Afraid to Travel? I Was!
About ten years ago, our youngest daughter, who has traveled a great deal, talked my wife and I into venturing out into the World and it has become addictive! That was 15 countries ago and what an adventure! Were there bumps along the way? You Bet! Avoid disasters...READ MORE
Welcome To TripPlanning101: "What To Know Before You Go".
Why Trip Planning 101?
It seems that we try and plan our lives around, "When I Retire." I'm 76 and going strong. Recently retired! Don't wait to travel. Tomorrow may never come. Live it while you can!
This WEB site combined with my YouTube Channel answers most if not all your questions about traveling the world ~ safely & efficiently!
Index of Travel Tips
Is It Safe To Travel?
Yes! Our last two trips took us to India 2020 and Egypt in 2021, right in the middle of COVID! There are places in the World where you may not feel safe. There are probably places in your own community where you feel the same way. What I have learned is that most of places you want to visit are welcoming and wonderful. If you have a concern, travel with a tour group. In Egypt, the local travel agency provided an armed guard, which was helpful in keeping the street vendors from getting too aggressive. If you want to plan your own adventure, check with a travel agency. They are worth every cent. Surprisingly enough they will save you money and help keep you out of trouble by recommending local guides, places to stay and things to see. Use "YouTube" to learn about where you want to go and places to visit as you plan.
COVID: What a pain!
Currently, you will be required to be COVID tested within three days of boarding the plane. Many Pharmacies are offering express COVID test along with County Health agencies at a minimal or no cost. You do need an official certificate to get through the airport. Some major airports do offer express testing but will cost you a lot$$$. Flying home requires the same thing. Have this arranged. You could be quarantined, where you are for weeks otherwise.
Masks are required in the airports and on the plane. It needs to cover both your nose and mouth. They check all during the flight. We have found that masks are not required once you reach your destination. That can change so be prepared.
Passport & Visa Tips
When traveling from one country to another it is required to have a passport that serves as your identification. It needs to have enough blank pages in the back to accommodate the countries you will be visiting. If it's within six months of expiring get it renewed. It may no longer be considered valid in some countries. You can apply for a US Passport from your local Post Office along with the necessary passport photo. If you do not have the service available through your post office, there are business that specializes in obtaining, not only Passports, but Visa's. It takes up to six week to obtain these documents, so plan ahead. Visa's vary from country to country, some even are available upon arrival in the country. Tour groups and travel agencies normally have the Visas arranged. When making your own plans, do a WEB search for the appropriate process.
Helpful Passport Hints
1.Never Ever Lose You Passport!
You could waist days of your vacation getting it replaced at the US Embassy
2. Before leaving home make a COLOR copy of both sides of each passport, as a back up. Don't keep the original and copy in the same place. Keep your passports in a secure place. There are pouches you can buy, that will hold your passport and travel money. They hang around you neck or can be warn under your clothing for security.
3. Your passport is your main source of identification when checking in at the airport, going through security and customs. Have them available.
4. There are Apps available that make traveling easier with your airline ticket, passport and getting through security and customs. Look them up on the Web.
Are Vaccinations Required?
Normally not. We have travel to Brazil, China, Tailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Turkey, Mexico, Germany, France, South Africa, India and Egypt. If you are going for just a short time as a tourist, shots are not necessary. When we went to South Africa, we did take a medication to protect against malaria, prescribed by our local doctor. You start taking a pill two days before you leave and continue for ten days after you get home. Bring Bug repelent and use it. When we were there in January, which is their summer, we hardly saw a bug. One suggestion. Our medication said to take one tablet a day. There were people in our group who were told to take two a day. By day three of our trip two of our group became extremely ill, do to the medication. Make sure you know what you are taking and how much!
1. The airline will only allow 50 pounds per bag. Weight them if there is any question! You don't want to repack your bag at the ticket counter. There is a substantial fee if your luggage is over weight.
2. You don't need to travel with everything you own. You won't wear it! Three outfits, that can be switched around, works great. Bring extra socks and underwear. Two pairs of comfortable shoes. A third nice pair if you are planing something special.
3. Unless your suitcases are some amazing color that is easy to identify, put a colorful ribbon or tape on your suitcase so it is easy to identify on the airport carousel and loading on or off the bus.
4. Don't put valuables in your check in luggage. They may not be there when you
get where you are going.
5. There is hard case luggage with locks that TSA can open if needed.
If you take any personal medication make sure you pack them with your carry on luggage. It is very difficult to get your prescription filled in a foreign country. Also bring along any over the counter medicine you may need for things like headaches, stomach aches, muscle aches and especially colds. I have found that Airborne is great for kicking the start of a cold. You will have people on the plane that would just love to give you their cold or COVID.
Of course you want to bring everything just in case. DON'T!!. For a two week trip maybe three to four outfits that you can mix and match. No one is going to be checking out your wardrobe. What you will need a lot of are socks and underwear, and two pair of sensible shoes. Three for women if you will be dressing up for a special occasion. Check on line to see what the weather will be like where you are going. Brings a cheep plastic rain coat and umbrella if necessary.You don't want to be too hot or to cold. Layering is a good practice when it is cool in the morning but warmer during the day. If you need to, you can normally purchase something extra to wear if you forgot it at home or the weather changes. Any clothing you don't want to take home, so you have room for other things, leave then in your room as you check out with a note that your donating them. The gift will be most welcomed. Finally, ware loose fitting, comfortable clothing for the flight. You will be glad you did!
You will want to bring a good supply of your favorite snack treats for the long plane flight and especially if you are traveling to Asia. The foods you will experience are not what you are use to. People traveling to the US, from other countries, have a similar issue. You will be glad to have something familiar. Trust me!
Protecting Your Valuables
Taking certain precautions with your money, jewelry, camera equipment, passport and other electronics can keep your memories of your trip happy ones. Don't leave things out in your room when you are not there. Use
travel pouches that hang around your neck, or around your waist to secure your money and passport. Most hotels will have an in- room safe to store valuables. Keep purses close to your body and wallets in hard to get too places. These are the same kind of precautions you would normally take when traveling anywhere away from home. Don't be paranoid, just be safe.
Airport Security & Customs
Depending on the day of the week and the time of day, and what country you are in, making it through security and customs can take a long time. The recommended lead time is three hours. Missing your flight will delay you much longer than that. Don't be stupid. Follow the rules. Dress simply. Don't carry liquids. Buy what you need once you get to your gate while waiting for your flight. Some rules are different. South Africa. You have to buy your bottled water from the Duty Free store and they will deliver it to you as you get on the plane. Anything in your luggage or your carry on that looks like a weapon can cause you to miss your flight.
Smile and say "Thank You" a lot! There are services available that making getting through security and customs much easier now. Check them out on the Web.
When you make it back to your hotel after a long day of site seeing and all you want to do is kick back and watch a little TV, good luck! Unless you are a fan of CNN or your lucky enought to get the BBC, programing for Americans is very limited. So you decide to pull something up on the internet. Good Luck! Most of the rest of the world aren't familiar with what we call "High Speed" Internet. Your best bet is to bring a tablet with some down loaded videos or a good book.
Your best friend when you travel is a Visa Card. Not promoting Visa. That is just a fact.
Most places will take credit cards. For the small vendor, for tips and bathroom stops, it is good to have some local currency. We get $100 to $200 apiece. You can do it before you leave home or there are usually exchange booths at the airport where you land. Finding local banks or ATM can be challenging. And if you are going somewhere where they do take US dollars, they need to be new and un-rinkled. Not so easy to find. Be familiar with what the exchange rate is. You can get the Google Assistant App to help with a wide range of travel feature.
If you are a little older like me, knowing where the bathroom facilities are located is a must. Unlike traveling in the US, even though their are McDonald's, they aren't around every corner. In most of the countries we have traveled, bathroom facilities can be far and few between. The clean ones, even at the airports will often have attendants that expect to get a tip or there will be a turn style that takes coins. Keep local change on hand for such emergencies. Normal fee is about a dollar US. There are also what I call the squat pot. You may want to avoid those. Tour buses have toilets but they discourage their use. When traveling with a group they do plan regular bathroom stops.
Airline Seat Assignments
You may wonder how to select a good seat on the plane? When traveling with a group, your seat will be preassigned, somewhere in the back of the plane. These are the seats with very little leg room, because you have discounted air fare. Normally, the only way to get better seats is to pay for a seating upgrade. This can be done on line. Depending where you are assigned, it might be worth the extra money to choose your own seats from what is available. On international flights, look for any row with three vacant seats and pick the isle. If there are two of you, look for the three or four seats in the middle of the plane and pick the two isle seats. The closer too your departure date, the better chance the middle seats won't be taken. Plus you will be grateful, every time you need to use the restroom, you don't have to climb over anyone. On a fifteen hour flight, you need a little leg room. When setting up your own airfare, the same rules apply to selecting somewhat comfortable seating.
Credit Card Clearance
Before you leave home contact your bank or credit union and advise them that you will be out of the country. Specify what dates you will be gone and what countries you will be visiting. This can normally be done on line. This is not something that is easy to do once you leave the country. If your credit card provider thinks your card has been compromised, do to foriegn charges, they will turn it off. Of course, you won't know about it until the next time you try and use it.
If you have one of those card security programs on you phone, make sure that you turn on the option that allows International purchases. Been there, done that.
Cell Phones & Power
Before leaving home check with your cell phone provided to make sure what kind of coverage you will have in the countries you will be visiting.
Most plans provide for texting, but if you make or accept voice calls you can be hit with substantial roaming charges. And don't forget your charger.
Power: Once you leave the US, what you know as a standard electrical plug does not exist. You will need to purchase a power converter and a plug adapter. If you go to Amazon and do a search for; "Power Converter for International Travel" you will get a huge selection. Our favorite are the multiple plug adapters with a converter that looks like a power strip having multiple plug locations along with several USB ports to recharge your electronics. Most hotels have only one convient plug location so plan accordingly.
Mystery Foods & Water
Have you noticed how travel shows go on and on about how wonderful the food is when you travel. That may be true for the luxury cruse ships but not always true once you hit land. Americans are use to "Americanized foreign foods" In general, you will find foreign food a little bland, especially when you are having the same basic dish for breakfast , lunch and dinner. After a few days you start looking for a McDonald's.
You will find some wonderful eating places, just don't expect it everyday, especially if you are with a tour group.
Water: Big topic when you travel internationally. Not that the water is bad elsewhere, it just has different bacteria than what we are use to, and it will make you sick. For anything that goes into your mouth use bottled water. It is available everywhere. You can purchase it from the tour bus driver for a dollar. I am very careful but on our recent 10 hour trip home from Egypt, I came down with diarrhea. Worst experience in my life. I think it was a omelette at breakfast with onions, washed in their water. You can't be to careful.
As you travel, somehow people just know that you are a tourist. And the purpose of a tourist is to spend all their money before they go home! If you meet someone that wants to be your best friend and show you the town, you will eventually end up in a carpet showroom for two hours looking at $10,000 throw rugs.
When traveling with tour groups, your guide will take you to specific business for your shopping convenience. That is normal and just part of the tourist industry. These shops are not always the cheapest or are all the the hand crafted items made my some little old man or woman in a tiny shop behind their home.
Before you purchase, check things out carefully making sure you are getting what you want at a fair price. Be generous if you can. It is amazing how little most of these people have to live on.
Traveling with a Tour Group
Group travel can be great, in that you don't have to worry about all the details. Usually, everything is already paid for, except for a few meals, some tips for your local tour guide and bus driver and anything else you might want to do if you have some free time. Your itinerary is mostly planned out and all you have to do is show up at the right time and right place with the right things. Don't be the person that is always late or forgot something. It will effect the attitude of the entire group. Feeling secure is another benefit of group travel. Safety is their number one concern and the last thing they want to do is put you in harms way. If a problem comes up or you get ill, they will do all they can to make sure you are taken care of. That is what you are paying for in group travel.
What might be challenging in a group, is that you are limited to what is already planned. They keep you moving so you don't miss everything. Because of that, you may only have an hour or two at some amazing sites that could take days to see normally. There is no sleeping in, if you feel tired, and the day isn't over until your bus gets back to the hotel. It can be grueling, but this isn't a relaxing vacation, it is a tour to see the World. Over all we have enjoyed the five group tours we have taken and often times you can't beat the prices they offer, especially for older travelers. And yes! Most tour group are filled with older people.
Using A Travel Agency
Travel agencies are wonderful for finding you great bargins, especially for a quick five day getaway to Mexico, the Bahamas or Hawaii. Just check out their WEB site for the latest deals. If you are looking for a World travel adventure, most larger agencies will provide tour group trips, pretty much anywhere in the World you may want to go. Many of our decisions, of where to go, had a lot to do with where the best deal was.
Example: Ten day trip to China, pretty much, all expenses paid including air from LA. Under $2000, each. If you need help setting up your own travel, for yourself or a group, they will help you with airfair, hotels, car rental, tour guides and site seeing opportunities. A good way to see all that you want to see and stay safe in the process.
Doing it yourself is a lot of work, especially if you have a group.
Planning Your Own Travel
We planed our first two trips, Turkey and Italy, ourselves. We did have a lot of help from our youngest daughter since we didn't have a clue.
Both trips were certainly an adventure and we had a great time. Unlike a group tour, where you will see about everything quickly, we had the opportunity to learn how to use the local subway, buses, bullet train and ferryies. We learnered that having a GPS device would be nice so you can find your hotel in Venice. And when selecting a hotel, find something close to where you are planing to tour. The couple of times we got lost, there was always someone willing to point us in the right direction. We were able to spend as much time as we needed at each location and go back again if we wanted.
If you were tired, you sleep in a little, or called it a day when you had had enough. And since you plan your own eating out, remember not everyone speaks english. And in a lot of countries dinner doesn't start until around 7 pm
and they expect you to hang around for an hour or more. So don't be in a hurry because they aren't.
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