The arrival of the holiday issue of The English Home in my mailbox brought a larger smile to my face than previous years. As I flipped through the pages of recommendations by the editors of special holiday events in which to partake in London and around the city (Liberty London holiday windows, visiting the Borough Market, and strolling down Regent’s street), I immediately began to add the ideas that caught my eye and interest to my itinerary.
After five years since my last visit to England, TSLL will be returning for the kick-off of the holiday season, and to say I am excited to do so in and around London is to only express a morsel of my eagerness to arrive in the land of Jane Austen.
As such, I am fine-tuning my preparation for international travel.
Five years ago I shared a three–part series on International Travel which is also included in TSLL’s first book with further details not included on the blog. With each trip I have since taken requiring a passport, my travel experience deepens and prompts me to want to share what I have discovered.
1. Check Visa requirements and Renew Passport, if necessary
A simple check on this U.S. government website will confirm whether or not you need a Visa or merely your passport to travel to the international country on your itinerary. For example, if traveling to Australia from the U.S., you will need a Visa. A U.S. passport is valid for 10 years (five years for children under 16) and the renewal fee for an adult passport book is $110 (an additional $30 for a passport card). On the website, it states that renewals take between 4-6 weeks, but to be safe, do it at least three months in advance.
~UPDATE 7/2022: Beginning in May 2023, US travelers to the European Union will need to apply for an ETIAS Visa Waiver (if traveling for fewer than 90 days). This will be a €7 charge, so very minimal, but you will need to apply to be allowed into European countries for travel which is a change if you have visited countries prior to May 2023 in this region of the world.
2. Apply for a TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry
One of the best $85 I spent was going through the process to receive my Known Travel Number (KTN). In fewer than five minutes in any U.S. airport, I was moved through security without having to take my shoes off or empty my bags. I do still have to run my carry-on through security, but I was able to remain clothed and not take out all of my personal items. The ease set the tone for the trip that was pleasurable and less harried. Remember to renew within five years.
Now for international travelers, the TSA Pre-Check works for our departures, but once we are abroad, we will have to go through international airport security unless we have a Global Entry number. While not all countries are a part of the Global Entry program (check here to see which are), there are certain travel frequency requirements to meet in order to obtain this status. The cost is $100 (also must be renewed every five years).
~the red smiley face was the note to the TSA security check that I was TSA Pre-Check, and I moved swiftly through the security line~
3. Reach out to your financial institutions (credit card and checking) to alert them of your travel destinations
Once you know which credit or debit cards you will be taking on your travels, call your bank to let them know where you will be traveling abroad and during which dates. Why? If you have a bank that keeps careful track of where you spend your money as to alert you to any fraudulent purchases, they could prevent your card from being used while you are in a destination you normally aren’t. Simply let them know, and you will be set.
4. Pack the proper adapters and converters
In my first post regarding international travel, I recommended a brand of adapters that while they worked, I found them to be too flimsy after using them a couple of times and often they didn’t stay in the socket (the post has since been updated). So the hunt began for a new brand which I found and am happy to report is affordable and offers very sturdy adapters. Made by Ceptics and offering adapters for nearly any country you may be traveling to, I paid $7 for three adapters fit for the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. Check this post out for converters and for what purpose you will need them (most laptops convert automatically) – scroll down to #4.
As many TSLL readers/listeners travel to the UK or France, below are the following correct adapters and converters for each destination, including a link to the adapters I recently purchased in 2022, and the converters that come highly recommended:
- UK (England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Great Britain, Hong KongType) — G plug adapter
- France (also Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain) — E/F plug adapter
~The only reason I have brought a converter with me was to use my blowdryer. However, for the past five years, I have left the converter at home, purchased a blowdryer in London, and pack that with me when I visit the UK, and have done the same for when I visit France. This was a choice that saves frustration as I have had blowdryers crumble from the voltage issue even when the converter states it works with dryers. As well, many of the places I visit already have a blowdryer at the accommodation, so I refrain from packing a blowdryer at all in such cases.
- DOACE Travel Converter (does work with blowdryers)
- GearGo Converter (works for everything except blowdryers)
- Slimeware Converter (works for everything except blowdryers)
~UPDATED 2022: Many readers have inquired about how to charge your smart phone and/or laptop/tablet. Do you need a converter or just an adapter? is the common question that causes confusion. Of course, check with your specific brand for your device, but when using all of my Apple products, each only required an adaptor as the conversion automatically is taken care of with the computer’s charger.
5. Purchase necessary sleep aids to alleviate jet lag as much as possible
I have yet to not experience jet lag in some capacity. And even when I am convinced I am not experiencing it at the time, inevitably, upon reflection, I was. However, taking an over-the-counter sleep aid isn’t a bad idea to try to sync your body on the plane sooner rather than later. Bring a sleep mask, and perhaps even change into pajamas if your flight is extra long.
6. Educate yourself about the culture
If you’ve never traveled to your destination, do your homework. Come to understand the customs and expectations, and if the country speaks a different language, learn the basic greetings (hello, thank you – see a more detailed list here – check out #7 on the list).
7. Check the driving license requirements
If you are planning on renting a vehicle, check to see if the country you will be driving in requires an international driving license. Some countries simply need your driver’s license from the country you are from, but others are more particular. Rick Steve’s writes about driving in Europe here and here is a link to AAA which will issue you an IDP for $20 (good for one year).
8. Purchase transportation passes in advance
If when you arrive you will be using the local transportation (subway, metro, tube, bus, etc.), consider purchasing in advance (if available), the necessary transportation passes. For example, London makes available in advance of your arrival their Oyster card for visitors, as well as offering discounts on the fare prices. I particularly like knowing my transporation from the airport and for the first day is taken care of as due to the lengthy travel itinerary, I am quite exhausted and merely want to arrive at my accommodations and settle in without more stress of the unknowns.
9. Pack a neat and well-stocked travel tote for toiletries
The 3.3 ounce rule applies to liquids and lotions if you are taking your travel tote in your carry-on, so pack thoughtfully. I just found these TSA approved squeezable liquid containers on Amazon which come with pre-made labels.
If you are bringing your travel tote full of toiletries and/or make-up, finding the perfect sized tote is the goal. It has taken me some time to find this item. Having gone through a rolled up cloth and mesh version and a plastic version just to name a few, I finally found a leather travel tote with a couple of different compartments and zipper pouches that fit the exact size I needed. (View my list of items for a travel tote here.) This striped toiletry tote also caught my eye.
10. Invest in sturdy and secure luggage
After going through at least three suitcases in which the handle would either be ripped off, the zipper broken or the collapsible handle becoming extremely loose, I realized I should have taken my own advice and applied it to travel luggage: invest in quality. Rimowa and Tumi are two top well-known and trusted brands making their luggage available in sturdy aluminum. I happend on a great deal last spring and purchased my Tumi at a fraction of the full-price from Neiman Marcus. Save up, and purchase what you can afford and you won’t have to waste money on buying multiple pieces that don’t do their job.
11. Reserve your taxis before you leave
If you will need a taxi to and from the airport as you leave your home, as well as when you arrive at your destination, make the reservations ahead of time. Peace of mind and not having to pull your luggage through the local transportation is a simple investment if you have more than a carry-on. As well, when you hop (okay, who am I kidding, after a transcontinental flight, it is more like lumbering) off the plane, seeing your name on a piece of paper with your driver waiting to take you to your accommodations with a nice soft bed is a welcome sight.
12. Prep your home
Depending upon the season and weather, tend to details of home care and home-sitting if necessary. As well, alert your mail carrier and newspaper delivery to be held or speak with a trusted neighbor to enjoy the newspaper while you are traveling.
13. Pack your carry-on
Whether you are taking an item of luggage with you as a carry-on or not, you will want to stock your travel tote that will be traveling with you on-board with the necessities. Below is a list of items to consider:
- sleep mask
- reading, viewing and listening material (downloaded is applicable)
- empty water bottle
- sleep aid
- basic beauty bag (facial wipes, concealor, moisturizer, dry shampoo, mascara, blush, facial oil, lip moisturizer, hair brush)
- favorite tea bags (if you’re a tea drinker like myself)
- work material (laptop, tablet, etc.)
- phone charger
- reading glasses & contact solution with case
14. Confirm accommodations
Make sure you have the proper addresses, arrival times are clear, and the hotels, vacation rentals, know when you will be arriving if at a unique time.
15. Confirm Online Check-In for Flight 24-hours before departure
Most airlines allow you to check-in online from your phone/computer 24-hours in advance to expedite check-in should you just have a carry-on. Other airlines also allow you to choose your seating for free at this time as well such as British Airways.
16. Download helpful apps
From an app to help you find free wi-fi at many international airports around the world (only $1.99 – WiFox), to transportation apps for your city, as well as Uber and the airlines you will be traveling on so there will be no need for a paper ticket, download the necessary apps before you wake up early and head to the airport.
17. Now take a deep breath
You are able and ready to relax, open your mind to the many experiences that await you and enjoy your trip.
VIEW SIMILAR TSLL POSTS ON TRAVEL HERE
~Why Not . . . Travel Internationally? Part Deux (what to pack)
~Why Not . . . Travel Internationally? Part Trois (how enjoy your visit to the fullest)
~click here for the recipe
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