Some travel terms have a completely different meaning than you may think: make yourself familiar with these five faux amis:
Run of House (ROH): This is a hotel term: you can book your hotel stay as “run of house.” Sounds delightful, no? You might be tempted to think that run of house gives you access to the whole hotel or resort, including the special club level. It almost makes it sound like you can pick any room you like, have the run of the property! Not so. ROH means that you are not assigned a specific room category, and will be assigned a category at check-in.
When my husband and I were living in Germany (before I was a travel advisor), we once booked a last minute “deal” for Malta that included a nice hotel. Little did we know that we had a ROH room, which ended up being subterranean with a window facing a dark light-shaft of a courtyard. We had a subterranean instead of a Mediterranean view! ROH typically means you will get one of the less desirable locations and room configurations.
Guarantee Stateroom (GTY): The lowest prices on cruise staterooms are typically “guarantees.” For example, you can book a “guarantee ocean view” for less than you would book a regularly assigned "ocean view." The large print tells you that you are guaranteed an ocean view (window) stateroom type or better. The catch: you can’t pick your exact stateroom, and often won’t know which stateroom you will have until you board. Most often, you won’t get upgraded to the next stateroom type (e.g., from ocean view to balcony) but will simply be assigned a leftover stateroom of the type you booked. What’s more (and this is the small print), that stateroom is more likely to have an obstructed view, be in a noisy area, or in an otherwise subpar location. There was an article in the press recently about a woman who was hugely disappointed when she booked a guarantee ocean view stateroom with a large online agency, only to find that her GTY ocean view stateroom gave her a mere sliver of ocean and a whole lot of technical equipment blocking her view.
A guarantee stateroom is not worth the often minor savings, in my opinion. Many mass market cruise lines will highlight “prices starting at” in their promotions - these are often for a guarantee inside stateroom. Caveat emptor. There is a science to selecting the right stateroom within stateroom type and category: I look at upwards of five factors when hand selecting my clients’ staterooms, and each ship is different. The right stateroom, in the right location, at the right value will make a big difference in your cruise experience and travel investment.
European Plan (EP). This is another hotel term. Again, it sounds so glamorous, so, well, “European.” Don’t we all want to live like Europeans, waking up to a fancy breakfast spread with croissants and fruity marmalades, and savoring a delicious Bordeaux with dinner every night? Not so fast! European Plan simply means that no meals are included: it is a room only booking. That is perfectly fine, of course, and some very fine hotels are strictly EP. Word to the savvy traveler: oftentimes simply booking the same four- or five-star property with a professional travel advisor associated with a luxury consortium like Virtuoso (ahem) will get you complimentary perks and amenities such as included breakfast.
Basic Economy. By now, many travelers are familiar with this term. It is the lowest fare available on the airlines, but typically means that you are not allowed carry-on baggage, will have no choice of seat, and will be in the last boarding group. Remember that basic economy is not “regular economy,” and it can end up costing you in both your travel experience and additional baggage fees.
Passport Expiration Date. Your passport is good to travel on up until the date of expiration, right? Not necessarily. Many countries follow a six month passport validity rule, meaning that your passport must be valid for six months past the date of your last day in the country. Here is language from the U.S. Department of State on this subject: “Some countries require that your passport be valid at least six months beyond the dates of your trip. Some airlines will not allow you to board if this requirement is not met. Consider the following scenario: A country requires that you have at least six months of validity on your passport. You currently have seven months of validity on your passport. However, your trip is two months from now. At that point, you will only have five months of validity remaining on your passport which is not enough to satisfy that country's entry requirements. In this situation, you would need to renew your passport before you can make your trip.”* Many countries follow this rule, so it is always advised to travel with a passport with six months validity past your date of return. Routine U.S. State Department passport processing times are currently at six to eight weeks, so renew early: nine months prior to expiration is a good rule of thumb.
There are plenty of other examples of confusing travel terms, as well as many confusing travel marketing campaigns out there. Planning travel well requires a lot of research, handling of logistical details, connections, and expert knowledge about destinations and suppliers. Many unique travel experiences are also not “Googleable.” Working with a professional, credentialed travel advisor can save you the headache of going it alone while making the most of your precious investment of time and resources. Most importantly, you will have a better, more enriching travel experience.
Happy Travels Always,