To those of you who follow FFS regularly, you know that my family recently went on vacation for two weeks in southern England. This whole vacation was a great learning experience for us. Over the next few weeks I am going to write a simple series for planning and implementing a large vacation overseas. While some of the tips may be focused on England, many will be general traveling tips.
1. What MUST you do to make the trip worthwhile? Have everyone going on your trip answer this question before you begin planning. The answers you hear might surprise you. When I asked the family this question, their answers included Stonehenge and Big Ben. I hadn’t thought that explicitly, so this information was good for me to know. I could make those excursions happen. This question also narrows down sight seeing options when there are TONS of things to see and do. I found myself so overwhelmed with what I wanted to do, and I knew we didn’t have the time. So the answers from my family helped quite a bit.
2. Be Flexible! Understand that even the best planning ahead of time will fail at times during the vacation. In the posts to come on this topic I will cover some of my disappointments.
3. Items you should have readily available BEFORE you walk onto a plane: baby wipes, band-aids, passport, and camera (but don’t take pictures while going through Customs and Immigration). AND put ANYTHING that is liquid in your checked bag. (Don’t ask. HA!)
4. Keep in mind that European cell networks are different than the US. American cell phones are not compatible with almost every other country’s cell network. We were warned that some apps move a lot of data behind the scenes and can cause high roaming data charges. Do not assume that wifi access is available. Many hot spots required you to receive a text message (on the cell network) before you could use the WiFi. Furthermore, our iPhone 4’s GPS failed without a data connection (Go figure!). Therefore, it’s good to…
5. Buy a local map. I had planned our routes using mapquest.com. I had the roads and places we wanted to stop at printed out and neatly stapled together in order. It was all planned out, until we actually started driving. If you take only one wrong turn, Mapquest/Google Maps directions cannot help you. We found an excellent map of England for 3GBP.
6. Don’t say “gun” or “bomb”…E.V.E.R! Don’t use any words that could cause a scare — especially at the airport. (Or in front of English soldiers with fuzzy tall hats. They cock their eyes towards you…oops.)
Be sure to look for the next Trip Planning post: Tips for Housing!