The following are recommendations from over 50 years of traveling and guiding in North America, Europe, Central America, Asia, Australia and the South Pacific.
The most important: YOUR PASSPORT SHOULD ALWAYS BE IN A SAFETY WALLET UNDER YOUR CLOTHING AT ALL TIMES, NEVER IN A BAG OR A POCKET OR WITH SOMEONE ELSE. KEEP CREDIT AND DEBIT CARDS THERE, TOO.
The other important items concern weather, money, electricity, clothing, packing, gear and insurance. They are all explained below.
WEATHER Google the “normal” weather for your destination several weeks before departure, then check the weather again just before you leave. The second check should not alter your original packing plans by more than one or two garments.
TIPPING: 10% is appreciated for all service in bars and restaurants unless there is already a substantial charge added to the bill; that will appear on the menu or at the bottom of the bill.
YOUR MONEY in Europe and Great Britain:
-take 2 ATM cards (Schwab* is the best because there is NO ATM fee which saves a lot of money) for which you know the PIN; GET ALL OF YOUR DAILY SPENDING CASH FROM A SAFE ATM WITH THE DEBIT CARD
-2 credit cards (American Express and Capital One charge NO transaction fees for credit purchases; most others do and that can cost a lot) with different account numbers (ATM and credit cards become demagnetized, hacked, break, are frozen, so take 2). Discover Card is generally not accepted anywhere outside North America
-if you DON’T want to take credit or ATM cards, order and take lots of cash (Euros, Pounds, or wherever you are traveling) in a safety wallet under your clothing. DON’T bring US cash to change as it is expensive to change and many banks refuse to do it. It is very rare that you can pay for something overseas with American cash and if it is allowed, the price may double.
-If you want to pay in a currency other than the local currency, you may be refused or you may pay a substantial surcharge in the currency of your choice.
–NO travelers checks or pre paid cards because almost no one takes them any more.
-You will need cash for all small purchases, sandwiches
CLOTHES / PACKING: tops/shirts, pants, underwear, jacket as per temperature (rain proof), 1 or 2 sweaters, 2 pair of foot wear (sturdy and comfortable, not flip flops or ballerina slippers), night wear. Winter: add coat/hat/scarf/boots only if it is a winter tour. NO good jewelry. Follow the guidelines of packing videos that you can google: just type “packing videos” in the search bar. You will be amazed at what can fit into a “45” inch roll aboard.
GEAR: passport, camera, travel alarm, time piece (watch or similar), washcloth if you want, favorite soap/shampoo although all good hotels have this, umbrella, sunglasses, PRESCRIPTIONS should never be checked, boarding passes, earplugs, inflatable neck pillow, eyeshades. In addition to the roll aboard you are also allowed to bring a small back pack or tote: max 14” x12” x10”. For travel accessories go to www.1ststoptravelstore.com. They offer inexpensive travel gear like safety wallets and plug adaptors.
ELECTRICITY/ELECTRONICS: for cameras, iPads, etc, you only need your regular charging cord and an adaptor plug (NO transformer). Hair dryers and curlers/straighteners must be dual voltage and also need an adaptor plug: Britain/Ireland plug consists of 3 big flat prongs set in a triangle shape; Europe plug has 2 round dowels in place of our two flat prongs in the US.
–to carry on: one rollaboard max 45 inches l+w+h; maximum 35 lbs. and one tote or backpack (14x12x10 or so). Liquids in carry on must be in containers no larger than 3.4 oz and all must fit in one quart size re-closable baggie.
–to check: whatever you wish but remember that you will have to maneuver it through the airport, up and down stairs, on and off trains and other vehicles; there are few porters; if the checked luggage doesn’t arrive with you, you may wait several days before it is delivered (that is, IF it is delivered). Don’t put prescriptions in checked luggage.
AIRPORT, TICKETS, BOARDING PASSES: be inside the terminal at least 2 1/2 hours before flight; there are no “tickets” anymore; print your boarding passes at home (use your confirmation number on the airline’s site to do this; also add your frequent flier number, check and change seating if you want) or at an airport kiosk. Dinners or large lunches are served on all transatlantic flights and an additional snack/breakfast before landing.
TRAVEL INSURANCE: I recommend that you purchase a travel protection plan to help protect you and your travel investment against the unexpected. Travel protection plans can include coverage for Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, Emergency Medical and Emergency Evacuation/Repatriation, Trip Delay, Baggage Delay and more. For coverage, please go to www.mikerosstravel.com, scroll down to the TRAVELEX link, double click it and the site appears. The agent is MIKE and the reference location number is 22-6157 but both should be grayed in.
The product descriptions provided here are only brief summaries. The full coverage terms and details, including limitations and exclusions, are contained in the insurance policy. Travelex Insurance Services, Inc CA Agency License #0D10209. All products listed are underwritten by, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company, NAIC #22276. 11.17 E7N
Please note: Be sure and check all of your regular coverage, homeowners and health insurance policies. MEDICARE does not cover you out of the USA so you need supplemental health insurance.
Please Note: To be eligible for the waiver of pre-existing medical condition exclusion, the protection plan must be purchased within 15 days from the time you make your initial trip deposit. However, the plan can be purchased any time prior to departure.
–Safety: never put anything of worth in a pocket or in a bag that can be away from your body (especially NOT IN a purse); use a safety wallet UNDER YOUR CLOTHES always for passport, credit/ATM cards, large bills.
–CARDS: the best credit cards are from Capital 1, the best ATM card is Schwab: no foreign transaction fees
–Cell phones/cameras: if you bring your cell phone and plan to use it as more than a camera, call your service provider and ask for a plan that will cover you overseas; making calls, sending texts or emails, or surfing the web without such a plan could be extremely expensive.