciate the Golden Age paintings housed by the museum, especially the more than forty canvases painted by Diego Velázquez, including Las Meninas, Las hilanderas (The Fable of Arachne) and The Adoration of the Magi.
Also included in the Madrid must see list is the Madrid Rio. Madrid Rio is a huge recreational and cultural area both for its landmarks and leisure facilities and the culture it houses, and for being a reference point from which to contemplate and come into contact with monumental Madrid.
From the playful viewpoint of the new system on the bank of the Manzanares, it provides the perfect recipe for a good time with family. Children will have fun in the 10 play areas found along the Salón de Pinos, all with swings made from sustainable, natural materials such as wood and hemp rope, forming webs, hammocks, hanging bridges or climbing vines. Each zone has different characteristics according to age, so there are areas dedicated for younger and older children based on skill, balance and strength.
But it is also a place where adults can enjoy a great cultural offering. For all cultural activities (exhibitions, music festivals, theatre ...) that are held in Matadero Madrid, you pass by new bridges and beautifully constructed bridges. In Madrid Río there is also the Puente del Rey, where the Spanish football team celebrated its victory in the South Africa World Cup in 2010. go to Madrid