ISRAEL FAMILY JOURNEY
PRE-TRIP PREP GUIDE
There's so much to do and see while you're in Israel - and also a few things you'll need to get ready. Prepare for your journey by reading this helpful guide below, and start getting excited for the discoveries that await!
You've made the decision to go to Israel, and we look forward to welcoming you!
As you may already expect, exploring Israel is quite unlike any other destination. As a country, Israel can be experienced on so many levels. As the birthplace of the Jewish People, Israel is an ancient land – full of archeological treasures with colorful stories to tell. Israel is the home of a modern Jewish State – with its multi-ethnic society, unique democratic traditions, and vibrant cultural life. At the meeting point of three continents, Israel hosts a breathtaking landscape ranging from alpine meadows, rolling mountains, desert canyons, sandy beaches, and tropical seas – all compressed within a tiny strip of land. Finally, Israel represents the heart of the Jewish religion – the object of prayer for millennia and the spiritual link connecting Jewish people to each other.
The Torah refers to Israel as the “Promised Land”. This phrase can be interpreted literally, and it can also be understood as a Land of Promise – a beacon on the winding journey of the Jewish People towards a more perfect world. As you embark on your travels in the Land of Israel this season, it is our hope that you will uncover your own unique connections to this vision of a Promised Land.
The Authentic Israel + BBYO Team
Read this guide in its entirety, but pay special attention to:
Check the expiration date of your passport to ensure it does not expire within six months of your arrival date.
Send your final travel information, including your full flight itinerary, to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Join your trip's Facebook group so you can meet each other beforehand – and stay in touch when you get home (invites go out about 4-6 weeks prior to the program start date)
Contact your home cellphone provider to learn about their options for voice/data service in Israel. Optional local cellphone, SIM card and/or Mi-Fi service available at www.stayconnectedabroad.com
Purchase optional travel insurance at www.familytripinsurance.com prior to paying your trip balance to qualify for full policy benefits
Check whether your home medical insurance covers you abroad and what the claims process is. Optional no-hassle local medical insurance is available at www.authenticisrael.com/medical (must be done within 14 days of your arrival date in Israel)
Notify your debit and/or credit card company of your travel plans to avoid a potential security hold on your card abroad
Add email@example.com to your safe sender list so you can be sure to receive our email updates
About Your Trip
The program is lead by an experienced, licensed Israeli guide who escorts the entire tour. Your guide will be fluent in English and deeply knowledgeable about the history, culture, environment, and landscapes of Israel. Our guides are charismatic educators with expertise in informal education.
If your group has over 25 travelers, your tour will also be accompanied by an Israeli counselor who focuses on the experience of younger participants and provides additional support to the group in general.
Our travel around Israel takes place on a large, comfortable, air-conditioned bus with a dedicated driver (buses in Israel do not have bathrooms). If there is more than one group for a given set of travel dates, each individual group will have its own staff team and travel independently. In such situations, we also seek to stagger the itineraries as much as possible.
8-DAY, 10-DAY, 12-DAY OPTIONS
The program is offered as an 8-day, 10-day, or 12-day experience, but everyone travels as part of one group regardless of the duration chosen. The 8-day experience ends as we arrive to Tel Aviv on Thursday evening. The 10-day experience includes touring in the Tel Aviv region on the final Friday and Saturday with two overnights at a beach-side hotel. The 12-day experience continues from our Tel Aviv base with touring in the Carmel Mountains, along the Mediterranean Coast, and in the greater Tel Aviv region. No hotel overnights are included on the final day of your program unless arranged with us separately.
Israel Family Journey is a pluralistic Jewish travel experience welcoming to all. Group meals are kosher, and there is no bus-based touring on Shabbat (although airport transfers on Saturdays typically take place during Shabbat hours unless alternate arrangements are made). The program is unaffiliated with any specific approach to Judaism. Travelers arrive with varying degrees of Jewish affiliation, and non-Jewish family members and friends are welcomed. Our goal is to provide a complete first-time experience in Israel through the lends of Jewish history and identity.
Because we want you to get the most out of your time in Israel, our touring days are full, and there is quite a bit of travel by foot. While none of the walks are strenuous, you will find at the end of the day that you have taken a large number of steps! Additionally, the weather in Israel is warm, particularly in the late spring, summer, and early fall. The sun is more intense than you may be used to at home. Where necessary, we will adjust the itinerary for your comfort.
Actual Itineraries and final hotels typically adhere very closely to the projected itinerary available online. An updated itinerary will be distributed 1-2 months prior to your arrival date. Changes during the program may be made according to local considerations and at our good faith discretion.
The program covers accommodations, two meals per day, all touring, hotel porterage, gratuities at group meals, airport transfers according to the program rules (see Making Your Travel Plans), and all applicable taxes*. You're responsible for one meal per day, beverages at group meals, snacks and water, hotel incidentals, and staff gratuities (see While in Israel). Local medical insurance and/or travel insurance are available for an additional fee (see Insurance).
Making Your Travel Plans
All participants are expected to make their own air travel arrangements to and from Israel. The main international airport in Israel is "Ben Gurion" (airport code: TLV), located just 40 kilometers from Jerusalem (~25 miles) and 15 kilometers (~9 miles") from Tel Aviv. Non-stop flights are available from several major North American cities, including NYC, DC, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Newark, Miami, and Toronto. Many connecting flights options are available via Europe. Once you have finalized your travel plans, send your details to firstname.lastname@example.org including your arrival and departure times, airlines, and flight numbers.
ARRIVING TO ISRAEL
When booking your flights, keep in mind that our program begins on a Thursday, which means you'll most likely need to depart from home by Wednesday to arrive on time. An airport greeting and a private transfer to our Jerusalem hotel are complimentary for anyone arriving at Ben Gurion Airport by flights as follows:
- The first day of the program (Thursday) between 6:00am and 4:20pm
- The day before the program beings (Wednesday) between 6:00am and 5:35pm
Travelers arriving by flight within these covered times will be met in the public arrival hall (following baggage claim) by a special greeter. Look for a sign with your name or that says "Israel Family Journey". From here, you will be escorted to a private driver who will bring you to our hotel in Jerusalem. If you have any difficulty locating your greeter, contact us at 050-487-0053.
Guaranteed hotel check-in is available as of 3:00pm, and you can stow your luggage with the hotel front desk if you arrive earlier. The hotel will have your reservation pre-recorded under your name, and you will need to present your passport, border entry slip (see Passports & Visas), and credit card for incidentals.
Travelers arriving outside of these covered times can receive the same airport greeting and transfer service to our hotel in Jerusalem for an additional fee, which depends on the size of the party (contact us for details). The cost of a basic taxi to Jerusalem is $80-$100 and generally costs less than the private transfer service we offer. Shared van transfers (called a sheirut) are available for even less. Uber and Gett also offer on-demand car services from Ben Gurion Airport.
We have scheduled a complimentary pre-tour on Thursday leaving from the hotel at 12:00pm. To ensure you arrive in time for the pre-tour, schedule a flight that arrives Thursday no later than 9:00am or a flight that arrives a day earlier on Wednesday.
For those who can, we recommend arriving on Wednesday. You will have an extra day to acclimate and you can take part in the complimentary pre-tour on Thursday at noon. If you choose this option, we can arrange an extra night(s) at our Jerusalem hotel based on the discounted group rate. Contact us with your extra booking request.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOUR FLIGHT IS DELAYED?
If your flight to Ben Gurion Airport is delayed, contact our North American emergency line at 240-668-4559 or our office at 202-537-6056 with your new arrival info ASAP. If necessary, our emergency contact in Israel is 011-072-54-335-3822 (if calling from Israel, dial 054-335-3822). As long as you still arrive on Thursday we will adjust your airport-to-hotel transfer accordingly. If your arrival is delayed beyond Thursday, you will be responsible for your own transfer from the airport, and we will assist you with making a trip interruption claim if you have purchased travel insurance.
DEPARTING FROM ISRAEL
The 8-day program concludes early Thursday evening, the 10-day program continues through Saturday evening, and the 12-day program comes to a close on Monday evening. No hotels are included on the final evening without prior arrangements.
Most travelers will be best accommodated by an overnight flight from Israel. These flights typically depart between 11:00pm and 1:00am. For the 8-day and 10-day programs, we provide a complimentary transfer that arrives at Ben Gurion Airport between 8:00pm-8:30pm in time for such overnight flights. Many flights also depart Israel in the morning between 4:00am and 11:00am, and these flights are often available at a lower cost. If you are considering a morning flight, be sure to factor the extra cost of accommodations the night before, and keep in mind that a complimentary return airport transfer will not be provided – although taxis are inexpensive and Uber and Gett are also available.
When searching for flights, consider that flights are listed according to the date of departure from Israel in local time. For example, a flight departing from Israel at 11:00pm will only display if you're searching for a Thursday (8-day tour), Saturday (10-day tour) or Monday (12-day tour) night flight. A flight departing two hours later at 1:00am will only display if you're searching for a Friday (8-day tour), Sunday (10-day tour), or Tuesday morning flight.
If you are extending your stay in Israel we can arrange an extra night(s) at our Tel Aviv hotel based on the discounted group rate. Contact us with your extra booking request or questions.
LOCAL MEDICAL INSURANCE
Medical situations or emergencies that occur abroad can be more than a nuisance; they can be expensive as well. Through a partnership with a leading Israeli insurance provider, Harel, travelers can obtain local health insurance that offers:
- No deductibles or co-pays
- No claims or paperwork to submit for care
- No out-of-pocket payments- all valid claims are paid directly by the insurer
- Coverage for hospitalization, prescription medication, x-rays, emergency dental care, doctors visits, and medical specialists (pre-existing conditions are not covered)
- 24-hour English-speaking call center and contracted English-speaking doctors
- A large list of experienced English-speaking doctors and specialists
Even if you have coverage at home that extends abroad, you would still need to pay out of pocket in Israel, and then file a claim with your home insurance provider once you return. The same is true for travel insurance policies that include a medical benefit. Instead, Harel offers a convenient way to receive medical care in Israel without hidden costs or paperwork headaches.
Policy costs are by age as follows:
Up to age 49 – $3.00/Day
Ages 50-59 – $4.50/Day
Ages 60-65 – $6.00/Day
Ages 66-75 – $7.50/Day
Ages 76-80 – $10.00/Day
Purchase your medical insurance at least 21 days before arrival to Israel (you will need your passport number on hand to complete the form). The policy can be issued for up to 90 days of travel within Israel, but it only applies within Israel. A policy confirmation number will be issued approximately 7-10 days before your scheduled travels.
Protect your investment and plan ahead for the unexpected with a travel protection plan from our partner, Travel Insured International. The policy is available to USA residents and includes coverage for medical-related cancellations, travel delays, missed connections, luggage delay/loss, trip interruption, and much more.
Under the terms of this policy, children under age of 18 are covered free when traveling with an insured adult.
The cost of the policy is a function of the total cost of your trip, including airfare booked on your own and any other travel plans outside of our tour. Some benefits, such as cancel-for-any-reason coverage, are only available within 21 days of registration.
Passports & Visas
Check to make sure that you know where your passport is and that it is not expired or about to expire. Your passport must be valid for at least six months from the date you arrive in Israel. If your passport expires within this period, start the renewal process well in advance. Many airlines will deny you boarding if your passport is not valid according to this policy. Learn more about ordering a USA passport or a Canadian passport.
We ask for the passport number of each individual traveler, as this is required by hotels during check-in. Please contact us to provide these details at least a month before arrival.
If you are traveling to Israel on a USA, Canadian, or European Union member country passport, a visa is not needed to enter Israel on a tourist visit of up to three months. If you are traveling on a passport from another country, you may need a visa to enter Israel. Details are available here. Our office is able to provide you with a letter of support if needed.
Upon arrival to Ben Gurion Airport, you'll be issued a small slip of paper called an "Electronic Gate Pass" which serves as your official form of identifications while in Israel. Israel asks all tourists to keep the card on hand at all times as proof of their status. Moreover, the pass is used to prove to the hotels that you are not an Israeli citizen and thus not responsible for VAT (tax). Failure to present this pass at check-in may result in the hotel assessing VAT at your own cost. So, please keep this Gate Pass on hand and/or with your passport at all times.
How to Pack for Israel
KEEP YOUR FEET HAPPY!
More than any other advice, we recommend bringing comfortable light-weight walking shoes, and close-toed shoes will be required at many sites. We do a lot of walking, and when your feet are happy, you're happy. Additionally, at the Dead Sea, you will need an extra pair of shoes that can get wet (and stay on your feet). Water shoes or adventure sandals such as Chacos, Keens, or Tevas that have supportive straps are perfect.
Israel is a casual country when it comes to clothing. However, we will be visiting some religious sites such as the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where more modest clothing is appropriate. On these days, women should wear clothing that covers their shoulders and knees. A scarf can be wrapped around your shoulders or worn as a "sarong", and pants or capris are also acceptable. Men should have a hat or kippah to cover their head and have their shoulders covered at Jewish religious sites. On Friday night, the trip slows down for the start of Shabbat. To create a special atmosphere, we celebrate Shabbat with a fancier dinner, and we recommend bringing something nicer to wear. A good rule of thumb is to bring something "a step up" from what you wear on a daily basis. Low cut, strapless, and mini-clothing should be avoided on Shabbat. A polo or buttoned-down shirt with khakis or nice jeans is fitting for men.
Though porterage is included at the hotels, we still recommend bringing rolling suitcases for ease of transit. You will receive program luggage tags prior to departure, and you should attach them to your luggage for identification purposes in Israel. We also suggest that you pack your medication, toiletries, and a change of clothes within a carry-on bag in case your checked luggage is delayed in transit. Finally, consider bringing a small traveling bag on the bus each day to store extra clothing, personal belongings, and a light jacket/sweater for the evenings if we are not returning to the hotel earlier.
Laundry is available for a supplemental fee at most hotels. Laundromats are not common outside of Tel Aviv (Dealaundry offers a full-service laundry pick-up/delivery service in Tel Aviv as well), so if you plan on doing laundry, the hotel service will be most practical.
BRINGING VALUABLES TO ISRAEL
We encourage you to leave valuables at home wherever possible. While theft is not common in Israel it does happen –even from hotel rooms (safes are available in each room). As a matter of policy, participants are responsible for their possessions and valuables at all times.
SAMPLE PACKING LIST
SPECIAL ITEMS TO BRING
Power adapter (and a converter if necessary)
1-2 bathing suits (more for summer trips)
Comfortable walking shoes
Water shoes or athletic sandals for the Dead Sea
Backpack or small carrying bag
Over the counter medications
Windbreaker or light coat (April-October)
Warm jacket, gloves, and hat (November-March)
Cooling towel for hot days
ITEMS TO LEAVE AT HOME
Hair dryer (provided at hotels)
Towels and linens
While in Israel
While in Israel, your guide will be the primary contact for basic questions and assistance. Staff names will be distributed about a month prior to the program start date. Should you need additional support, our back-office staff in Israel and North America are available to assist you. Staff cell phone numbers are provided before your trip.
Israel enjoys warm, dry summers (May-September) and generally mild winters (November-March). Somewhat cooler weather is found in the more hilly regions, such as Jerusalem, Tsfat, and the Golan. Warmer weather is found along the coast, in the desert, and near the Sea of Galilee. December through March are the wettest months in Israel. June through August are the driest months with no expected rain at all.
Average temperatures vary by region and time of the year as follows:
|Jersualem||Tel Aviv||Dead Sea||Tiberias||Eilat|
PREPARING FOR SUMMER WEATHER
Weather during summer is hot during the day, cooler in the evenings, and humidity is minimal in most parts of Israel. Bring comfortable clothing for warm weather. We also urge you to wear a brimmed hat and sunscreen as you may find the sun to be more intense than at home.
PREPARING FOR WINTER WEATHER
Israel enjoys mild winters, and while there is a chance of rain during this time of year, it is not an everyday occurrence (or even every week). Snow is a very rare (and short-lived) phenomenon in Jerusalem. Pack clothing that can be worn in layers to prepare yourself for fluctuating temperatures.
The Israeli currency is the Shekel (NIS). The US Dollar is equal to roughly 3.30 Israeli shekels at the time of publishing. We recommend going to www.xe.com for an updated exchange rate closer to departure. Shekels come in various denominations, and it's worth noting that shekel coins come in higher values than you may be used to at home. For example, a 10 shekel coin is worth approximately US$3.00. So, watch your coins carefully!
You can exchange your home currency for shekels prior to departure, on arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, or you can use an ATM to withdraw shekels all over Israel. Exchanging your home currency during the trip itself will not be convenient or you will be subject to non-advantageous exchange rates at the hotel.
If you choose to use your personal ATM card or credit card in Israel consider this advice:
- If your ATM or Debit card has a Visa, MasterCard, Star, Cirrus, or Maestro logo imprint, there should not be a problem withdrawing money. Other ATM network cards may work, but we encourage you to check with your local bank if you have any doubts. ATM machines have instructions in several languages including English. The money withdrawn will be in shekels.
- Major credit cards like Visa and MasterCard are accepted throughout Israel. We advise that you contact your bank to inform them you are traveling abroad and using your cards to make purchases to ensure fraud alerts and security holds are not placed on your accounts.
- Check with your bank for exact fees charged when using ATM and credit cards. Some credit card companies, such as Capital One, do not charge foreign transaction fees.
- Bring your bank's contact information and place it in a separate, secure location in the unlikely event your wallet or purse is lost or stolen.
- Notify your debit and/or credit card company of your travel plans to avoid a potential security hold on your card abroad.
TIPPING YOUR TOUR STAFF
You'll soon discover that our staff pours their hearts into the success of your experience, and at the end of the tour, providing a cash tip (dollars or shekels) is a customary and thoughtful gesture. Although the amounts and allocation are ultimately at your discretion, we recommend budgeting for a tip pool of $100-$150 per adult traveler to be divided as follows:
- 1/2 for the guide
- 1/4 for the driver
- 1/4 for the counselor (if applicable)
OTHER TIPPING IN ISRAEL
Gratuities for hotel staff and wait staff at group meals are already included in the cost of the program. If you are eating at a restaurant separately or taking a taxi, the customary tip range in Israel is 10-15%.
If you plan to bring small electrical appliances, consider that Israel uses a 220-volt electrical
current versus the 110-volt current used in North America. To avoid "frying" any electrical items, bring a voltage converter (this is already built into most smartphones and tablets). The outlet types are different as well, with two circular prongs, so you will also need a simple adapter to plug your items into the wall. If you are unsure of which plugs to purchase, check with your local electronics or travel store.
The program covers two meals a day (with the exception of the arrival day). Breakfast is provided daily at the hotel and will consist of a wide variety of salads, dairy products, fruits, bread, and more traditional breakfast items. Since lunch is typically a quick stop, we encourage you to eat a full breakfast. All meals provided are kosher according to the "Rabbanut" certification. Most of the restaurant meals provided will consist of traditional Israeli cuisine, which has a Middle Eastern flair and is typically served buffet-style or family-style.
Travelers with special dietary situations (i.e. allergies, lactose intolerance, vegetarian, etc.) should note it with their registration or contact us separately. We will notify the meal providers in advance and make a good faith effort to ensure your considerations are accommodated. During meals on your own, you will find that you often have a huge selection of styles to choose from, ranging from sushi to Italian and nearly everything in between. In general, you may find that restaurants are not as aware of allergens or potential reactions, so we recommend that you exercise caution when ordering or ask your staff for assistance.
If you do not have a cellphone plan with reasonable international calling/data services, you can take advantage of discounted rates for mobile services at www.stayconnectedabroad.com. Options include local cellphone rentals, SIM cards, and other mobile data solutions. Pick-up is free at Ben Gurion Airport as long as you place your order at least a week in advance of your arrival (the pickup kiosk is closed during Shabbat hours).
Carrying a water bottle is a must, especially during the summer months. You will require much more frequent hydration than you are probably used to, around 2-4 liters of water per day. If you do not wish to pack a water bottle or hydration pouch, you can easily recycle your plastic store-bought bottles of water by refilling them from the tap, which is safe to drink. Additionally, bottles of water are available for sale on your tour bus, and typically cost only US$1-$3 per bottle (depending on size).
ISRAEL'S TIME ZONE
When communicating with friends and family at home, remember that Israel is usually seven hours ahead of Eastern Time or ten hours ahead of Pacific Time. This means evenings in Israel are equivalent to morning/afternoon in North America. Mornings in Israel are equivalent to late night in North America.
MEDICINE & VACCINATIONS
If you are taking medication, we recommend bringing enough to last for the entire time that you expect to be in Israel. If you have a notable medical condition, inform us in advance so that we can prepare our staff accordingly. No vaccinations are required for Israel, but we do recommend coming to Israel with an up-to-date tetanus shot.
TAXIS IN ISRAEL
If you use a taxi anywhere in Israel, insist that they turn the meter on – "moneh b'vakasha" (meter please). Cab drivers will often try to negotiate a price in advance without the meter to avoid reporting the income. Unless you know how much the ride will cost, you are almost always better off paying the meter price. If the driver refuses to put the meter on, simply get out and wait for another cab. NOTE: Uber is currently operating in the Tel Aviv region only.
DOUBLE OCCUPANCY ROOMS
Will be accommodated with either a double bed or two twin-sized beds depending on your rooming request.
TRIPLE OCCUPANCY ROOMS
At least one full-paying traveler is required in the room for the discount to apply for children ages 13 and under
Triple rooms are typically standard size rooms and can be configured with either two twin beds and a roll-away bed or one queen-style bed and a roll-away bed.
No discount applies for triple rooms without a child who is age 13 and under, but in some cases, the room provided will be a larger-sized room.
QUAD OCCUPANCY ROOMS
At least two full-paying travelers are required in a quad room for the discount to apply for children ages 13 and under. According to hotel rules, if there is only one child age 13 and under, two adjoining double rooms are provided instead, and no child discounts will apply.
Quad rooms are slightly larger than standard rooms, and they are subject to limited availability. Typical quad rooms have one bathroom and can be configured with either two twin beds and a two-person sofa bed or one queen-style bed and a sofa bed. Families of four who prefer more space and/or an extra bathroom should opt for two adjoining double rooms, however, no child discounts will apply.
Some hotels may not offer a quad occupancy room, in which case two double rooms will be provided while the quad occupancy discount applies as normal.
Quad occupancy rooms have limited availability and are not guaranteed.
NOTE: Exact mattress sizes vary from hotel to hotel and can not be guaranteed in advance.