Sunday, September 8, 2013

Have Suitcase, Will Travel

TripAdvisor - don't leave home without it

It seems hard to believe that in just a few more days I will be boarding the flight that will take me on my Family Tree Tours to Germany and Switzerland. I have a few gift items left to buy for the people who have been gracious enough to volunteer their time looking for the missing branches on my family tree, but I am actually in pretty good shape at this point. While we were encouraged to try and make due with only a carry on bag, there is just no way I could make that happen. Not only will I be gone 13 days, I have the gift items to transport in addition to my genealogy materials, and I need to bring a special outfit for my family gathering in Switzerland. And that necessitates bringing a second pair of shoes. I was able to get everything into a smaller bag than I anticipated however. I have to be able to get my bag on and off multiple trains, and I have no idea if the hotels I am staying at have elevators. I suspect not. So I am pleased that I was able to scale back enough to use a suitcase that I am actually capable of carrying up and down stairs. Since my husband is not accompanying me, I cannot rely on his help. I offer up a heart felt thanks to my personal trainer for pushing me every Tuesday. (And she will be pleased to know that I packed a couple of fitness aids into the suitcase as well.) My strong arms will certainly pay off on this trip!

One of the big things that had been hanging over my head was what to do about a phone while I am gone. I have read horror stories from reputable sources about people getting hammered by their American phone carriers while abroad, even if they purchased the international plan ahead of time and thought they were covered. I decided to err on the side of caution and rent a phone. After reviewing multiple companies I decided to go with the one recommended by AAA, which is The gal at AAA had just used the service in multiple countries recently and had no problem with the phone at all. Because I am going to two different countries, I did not want to worry about changing SIM cards or anything else. PlanetFone's minute rates for talking and texting were a little higher than my second choice, but because I have a Citi Bank credit card, they waived the rental fee. A special promotion added free insurance on the phone, so that sealed the deal for me. The phone will be mailed to me in a couple of days, and I will receive a postage paid envelope to return the phone when I get back home. Sounds easy enough, so I hope that ends up to be the case. Obviously I will use free wifi on my iPad whenever possible, but my researching contacts may need to call me so I need to have a phone for them or in case of an emergency.

I picked up a travel hair dryer that folds compactly and is designed for multiple currencies. Because all of my other devices are as well, that eliminated the need to purchase a converter. I secured an adapter for Germany and one for Switzerland, because of course they are different. I also bought a power strip so that I can charge multiple devices at once since I will have my camera, phone, iPad and camcorder to charge. Hotels are usually a little stingy on the number of outlets, and this way I only need one adapter to plug into the power strip to handle all my charging needs.

The other thing I really wanted for the trip was a packable rain jacket. I remember my mom had a wonderful windbreaker that folded into its own pocket that she kept in her golf bag. I wondered if there was a similar design in a coat that would provide a little more protection from the rain. Sure enough there are dozens out there, with some of them being stored into a separate little bag as opposed to the pocket of the coat. I read many reviews and decided that the sizing was all over the place and ordering online would not be wise. So I went to REI so that I could try the jackets on for size. Har, har. I narrowed my choices down to the North Face and the REI brand. While I think the North Face probably looked a little better on me, I tried it on with a fleece underneath and it was too snug across the shoulders. Going up a size just looked ridiculous. The REI jacket looks fine and can handle a fleece underneath as well. Unfortunately the forecast for my trip looks a little cool and rainy, so I may need to layer. There are many features I like on this coat. I can put an iPod or my phone in a designated pocket so I can listen to music yet the device is secure; it has the zipped vents under the arms if you get too hot; the hood is designed in a way to really protect your face in a downpour and is also detachable; it folds into its own pocket so no extra bag to worry about; and it has nice, deep zippered pockets. The only negative is that when it is tucked into its pocket, the pouch is probably a little too big to put into my Curse (see previous post for the Curse) along with the camera and iPad. I am looking into fitting it with a clasp that could attach to my bag.

jacket tucked into pocket

REI rain jacket
I downloaded a language app onto my iPhone, but of course that will only work if I am in a free wifi zone since I will the cellular data turned off. I also put a currency app on the phone so that I can convert the pricing on items. Germany uses euros while Switzerland has francs. Again, that is only helpful in a wifi area, but at least I can use it part of the time.

Because I have a pretty full itinerary I created a calendar in Microsoft Word, listing my flights and daily activities. Not only will it be a useful tool for me, it will allow my husband to virtually travel along with me.

my travel calendar
So overall I feel really good about where I am at right now. I have a small list of things to do each day this week for the trip, but nothing overwhelming. I have already contacted my credit card company about my travels, but my bank insists it only needs 48 hours for my debit card. I will call them tomorrow anyway because waiting until Wednesday makes me nervous. And I have a few little gift items to pick up. I am so ready to do this!

1 comment:

Mrs. Wryly said...

Wow, I can't believe you got all of that stuff into a suitcase and a carry-on (unless I misunderstood). You are a space genius!

Only two pairs of shoes? You are going to blow the image of the typical American woman!

I'm sure all of the work and prep you have done for this trip will be well worth it! Safe and happy travels. Can't wait to hear about your adventures!