Category Archives: Travel Tips

Travel Scams & Cybercrimes to Avoid

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International travel back and forth can open you to new scams on a global level. Here are just some of the scams we’ve come across in our 41 years in the industry.  

1. Hotel Rewards Hack

One of our clients reported that someone had hacked into their hotel rewards account, changed the email address where confirmations were sent, and made hotel reservations with their rewards points. Our client only found out when he got an email from the hotel asking him to fill out a survey about the stay! 

2. Permanent Visas to the USA

We have encountered individuals who have paid inordinate amounts of money for USA visas from persons who posed as employees of our travel agency. Be aware that Willamette International Travel is not authorized to obtain visas for entry into the USA.  


3. Hacking Emails 

Emails being hacked in is nothing new, but travelers can encounter further risks while abroad. While overseas, one of our client’s email was hacked into, and emails sent to his entire list that he was currently in London and desperately needed to have $2000 wired to him at a Western Union location. As it is, our client was traveling in Mexico at the time—so it surely wasn’t him!

4. Rental Scams

Willamette Intl Travel always works with hotel or vacation rental companies where we know the properties being offered have been vetted by their local representatives or our own agents, and where there is an in-country representative to contact should issues arise. We never book you in a place that doesn’t meet these qualifications, because we cannot guarantee you have an enjoyable vacation. It’s important to keep in mind of accommodation scams if you choose to book independent locations on your own. In one instance, we had a client who booked an independent flat themselves in London—and ended up losing over $2000 on a scam. Despite our best efforts in assistance, involving the British Tourist Board and attorneys, they never got their money back. 


5. Hotel Scams

This can come in the form of a phone call to your hotel room, posing as hotel staff and asking for your credit card information. Sometimes this is timed for the morning, when the guest is still waking up. Or it might happen directly after you check in and go up to your room. They’ll phone your room saying there was an error, and ask for your credit card and PIN number again. Never give this info over the hotel’s phone line—always walk down to the front desk. Another creative scam is to run through the hallways overnight, looking for door hangers with room service orders. After they get your name and room numbers, they call the next morning just before the order delivery, asking for your credit card to allegedly pay the room service. 

6. Bank Card

Your bank or credit card company may contact you, asking you to verify a charge to your card. When you deny the charge, they say they will issue a credit to your account. They will even give you your full address, sound very official, and they may perhaps even give you your card number (!). They just require your security code. Which of course you may be inclined to give to them, as they have all the other information correct—but be aware! Your bank or credit card company will never call to ask you to verify your security code. If there is an alleged issue, hang up and contact the company yourself. 


7. Credit Card Fraud

A good policy whether you’re abroad or at home is to monitor charges to your credit cards regularly online. Sometimes, a team of scammers will attempt guesswork on credit cards, and bill a small amount, usually less than $5.00, to your card to see if they have created a valid card. Once they know they have a valid card, they will go on a spending spree. Do not let these small amounts slip through – put them in dispute immediately. Also, try not to let your credit card out of your sight when shopping or dining and using your card. If a store clerk, or restaurant staff want to take your card out of your sight, refuse, ask them to bring the validation machine to you. There is no reason for the store clerk to not have the validation machine in clear site. Many restaurants, especially in Europe now, have the handheld card machine which is brought to your table, where you insert the card, and sign at your dining table.

Our Tips to Avoid Travel Scams


  • Regularly update your passwords and store them securely. 
  • Notify your bank of the dates of your travel so they don’t flag your card for charges abroad.  We are finding some credit card companies are saying it is not necessary to advise them of your travel plans, but we are still calling and notifying them of our personal travel, and we recommend you still take this extra step to help avoid fraud.  
  • Individual cards –   couples should make sure they have individual cards, this way if one is blacklisted for suspected fraud there is still a valid card to use on the trip.
  • A lot of these scammers fool people because of how professional they sound. Don’t be fooled or let your guard down. Better to be safe than sorry. Remember you cannot offend a legitimate call by refusing to give the information over the phone advising you will call or visit the bank. A Scammer will feign offense!

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The Best Travel Apps in 2018

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According to a report by Lonely Planet, around 137 million people in the USA alone use travel apps each month!

There are literally thousands of travel apps to choose from – figuring out which are the best can be a headache! So we asked around our agents and clients on their favorite apps to use overseas.

Have some you’d love to see on this list? Let us know in the comments!

Viking Voyager

Viking Cruises’ go-to app is all about enhancing your experience onboard. Guests can book dinner, shore excursions, and spa appointments—all on their phone! Access the daily program so you always know what’s going on in every corner of the ship. Read up on your ports of call, and be gently reminded when you should be back onboard. You can even watch the cruise TV on your phone.

Viking Art Guide

Did you think Viking Cruises had just one app? Think again. Perfect for art lovers, the Art Guide illuminates your cruise with details on the artwork, public spaces, and décor of the ship with a self-guided audio experience. Learn about the Bayeux Tapestry along the ship’s eight decks. Discover the unique photography that adorns the walls at Manfredi’s restaurant. Enjoy insightful commentary from artists, designers and curators, plus description of all 36 public spaces.


Mootvit is a subway/transit guide with live time updates. With schedules and maps of 80+ countries worldwide, this is the perfect app to survive the wild chaos of London, Edinburgh, Sydney, Athens and more.


Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of an overseas data plan. Or maybe you just want to get offline for the day. Citimaps2go offers offline maps to navigate those tricky streets, even when you don’t have a reliable connection.

XE Currency Converter

For years, XE has been a favorite resource for international travelers. It converts USD to every single currency in a second—necessary for those haggling markets or souvenir shops.

Aurora Forecast

Northbound? If your winter travels take you to the poles, don’t miss your chance at one of the greatest sights in the world—the aurora. This forecast app is a definitive resource in predicting aurora sightings.

WhatsApp or Skype

If you want to stay in touch with back home, either of these applications are a must. Skype is great for voice or audio connections, whereas WhatsApp delivers the message straight to your loved ones’ phones.

WIT Agent Tip!: WhatsApp can also make phone calls—just be sure to download the app on your phone while your USA SIM card is installed. The number you register the app in, stays with the app, regardless of what foreign SIM card you use later on. This is also the number the app will send a message to for verification. For example, if you want to associate whatsapp with your American number, it will send a verification message to your American number. (if you have a Malaysian sim card in your phone and you’re trying to set up whatsapp to associate with your American number, it won’t work because you won’t receive your verification code.)

Google Translate

Carry a virtual translator wherever you go. It has many added benefits, like a downloadable option so you have the language dictionary always at your fingertips, even offline. With some languages, you can even hold the camera over text in the real world, and the app translates it for you. It can even translate (with varying success) complex writing systems like Japanese Kanji.

Apple Wallet

Only available to iPhones, the Apple Wallet is a handle organizer for all sorts of tickets and cards, meaning coupons, boarding passes, event tickets, public transportation tickets, loyalty cards. I’ve found this huge as I don’t need to sift through my papers or my photos to find a boarding pass—I get it instantly, when I want it, where I want it.

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6 Hacks to Get Your Luggage through the Airport

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Sometimes luggage can be a hassle. And nowhere does that become more apparent when you’re stuck in the airport for hours and need to figure out how to juggle carry-ons, checked-in bags, purses and laptops, all the while shuffling through security and onto the plane. Here are a few quick tips to get to your destination with your bags and sanity intact.

1. Weigh your Luggage.

It can be a pain to pay overcharge fees for excess or oversized luggage. Be sure to check with the airlines their weight limit and size requirements online. Get a tape measure and a hand-held luggage scale to catch the exact measurements.


2. Fed up with Bag Fees? So are we

Even if you pack carefully, you might still find an unforeseen charge on your ticket. Some airlines include checked-in luggage on your ticket, but with the rising trend of the nickle-and-dime, certainly not all. Extra luggage purchased at the airport can cost anywhere from $60-80 and up. To avoid unnecessary bag costs, make sure you pre-purchase any necessary bags online prior to check-in. Some airlines cut off purchase deadline by up to 72 hours, so be sure to make these purchases at least 3 days in advance of your flight. If you need additional baggage allowance, buy this 3 days prior as well.

3. Carry-ons for the win!

It can be risky to check your luggage – there might be extra fees, the baggage handlers might lose it, you might be stuck waiting at the carousel. To speed your trip along, you can opt to pack everything in your carry-on. Of course, this means packing carefully and economically—but if you can manage it, it might save you a lot of trouble.


4. Or Maybe You’re Pro-Checked In?

Then again, maybe dragging along your luggage is a pain and you want to stick with just a luggage or backpack. Check in everything so you have less to worry about. You won’t have to worry about gels or liquids. You won’t have to worry about grabbing your bags between connecting flights. And best of all you won’t have to fight for space in the overhead bin.

5. Lost Bag! What Now?

The worst has happened and the luggage has been misplaced. If the carousel finishes its rotations without your luggage, file a report with the airline before you leave the airport. Make sure the airline rep gives you a copy of the report, their name and phone number so you can follow up with them—and that you supply them with a forwarding address. If your bag is declared lost by the airline, you’ll have to file a detailed report with an estimated value of the contents. Fortunately, the Department of Transportation ensures that all airlines reimburse consumers for lost bags. Note that this doesn’t count with delayed bags.

6. Long Layover? Leave your Luggage at the Airport

Have a long layover 5+ hours and want to spend it exploring the city? Check in a storage locker for a couple hours. Most airports have these for a small coin fee. You can dump your bags and explore the new town at leisure. Some airlines, like Singapore Changi Airport, run a shuttle specifically designed to take passengers around town while they wait for their connecting flight.

These tips and more from our qualified travel agents at Willamette Intl Travel. Call 503-224-0180 or email 


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Travel Tips: Guide to Biking in European Cities

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European cities, with their small streets and twisting corners, seem to be made for bicycles. In the past decade, many cities have been taking initiatives to make their urban sprawl even more bike-friendly. Here are some of our tips to biking in European cities: 


City Bikes

Many cities have established city bikes programs—in Vienna, Stockholm, Paris, etc.—where people can pay nothing or next-to-nothing to rent a city bike for an hour. You can usually swipe your credit card at the bike station, take your bike and head out! You just have to remember to find another bike station and return it within the hour. Some cities require that tourists buy the privilege to rent directly from an office or the nearest convenience store.

Rent a Bike

Considerably more expensive than the city bike option, renting a bike is nevertheless convenient in its own right. You can buy into packages for a few hours or even overnight, meaning there’s no stress about returning the bike right away. It’s a great option if you’re in a city without a city bikes program, or if you’re heading out into the country or the nearest beach.


Best Europe Cities for Biking

Copenhagen. Beautiful Copenhagen is known for its daily Bicycle Rush Hour, when 35,000+ cyclists cross the Dronning Louises bridge.

Amsterdam. The Netherlands’ reputation as bike-friendly precedes it—thanks to the city’s legendary flatness and proximity to nature. Within 15-30 minutes you can bike from downtown to windmills.

Barcelona. The lovely Barcelona is equipped with bike lanes galore—just remember to stay away from the roads with heavy traffic. Wander through small squares and hip neighborhoods like El Raval and Eixample.

Paris. Parisian roads aren’t exactly conducive to biking, but the main cycle routes are well-maintained and picturesque enough to keep any cyclist happy. Cycle along the right bank of the Seine into the trendy Marais area and onto the Louvre.


Gift It

For a unique gift, pick up the high-end collection City-Cycling: Europe, a series of field guides to bicycling in 8 of Europe’s cities. With 400 nostalgic illustrations and countless sights, itineraries and tips, this makes a lovely present for the cyclist friend or passionate cyclist within.

Planning a Trip to Europe? Call our agents in Portland to plan the perfect trip for you and your family! 503-224-0180 or email 

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5 Fun Travel Apps for Your Upcoming Trip

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FlightAware is a super useful flight tracker app. Keep track of flights with live tracking maps, flight statuses and airport delays. Covers most airports, general commercial flights and in some cases, private charters.



TouchNote is a fun app that you can use even when you’re back at home. Send printed postcards with your own travel photos from the convenience of your laptop! The app will send out personalized postcards or greeting cards with a custom message and your latest shots from the Eiffel Tower.



Here’s a unique travel app that comes in handy when you’re out under the stars. Point your phone or tablet at the sky, and it will tell you all the stars and constellations in your view. It’s awesome for photographers and amateur astronomers. A fun app to share with the kids.



Not a travel app exclusively, but so useful when you’re on the road! Take your bookshelf with you with the kindle reading app. Download your favorite book onto your kindle, phone or tablet to read on the plane, train, or on those long car drives through Europe!


XE Currency Exchange

I’ve been using for years now. This handy-dandy exchange app is an intuitive way to keep track of various currencies. I found that it’s super invaluable when traveling, especially on multi-country trips. Haggling in a street market in Morocco or Laos? Just whip out your phone for a quick exchange. Plus you don’t even need to connect to wi-fi to check rates! New features include an alert when a rate hits a pre-set target.


Filed under Europe, Family Travel, Luxury Travel, Travel Gear, Travel Tips

Holiday Travel Tips

We at Willamette Intl Travel wanted to share a few travel tips with you, our readers and clients, for this holiday season. 

 Following the horrific attacks in Paris, the US Department of State has issued strong advisories to travelers. Experienced travelers already know that it’s important to stay vigilant while visiting tourist destinations. We don’t believe in halting travel out of fear—but we do believe in staying smart. 

Before Your Flight 

  • Register your trip with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. This free service allows citizens to enroll their trip with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. You will receive important information regarding safety conditions on your destination and help the Embassy, friends and family contact you in an emergency. Go here to enroll:
  • Domestic Travelers should utilize online check-in within 24 hours of departure. Most airlines allow check in 24 hours prior to a flight—be sure to go online and check in, pay any domestic baggage fees on the website, and, if you can, print your boarding pass. This can reduce wait times at the airport. Traveling with as little carry-on luggage as possible will also speed up your time at the airport.
  • If you’re traveling internationally, flight records can get a bit complicated. It’s best to check in directly at the airport with the airline. 
  • Arrive 3 hours prior to your flight. This gives you ample time to check in your luggage, collect your boarding passes and pass through security lines.  
  • This holiday season, leave your presents unwrapped while they are in your luggage—whether in your carry on or checked bags.  
  • Update your phone contact list to include your airline, hotel, car rental, for clients of Willamette Intl Travel our emergency phone number 503-224-0180 and any other phone numbers you may need quickly. 
  • Fully charge your cell phone before leaving home. Keep your charger in your carry-on bag. Do not keep your cell phone with your credit card. Many iPhone cases are now including places to keep your cash and cards—however, we advice not using these, as iPhones are among the most popular items to be stolen. 
  • If your flight is cancelled and you are directed to a re-accommodation line, get in that line ASAP, and if Willamette Intl Travel issued your ticket, call us ASAP.
  •  Traveling with someone and checking luggage? Divide everyone’s items over the bags, so if 1 bag goes AWOL everyone still has clothes.
  • Keep a change of clothes in your carry-on bag, with toiletries & medications.
  • Dress in layers as temperature can vary in airports, aircraft cabins. 

During Your Trip

  • Be aware of your surroundings and people around you, especially in crowded and busy locations.
  • Keep your purse or day pack on you; a cross body bag is excellent since you can pull it in front of you and anchor with your arm and hand.
  • Think before setting your bag somewhere in public. Is 100% of the bag visible? Keep it in your sight. A bag under your chair can be taken behind your back.
  • Traveling with others? Always have a meeting place defined before you split up in airports, cities, stores. 
  • Be aware of hotel scams. Do not give your credit card information over the hotel’s phone line—always go down to the front desk. Scammers often call people in hotel rooms posing as hotel staff to collect your sensitive info. 
  • If you misplace your room key at a hotel, don’t ask for another key. If they make a copy, the old key is still floating around and cab be used to enter your room. Ask the hotel instead to reset the lock and issue you a new set of keys. 


For more Paris security news and tourist destination opening hours, check the website of the US Embassy in France:


Important! Our Holiday Office Hours: 

November 26-29 closed for Thanksgiving weekend

December 24 closing at 2.00pm

December 25,26,27   closed for Christmas weekend.  

December 31 – closing at 3.30p

January 1,2, 3 – Closed for New Year weekend.

Have an Emergency? Call 503-224-0180 and our after hours service can address your needs & connect you to one of our agents if needed.


We wish you all a good Thanksgiving. 

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Midweek Travel Tips

Welcome to Wednesday! Here at Wittravel we’re launching a Midweek Travel Tips program, where we share the best of our tips for travel on our blog—pre-trip, post-trip and during. 

It’s getting quite chilly in the Pacific Northwest, so we’re asking all our clients to bundle up! When you travel, your risk of infection worsens as you’re forced to deal with irregular sleep schedules, jet lag, unknown foods and unfamiliar temperatures.

Our Top Tips for Health while Traveling:

Jet Lag is a serious condition that can leave you exhausted and out-of-it for days. To reduce its effects, try sleeping on the plane. Stay hydrated and relaxed. When you arrive at your destination, eat according to your host country’s meal schedules. Walk around in brisk air and try to stay awake at least until evening!

Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate! Water is a staple of life, and hydration is all the more important when you are tired and exposed to airplane A/C and unfamiliar germs. That said, drink bottled water and avoid the tap—in many countries, tap water contains serious bacteria and is not potable.

The dreaded Traveler’s Tummy (aka traveler’s diarrhea, aka Montezuma’s revenge, aka Delhi belly) is certainly no fun—stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or worse. It’s easy to become severely dehydrated or malnourished. Stay hydrated, carry imodium and eat with caution. Symptoms usually clear up in a day, but should they worsen, check in with a doctor.

Stay informed and know the Emergency Numbers of your destination. USA is 911, Iceland is 112 and so on. If you’re car breaks down on the road or you’re in some kind of emergency, you’ll need to know how to contact an ambulance, police, or fire department. Here’s a great reference list:

What do you think of our travel tips program? Tell us in the comments! Is there anything you’d like to know from our travel agents?

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