Travel Preparation

BELOW ARE CATEGORIES FOR:

Flights, Transportation to the Airport, Luggage, Packing, Electricity, Weather, Money, Important Safety Precautions, Passport, Cancellation Insurance, Cell phones.  IF YOU STILL HAVE QUESTIONS AFTER CAREFULLY READING THIS PAGE, EMAIL ME, [email protected]

FLIGHTS

PARKING AT DETROIT METROPOLITAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: The best place to park is at QWIKPARK.  Click on this link to print money saving coupons and for location.  Their rates are competitive, their buses come punctually and their service is excellent.

You will have received from me all of your flight information.  Be sure to print out a copy to bring with you on the tour.  24 hours ahead of departure you will be able to print your boarding passes at home.  Go to the airline’s site (just google the name of the airline), use the confirmation code on your reservation, put in the required information on the airline’s site and go to CHECK IN.  If you have difficulty printing out these docuents at home, use a kiosk in the airport the next day  Avoid going to a check in counter as it is time consuming and they may weigh you luggage.

Check 48 hours prior to departure to make sure that there have been no time or flight number changes.  Some flights may be code share with another airline and may not appear on your information sheet exactly as they do on the monitor.  If you must change planes, find the monitors immediately upon landing, use the city and time of your flight to find the correct one, and if you look long enough the flight number which you have should appear.  Next to it will be the gate number.  If you are not sure, immediately find an airline employee to assist you.

TICKETING: There are NO paper tickets; you will receive your boarding pass either by checking in online (with your name and confirmation number that you will be provided) and printing your boarding pass at home OR by using a kiosk at your airport of departure to print the boarding passes (you will be asked to either scan your passport or a credit card, for ID purposes only; have your confirmation number ready if the machine asks for it) OR go to the ticket counter to check in and receive your boarding pass (the disadvantage here is that there is often a line and an attendant may insist on weighing your luggage.

TRANSPORTATION TO THE AIRPORT  Arrange this as early as possible.  If you use a commercial service such as a limousine or private transfer, be sure to get a printed confirmation that includes specific pickup times and places.  Make a note of telephone numbers so that you can call the service or friends in case you are delayed on the return flight.

Most airports offer discounted long term parking.  Google your airport of departure for the names of these off-site lots and what discounts they may offer.

Selected hotels at most airports will give you free parking for a certain number of days for an overnight stay.  All of this information is available on the web.

For the Detroit Airport, I recommend Qwik Park, US PARK or Airlines Parking as all three have discount coupons, discounts for AAA members, and discounts for other organizations such as AARP.  Go to their websites to check their rates.

In Michigan, the Michigan Flyer bus has service from Lansing/East Lansing and Ann Arbor.  It does not currently offer Jackson-Detroit Metro Airport service.

ELECTRICITY

There are 2 differences that you must know about concerning electricity.  First, their outlets are not the same as in America (and Britain is different from Europe so the shape of the plug is different) and second, the electrical current is about 220 volts, NOT the 110 or so that we use here.

If need to re-charge CAMERAS, CELL PHONES, IPADS, IPODS, LAPTOPS, CPAP MACHINE or any type of these gadgets, all you need is a plug adaptor: immediately below is the type you need for any country on the European mainland.  The prongs are clearly round, not flat as in the US.  You plug your normal American outlet into the back of the adaptor and then the adaptor into the Euro-wall socket.

HOWEVER in Britain the adaptor is much different.

The British Isles and Ireland use a three-flat-pronged plug.

IF YOU BRING A HAIRDRYER (MOST HOTELS HAVE THEM; GOOGLE THE HOTEL TO MAKE SURE) OR A CURLING IRON or any device that produces heat, it must have a dual current switch on it (to convert 220 down to 110) or you will burn up the device when you turn it on. (You will still need the plug adaptor).  If it has no such current convertor switch, then you must buy a transformer.  They are about $20, are heavy, take up space and even then don’t always work.  

IF YOU STILL HAVE QUESTIONS CONCERNING ELECTRICITY, PLEASE EMAIL ME.

CELL PHONES

-Cell phone: if your provider is TMobile, ATT or Verizon, call them to activate your international service and to make sure that your phone is a model that operates overseas (must be 4 band).  These are great alarm clocks and are handy if you are lost and can call or text me or the hotel.

WEATHER

For the most up to the minute weather details, google the weather of the destination about 48 hours before departure.   If you have followed the packing list you won’t have to make any adjustments.  But if suddenly snow is called for in Rome in August, bring an extra sweater.

PASSPORT:  Check your passport and be sure that it is valid at least 3 months AFTER your scheduled return : BRING IT TO THE AIRPORT AS IT IS THE REQUIRED FORM OF IDENTIFICATION FOR INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS

CANCELLATION INSURANCE: Go to the website  www.mikerosstravel.com , and find the TRAVELEX link, click on the link and that takes you directly to the site.  Choose your coverage and give your credit card information.  It takes about 5 minutes.  Otherwise, contact me and I will help you buy it.  The location number, 22-6157, is already listed and when prompted, use “Mike” as agent, select your coverage, give your credit card info and you are finished.  Be sure and check all of your regular coverage, homeowners and health.  MEDICARE does not cover you out of the USA so you need supplemental health insurance which is part of the TRAVELEX coverage.

GENERAL PRECAUTIONS: Carry all essentials (passport, cash, credit cards, debit or ATM cards), on you at all times in a “Safety Wallet or MONEY BELT (down your shirt, down your pants or around your waist.).  Never carry a wallet in a back pocket; in fact, don’t bring your wallet.  Make a list of all important numbers:  passport, credit cards and debit cards including all relevant telephone numbers.  Photocopy the passport pages with personal data and keep it separate.  NEVER CARRY ANYTHING OF WORTH AWAY FROM YOUR BODY: MONEY, PASSPORT, CAMERA, CREDIT CARDS, ETC.  Europe is very, very safe but there are pickpockets even in our home towns.  People who have ignored my suggestions (thinking that they would know if there were a pickpocket around, that they simply would never be a victim), have paid a heavy price for not listening.  Recently a passport was stolen and the difficulty it caused was huge and expensive.  

MONEY:  You can get your cash upon landing; it is not necessary to get it in advance, especially if you have a Schwab ATM/debit card and a Capital One credit card.  Banks charge large fees (usually) to sell you foreign cash or give you a very bad rate of exchange.

  1. Take an ATM card and know the PIN, activate the card and use it at least once before the trip: this is how you will get the money you spend daily for small gifts, drinks and items of a personal nature (don’t exchange cash IN FACT DO NOT BRING AMERICAN CASH OR TRAVELERS CHECKS if you can avoid it as it is time-consuming and expensive.
  2. EVEN IF YOU DON’T USE AN ATM OR DEBIT CARD NORMALLY, GET ONE NOW AND LEARN HOW TO USE IT.  I STRONGLY RECOMMEND A CHARLES SCHWAB 1 877 336 5386 DEBIT CARD BECAUSE THERE IS NO FOREIGN CURRENCY EXCHANGE FEE  AND NO ATM USAGE FEE TO USE IT; IT CAN SAVE A LOT OF MONEY.  
  3. TAKE 2 different credit cards because one can get lost, broken or de-magnetized.  Notify your credit card company that you will be out of the country.  
  4. I recommend a Capital One credit card because they are the only ones who do not charge a “foreign transaction fee” of up to 9%.  

REMEMBER TO BRING YOUR PASSPORTS WITH YOU!

LUGGAGE AND CLOTHING: I HAVE NO RESTRICTIONS ON EITHER.  The restrictions come fromYOUR OWN ABILITY TO HAUL YOUR OWN STUFF, the airlines, the size of the vehicle, or the logistics of getting on and off trains.  I only explain the restrictions to you so please don’t blame the messenger; I don’t control the airline policies, design the luggage areas of the vehicle nor the steps of the trains.  The recommendations I make are to ensure your safety, comfort and mobility.  I am not the Luggage Nazi, regardless of what you have heard.  Thank you for your understanding.

Mark it inside and outside even if you plan on all carry-on luggage.  Liquids must be in containers no larger than 3.4 oz and all of these containers must be in a single ONE QUART clear re-sealable baggie for carry-ons.

  • ONE PILOT CASEincluding the wheels, measurements cannot exceed a maximum of a TOTAL of 45 inches: length plus width plus height; this size will fit in the overhead bins; avoid having an airline attendant weigh the luggage as they always seem to find some excuse to not let you take it on.  The advantage of having your luggage with you in the cabin is that you know it will arrive with you.  You may check any luggage you want (on overseas flights there is currently no fee for one bag under 45 lbs.) but checked luggage sometimes does not arrive with you.  We are unable to wait for it because there is no guarantee of arrival, no matter what the airline tells you.  In the past, missing luggage has taken as long as 5 to 7 days to be delivered.

These photos show the measurements of the luggage that you can take into the passenger cabin with you.

Above is the rollaboard suitcase (shown next to a chair for size comparison) and below, the depth (8 inches), width (14 inches) and the height (23 inches).  

That is a total of 45 inches.  However, the dimensions can be different as long as they add up to no more than 45 inches and the depth is not greater than 9 inches (it is difficult to fit in some overheads if the depth is more than that.)  THE HEIGHT MUST INCLUDE THE WHEELS.

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  • TOTE: this can be the size of a regular brief case; it can also be a small back pack but no larger than a brief case size.  In it put: reading material, camera, sunglasses, earplugs, inflatable neck pillow, eyeshades, prescriptions.  Earplugs: get the foam ones available at any pharmacy; they help you relax on the plane and stifle the sounds of babies and loud passengers.  Eyeshades, also at pharmacies and Target or KMart, help you to relax or even sleep.  The same is true for a blow up pillow; the pillows provided on the overseas flights are too small to help much.  Prescriptions should be with you in your tote/backpack and never in a suitcase during transit time, regardless if the suitcase is in the overhead above you.
  • Here is a photo of an acceptable back pack next to the rollaboard (for size purposes) that you can ALSO take on board.  (You are allowed 2 carry on items, each of the dimensions mentioned here; if you have a purse, it must go in the backpack or Tote at least until you board; a CPAP machine does is considered medically necessary so may be carried separately on board in addition to the other two items.)  The TOTE should not exceed a total of 33 inches, length/height/width combined.  
  • CLOTHING   Plan on clothing separates that together make up about 4 outfits.  You will wear one of the outfits on the plane, pack the others.  Fabric is more important than color:the Dri Fit or Under Armor type material travels and washes very well. Cotton is hard to care for on a trip since it takes so long to dry.  Jeans are comfortable but also don’t travel well because of drying times and the space they take up in suitcases.  If it is mix of khaki, black or gray everything will go together and you will always appear well-dressed.  A combo that also works well is red, white (minimal) and navy blue. Bright scarves are a great way to make a previously worn outfit appear completey new.  If you choose bright colors or huge patterns, you will be easily identified as a tourist.  You may enjoy wearing this at home but you may feel inappropriately dressed and uncomfortable in other countries. What may seem fashionable here may not be overseas.  Some washing required.  Dry Fit or “wicking” material clothing is available inexpensively at Target, Kohls, KMart and Walmart.  It is more expensive (but better quality/fit) at Cabelas, and in the online stores TRAVELSMITH and MAGELLANS.  Google either for their selections and prices.

ROLL YOUR CLOTHES FOR LESS WRINKLES AND FOR BEST USE OF PACKING SPACE.  

Below are photos of the 4 shirts I usually take, all “dry fit” material (can be washed in 2 minutes and dry in about a 2 hours); 2 pair of pants also of dry fit material (black, so they go with everything, look good and are easily cared for); a medium weight jacket; and a warm sweater.  All of the clothes would go together at any point.  They can be layered in case of cooler than expected weather.  (In spring/summer/fall, don’t take one very heavy garment that may be too warm to wear but too cool to remove: layering is the answer.)

 Spring / Summer / Fall Packing for Europe (WINTER has a separate line below)

Don’t be a “contingency” or “what mood will I be in today” packer.  Remember: less is more.  Most people pack far too much and return home without having worn half of the clothes they took.  If you make a list (base it on the list below; it doesn’t have to be exact, just use those items as a framework), keep to that list, don’t start throwing in clothes at the last minute thinking “what if I meet the Queen” (you won’t), and no impulse packing.  Pack at least 3 days before departure using your list and stop there.  Trust me, you won’t need or even wear all those extra clothes but will end up carrying all of them around.  Since we are all responsible for our own luggage most of the time, getting it onto trains, into vans and aircraft, less is really better.  Mark Twain said, pack half the clothes and twice the money.  Good advice then and now.

-3-4 tops/shirts

–2-3 pants, or 2 pair pants and 1 skirt although skirts are not necessary.  Jeans take up a lot of room in suitcases and are hard to care for because they take so long to dry.

For women, a number of brightly colored scarves to change the look of the dark clothing; this is how women overseas will wear their color and they make the clothing seem new every day.

 -Underwear as needed but plan on rinsing out every couple of days to avoid taking too many clothes.  Launder in the sink (take a bit of laundry powder, not liquid), squeeze in a towel, and put on hangers where they can be exposed to the most amount of air; do this for whatever you need to launder.

-1 light jacket (heavier if spring or fall)

-1 sweater (or 2, depending upon weather/season)

-1 pair good walking shoes (add slip-on boots or bring all-weather shoes in the fall / spring; and add hat/gloves/scarf)

-1 pair good walking sandals OR gym shoes

 -Rain poncho or umbrella

-1 night wear

FOR WINTER: add a winter coat which can be worn on the plane and put overhead, Tote-type overshoes or all weather boots, scarf/gloves/hat, and an extra sweater.

-WET toiletries: Liquids / pastes / creams: Get small travel sizes; if not available buy the small refillable plastic bottles/containers under 3.4 ounces (Target, KMart, Meijers) and fill with your own essentials.  Place in one, clear, resealable plastic baggie and pack in a place you can easily get to so if you have to show them, you can.  (toothpaste, shampoo, creme rinse, contact solution, etc.)

-DRY toiletries: toothbrush, vitamins, dry stick deodorant, shaver, comb, floss: put in a gallon size bag and pack as it is not necessary to show this at security.  Most hotels in Europe do not have washclothes so if that is important to you, bring some of the disposable kind.  MOTION SICKNESS: if you have any problem with motion sickness, pack either Dramamine or the Dramamine gum (better) and have it with you at all times.

-1/2 cup of dry laundry detergent: wash clothing in the sink, wring well, wring again in a towel, put on a hanger and hang in a breeze or out in the open in your room (or near or on a heater if it is winter); dri fit clothes (pants and shirts, available economically on line or seasonally in WalMart, Target and KMart) dry very fast and can almost always be worn the next day, sometimes later the same day.

-Travel alarm

For travel accessories go to www.1ststoptravelstore.com  . They offer inexpensive travel gear.  Their safety wallets are about $6 without shipping and their electrical plug adaptors are under $2 each.