It is very important that you understand your passport must be valid for six months AFTER your dates of travel. To see the rules as they are today, here is a company that sells expedited passport delivery. We are NOT trying to endorse their service (we don’t know them), but we want you to see how they explained the rule, because it seemed well worded. That company link is HERE.
What to wear:
You will not normally have access to a laundry facility. We recommend that you take everything you need for the journey, or travel with things that can be easily washed by hand without a need for ironing. Remember this: veteran travelers carry less. If you plan to hand wash clothing, practice on those items before you leave home, so you will know if they are truly hand washable and how they look after you do so. Savvy travelers plan their wardrobe and then eliminate as much as they possibly can. Heavy bags make for burdensome travels.
Dress during our touring day is normally quite casual, but should always be modest. Our groups frequently visit places of worship (or monastic places) and these have specific limitations: no shorts (knees must be covered), no tank tops (shoulders must be covered), no mini-skirts. Form-fitting pants are also not appropriate for such places. Each day on the tour we’ll tell you how strict the dress code will be for each upcoming day based on the planned stops. Some women bring an elastic-waisted skirt that can be easily pulled up over a pair of shorts in order to be both comfortable and acceptable to enter these more restrictive sites. Capris and other pants are acceptable for women, as are jeans for both men and women.
When considering your clothing, we recommend you look carefully at the scheduled itinerary. When we expect to be in upscale hotels (as is our norm), you will be most comfortable if your wardrobe included appropriate attire for a finer hotel dining room. (Our hotels kindly request no shorts in their dining rooms). You should consider having your wardrobe coordinated so shoes can be kept to a minimum. Also consider alternating two pairs of shoes – one for comfortable walking during the tour day and one more for hotel dining. Just a note of caution: Be sure shoes are very comfortable and sturdy enough for a lot of walking over uneven terrain. Your travel experience will include much "time on your feet," so take care to protect them and keep them as comfortable as possible! One more thing, we highly suggest you wear shoes for several weeks before the trip to break them in (read: Don’t bring new shoes for a touring day). Many people include a pair of tennis shoes or sturdy sandals. Experienced travelers know it is also wise to include a sweater for use on the plane!
Purchasing your own air:
Most of our programs offer both a “full package” (including air) and a "land only" option for passengers who choose to book their own air directly with an airline (or through a travel service). The option to "book your own air" SHOULD be utilized if you require a specific seat on the plane (due to size or a desired upgraded class). In addition, if you are using points to purchase your ticket, you should choose "land only" on your registration and book directly with your preferred airline. Please read the tour conditions on our registration very carefully, and be familiar with what your selected option includes and does not include. In most cases, if you book your own flight, your airport transfers to and from the hotel to meet the group and to return are your responsibility unless your flights coincide with the group’s arrival and departure.
Choosing seats on the plane:
Group ticketing is not like individual flight reservation services. Though we do our best to accommodate our passengers needs, seat choices are not guaranteed to us until the airline issues the full compliment of tickets. If you have certain seating needs, we kindly suggest you choose a “land only” package with us and book your own air to guarantee your seat choice (see above). Please consult with our office to find out when you should arrive and depart in order to match the needs of your program.
CTSP, Inc. is willing and able to take all major credit cards. We do advise our program participants that we are charged 3.7% to process that payment because we are a travel service and we do not physically have the card in front of us (considered a “phone sale” and charged at a higher rate). Since we do not add these fees into the price of travel for groups, we pass the fee to the card holder. We absorb the fee in the registration fees paid online, but cannot absorb them for the whole program. For this reason, we advise our clients to send the balance via check. If you desire to use a card (in order to earn points, etc.) we will happily do so, but will add the 3.7% fee. Call the office and they will accept your card via phone.
Most often our tours include breakfast and dinner. We stop for lunch at a restaurant, but the selection and payment are the participant’s responsibility. Read carefully your itinerary and you will see “B” and perhaps a “D” at the end of each day’s listed sites. This notes an included breakfast or dinner. Hotel breakfasts usually include coffee/tea, breads, eggs, cheese, fruit, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, salads, fish and many other delicious items of local cuisine! Dinners are usually multi-course or buffets, with water included (other drinks are available for an extra fee). For lunch, you will have opportunity to try the local foods (For instance, in Israel try the falafel or shwarma in pita). Lunches will average about $12-$13 per day. In Europe they are usually sit down lunches, costing $15-$20 per day (For Italians, mealtime is a “sacred” event to be savored!). In Italy in particular, we usually include a few "dinner on your own" evenings for you to go out (we have our recommendations to share!). Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the town and experience the delicious world-class restaurants.
Gluten Intolerant/Special diets?
With the increase of passengers with dietary needs that include gluten intolerance and dairy sensitivity, we offer destinations that normally have readily available access to fresh vegetables and fruits, meats, fish and other foods that meet your needs. In many cases, hotels and restaurants have "gluten free" options labeled on the buffet. We suggest you always have a meal replacement bar or other food handy that you are eat, but we have not found it to be a problem in recent years on any of our trips.
What standard of hotel do you use?
We normally use 4 and 5 star hotels (unless otherwise specified in the program, such as time at camel caravans). We select our hotels in cooperation with our trusted land agent and most we have stayed in many times before. Your porterage has been paid in your program fees. At the same time, there are some occasions when it may be more convenient for you to carry your own suit cases (if we arrive too close to dinner and you need immediate access to your suitcase). Our ground staff is more than willing to assist you in this matter.
Are there bathrooms on bus?
Normally, there are no restroom facilities on the buses. Yet, we endeavor to make many stops in order to make your tour as comfortable as possible.
Is it safe?
In a word, Yes! It is safe for you to travel with us. Our staff has both lived in the near east and worked there for decades. We would never take a group anywhere we deemed unsafe. We admit the new sources often sensationalize events and make them seem so much larger than they truly are! In order to take care of every group, we try to carefully monitor safety situations on a daily basis during your tour. If changes are needed, we make them based upon our local information. Over the past thirty years, this has rarely happened, but be assured we have our travel participant’s safety in mind at all times. Though no one can predictive the behavior of other human beings, we have found that being aware of our surroundings is always important. The safest place to be is the place God has made clear to us we belong. The most dangerous is anywhere else. If you have sought the Lord about coming and He has made clear you should come – do it.
Can we bring children?
Check with our office about the program you are interested in joining. Our programs are heavy enough in educational content that is geared towards adult learners, that we don’t recommend that unless the program specifies otherwise (as in intergenerational trips for grandparents/grandchildren, etc). We offer a few trips designed by and for high schools or colleges – but most of our tours are not designed specifically for youth. Again, if you are interested in a certain tour that would have a more youthful passenger list, we would be happy to steer you towards one. We most certainly love children, but we want them to join something appropriately designed for their needs.
Are headsets provided?
In most of our tours head seats are provided free of charge. There are rare exceptions, but our normal policy to have them and include them in your package at no extra fee.
Will I need money daily?
Since lunch is paid “on your own” you will likely need either cash or credit card for that purpose. All entrance fees and other services offered on the program are paid already (unless specified under “free time” activity or made clear on the program). Most places accept credit cards. If asked, tell them you want the charge on your card “in local currency.” That option is offered in some countries, but not in all. Having the charge “in local currency” means your bank determines the exchange rate, not the local business’ bank. This often saves you money.
What size group?
Most of our groups range between 30-55 people. You can contact your group leader or our office to find out how large a group we are expecting for your program.
What is a free day?
Some of our programs include a “free day” in the program. On this day your meals are provided as stated in the itinerary but the day was built into the program to allow you time to explore on your own, shop and relax. Our programs are not really geared towards shopping and so this would be the day to get into all those lovely little boutiques, gift shops and stores.
What is an IPY trip?
IPY is a travel company that operates under CTSP, Inc. by Joan Meyer Keane. Joan has over 40 years travel experience “on the ground” in Israel and the region, and has worked in various travel agencies bringing groups from all over the USA. Her trips were especially designed by her with great care for her clients. These are not “study programs” taught by Dr. Smith, but instead she uses her hand-selected expert local guides. Joan personally accompanies the group, making sure all the logistics are smooth, making comfort of the passengers her priority. These are a unique travel experiences with a personal touch!
Will my appliances work?
We recommend you take only those appliances that are absolutely necessary. Hotel bathrooms often have special outlets that can handle only the needs of American electric shavers. ALL OTHER appliances need to adapt from our 110 voltage to 220 current. Unless your appliance is labeled “dual voltage,” you will need a separate voltage converter. Even with dual voltage, you still need an adapter plug with round prongs, which can be purchased via Amazon from the “Stuff we Like” page on this website. Even if your converter has the round prongs, it is good to have one extra adapter plug to use as an “extender” to stack in order to reach into recessed sockets.
Because many of our groups travel to Israel, we generally remind them that temperatures are similar to central California or northern Florida/Georgia at the same time of the year, except that there is generally less humidity. Yet, because of the topography, there is a wider variation in temperatures, nights tend to be a little cooler with days that are warm and bright. We recommend you check out www.climatestotravel.com for information that should help.
Am I too old to go with you?
Our programs vary in physical intensity, but most are designed for young and old, student or "haven't been a student in decades." We don't assume a participant is deep into Bible or historical studies, but we are prepared to engage at a deeper level the participant who may want to dig a little deeper into the subject. If the program is designed with more hiking or an arduous part of the journey, our staff will make that clear before you sign up - just ask if that is your concern! While it is true that we handle a number of groups that are from schools, the majority of our participants are not youth.
Unless you specifically advise us, you should be capable to carry all your own luggage easily, or you should consider reducing what you bring. Although there are porters in the hotels, there will be some times when it will be necessary (customs, etc.) or to your advantage to be able to handle your own luggage. Your checked luggage should be easily manageable in both size and weight. The airlines allow one carryon piece, and a smaller additional “personal item” which is like a purse, backpack, camera bag. Your carry on should contain essential toiletries, medicine and a complete change of clothes just in case luggage is delayed in arrival or lost en route (it rarely happens, but it still can). We have found that clear zip lock bags are helpful in order to keep similar type items together. When appropriate, a hole can be poked in the bag sides to allow air to escape, so it can be “squished” to take up less space. Underwear can be rolled and used to fill in empty spaces. We highly recommend that you uniquely “DECORATE” the outside of your luggage and make it distinctive, so that you help prevent another person mistaking it for their own.
Why is travel insurance so important?
CTSP offers Travel Guard insurance, and we encourage you to consider getting it. If you choose to use your own insurance, that is fine, but make sure it has the coverage you need. Over the years of offering our travel experiences, we have had some participants who needed to cancel days before a departure because of a sudden illness or injury. Each time the participant was insured, we had peace about their ability to get reimbursed through their insurance provider. It is a heartbreak to us to be forced to decline a refund to someone who requests one after funds have been sent overseas and cannot be recovered. We don't want to be put in the position of declining, but once we have committed funds to cover the program, we cannot get them back to the participant. This is but one reason insurance has been so helpful to our participants over the years.
Try to take the supplies you will need. You can buy almost everything in your host country, but it will cost about much more and you may not have a choice of brands that are familiar. Add to that, in group travel, shopping may not be convenient.
Batteries (especially lithium) and memory cards are very expensive abroad. If you have a digital camera, be sure you have enough memory for all the pictures you’ll want to take.
You may wish to take “Handy Wipes” since hotels seldom provide washcloths or purchase washcloths you plan to leave at the hotel.
Pack a small amount of powdered detergent in a plastic bag if you plan to wash clothes in the hotel tub or sink. Also, you may want to bring plastic hanger with a swivel top and clips on the bottom, and a small clothesline. Take a plastic bag for things that may not have dried overnight and/or a wet swimsuit.
If you have trouble adjusting to different beds/pillows, consider bringing a small travel pillow. Adjust to using it before you leave home and you may sleep better!
A few spring clothespins will allow you to clip the drapes shut if they don’t keep their position. The early morning sun is bright, and some drapes don’t overlap enough, leaving gaps for the sun to wake you.
Foam earplugs help you shut out strange noises at night, or the sound of a roommate who snores. Your morning routine may not fit the group wake-up call so bring an alarm clock or use your phone.
A digital recorder allows you to dictate information you want to preserve.
You’ll appreciate having a travel pack of antibacterial Wet Ones and a small bottle of antibacterial hand sanitizer.
The sun is very bright, so don’t forget sunglasses and sunscreen. A neck cushion, eye shades, foam ear plugs and Advil/Tylenol PM make for an easier flight! Those pills may also be useful the first night abroad.