It seems like only yesterday that the American summer holiday started in the driveway, the family car fully packed with kids, toys, bikes, luggage and some rather hassled parents. Off they would go to the mountains or the beach, maybe grandma’s and perhaps a stop in a motel with a TV and a pool!
Ah yes, a summer ritual that rivaled the great Serengeti migrations! For diehards addicted to these events, two choices remain. One, recreate it if you can, or two, search the cavernous storage facilities at the Smithsonian. I’m sure they have captured a mid-twentyish century vacation in there somewhere.
For the rest of you, a vacation is and should be a new experience. The only difference between then and now is that a) we have more vacation options and b) as George Carlin liked to remind us “we have a lot of stuff” which we feel the need to bringing everywhere.
While our modern technology allows us to always be connected, it does give us some new challenges to consider. Here are a few travel tips you can share with your clients which can make packing easier and traveling more carefree.
Passports. Losing your passport overseas isn’t fun. The hassle begins with trying to find out what to do, and how to do it. All this information can be found at www.travel.state.gov As a precaution, since few of us ever read the stuff we should read in advance, make a copy or scan a copy of your passport and email it to yourself. Use a publicly available free email service such as MSN, Gmail, Yahoo etc. If your passport is ever lost or stolen, you can immediately access a copy from your hotel or an internet café. You also might want to download the above instructions from the State Dept. Starting with something that has all the vital information will be a big help.
Prescriptions. I travel frequently and have a fairly disciplined approach to packing and checklists. But we all goof. So what do you do in a foreign country with no access to your doctor or your prescriptions? Well as above, prior to leaving home write down the drugs you take (and their generic name if possible) the dosage and frequency. Put this in another email to yourself to have available for emergencies. I can attest that pharmacists will issue you an emergency dosage of what you need, if you can prove what you take and your non-residency.
Credit Cards. Lost or stolen credit cards need to be reported and replaced quickly. Having been through this as well, I can assure you that it’s frustrating to be calling the United States and having a conversation about lost credit cards. My suggestion is to take only one or two cards. Call the company prior to leaving to tell them where you’ll be visiting and what your spending needs will be. This prevents the unwanted rejection of a large charge. Also email yourself the toll free international telephone number for each card, the card number and expiration date. This will facilitate the conversation and allow you to request an immediate replacement card delivered to your hotel. This procedure should also be used for ATM and prepaid cards as well.
Electronics. I routinely travel with my Blackberry, an iPod and noise canceling headphones. I sometimes take a laptop and a camera. If people in my party have an iPhone and iPad, soon we will all need juice and nothing charges everything. My suggestion is to get a single multipurpose converter which has multiple sockets to connect to the various countries. While Europe finally has one major currency (the money kind), it is still the Tower of Babble when it comes to electrical currency. Then, using this one converter, plug in a soft portable power strip. These can be purchased in most electronic stores or airports. Get the soft kind since they are easier to pack than the stiffer versions. That’s it. One converter and one power strip. Before you know it your wired vacation is ready to go and everyone can enjoy it with their own personal “stuff.”
Phones. You will need to do a little research before you go. You need to establish the operating system of your current phone and the available carriers at your destination. The operation system of some US carriers may be incompatible with international standards (most Verizon phones are not compatible), so in many places it won’t work. If incompatible, then you need to find out if your US carrier offers service and what’s the cost. The cost of voice, data and text all are different and vary widely based upon the destination. Another alternative, if you have a compatible phone, is to locally purchase a prepaid SIM card upon arrival. This will prevent some unpleasant surprises when you return home.
I hope that this summer we all have vacations that are worry free, well wired and generate memories as wonderful as the ones that started in that old crowded car! Let me know how it goes; or if you have some great travel tips to share, please leave a comment!
Bill is a veteran of over 30 years in the travel & tourism business. He has worked on both the supplier and agency sides. Most recently he served for over a decade as the CEO of ASTA. He is currently associated as a Senior Consultant to Partner Concepts, an Annapolis based marketing company serving Fortune 500 companies and many National Tourism Organizations (NTO). He lives in Alexandria, VA., where he also manages WAM Strategic Development. You can find him on Twitter @WldTrvlBill