It used to be that I didn’t need to plan very far ahead, but being older and taking a handful of pills twice a day (well, it’s not that bad) makes you think a little more. It also reminds me about the need for health care.
Whenever anyone travels, especially to the Third World (watch out Edward Snowden), they always think about getting malaria or some intestinal bug. Certainly those are possibilities, but the most likely cause for your vacation to end is an accident, and almost always some sort of car or bus accident. You can worry as much as you want about your plane falling out of the air, but your bus going off the side of a mountain road is much more likely. So, having insurance for foreign travel (or even travel in the US, but the whole insurance issue is another thing) is essential, and pretty cheap. I like a company called Wallach and Company (http://www.wallach.com/) because I have used them many times and have never had to file any claims. The most important insurance feature, however, is paying for being airlifted out of a country back to the United States. If you are really ill or hurt, you probably want to be where you can at least speak the language well.
Of course, you can’t get to the country unless you have a passport.
If you’re off to Uganda next week and don’t have your passport, you can have it expedited and get one fairly quickly. However, you’ll have to postpone your trip due to the fact that expedited requests at this time are taking 2-3 weeks. There is a passport card, which allows you to get into Mexico and Canada (and Bermuda) by land. And if you think I don’t know my geography, you can get to Bermuda by boat (which I guess is like driving). I wonder if you can get into Havana with a passport card if you sail (well, maybe, but could you get back to the US without too much trouble?). Americans have the smallest proportion of passports for our population of any developed country. What does that mean?? Why go to a foreign country when we have it all here?
While I refuse to join the social media crowd, and will make friends with people I meet, I just will not be anyone’s “friend” on Facebook and I am yet to have an account and probably never will. I do enjoy staying connected with people, though, and when traveling outside the US, it is fun to be able to use your smart phone for a reasonable price. If you are in the United States and have a smart phone, you are pretty much connected. If you want to use your lap top and don’t have access to Wi-Fi, you can tether your smart phone to your computer and use the phone as a Wi-Fi hot spot.
My set up at a public library in Sunrise, Florida
While lots of people can use their smart phones to do Internet searches and look at their mail and answer it, I need a real keyboard and screen, so my laptop is much more useful. If you travel abroad and get a SIM card for the country you are in, you will have very cheap phone service, access to data, and a local cell phone number. To do this you have to have your cell phone unblocked, but now AT&T will do that for you, and here is the link to contact them: (http://www.att.com/esupport/article.jsp?sid=KB414532&cv=820#fbid=Ad582spFZ7I), and it can be done by phone. It’s nice to be able to get cheap and accurate information for the museum hours of, let’s say, the Louvre.
Or for the Musée d’Orsay
It’s always fun to Skype to people while you are on vacation, to show where you are. I’m going to be sailing in Maine soon, and I might have to Skype from my phone while I’m at the helm. All you need to do this is to download the Skype app, and it’s free. Then you can make all your coworkers, friends and family even more jealous of your vacation than they are already.
There are lots of other things that are important, like a comb (did I really write that?) but one last thing I might mention is if you rent a car in the United States, you should use a credit card that will pay for an accident along with your usual car insurance. Getting insurance from a car company can double your cost. Just something to check into.
Bon voyage, Elliot