Wednesday, February 4, 2015

20 (plus) Tips for Traveling Overseas

While you are reading this, I will be winging my way over the Atlantic, heading first to Istanbul (layover) and then on to Spain. Madrid. Segovia. Jumilla. Barcelona. All the places...

I am really excited. Spain oozes history-rather like England. I love history and historical locations. I love seeing with my own eyes places that I have read about. I love then going home and reading even more books set in that location and thinking, I know what that looks like. I've been there! That's the best!

Anyway, this being our second trip with kids overseas, and my fourth trip overseas, I thought I'd pass on a few tips I've found helpful when traveling.

When Planning Your Trip:
-Use a travel agent. A travel agent is the equivalent of a tax preparer. They are both experts at their jobs. and they can do their jobs way faster and more accurately than I can. That expertise costs-but the cost is worth the peace of mind and reduction of stress. You know what I mean. We all are capable of googling flights and hotels, but the information can be overwhelming. A travel agent sorts through the overwhelming and gets the best price or best route or best whatever that you are aiming for.

-Apply for or renew passports. Make sure your passport is up to date and is not within a year of expiring. There are restrictions involved with that. Passports can be expedited, but it costs. Plan ahead and save yourself a bundle.

-Immunizations. So, I understand if immunizations are not your deal, but sometimes they are required for overseas travel. Check that out sooner rather than later.

-Visas. Most European countries do not require a Visa if your stay is less than 90 days. But, this is not always the case. Google the country your are planning to visit for what their requirements are.

-Wills. This may seem morbid, but we did our will before our trip to Indo. Now it's done. Just in case.

Getting out the Door:
-Photo copy passports. This is just a good idea in case your passport gets lost or stolen. Keep the copy(-ies) in a different suitcase or bag than the originals.

-Print up itineraries and tickets. In our digital age, this seems redundant. And so not green. But, the hard copies are helpful for when you don't have an internet connection.

-Write down the address and phone number of the location you will be staying, and take it with you on the airplane. You will need this for forms that must be filled out for customs. Make it easy on yourself and have it handy. Btw, can I just mention what a pain in the butt it is to fill out 6 forms for each and every country we visit on our trip?

-Pack light. Obviously this is important enough that I wrote a post on it. But, I have never regretted packing light. I have often regretted packing too much.

-Inform your bank. This is a vital thing if you are hoping to use your bank or credit cards while traveling. If you forget this step, your card with invariably get shut down. All that fraud prevention...

-Hold mail. God bless the USPS, because this is something that takes about 2 minutes to do online.

-Purchase currency. Whether you plan to mainly use credit cards or not, you will still want some currency. Sometimes there are fees directly as you enter the airport for which you must pay cash. It is far better to get a good bank exchange rate, than to pay high airport fees.

-Unlock your phone. And/or purchase some sort of international plan. You will pay through the nose, regardless, but purchasing the plan is infinitely more affordable than racking up fee by fee for individual texts or calls. Btw, if you know me IRL, don't text or call us while we are gone. Email. It's free.

-Load some books onto your person device. It's the less weighty plan. Mr. Hippie is a somewhat slow packing light learner. Every trip we take, he wants to bring these fat books along. I'm telling you-save the weight and buy books for your device. Even if you are a paper and ink, real book acolyte, you will thank me if you follow this tip for books and traveling. I got a couple free books, and a couple 99 centers, and I am ready for my 32 hours of airplane time.

-Forward your itinerary to the important people in your life. So in case an emergency happens, they know how to reach you.

-Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on. And a toothbrush. You start to feel yucky after a while. This helps keep the yucky at bay, and gives a back up in case of major spills or sickness.

-Pay bills. If you are going to be gone for more than a week, make sure you pay any bills that will be due while you are gone. Yes, many can be paid online, but wifi access is notoriously sketchy when not at home. And, who wants to have to remember to pay bills while on vacation?

-Turn off water, turn down heater and water heater. There is no reason to heat or cool your home like it is full of people. Keep the temps warm enough so pipes don't freeze, but that is it.

On the Plane
-Stay hydrated. Every time they offer something to drink, take it.

-Move around. Get up and walk the aisles. Stretch your legs.

-Sleep when the lights are dimmed. The goal is to begin acclimating your body to the time change.

-Noise canceling headphones. I don't own any, but people who do, swear by them. They help you sleep and give some personal space in a very tight space.

-Dress in layers. Planes can be cold, then hot, then cold again. Layers will help you spend the time more comfortably on long flights. Also, wear comfortable shoes that have some wiggle room. Feet almost always swell on planes.

-Bring a surprise for any littles among you. Some people do little toys to open every hour. I usually do one thing. I'm a minimalist. And cheap.

Well, those are my top 20 (plus) tips. What would you add? I ask that question with a bit of trepidation. Hopefully I haven't forgotten anything vital that will become patently obvious as we are winging our way over oceans.

I am not sure how much I will be posting while away. My goal is to be focused on vacation and my family and the friends we are visiting. Maybe you see a post, maybe you won't. If not, I will be sure to share pictures and such once we get back home.

Until then....