Travel Essentials

Travel Insurance

Trip Interruption Insurance:

In 2020, we purchased trip interruption insurance for Africa.  It cost about $500.  When the pandemic hit, the insurance was forfeited.  No trip interruption insurance seems to cover wars and pandemics.  

We talked about getting trip interruption insurance for the rescheduled trip, but we determined our Chase credit card already provided better benefits than the original insurance.  If you pay for your airline with your credit card the benefits should kick in.  Mine pays for Lost Luggage and Hotel Stays and lots of other items associated with trip delays and interruptions. 

Healthcare Insurance: 

Some foreign countries require you to have proof of insurance to enter the country.  Many doctors in foreign countries require you to pay cash in advance if you can’t provide a Guarantee of Payment.  You may be required to pay tens of thousands of dollars to cover medical procedures before being allowed to leave a foreign country. 

We signed up for GeoBlue.  It is a supplemental insurance provided by Blue Cross but you don’t have to be a Blue Cross subscriber to use it.  It cost us around $100 each for $1M in medical coverage for 3 weeks of travel.  It covers a lot of things with zero deductible but is also provides DECLARATION OF TRAVEL MEDICAL PROTECTION Visa Letter for Customs and the ability to generate a GURARANTEE OF PAYMENT for a doctor or hospital.  This should eliminate the issue of needing to produce cash payment before returning home.  Note:  You can also pay less for lower coverage and higher deductibles.    

Gear

I have traveled to several countries and I continue to strive for smaller, lighter, easier when it comes to travel gear.

Carry-on and checked bag restrictions:

Always check with every air carrier in your itinerary. Find the minimum baggage size and use that for your trip

The award for the worst carry-on restrictions goes to RyanAir:

These guys don’t mess around.  Checked bags are expensive and the carry-on restrictions are tight.  We try to stay within these limits for all our European trips just in case.

  • Bag = 55cm x 40cm x 20cm (21.65in x 15.74in x 7.87in)
  • Personal Item = 35cm x 20cm x 20cm (13.78in x 7.87in x 7.87in)

Carry-on Considerations:

Personal Item:

  • Most airlines allow one personal item and one carry-on.
  • Your personal item needs to hold all your expensive electronics as well as things like prescriptions that would be difficult to replace on your trip.
  • Carry 1 spare pair of undergarments (socks, underwear) in case your flight is delayed and you have to stay overnight.
  • Your personal item needs to be able to fit under the seat to avoid the risk of it being checked if they run out of overhead space. Checked bags can be lost or damaged by the airline.
  • Under seat storage is typically limited to 18 x 14 x 8 but may be as small as 16 x 12 x 6 or 16 x 10 x 8 (inches).

Carry-on Luggage:

  • The most common carry-on size is 22 x 14 x 9 inches and about 17 – 26 lbs.
  • A carry-on should have at least one zippered outside pocket large enough to carry my liquids so I can remove them easily at TSA.
  • A carry-on needs to be tough enough to be checked. The flight may run out of overhead space or you may choose to check the bag on the return trip so you don’t have to pull it through the airport.
  • I only use a carry-on bag when I am taking short business trips. I don’t really want to lug a bag around airports. I can’t fit more than a couple of days of clothing in a carry-on.
  • You can buy a lot of decent luggage at at TJ Maxx (TK Maxx in Europe). They have some great, lightweight, decent quality options like the IT bags or the Mia Toro and you can save a lot of money.

Checked Bags:

Checked bags should:

  • be lightweight
  • have room enough for 2 weeks of travel.
  • be expandable to accommodate things I buy on a trip.
  • be rugged. Because luggage gets dragged, dropped, smashed, scuffed, and torn.
  • have backpack straps and a shoulder strap so I can carry it to the rental car building or to and from bus stops.
  • have a large opening like a suitcase (not just a hole in the top).

Checked bags don’t need:

  • lots of pockets or zippered compartments. You can organize with packing cubes.
  • have waist straps because you don’t need to carry it up a mountain.

For non-business travel, I prefer to use a North Face Base Camp Medium Duffel (69L) or an REI Co-op Big Haul 60 Recycled Duffel.

Packing Tips:

  1. Take a medium sized Space Saver style bag (about the size of your suitcase). I don’t use them to compress my clothes. I use them to store wet clothing or muddy shoes. They are stronger than a typical ziplock style bag and they seal well.
  2. Place all aerosol cans in a large ziplock bag. If they leak on your clothes, they will remove the color just like bleach.
  3. I take a nylon stuff bag for dirty clothes. This keeps them separate from your clean clothes and makes it easy to take them to the laundry.

Things I nearly always pack:

  • Vapur Eclipse Water Bottle
    • These bottles weigh almost nothing and roll up very small.  Carry them with you and fill them after you get through security at the airport.  No need to purchase expensive water at the airport.    
  • Sea To Summit Lite Line Clothesline
    • I like it because it is ultra small, light and functional.
  • Extension cord with triple tap
    • There are never enough outlets.  You can also use this to create three U.S. outlets with a single international power adapter. 
  • Leave the umbrella at home and get a decent rain jacket.  I love my North Face Triclimate Jacket
    • You can wear the outer shell as a rain jacket or the inner shell for cool, dry weather.  Both jackets together will save your tail when the snow starts to fly.  I carry a small stuff bag in the pocket of the outer shell.  I can stuff the outer shell into the bag and strap it to my backpack when I don’t need it.   
  • Stocking cap (winter), ball cap.
  • Liquid 311 bag with:
    • Travel deodorant (not a liquid but it is a good place to store it)
    • Toothpaste
    • Lip Balm / Chapstick
  • Medication:
    • Your prescriptions (Take 2 or 3 days extra in case your flights get cancelled.)
    • Benadryl tabs (helps with cold symptoms too)
    • Tylenol
  • Dry toiletries in ballistic nylon and bag
  • Something to cut with. I like small, folding sewing scissors.
  • TSA friendly shoes and belt. 
  • If you need to take a suit, don’t forget:
    • Undershirt
    • Black socks
    • Black belt
    • Black shoes.  
  • First Aid Supplies:
    • Moleskin
    • Band aids
    • Pin to pop blisters (sewing kit)
    • Nasal rinse
  • Tooth brush
  • Q tips
  • Eye glass and camera lens cleaner
  • Always take an extra pair of contact lenses. You will lose one. Seeing is important.
  • Contact lens solution

Medicines

  • You can mix pills and take them without the original bottles.
  • Save the paperwork the pharmacy provides when you fill your prescription for proof.
  • Pills can be identified by their shape, color, and the numbers molded into them.
  • Liquid medicine should always be carried in the original container.

Money, Exchange Rates and Local Currency.

  • Take 2 Visa cards when you travel. Visa cards are virtually universally accepted but sometimes, your card can get marked for fraud and you will need to revert to another card while you negotiate with your bank to release the card.
  • Notify your credit card company before you leave for your trip. Tell them the dates and locations where you will be traveling.
  • Avoid exchanging currencies at a bank. Exchanging currency at a bank in your home country can carry hefty fees (around 10%). You will also pay another 10% to convert any remaining foreign currency into your local currency when you return. Your credit card company should only charge you about 1% for foreign transactions.
  • Use your Visa card whenever possible. If you are asked if you want to pay in your home currency, say NO. Always pay in the local currency. For example: when you are traveling to the European Union from the U.S., they will always ask you if you want to pay in U.S. Dollars or Euros. ALWAYS pay in Euros. If you try to pay in U.S. dollars, you will pay their inflated exchange rate and not the cheaper exchange rate provided by your credit card company.
  • Before you leave for your trip, purchase no more than about $100 in the foreign currency. Get the smallest bills you can. $100 should be enough to get you from the airport to your hotel or an ATM or to purchase a meal at a restaurant that does not accept credit cards. Use your Visa card for all transactions. If you feel you need to replenish your $100, use an ATM machine.

Sailing through Security – TSA Precheck

Known Traveler status costs about $80 dollars for 4 years and is easy to obtain. You can make an appointment online to answer a few questions and get fingerprinted.

Global Entry

If you travel internationally, consider applying for Global Entry. It will make your return to the U.S. much easier.

What to wear on your flight

  • When you dress to leave for your trip, try to avoid anything with metal on it. For example, I wear a velcro belt that has no buckle or a belt with a plastic buckle so I don’t have to take it off when I go through airport security.
  • Wear loose fitting tennis shoes or slip-on shoes. They are easy to take off and put on and they will be more comfortable if your feet swell on long flights.
  • Wear compression socks or compression calf sleeves on long flights.
  • Always carry a small stuff bag in your pants or jacket pocket. Before you go through security, you can empty your pockets into the bag, add your watch, cell phone and other metallic items, and you will have a single place for all your items as they pass through the x-ray machine. It is easy to forget items at the security checkpoint when they are in multiple bins or loose under other items.

Sailing through Customs

  • Foreign Customs officers will typically want to know the start and end dates of your trip, the major cities you will be visiting, and the purpose of your trip (business, leisure, etc.). Have this information ready before you approach the officer.
  • Things you need to know about U.S. Customs
    • You don’t need to keep a lot of tax receipts for goods you purchased outside the U.S. as long as you purchased $1600 or less in goods on your trip.
    • If you keep a short list of the things that your purchase, it will make it easier for you to answer the questions. You don’t have to be specific. The list should be like: two t-shires, two hats, a bottle of wine, and a sweater.
    • You don’t have to list the things you purchase to consume during your trip like shampoo or food.
    • Don’t bring anything back that is alive (plants, animals).
    • Don’t bring any fresh food back.
    • The Customs process is easy and, as long as you aren’t trying to import goods to sell, you should sail right through with just a couple of questions.

Additional Items for Car Trips:

  • Fan
  • Pitcher
  • Smaller Sous vide setup that doesn’t require a phone
  • Travel router
  • Dry ice last about 4 days in yeti style cooler
    • https://penguindryice.com/where-to-buy

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