After crossing the exhilarating Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in Northern Ireland and walking back in a downpour—so happy I’d made it over just before they closed it for the weather, there were a few ladies complaining in the bathroom as I dried my clothes under the heater. Their conversation was so strange to me. They were angry at the tour guide for not telling them to bring an umbrella and mad at the website for not warning them about the weather. I wanted to say, “You do know you’re in Ireland?” but I was too engrossed in thinking about how strange it was that someone would come to Ireland and not expect rain.
What I learned from that experience and countless others is that some people have no idea what they’re getting involved in some of the time, not all of the time. I’m not going to discuss my opinion on why this might be. As what might seem perfectly obvious to most is not to everyone, after all people wouldn’t be interesting if they were all the same. When I was waiting for my flight at Dublin International two French girls were trying to plug their phone charges into the plugs. I didn’t think much of it, but then one girl asked me if I knew where an outlet was. She was holding the phone charger out and right away I saw that they didn’t have a converter. Now to me that’s something all Europeans would be conscious of or someone from home would clue them in about or even let them borrow one. I had an extra and everything worked out, but in that case it wasn’t something so obvious, even for people who live close to other countries.
So this is going to be an ongoing compilation of things I’ve learned from traveling, some are basic, some are not. You’ll know most, but I’m hoping it will be of some help. I’ll probably use it as a reference guide for myself at any rate. Feel free to add your ideas or stories for making travel better. I will say that the best thing to do is, be a good sailor. Plan to have a good time, but expect some road blocks.
Planning Your Trip:
- Before you start planning your journey, check your passport and make sure it will last for at least six weeks after you’ll be home from your travels. If you don’t have a passport or have to renew it, plan to start the process at least four months in advance. It’s a little early, but it will ease your mind.
- Make sure you have a working debit card and check with your credit card about fees for oversea purchases, including hotels. You might want to look into getting a credit card that is specifically designed for travel. Taking some cash is a good idea, in case you experience any trouble, but exchanging it is not in your favor.
- Look into purchasing travel health insurance, it’s relatively inexpensive. If you have health insurance, check to make sure you will be covered, and take any necessary cards and duplicates. If your health insurance doesn’t cover overseas travel or is vague on what they’ll pay for, it’s a good idea to look into travel health insurance. Plan to take a list of medications, etc. if there’s any possibility you might need a doctor.
- Make copies of all your important documents and keep them somewhere somewhat hidden from view. I also write a list of information and phone numbers in case of an emergency and keep it in my backpack.
- I do all my booking through Priceline. I’m not sure why, I suppose at some point I looked around at other sites and thought it was the best one for price and information. They give notifications and free cancellations. I always try to go with the free cancellation ones because my plans change and sometimes the price drops, so I cancel and rebook at a lower price. You book online, but pay either on arrival (not as typical) or on departure. On the rare occasion you’ll book into a place with a strange rule, like cash up front, so it’s good to read through all the information, especially if it isn’t a big establishment.
- While you’re deciding on dates, flights and accommodation, research the weather: the average temperature, humidity, wind speed and precipitation. This will give you a good idea for what it will be like when you are there, and it will give you the time to buy anything you might need. When it gets closer to the time, start typing in the place into a search engine and weather, like “St. Ives, UK weather.” That will give you a rough idea. I like to pack light, and don’t buy all the things that I might need beforehand, but I like to know the weather so that I can shop for it over there if need, a little mental preparation.
To me packing the right clothes and sundries isn’t the most essential thing, if you are going to a country that has the typical things you might forget, and they are readily available, like sunscreen, makeup, shoes, then you’ll be okay. There are some things that would be expensive to buy, like a phone charger or converter, these I would be more concerned about.
- An Electric Converter/Adapter: European countries, including the UK and Ireland, don’t have the same electrical plug sizes. At first it’s a bit strange to think that so many things are standard across the board, but then something so essential is so totally different that only an adapter can solve. You get use to it, and I tend to like or appreciate the different designs. There is no way around this. You can buy a kit that has a lot of plugs and just take out the ones you’ll need, or you can buy a larger one that has different converters. I’ve found that the multiple countries adapters are heavy and can fall out of the wall or do not charge as well as having a specific country adapter.You might want to even look up what a plug looks like in the countries you are visiting so that you recognize it when you see it. If you go straight to a hotel you will figure it out quickly, but if your phone needs charged and your hunting for one, it helps to know what it looks like. If you think you’ll need to charge two things at once, you’ll need more than one adapter. Sometimes you can borrow these from friends.
- Phone: check out your phone plan and see what it charges for overseas calls, text and data or you might get a shocking bill. You might want to try a travel phone. I use a Google Fi phone, which has a much lower international call rate, with unlimited free text. Plan your data usage for cafes or your hotel to save. There are other methods, and you should research a bit, but I would be cautious of buying a phone or sim card, et cetera, after arrival.
- Phone Charger: take two chargers if you have them. Make sure you are fully charged before you go. There are emergency chargers that can be plugged in for a boast and are great in an emergency, which, if you’re lost you can easily drain your battery following a map, or you might take so many pictures, more than you would normally take and be shocked by how fast your phone goes.
- Other chargers, batteries: laptop, camera, tablet. I’ve had trouble getting batteries to charge fully in other countries, so I often leave my battery needing camera at home, but if I do take it, I take multiple, fully charged sets of batteries. There’s nothing more disappointing than having a huge gap in your trip. That said, you will probably enjoy the trip a lot more.
To Take, Or Not To Take:
A few things land in the, I wish I hadn’t bothered with this category, either because they aren’t needed or they end up being useless.
- Hairdryers and hot rollers: unfortunately your own hairdryer or hot rollers don’t produce the heat they do at home. I think this is a converter issue, as the current going through the adapter isn’t as strong. I’ve heard and read other people with the same problem. But you might want to look into what people think about certain countries, as it might not be the universal case. I’ve found that hot rollers, especially the travel type, can be plugged in forever and not get hot enough to work properly. It’s important space lost in your luggage and adds to the weight. Look into it if you can’t be without, and be aware that some hotels, B&Bs don’t provide hairdryers. You can always buy one at your destination and have it for later travels, or donate it to a charity shop before you leave.
Right Before You Go:
- Give a loved one a proposed itinerary so that someone knows where you are, this is especially good for solo travelers. And it gives someone a chance to travel along, if only on paper, with you.
- Write out a list of your booked accommodations, phone numbers, addresses, emergency information, etc. for someone.
- Make two copies of your important documents, leave them with someone and take one. If you lose something, you’ll at least have a copy of it back home.