What not to wear

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We plan our treasured vacations with great care, researching the destination, reconfirming our reservations. We even make list after list of things we absolutely must bring with us to make our trip complete.

But how about those things we want to leave behind?

Traveler safety begins when you fill your suitcase or duffel bag. In other words, what we don't pack can be just as important as what we do. We don't want to stick out in a crowd, let alone be branded as tourists in our chosen holiday spot, even though that is exactly what we'll be.

So what can we do to look like a local? Or at least not look like a total travel nerd? Here are some things to keep in mind when packing for your next trip:

A person wearing a tie in Hawaii sticks out every bit as much as someone wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sandals in Manhattan. Some cities in Europe are famous for their height-of-fashion locals.

Check out your destination. Is it casual? Ultra chic? You'll want to bring clothes that will help you blend in.

Do yourself a favor and do not bring your expensive jewelry. Even expensive LOOKING jewelry can make you a target, let alone Grandma's lovely pearls. Don't take a chance - keep it simple and discreet.

Will you need your library card in London? Your grocery store club card in Cancun? Didn't think so.

Pare it down to the bare essentials: a drivers license and/or passport, ATM card, health insurance card, local currency and a few credit cards - two is my personal magic number. Leave everything else locked up in a safe place at home.

And much as it pains me to say it, fanny packs scream "tourist." At least these days. Consider a shoulder bag with reinforced straps or a money belt you can hide inside your waistband.

Do you really need that third swimsuit? How about that bulky but warm jacket? Nope and nope.

The fewer bags you bring with you, the fewer things you'll need to keep under your watchful eye. You will be able to move more quickly through the airport and your chosen destination and will be much less likely to leave something unattended.

And something else you will want to leave behind: a complete itinerary, including hotel phone numbers, with a trusted family member or neighbor. Leave a photocopy of your passport with this same person. That way they can fax it to you if this vital travel document is lost or stolen.

You'll also want to pack your patience. With more Americans traveling this year, the airports are packed to the gills.

If you are traveling midweek, 90 minutes for a domestic flight and two hours for international flights will work well, but have you seen Terminal 4 at Sky Harbor on a weekend? Plan on two hours for domestic flights and at least two hours for international. You may want to make it two and a half or three just to be on the safe side.

Stressing out in the security line is not the way to start your vacation!

Some great specials this week, including to a popular destination we don't often see on sale.

Fall may bring a bigger chance of storms, but boy oh boy - it also brings some amazing rates for Caribbean cruises!

If you can travel in October, November or December (before the holidays), you'll find prices like this for Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries out of Ft. Lauderdale:

Inside Staterooms - from $449.00 per person, double occupancy
Ocean View Staterooms - from $499.00 per person, double occupancy
Balcony Staterooms - from $699.00 per person, double occupancy

The rates are cruise only, so you'll need to add a flight from Phoenix. Government taxes are additional as well - typically in the $65.00 a person range. Even with all that, it's still a great vacation value! Check out your schedule and give me a call.

This destination is very popular with our neighbors from the Eastern part of the US, but until very recently, it was quite difficult to get decent flights from Phoenix. That's not the case for September and October, so again - check your schedules!!

The rates for the Punta Cana-area resorts below include round trip air from Phoenix, six nights all-inclusive accommodations as noted (all meals and beverages - including alcohol - plus non-motorized water sports), transfers and tips:

Grand Palladium Bavaro Resort
From $659.00 per person, double occupancy!

RIU Bambu Resort
From $729.00 per person, double occupancy!

Iberostar Punta Cana
From $849.00 per person, double occupancy!

All these resorts sit on beautiful beaches and the Dominican Republic offers a great variety of water sports and fun activities. Grab your passport and go!

And finally:

March 11 - March 22, 2011
From $2599.00 per person, double occupancy!

This fantastic package includes round trip air from Phoenix, a fully escorted tour of Italy, with a total of four nights in Rome, two nights in Florence and two nights in Venice. Thanks to an incredible air fare from British Airways, we'll also stop in London for two nights on our way back home! It's four amazing cities in one fantastic trip!

Lots of wonderful sightseeing is included: the fabulous Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, Colosseum, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Michelangelo's David, Romeo & Juliet's Verona, a private transfer boat in Venice and Chianti country. You'll also have a full day in London to do as you please! Air taxes are additional - currently running $185.00 per person.

Check out the itinerary below:
Day 1 Board your overnight British Airways transatlantic flights

Day 2 Arrival in Rome, Italy
Relax in your comfortable hotel after your evening arrival in this lovely city.

Day 3 At leisure in Rome
Time to start exploring the Eternal City with your entire day free! At 6 p.m. meet your Tour Director and traveling companions for a special Welcome Dinner with wine in one of Rome’s lively restaurants. (BB,D)

Day 4 Rome
Sightseeing starts with a visit to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel (arranged next morning if closed today), world famous for Michelangelo's ceiling paintings and The Last Judgment. Continue to monumental St. Peter's Square and Basilica. Cross the Tiber and visit the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Then there is plenty of time for independent activities and exciting optional excursion possibilities. (BB)

Day 5 Rome / Pisa / Florence
Follow the Aurelian Way along the Tyrrhenian coast to Pisa. Here take your pictures of the amazing Leaning Tower, 180 feet high and no less than 12 feet out of the perpendicular. Then on to Florence, the splendid capital of Tuscany. (BB,D)

Day 6 Florence
Guided sightseeing includes the magnificent Cathedral, Giotto's Bell Tower, the Baptistry's heavy bronze "Gate of Paradise," and sculpture-studded Signoria Square. To top it off, admire Michelangelo's celebrated David in the Academy of the Fine Arts. The afternoon is free for independent sightseeing and browsing through the shops in Piazza Santa Croce. (BB)

Day 7 Florence/Verona/Venice
Journey north through the fertile Lombardian plains to Verona, medieval setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. See Juliet's Balcony and stroll around the picturesque market square before continuing to Venice in the afternoon. (BB)

Day 8 Venice
Start morning sightseeing in style as you glide by private boat along the Giudecca Canal to meet your resident expert. Highlights of your walking tour are St. Mark's Square and the Byzantine Basilica, lavish Doges' Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. Also watch Venetian glass blowers fashion their delicate objects in an age-old traditional manner. Afterwards enjoy Venice at your own pace or join an optional gondola ride. (BB)

Day 9 Venice / Rome
A kaleidoscope of Italian landscapes parades past the coach windows on the way through the lush plains of the mighty River Po and across the wooded Etruscan Apennine mountain range. An exciting detour then takes you off the highway into the vine- and olive-clad Tuscan Hills which are the home of the popular Chianti wines. Tonight in Rome, an optional festive dinner may be just the way to celebrate the success of your leisurely Italian vacation. (BB)

Day 10 Depart Rome/Arrive London
After a leisurely breakfast, we transfer to the airport for our afternoon flight to London. Transfer from Heathrow to our Chelsea-area hotel. Evening at leisure to enjoy this amazing city! (BB)

Day 11 At leisure in London
A full day to enjoy London! Stroll around London's beautiful parks or take the London Underground to the Tower of London to see the crown jewels. You might consider one of London's famous double-decker bus "Hop On, Hop Off" tours, which lets you explore this great city at your own pace. Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, the National Gallery, Buckingham Palace - your list of places to explore is endless!

Day 12 Depart London
Our nonstop flight departs Heathrow Airport this afternoon for our early evening arrival in Phoenix.

These dates are over Spring Break for many school districts, so make it a family affair! The weather in Italy will be very mild and the crowds should be low since it's not a peak travel season.

For more information on what's included in the trip, please go to my agency site at www.travelationonline.com.

Some folks who have traveled with me before have already reserved their seats for this trip. Because of this, I only have 25 seats left from Phoenix on the British Airways flights. Give me a call or send me an e-mail to hold your space. I hope you come with us!

Across town or around the globe, we're planning your next great vacation at TravelationOnline! Give us a call at 602-252-1140 or, if you're outside the Metro Phoenix area codes of 602, 480 and 623, you can call toll-free at 888-751-2032. You can also reach me directly via e-mail at rosanne@travelationonline.com. I look forward to hearing from you!