Cloud 9 Checkpoints and Checklists

checkmark1

What to expect as you prepare for your golf trip to Spain and Portugal

Okay, so you have paid your initial deposits and booked your trip to Spain and Portugal. Now what? Below we have outlined a timeline of checkpoints that you can expect between now and your trip.

checkmark2

Checkpoint: Immediately

  • Review your itinerary. As soon as your group’s deposits have been received, we will begin securing tee times and hotel reservations for your trip and will send over a confirmed itinerary for your review once those bookings have been confirmed. If anything appears amiss with your itinerary, this is definitely the time to let us know!
  • Consider travel insurance. Cloud 9 will lock in your trip price with currency contracts and will pay non-refundable deposits to suppliers (golf courses, hotels, etc.) so payments made to Cloud 9 are non-refundable. Therefore, we strongly encourage all clients to consider purchasing travel insurance. You can shop quotes here.
  • Get a handicap. We recommend that golfing clients set up a handicap in advance of their trip for a few reasons: 1) Many top courses require visitors to meet certain handicap requirements so you may need a valid handicap card for your trip. 2) A handicap can serve as great motivation to improve your game in advance of your trip!
  • Locate your passport. It is never too early to make sure you have a valid passport since it is the only item that is 100% mandatory for your trip and processing delays are common should you need a new one.
  • Request a buggy. Many courses have only a few carts (or “buggies” as they are known in Spain and Portugal) available, and often require either a doctor’s note or government-issued handicap placard in order to rent one. If you are physically unable to walk and in need of a cart, it is best to procure any necessary documentation as early as possible to ensure we can reserve one for your round(s).

Checkpoint: ≈3 Months Prior to Departure

  • Pay your final balance. Approximately 15 weeks before your trip we will send over your group’s final balance invoice, which will be due 90 prior to departure (exact final balance due dates may vary depending on your itinerary). Final balances at many of the top golf courses come due around this time, so it is imperative to have your balance paid on time to avoid putting any of your tee times in jeopardy.
  • Request caddies. If you haven’t already, now is the time to let us know if you would like caddies for any of your rounds. You’ll be able to submit your caddie preferences at your convenience, although the earlier the better since caddie availability is not guaranteed.
  • Finalize your itinerary. If you haven’t already, this would be a good time to research non-golfing activities/attractions that you may wish to do/see between rounds on your trip. We are always happy to offer suggestions and help with additional bookings to help fill out your itinerary.

Checkpoint: ≈1 Month Prior to Departure

  • Review pre-departure documentation. About a month prior to departure, we will send over all documentation that you will need for your trip. Some of the finer details, like pickup times and booking numbers, will be outlined and it’s a good time to start final preparations for your trip.
  • Explore baggage options. Services like Ship Sticks or Luggage Forward are great options to take the hassle out of traveling with your clubs, especially if there are significant fees associated with checking your golf bag on your flights. Make sure to decide early though, as you will need several weeks to confirm your pickup and dropoff to ensure your clubs reach your destination before you do.
  • Make dinner reservations…or not? Dinner reservations are often not necessary and, in fact, we recommend leaving as much flexibility in your itinerary as possible to encourage spontaneity. However, if you are keen on including high-end or exclusive dining experiences then it’s best to pre-book.
  • Connect Abroad. Staying connected while travelling internationally is much easier than it used to be, you just have to decide how you want to do it. The most straightforward option is to upgrade your current phone – for a fee, most wireless companies will extend your talk and data plan to just about any country internationally. Alternatively, you can use apps like Viber or Skype in combination with local wifi to limit your data usage. Just make sure you have a strategy in place before you leave the country because roaming charges start accumulating the moment your land in your destination.
  • Plan your finances. Foreign transaction fees can add up quickly, so it is important to assess the fees associated with your credit/debit cards to find the most economical way to travel. It may even be worthwhile to open a new account or upgrade your existing account to avoid significant fees. Once you decide the best option, make sure to alert your bank that you will be traveling; otherwise they might put a hold on your credit card as soon as they detect an international transaction. Also, investigate your cash withdrawal limits and see if you need to purchase some foreign currency before you leave home to cover cash expenses like caddie fees and tips.
  • Start packing. We assume you have the essentials but here are a few other Important Items To Remember:

Passport – The most important item on the list.

Adapter/Converter – At the very least, you will need a basic type G adapter to plug in your electronics chargers. Note, though, that power outlets in Spain and Portugal are typically 220-240 volts, versus 120 in most of North America, so you may need an adapter that converts power as well. Most devices can handle 240 volts but some older appliances (like hairdryers) do require a converter.

Drivers License – Any visitor might need it, but especially those renting a car since it will be required. Don’t just remember to pack it, also make sure it hasn’t expired!

Handicap Card – You likely won’t be asked for itbut most top courses have handicap requirements and have the right to ask for verification if they wish.

Camera – By and large it is best to pack as light as possible. However, if you have a fancy camera (i.e. better than a camera phone) or even a drone, the beautiful golf courses of Spain and Portugal are the ideal places to put them to use.

Charger – Definitely consider a portable charger because there is nothing worse than having a phone or camera die when you need it most on a trip.

Long Pants – The weather stays relatively cool year-around, so it is easiest to leave your shorts at home. You’ll be plenty comfortable in pants and you will blend in with the locals, just note that denim/jeans are generally not allowed at golf courses. If you do decide to pack and wear shorts, be mindful of certain courses that require them to be worn with white socks to cover the ankle.

Jacket/Sweater/Beanie/Gloves/Warm Socks/Scarf – No matter what time of year you plan on traveling, you should be prepared to wrap up. Don’t overpack, just be prepared.

Warm Undergarments – It is important to pack with layering in mind since the weather in Spain and Portugal can change in an instant.

Golf Shirts and Hats – The notable thing here is to pack fewer than you think. Layering will allow you to reuse your golf shirts if necessary and you’ll likely want to buy a few shirts and hats that you can wear and then take home.

Dress Attire – In pretty rare instances, like at the top fine-dining restaurants and at the member dining areas in a few high-end golf clubs, jacket and tie for men and smart casual for women are required. Ask your Cloud 9 representative for details specific to your itinerary.

Proper Shoes – Stick to functionality over fashion: waterproof shoes that are comfortable to walk in. Also, make sure to bring a change of shoes to the golf course since spikes are not permitted in certain areas of some clubhouses.

Golf Shoes – Bring whichever pair repels water the best and/or consider bringing an extra pair if you have room. It is best to pack them in a shoe bag since you may have to change in the club locker room before heading to the first tee.

Golf Balls – Bring plenty since they are very expensive in Spain and Portugal.

Golf Gloves – Once again, bring plenty since they are cheaper at home. Additionally, make sure to invest in some rain gloves since you are likely to experience some “wet rain” on the course.

Rain Gear – It needs to not only keep you dry but needs to work in the wind as well. If you have a “windproof” umbrella, bring it. If not, stick to a waterproof rain suit and/or a poncho.

Swimsuit – This is easy to forget but world-class spas abound in Spain and Portugal so be prepared if you are staying at or near one.

Water Bottle – It is best to fill up before your rounds since most courses in Spain and Portugal don’t have water coolers on the course.

Sunscreen – Contrary to popular belief, the sun does come out on occasion…sometimes.

Bug Repellant – During the warm, humid, summer months, bring along some DEET-based spray to combat the bothersome midges.

Mask/Vaccine Card – Our newest packing list item in the COVID era may be required for certain destinations or on certain airlines.

Passport – Don’t forget it!

Trip Tips

Once you check in for your flight and it is go time, here are a few tips to ensure your travel goes smoothly:

  • Get cash. You’ll need local currency for tips and caddie fees and it can be easiest and cheapest to wait until you land in Spain and Portugal to get some or all of the cash that you need. A few rules:
    1. Avoid money exchanges (i.e directly exchanging dollars for euros) because the unfavorable exchange rates will cost you a lot of money.
    2. Choose the transaction amount displayed in the local currency (euros). The rate shown in your home currency is usually via a dynamic currency conversion and very expensive. For a local currency transaction, your bank will choose the rate and will be a lot more fair.
    3. Withdraw local currency directly from an ATM using your debit card.  You will still need to exercise caution, as not all ATM fees are the same. With a little research, though, you should be able to identify international banks which partner with your home bank and dispense money through ATMs at minimal cost.
  • Follow golf club etiquette. Most members clubs are friendly and welcoming but there are a few general guidelines to follow during your visit(s):
    • Remove your hat in the clubhouse
    • Dress properly – no denim, wear a collar, and dress like you are going to play a private members club at home
    • Play fast
    • Put away your cell phone, especially in the clubhouse
  • Learn how to dial. Make sure to dial the country code first, using a + followed by 351 for Portugal or 34 for Spain, before dialing the local number.
  • Get a VAT refund. VAT, or Value Added Tax, is included on many purchases in Spain and Portugal and can range as high as 23%. It may be more trouble than it is worth but if you are making any especially large purchases, you can recover a portion of the tax by tracking your purchases with receipts (a Horizon card will track them for you in Ireland) and filling out a refund claim form at the airport at the end of the trip.
  • Drive like a local. Driving in Spain and Portugal can be a little intimidating to get started but a few pointers should help flatten the learning curve:
    • Get the smallest automatic car that you can fit into (Cloud 9 can help with this step).
    •  Pull over to let a faster car pass and expect slower cars to do the same for you (and flashing taillights means “thank you”),
    • On especially narrow roads, use laybys to pass oncoming traffic.
    • Study the mechanics of a roundabout, there are quite a few!
    • Road signs in the Republic of Ireland are in kilometres while in the UK (including Northern Ireland) they are in miles.
    • Postal codes are very specific and should be sufficient to locate just about any business or residence.
    • GPS from your car or phone works better on small, rural roads than you would think – so use it.
    • Avoid driving in big cities. Find a car park and walk.
    • Whether you are driving or walking, remember to look both ways!
  • Know how to tip. As a general rule, tipping in Spain and Portugal is not required but is recommended for good service from the following:
    • Single-Bag Caddies: €/£20-25+ (in addition to base fee)
    • Forecaddies: €/£10-15+ per person (in addition to base fee)
    • Restaurants: 10-15% (assuming no service charge)
    • Porter – €/£1-2 per pag
    • Housekeeping – €/£2-5 per night
    • Driver – €/£10-15 per person per day (can vary based on group size)
    • Tour Guide – €/£2-5 per person for a thorough group tour
    • Taxi Drivers – Round up to nearest €/£1, 5 or 10 depending on length of trip and quality of service
    • Bartender – Round up to nearest €/£1