Preparation for the Trip.
Here are a few things we did in preparation for our trip. Also I'll point out some things that worked well for us to take on our two week vacation to Italy.
First, make sure you have great shoes. This means working your shoes in right before you go. Wear them a lot. In Italy, you’re going to be walking probably more than you imagine and over ground that isn’t the smoothest. Cobble stones. Lots of cracks. Dirt. Stairs. Many stairs. Italians love their dogs. Picking up after them, not so much.
International phone plans. If you’re going to take your iPhone abroad, you MUST sign up for an international plan. Otherwise, the charges you will incur will make you weep blood. AT&T have reasonable plans and signing up online is relatively easy. I was handheld via online chat by an excellent and patient representative. In retrospect, I would have bought less voice and text messages and more data. People talk about buying sims or disposable phones. I do not know anything about that. Anyway, these plans are not cheap. I didn’t think that I’d need as much data but I guess downloading maps all the time is data intensive. Also turn off any apps that use cellular data unnecessarily. Like photos. When you’re out there taking photos with your iPhone, it will send it up to iCloud using cellular data. Turn it off. When you reconnect to WiFi, it will then load those photos back up there.
Band-Aid have some blister specific dressings. Take them. I didn’t need them but Patie found them very useful. Carry them with you and apply at the first hint of trouble. Limping around Italy is NOT going to be any fun.
A scarf will be great on the plane if it’s cold and can be used as a pillow. Guys can use scarves too. Thanks to Sonia Gill of Fluenz and her website on traveling for that hint.
Pack light. Pack even lighter. You’re going to be bringing stuff back. Pack really light. We took the philosophy of bringing enough to wear for two weeks. That meant enough socks and underwear. Our traveling partners decided to do laundry at least once on the trip. Which they did and worked out great for them. You’ll have to decide which way you want to go. They found a very good laundry in Rome.
Pack your carry on then lift it above your head. That’s what you’re going to have to do on a plane. Wheeling it around is great. But you’re going to have to “clean and jerk” that sucker up into the storage bin. And without slamming it into anyone’s head. Which I’ve seen. It’s not pretty. Change of clothes in there in case they lose your suitcase.
Get in good shape.
If I’d known that I wouldn’t use them, I’d have left behind my tripod and speedlight. I don’t know why I didn’t use them but there you go. I usually use them on any trip but not this one.
Extra memory cards and batteries.
Bring your own headphones onto the plane. They’re probably better than the airlines.
An iPad will allow you to read almost any book if you preload it and you’re only beholden to the battery life. Taking along a real book, like a puzzle book, may be necessary but other kinds of books are going to add weight.
Make sure you have downloaded all your music into your iPhone/iPad prior to boarding. Unless you want to pay for their WiFi. In other words, if you listen to music/podcasts/etc. that must be streamed, then you’re going to be SOL on a plane. Unless you buy their WiFi. So download it on your device, then you can listen to it all you want. Plus it probably saves battery life.
I always try to plug in my iPhone while on the ground to keep it at 100%. You never know when you’re going to need it. Some planes have a place where you can plug in and charge. Other planes do not. Make sure your cables are easily reachable. That means with you not in that storage bin packed in with everyone else’s stuff.
Take a hat. A hat that you don’t mind being crushed, stepped on, getting dirty, and will keep the sun off of you. A sunburn will kill your vacation. Suncreen!
Money belt. One big enough to carry your passport. Pickpockets are everywhere according to every report. And the thieves have their act down perfectly. Put most of your cash and your passports into the money belt and wear it. The REI version of the moneybelt is pure crap. Avoid it. Buy the Eagle Creek at REI. More expensive but vastly superior. Since I carried the passports, my wife could wear a small bag that clipped on to her bra that carried her cash. We both carried a small amount of cash in more accessible places. This was just for most of our cash that we didn’t leave in the room’s safe. All our rooms had safes. We used them to store stuff we didn’t want to carry but passports and most of our money was carried around with us. Be aware and watch out for each other. A thief is going to go after someone who is distracted or who they can distract. Confidence and awareness will make you appear to be more difficult. It’s not a guarantee but scan the people around you.
Buy tickets before you leave. Do not even think about going to the Vatican City museum to see the Sistine Chapel without a reservation. Or almost any place. The line to buy tickets to get into the Vatican City museum/Sistine Chapel would make any line at Disneyland look like the queues at a Microsoft store. Buying tickets ahead of time may lock you in especially if you’re doing it way ahead of your trip. But it will save you time, and your vacation time is the most precious. More on this later.
Make copies of your passport and put them in your luggage. I’ve been told that if you lose your passports, then having a copy of them when you go to the consulate to get replacements will make things go smoother. I hope never to have to find that out. I read some place that if your passport expires within six months of your trip beginning, there is a chance you will be denied entry into the country. This is due to the fact that the US started this procedure. Yeah, you got me. If it doesn’t expire before you return, then what’s the big deal? But there you go.
Make a list of all the things you want to do right before you walk out the door. Close windows, lock doors, turn off thermostat, etc. Then you will have peace of mind when you’re on the plane while others are wondering if they remembered to unplug the iron. BTW, turn off the water to your laundry. I’ve heard enough horror stories to do that any time I leave for an extended time.
Learn some Italian. Especially if your trip is taking you to Italy. Less important if you’re going to say Hawaii. We picked up the Fluenz disks for Italian. The whole series is five DVD’s and five CD’s. You can download podcasts that accompany each DVD. To get a passing grasp of common phrases, you can get by with the two, possibly just the first, DVD’s. We decided that we wanted to be able to actually converse so picked up all five. I don’t know if they’re better than anything else but the important thing about these DVD’s is that I want to do the lessons. They are great and I highly recommend them. There are all kinds of brain power kinds of programs. I say forget them and pick up these DVD’s. You’ll get a much bigger brain workout and at the end, you’ll know a language!
That’s it. More to come in the next post about the actual trip.
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