By Debby Giusti
I bet you’re thinking that a blog about international research is something you can skip. No plans to travel outside the US anytime soon? That might be, but life changes, and as the saying goes, “Never say never!”
A few years ago, our church started organizing yearly trips to foreign destinations. Traveling with friends, having someone else plan the itinerary and seeing the sights with a knowledgeable tour guide is a fun and easy way to experience the world—and research future stories. Hubby and I just completed our third trip. This time we traveled to Poland.
|The old part of Warsaw was bombed by Hilter's troops and|
has been rebuilt to look like the past.
Now let's talk about travel tips and easy ways to gather research information while on-the-go.
Got your Passport?
If not, go to travel.state.gov/passport/ for information on how to access the necessary forms. I filled out the forms and took them, along with an approved photo taken at a neighborhood drug store, to my local post office. They processed and submitted the paperwork, and about six weeks later, my passport arrived in the mail. As you probably know, passports are now required for travel anywhere outside the US. Planning a Caribbean cruise? Remember to get your passport well in advance of your trip.
What about the weather? Some weeks prior to my trip, I added key cities in Poland to my weather app and kept track of the daily temperatures and rainfall. The fluctuations made me realize layered clothing would be a must. I packed a light-weight raincoat, umbrella and plastic, Dollar Store ponchos and put all three types of rainwear to good use while I was there.
Appliances? Europe’s electrical current is 220 volts and requires an adaptor that can be purchased in the US wherever travel accessories are sold. I have a number of them so I can charge my phone, tablet and camera at the same time each evening at the hotel. Larger appliances require converters.
Hair dryers? Most hotels catering to foreigners provide hair dryers in the rooms, but I find the European models lack the drying power of our US brands. For that reason, I always pack a duel-wattage hair dryer, purchased at Target for about $15, which can switch from US to European voltage.
Foreign Currency? Since ATMs are readily available throughout Europe, most tour companies tell travelers to get their foreign currency upon arrival. I prefer to order Euros, or the Polish Zloty, a few weeks prior to my trip. The rate of exchange is slightly higher in the US, but my bank only charges $5 per transaction, and I like having money when my plane lands. In addition to ATMs, banks and street exchange booths will trade American dollars for foreign currency.
Credit Cards? Be sure to call your credit card company in advance to let them know your travel plans. If not, they may freeze your card after you make that first foreign transaction, thinking your identity has been stolen. Ask what your credit card company will charge for each purchase or ATM withdrawal, and be aware that the foreign bank, handling the transaction, will add a surcharge as well. Since additional fees are added to each transaction, you’re better off using cash for smaller purchases and saving your credit card to pay for more pricey items.
Smart phones? Contact your phone company about international calls, texting and data charges and/or international plans. I purchased a $30 plan from my carrier that provided a month of free international texting, both sending and receiving, including photos and videos. The package lowered the cell call charges to $1/minute and included unlimited wi-fi usage. I kept my phone on airplane mode and logged onto the hotel, airport or other wi-fi hotspot before checking or sending email or surfing the WEB.
Cameras? I purchased a small digital camera for the trip so I could take lots of photos. While I love the convenience of using the camera on my phone for pictures, I knew my battery wouldn’t hold for the eight or nine hours of sightseeing each day.
Security? While traveling overseas, I wear a money belt that fits around my waist where I keep my credit cards, passport and the majority of my money. I carry a small change purse that’s easier to access with enough cash for the day. My travel purse is a Baggallini. It’s lightweight and has lots of zipped compartments and a long strap for crossbody wear. The name badge holders we get at RWA and ACFW, worn around the neck, will hold a passport and credit cards as well. Tourist areas attract pickpockets who can easily lift a wallet from a hip pocket or grab a purse from the back of your chair. Be cautious, just as you would be in any large US city.
Make a copy of the picture page of your passport and give it to a fellow traveler or spouse for safekeeping, in case your passport is stolen. I also keep a list of phone numbers for credit cards and banks just in case I need to contact them. A second copy can also be left with a family member in the US.
Packing Tips? Check out my September 2010 blog for helpful packing tips. Many of the suggestions apply to international travel as well trips within the US. I pack my clothing in over-sized, Ziploc plastic bags that allow me to shuffle the various bags around my suitcase without wrinkling the clothing.
Most airlines have a 50 pound limit on each suitcase. For this trip, I purchased a portable luggage scale to ensure I didn’t go overweight. As it was, my suitcase was five pounds heavy when I packed for our return flight. I tucked a few things in my husband’s suitcase and moved a couple of heavy items to my carry-on bag to ensure I didn’t have to pay the extra $75 charge.
Carry-on bags? I place my purse in a larger over-the-shoulder tote that fits under the seat or in the overhead compartment. A change of clothes is wise, in case luggage is lost en route. I also include a quart-sized, Ziploc bag with liquid toiletries, an extra pair of contacts, reading glasses, ibuprofen, Kleenex (which many European hotels do not provide), hand-wipes, a small flashlight, my AlphaSmart and a paperback novel.
Gathering research? I take notes in a small composition notebook, like the ones I give away at conferences. It’s easy to tuck in my purse along with a pen. I also photograph many of the larger information plaques and then download them to my computer at home. Most tourist sites have bookstores and souvenir shops. Ask for the English section for books that provide more in-depth information. I also get the guide’s email address for any questions I might have at a later time.
|Even in the rain, Poles love to buy flowers. Notice how the|
florist holds them upside down. The Germans carry flowers
the same way.
I’m providing a buffet breakfast similar to the lavish offering we enjoyed at various hotels throughout our trip.
Wishing you abundant blessings,
PERSON OF INTEREST
by Debby Giusti
WOMAN ON THE RUN
While babysitting a young servicewoman’s infant, Natalie Frazier hears a murder in the neighboring army duplex. Convinced her former commander is behind the crime, the ex-soldier bolts with the baby. But who will believe her story? Army investigator Everett Kohl deals only with the facts, but this time his gut instincts can’t be denied. Is the attractive Natalie a cunning killer, as his ranking officers believe, or an innocent victim? Ordered to bring her in, Everett has a decision to make. Helping her could cost him his job…but not protecting Natalie and the baby could get all of them killed…
Pre-order your copy in digital or print format: Amazon.