Frequently Asked Questions
If you are looking for information on booking a holiday to the USA, travel tips, or general information about holidays to America please read our Frequently Asked Questions below...
How do I make a booking?
Either book online, contact your travel agent or call us between 9am and 5.30pm Monday to Saturday. Credit cards may be used for the deposit (which is typically 20\% of the total) or for the total amount if you are travelling within 9 weeks (1.5% charge applies except for deposit payments).
Will my booking be confirmed immediately?
Generally we are able to confirm within 24 hours, however, some vacations require more time to organise, particularly if you are having a multi-centre holiday or travelling in a busy holiday period.
What happens after I've booked?
All 'Vacationers' receive a confirmation/invoice together with general information to assist in planning your holiday, within 7 days. Tickets and travel documents including maps and directions to your accommodation will be sent to you approximately 10 days prior to departure.
Will the price be cheaper if I book nearer the time?
'Late bookings' rarely save money, particularly as availability will be more limited for example cheaper apex flight seats and standard rooms in Inns and hotels book first, leaving only the more expensive options.
How far in advance should I book?
We are able to make reservations 11 months ahead for flights and further ahead for accommodation. Many of our properties fill up well in advance, particularly our individual homes, so it is advisable to secure these properties early. However, booking at any time up to a few days before travel is always a possibility, so do not hesitate to call us.
I understand you are members of the Association of Independent Tour Operators and subscribe to their charter - what is the charter?
AITO is the Association for independent and specialist holiday companies. Our member companies, usually owner-managed, strive to create overseas holidays with high levels of professionalism and a shared concern for quality and personal service. The Association encourages the highest standards in all aspects of tour operating.
EXCLUSIVE MEMBERSHIP: AITO sets criteria regarding ownership, finance and quality which must be satisfied before new companies are admitted to membership. All members are required to adhere to a Code of Business Practice which encourages high operational standards and conduct.
FINANCIAL SECURITY: An AITO member is required to protect money paid by customers to the member for any holiday sold under the AITO logo. This protection applies to customers who are in the UK at the time of booking or to overseas customers who have booked directly with the member. Members have to comply with UK Government Regulations in this respect. Members submit details of their bonding or guarantee arrangements to the Association on a regular basis.
ACCURATE BROCHURES and WEB SITES: All members do their utmost to ensure that all their brochures and other publications, print or electronic, clearly and accurately describe the holidays and services offered.
PROFESSIONAL SERVICE AND CONTINUAL IMPROVEMENTS: All members are committed to high standards of service and believe in regular and thorough training of employees. Members continually seek to review and improve their holidays. They listen to their customers and always welcome suggestions for improving standards.
MONITORING STANDARDS: AITO endeavours to monitor quality standards regularly. All customers should receive a post-holiday questionnaire the results of which are scrutinised by the Association.
SUSTAINABLE TOURISM: All members acknowledge the importance of AITO’s Sustainable Tourism guidelines, which recognise the social, economic and environmental responsibilities of tour operating. Those demonstrating their achievements beyond the pure acceptance of this principle are recognised by the award of 2 or 3 star status.
CUSTOMER RELATIONS: All members endeavour to deal swiftly and fairly with any issues their customers may raise. In the unlikely event that a dispute between an AITO member and a customer cannot be settled amicably, AITO’s low-cost Independent Dispute Settlement Service may be called upon by either side to bring the matter to a speedy and acceptable conclusion.
Vacations to America is a member of the Association of Independent Tour Operators. To contact the Association, visit www.aito.co.uk or call 020 8744 9280.
Do I need a Visa to travel to the USA?
All passengers wishing to travel into the USA without a Visa must either have a Machine Readable Passport or if your passport was issued on/after 26 October 2006, an "e-Passport" (biometric passport) which contains an integrated chip. All travellers must obtain authorisation - known as ESTA - to ensure you are able to travel into the USA. To complete your application, go to the official website:- https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov <https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/> . There is a fee of $14 for your ESTA. If you use an unofficial website the charge may be significantly more. Your ESTA application can be done at any time but no less than 72 hours prior to travel. Once granted authorisation is valid for 2 years. For further information
regarding ESTA as well as details about Visa requirements go to http://www.usembassy.org.uk/ or contact the American Embassy on 09068 200290 (60p/min).
Entry Procedures - Finger Scanning & Facial Recognition
All Visa Waiver Passengers will be finger scanned and their pictures taken upon arrival in the USA. This will take place during the inspection with US Customs & Border Protection who will use an inkless digital finger scanner to electronically capture the left & right index fingers of the traveller. A digital photograph of the traveller will also be taken. The process usually takes an average of 15 seconds and should not inconvenience or delay arrival into the USA.
Baggage Security Checks
Screening of passenger’s baggage includes opening luggage after check in and therefore leaving bags unlocked will avoid the potential need for them to be opened forcibly. However travellers may be provided with free, padlock-like seals that screeners can snip open if a search is necessary but, if unavailable, travellers are advised to use cable or zip ties as an alternative to baggage locks. If a checked bag is searched, a statement to that effect will be inserted in the bag to notify the owner and the bag will be re-sealed. Travellers are advised to check with their baggage insurance provider to ensure that such measures do not affect their policy.
The following packing tips are advisable but for other tips, check out www.tsatraveltips.us
• Do not pack food or beverages in checked bags
• Pack footwear on top of other contents
• Put personal belongings in clear plastic bags to reduce chances of a TSA screener having to handle them and spread books out - do not stack books
• Do not place film in checked bags, because screening equipment will damage it
• Leave gifts unwrapped should screening require them to be opened
• Put scissors, pocket-knives, other sharp items in checked bags; never carry on.
Visa and security requirements are subject to frequent and sudden change. It is therefore important that you check the Embassy’s public information regularly and well in advance of your planned travel date.
This information is for general guidance only. Travellers requiring further specific information or clarification are advised to call the US Embassy’s Live Operator Information Service 09055 444546 (calls charged at £1.30 per minute) or visit the US Embassy website on www.usembassy.org.uk
Do I need an International Driving Licence?
No, a valid UK driving licence is required for car rental. If your licence is the newer, photo-style, the paper counterpart is also required.
How large are your villas and apartments?
All villas and apartments have a living/dining area, one master bedroom with en-suite bathroom, a second/guest bathroom, ample wardrobe space usually with “walk-in closets” and a fully equipped American kitchen (except 1 bed apts, studios & suites). Homes will normally accommodate a maximum of 2 people in each bedroom plus possibly a further 2 using a sofabed. Our typical detached villas average around 1400 to 1700 square feet for 3 bedroom homes and 1600 to well over 2000 sq.ft. for 4 bedroom homes. The typical size can be even greater if there is a second living area. These figures exclude pool areas! Our 2 bedroom apartments average over 1000 square feet, 3 bedroom apartments average over 1400 square feet.
What are the minimum features of your villas and apartments?
• Fully air conditioned • Multi channel colour cable television • Private telephone with free local calls • Fully equipped American kitchen - usually open plan • Crockery, cutlery, glassware • fridge freezer • cooker • microwave cooker • Automatic dishwasher • Automatic washer and tumble dryer • Iron and ironing board • Linen and towels (beach towels in some properties) • Pool or balcony furniture • Bathrooms include a bath tub and/or a shower only • Most are non smoking • Hairdryers are not normally available.
• Soap, detergents and paper products are not included • Most villas with private pools have a light mesh screen around the pool which helps cleanliness and increases privacy.