- This really should go without saying, but make sure your passport is valid for at least a year after you plan to end your stay. Many countries won't let you in if your passport expires within six months. You might be OK in the UK, but in general, it's much easier to deal with passport issues here at home than abroad.
- Check to see if a visa is required (it isn't in the UK or Europe, so, you're good there, too)
- Call your credit card companies and inform them where you'll be and for how long, approximately. Nothing worse than getting your card denied at the worst possible moment.
- Call your medical insurance company and find out what their coverage policy is overseas. Some (like mine) will reimburse you for almost anything, as long as you submit a claim for with a detailed receipt of all services provided.
- Activate international roaming coverage on your cell phone. Go to your nearest provider store and sign up, have them show you what to do, then download the instructions and a list of world country codes. Calling back to the States is very easy ("plus" sign, 1, area code, number), but knowing how to make local calls within the country you're visiting is also a must.
- Invest in several electric outlet converters. American Tourister or any comparable travel goods store should carry these handy little devices, which are now made to include every region on Earth. You don't want to be thousands of miles and an ocean away from home with no way to charge your phone, laptop, camera, iPod, etc.
- Register your trip with the U.S. State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). They have a very useful smart phone app, or go on-line and fill out the simple form. It's a few pages, but very easy. It's also free, and all they basically want to know is where you'll be, how long, and how to reach you and your emergency contacts here at home. Furthermore, you'll have access to every U.S. embassy and consulate across the globe. God forbid an international incident erupts while you're there, it's comforting to know Uncle Sam has your back.
- General rule of thumb for packing: lay out all the clothes you want to bring, then take just half; think of an amount of cash you want to bring, then double it. It's going to be cold in London this weekend (highs in the 40s, lows in the 30s Fahrenheit), so pack accordingly.
- Study the area with abandon. Read maps, books, magazine articles; watch travel videos and TV programs. Educate yourself as much as possible on all things local. There's no greater feeling of empowerment than setting foot in a foreign land for the first time — or anytime — and knowing exactly where you're going. Plus, you don't look like a lost tourist (and therefore easy prey for scam artists). These are just the basics. I could go into more detail about what to do at airports, during the flight, once you get there, etc., but I don't want to overwhelm you. If you have any other questions, though, I'm happy to do what I can to answer them. Just drop me a comment below.
Tuesday, Oct 23, 2012 04:28 AM