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Thread: First trip overseas

  1. #1
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    First trip overseas

    I am planning my first trip overseas, to the U.K. in July, and have a lot of questions, some of which may seem pretty elementary. Iím going for an event with a group so all hotels and ground travel from the first hotel are included in the registration.

    I havenít flown very often and never this far (my longest flights were from PA to CA and back). What can I do to make the flights more comfortable? Iíll be flying coach, unless I can find a really good deal on an upgrade. I haven't booked flights yet and might be on British Airways from the US to London.

    Whatís the best way to get from Heathrow to the first hotel in London?

    Iíll probably have one day for sightseeing and Iím interested in riding the London Eye. I donít want to overdo it, but what else do you recommend I see or do in the vicinity?

    Whatís the best way to pay for things? Credit card, convert currency in the UK, convert currency in the US before I go, use a MAC in the UK, AmEx Travel Card? I have a AAA Travel Card which I think can be used internationally.

    What do I do with my passport while traveling? Weíll be moving around and staying in numerous hotels so I donít want to put it in a safe and risk forgetting it.

    What else should I know for my first international travel experience?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Senior Member kib's Avatar
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    Flying: I really like having a window seat if I can get it. Check in often to see when you can reserve a seat ahead of time. The closer you sit toward the front the less noisy it will be. If you have an emergency exit seat or a bulkhead seat you will have more leg room. Jet lag can be a killer. I try to get myself on the time schedule of the country I'm going to before I get there, not easy but great if you can manage it.

    The easiest way to pay for things is probably to use a credit card - be sure you get one that doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee. Then use your ATM card to get a little bit of local currency.

    Passport: money belt. Be aware that in some countries the hotel will want to hold your passport, I'm not sure if UK is one of them. While it's a bit nerve wracking, this isn't anything to be worried about, it's SOP.

    Have fun! Try to learn a bit, and then not be worried about the food or customs too much ... the best thing I've found is to be open to new ideas, and laugh at yourself a bit. Whether it's Peoria or Pakistan, locals do not appreciate being told How It's Done At Home (and why can't you do that here), as if they've had it wrong all this time.

  3. #3
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    As far as sightseeing goes, I would stay far away from Buck House (Buckingham Palace) because you will stand in for hours and see very little. If you have only 1 day for sightseeing, that pretty much boils down to two events: an AM event and a PM event. Then, if you push it, an evening theatre event but that is cramming in a lot of stuff. I've been to London several times and still have not done the Palace tour.

    Since you've chosen 1 thing already, the London Eye ferris wheel, find other things in that immediate vicinity that interest you. Those will be your PM event.

    There is too much to see and do in London for me to give recommendations, you have to choose the things that you like. For me having 1 day, it would be spent at the Victorian and Albert museum because I like applied arts like textiles, costume, jewelry, etc. YMMV.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Gardenarian's Avatar
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    Hi - I went to the UK last summer. I was also pretty nervous, but everything was fine.

    Use your credit card when you can. If you don't have your AMEX set up to use as a debit card, give them a call and they will give you a pin so you can withdraw money from ATMs. ATMs are plentiful. You generally get the best exchange rate when using your credit card for purchases in restaurants, shops, etc. Get some pounds at the airport ATM (or money exchange booth) so you have cash for tipping, snacks, etc.

    There is easy public transport from the airport to London and you will have no trouble finding it. Really, they make constant announcements and there are lots of signs (in English!) and people to help. The Tube is fantastic (and I'm a person who hates public transportation.)

    I kept my passport in my suitcase, locked in the hotel room. In the UK you do not need to give the hotel your passport. In fact, the only time I used my passport was at the airports. Do make a photocopy of the photo page of your passport and carry that in your wallet. This will make it easy to get a replacement if it goes missing.

    It's a long flight for sure. (We flew from San Francisco.) Our flight on the way out was a newer plane that had personal TV screens for every seat. That was great, I had my own Lord of the Rings marathon, dozing on and off. On the way back there were no movies, and it did seem a lot longer (it is one hour longer flying West) and I slept less. If you can download a movie to your laptop or phone, do so. Your plane may also have electrical outlets, though those are in heavy demand.

    Get up and move around the plane as much as you are able. Get a lot of exercise the day before you go (or if you are taking a red-eye, get lots of exercise that day.) That will really help your circulation and make it easier to rest in the seats. Google for exercises that you can do while seated - isometrics, ankle circles, etc. Basically, it's just long and dull. I'm a small person so the seats weren't horrible, but I'm glad I'm not any bigger.

    Bring a bottle of water on the plane. Though I don't usually by plastic water bottles, they are lightweight and easier for traveling. I bought a large bottle of water at the airport and just kept refilling it the entire trip.

    Don't bring a big carry on. It will be hard to find a place for it and a hassle for everyone. I brought a backpack (the size used by students for books) and a small wheeled carry on suitcase. Keep your valuables and essentials (meds, etc.) in your purse or backpack. On both flights we were asked if we would mind having our carry on suitcases stowed, and we opted to do that. It's actually easier than fighting for an overhead place, and doesn't cost anything. If you need to bring a lot of stuff, just use a larger suitcase and pay the fare. I get really annoyed at people who bring two enormous bags as "carry on" luggage (and so does everyone else.)

    London is my favorite city. There are lots of double decker tour buses (the upper level is open air) and I highly recommend taking one of those to see the sites. Many offer all day on/off privileges, so you can just hop off if you see a park or museum or pub you like, then get back on an hour later or so. It's a great way to see the city if you are pressed for time. The tour guides are generally very knowledgable and funny. Don't worry about finding one - they'll find you. You can probably get one that includes a discount ticket for the Eye. Be aware that the line for the Eye is one hour or more (we didn't do it, but would like to sometime.)

    You'll have a fantastic time!

    The jet lag when traveling East can be pretty bad, but just power through and eat heathy food. Coming back is easy.
    "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.Ē -- Gandalf

  5. #5
    Senior Member kib's Avatar
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    Re the water bottle, you probably know this from domestic travel, but bring something empty and fill it at the water fountain after you go through security, you can't take an 8 oz bottle of water or a full nalgene bottle through the checkpoints.

    Also: I don't know how long you're going for, but they have toothpaste and shampoo in London. While you wouldn't want to spend hours of precious time tracking down dental floss and qtips, it's also not necessary to pack personal items to last a month.

  6. #6
    Ali
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    Sbagirl ... If you find yourself near Stonehenge be sure to give me a shout and I'll make you a cup of tea :-)

  7. #7
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ali View Post
    Sbagirl ... If you find yourself near Stonehenge be sure to give me a shout and I'll make you a cup of tea :-)
    I went to Stonehenge back in the day when you could walk up and touch the giant rocks, before it was all corded off. But no, I am not old enough to be one of the original placers of those stones.

  8. #8
    Ali
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    Iris lilies ... You still can touch the Stones at the Soltice celebrations :-) and I have pictures of my husband on them when he was young. I'm not native to these parts, but I do find Stonehenge an amazing sight and consider myself fortunate to pass by there on a weekly basis:-)

  9. #9
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Things I haven't seen others mention:

    - For meds, last time we flew internationally (November) the Theater of Security Agency (TSA) required us to travel with the meds in their original container with the Rx labels on. Since we get our maintenance medications on-line, they come in 90-day quantities. We took only the number of doses we needed plus 1 (just in case). Consider packing aspirin, etc. in checked luggage; it's easy enough to come by where you're going and it saves the hassle of some imperious TSA agent "interpreting" the agency's rules for you.

    - Make copies. Paper copies. Prescriptions, if you need them. That special page of your passport. Print an itinerary even if you'll have one on your phone or in your email. Cheap insurance for very portable information.

    - In my carry-on, I like to bring a bunch of newspapers/magazines/whatever I've been meaning to read. Once I read them (in the plane, in the terminal, etc.), I either leave them for someone else to read or recycle them.

    - Stuff to carry on: spare pair of eyeglasses, sunglasses, eyeglass repair kit, travel pack of tissues, necessary electronics (like the charger to your mobile phone if you'll be listening/watching or it's your game machine/alarm clock/whatever), empty plastic shopping bag (takes no space but is useful for wet items, dirty clothing, etc.).

    - If you have a mobile phone and plan to make calls with it, check your carrier's policy for making calls/texts abroad. The old advice for people with GSM phones (in the U.S., AT&T and T-Mobile) is to buy a pay-as-you-go SIM for the phone, but for short trips and in some countries, it's just far easier to take the roaming charges rather than sign up for a new phone number for however long.

    As for the flight itself, I like window seats, though they are a bit of a pain if you plan to get up and stroll about the cabin often. Consider bringing an inflatable pillow or using a jacket, etc., as a pillow. I try to keep my carry-on small enough to fit under my seat; seems I always end up parking a bigger bag someplace away from me (again, a pain in a window seat). Some airlines will let you upgrade to make sure you get a window seat or an "Economy Plus" seat for a little more legroom; you can decide how important that is. On our last trip to Europe, we flew Minneapolis-Toronto-Iceland-Paris. Sounds kind of like a milk run, but it was nice to know that you didn't have to be strapped into your seat for that long before you could stretch your legs on the ground.

    Good luck! Used to be traveling was half the journey; anymore for me the destination has to make up for the pain of getting there and back.
    Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome. - Booker T. Washington

  10. #10
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    Okay--your itinerary. First, go up to the Tower o' Londun, and see the chopping block where King Henry's insubordinate Wife lost her head. Let it be a valuable lesson to you. When he tells you to "go in the kitchen and make me a sandwich and bring me a beer while you're at it", maybe you'll pay heed. See? Then, take a bus to Livverpool, and take another guided tour bus around town called "The Magical Mystery Tour". It goes to the Beetel Museum, it goes to "The Cavern", and you stalk en masse by the former boyhood homes of Lennon and McCartney. It is hard to believe that at one time those old geezers were little boys, isn't it? Then, if you want to, you can take a side trip out of the country to the mainland, go to Mother Russya, and visit Lennons' Tomb in Red Sqaure in Mosgow. I don't know why they buried Lennon there; maybe cemetery plots are cheaper. After that, head back to London, and have a spot o' Tea n' Crumpets, and then Fish N' Chips. Rent a jolly buggy from Avis(because they try harder), and drive over to Glascow(or is it Eddiesburgh?), and just drop in on our friend Ishbell. Don't bother to knock--just walk right in, set right down, daddy let your mind roll on. That's about it. Hope that helps you some. Thankk Mee.
    Last edited by Packy; 2-25-15 at 4:24pm.

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