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Thread: First trip overseas

  1. #11
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    Thanks for all the suggestions - very welcome and appreciated! I’m going to print out this list and try to figure out some things. To answer some questions:

    I’ll probably get to London on Thursday morning and find my way to the hotel. I’m planning to have Friday to do whatever, then our group is meeting at the hotel Saturday afternoon/evening for a reception. Sunday morning, we’ll get on buses and go to numerous amusement parks, staying in different hotels as we travel around (hence the question about securing my passport). I think we’ll end at the first hotel. If that hotel has a safe (not an in-room safe), would it be wise to lock up my passport there? I believe we’re scheduled to go to 14 parks in 12 days, or something equally crazy. If you want the list, let me know.

    I’m planning to only take one rolling suitcase plus my totebag. A friend suggested that I check with the hotel to see if I can store the suitcase there on arrival, before check-in, since I don’t want to drag it around.

    I’m not much interested in Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, Harrod’s. etc. but will be happy to see them in passing. I like the idea of the tour buses that I can hop on & off.
    Someone mentioned Stonehenge. Due to numerous requests, a stop at Stonehenge has been scheduled for the first day. I’ve been to Foamhenge (http://www.thefoamhenge.com/) and am looking forward to seeing the real thing.

    I have a cell phone but it’s an old flip phone, nothing fancy. I’m considering getting an inexpensive fancier phone for the trip, especially if it can double as my Kindle, GPS, etc. Any recommendations for phone and/or apps? I don't want to overcomplicate this.

    Thanks again!

  2. #12
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    Pick up a used cell phone from a friend. Or, if you use ATT, Consumer Cellular or ATT Go phones have a couple of inexpensive-ish smartphones. Consumer Cellular will work on ATT for phone and 2G with a SIM from that company. With CC, you buy the phone outright so you don't have a contract.
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  3. #13
    Senior Member Gardenarian's Avatar
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    Hi sbagirl,

    I brought my smartphone with me but for technical reasons beyond my comprehension, it would only place calls/text/email where there was wifi. So I mainly used it as a camera. Virtually all of the hotels have wifi, so I was able to email my dh and do research at the end of the day.

    People have suggested to me that buying a cheap pay-as-you go phone in London (we are planning another trip) is the way to go. Honestly, I didn't feel the need to make phone calls.

    Do drop your suitcase and check in at your hotel early. The people at the hotel can help you decide where you might want to go and how to get there. We would never have ended up in Camden Town (so cool!!) if our hotel people hadn't suggested it. They can also tell you where to pick up an inexpensive snack, that sort of thing.

    The first day you will be tired, but try to stay awake till bedtime. Get outdoors - London has miles of parks, and just taking off your shoes and walking through the grass is really revitalizing.

    A thing I do on every trip is buy a postcard each day, and every evening I write down the highlights of the day on the postcard. It's an easy way to keep a brief travel journal, with pictures
    Last edited by Gardenarian; 2-26-15 at 2:08pm.
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  4. #14
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    Hi Sbagirl,

    How exciting, though sad you'll only have one day for sightseeing - London is one of those places that takes forever to explore! I've been here over twenty years and still discover things daily... it is so weird....

    I love the London Eye, and if the day is sunny, it probably is the best place to try and get a view from above, however, this being London, the weather is - as you probably know - unpredictable! Plus, even with a pre-booked ticket, you'll still have to stand in the queue for quite a while. If you are not absolutely adamant you want to do the wheel, you can go climb the Monument (a tower which was built between 1671 and 1677 to commemorate the great fire of London), it stands at 160 ft and you can see in all directions across the City, you'll have to pay about £5 to get in and be prepared to climb 311 steps to get to the top, but - that sells it to any of my visitors over the London Eye - you can get a 'certificate' if you climb all the way up and down If you check it out on Flickr, some people have pics of theirs, it does look real official - well, it is in fact...

    Plus, to get to monument, you'd go through the old parts of the city, with streets with lovely names such as 'Pudding Lane', or 'Poultry Street' or 'Fish Street Hill'....

    And if the weather is playing up, don't forget that most museums in the UK are free, although of course, donations boxes at the entrance welcome a little contribution!

    I never knew about Foamhenge, that is hilarious

  5. #15
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shadowmoss View Post
    Pick up a used cell phone from a friend. Or, if you use ATT, Consumer Cellular or ATT Go phones have a couple of inexpensive-ish smartphones. Consumer Cellular will work on ATT for phone and 2G with a SIM from that company. With CC, you buy the phone outright so you don't have a contract.
    You might want to check with your phone's carrier for the ability/charges for use outside the U.S. Some U.S. carriers offer international roaming/texting as part of your service plan, but may allow it only on postpaid accounts or monthly prepaid plans, not pay-as-you-go. Even at a fairly high price per minute/text, though, this probably will be much cheaper and far less hassle than buying another phone and another SIM and airtime.

    If you plan to buy service in London, make sure 1) the phone is GSM (in the U.S., phones on the T-Mobile & AT&T networks are GSM; GSM is the standard in Europe [indeed, most of the world]); and 2) make sure the phone is not locked to a U.S. carrier (if the seller can't tell you that the phone is unlocked, it almost certainly is not and you won't be able to use another/European carrier for wireless service). n.b. Consumer Cellular phones are locked to CC, but you may be able to plead your case and have them unlock it early.

    Wi-Fi certainly will work almost anywhere, but many/most phones will not be able to place/receive calls over Wi-Fi. And public Wi-Fi is notoriously insecure. But for sending quick emails and pictures, that may not be a huge deal.

    If you do buy a smartphone and apps, you might want to look at mapping/GPS apps which will let you download maps to the phone through Wi-Fi/Bluetooth so you don't need to download the entire map wirelessly as you walk/ride. I use an app called Scout on my iPhone; I don't know if it's available outside the U.S., but it does let me download maps so it's not so vital to have 100% service 100% of the time. You might also think about a cheap Garmin/TomTom/Magellan GPS that can handle walking directions, though that is one more thing (and an adapter) to carry around.
    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

  6. #16
    Senior Member jp1's Avatar
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    With google maps you can download a map onto your phone. It won't be able to provide directions since it needs internet access to be able to do that, but you'd at least have a map of the area. To do this, when you have internet access (wifi or cellular) get the area you want to download onto your screen and in the search bar type "ok maps" (without the quotes). It will download all the map data for that area onto the phone so that you have a detailed map. You can zoom in, etc. with it. You can't download the whole world because that would be too much data, but you could probably download most of London.

  7. #17
    Senior Member jp1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveinMN View Post
    You might want to check with your phone's carrier for the ability/charges for use outside the U.S. Some U.S. carriers offer international roaming/texting as part of your service plan, but may allow it only on postpaid accounts or monthly prepaid plans, not pay-as-you-go. Even at a fairly high price per minute/text, though, this probably will be much cheaper and far less hassle than buying another phone and another SIM and airtime.
    Definitely look into this ahead of time. I had to go to Canada for work last summer for just a quick one night trip. I checked with my carrier, Sprint, and found that if I turned on Canada service ahead of time I could use my US plan for the low, low additional price of $50 per month. Or I could just use the phone there for insanely expensive charges per MB of data. I opted to just use the wifi access in the hotel. I also learned that iMessage (the iphone messenging app that works with other iPhones only) works over wifi. SMS messaging (standard text messages) only works over the cellular network, so I couldn't do that even when I had a wifi connection.

    If you decide not to use your regular phone while there make sure you leave it in airplane mode the whole time you are there. Otherwise you may get nailed for some pricey international roaming charges that you didn't plan on.

  8. #18
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    simple advice - pack the most necessary items in your carry-on: all meds, toothbrush, hairbrush, at least one change of clothes and underwear. Then if your check-on luggage is lost, you will still be inconvenienced but not toally, miserably stranded.

  9. #19
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    Eyewitness is the best series of travel guides. They offer two books on London.

    Congrats on choosing an overnight flight. No need to be awake on a long flight.

    Be certain to change planes in your time zone so you don't have to wake up and change planes in New York or somewhere.

    So if you are in Oregon, get a plane to LAX or Vancouver where you can get a non-stop to London. Avoid San Francisco as it is so busy many flights are delayed and you could miss your connection. Fog contributes to the problem. Change in Oakland if you need to go to the Bay Area.

    Sleep on the plane and drink plenty of water as the air is very drying.

    Avoid caffeine for several days before your flight. Eat a low-protein, high-carb dinner before you depart to help you sleep on the plane. On arrival, eat a high protein breakfast and enjoy your coffee. This will help you reset your body clock and reduce jet lag.

    The large London guide and the Top 10 guide, which might be best for your short stay.

    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_no...s+travel+guide

    You only need one carry on and a purse. I've spent 3 weeks in Europe several times traveling this way. Layers of clothes that mix and match.

    If you want to bring home classy inexpensive presents for friends plus, Harrods has a great section. I got great bottle / wine openers with logo for only $7 each. High quality. I always take a rip-stop fold-up small bag inside my carry on for sharp things not allowed by TSA and for clothes I don't mind losing if the bag gets lost.

    Take taxis. The Underground is great but you spend tons of time going up and down long stairs to get on coaches. You have little time.

    Keep your passport with you always. I second the suggestion for under garment security wallets.

    Get $100 worth of pounds so you have money for taxis, etc, when you arrive. Do not use airport ATMs. They charge huge fees. Find ATMs in London.

    Most important museums in London are free!

    I love London. Have a great trip!

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