5 for Couples Traveling Abroad – Part 1

When planning a romantic getaway you are excited and filled with anticipation of a holiday filled with romance, fun and maybe even a bit of adventure. Before the hugging, cuddling and kissing can begin you need to properly prepare for your trip. Here are the five tips to get your vacation started on the right track.

Tip #1: Every country has a recommendation for immunization. Be sure to check with your state department when traveling abroad. A friend of mine just returned from India with a stomach virus. It was several doctor visits before she got a correct diagnosis of C. Difficile; and now she’s having a hard time getting rid of it. And my co-worker got malaria on his visit to Africa. You don’t want to catch a virus or disease while traveling abroad and bring it back to your home country. Needless to say medical costs can be expensive and there is the danger you could make others sick as well. So, be sure to get your immunization shots even if you hate needles. Bite the bullet and get it done. Staying healthy during and after your trip is the first step to a wonderful vacation.

Tip #2: Check the expiration date on your passport. While packing for my last trip to Mexico with a few friends, I pulled out my passport three days before the trip and was shocked to discover it had expired. Oh my God!

Let me tell you it is possible to get a passport in three days – but it ain’t pretty.

I live in Chicago and the only place I could get a short-notice appointment in a passport office was in Houston. I had to change flights to go to Houston first (an extra $200 cost). I had to leave work two days early (unpaid days off). While waiting in the passport office the computers went down. I waited there all day and they did not come back online. I came back the next day. System was down all day but I waited praying it would come back online. It came back at 4:00pm and the office closed at 4:30pm. Only a fraction of the 100 people waiting for a passport received them that day ($150 cost). My name was the next to last name called.

Despite my deep breathing exercises, my stress level was off the chart. That expired passport was both a time-consuming and expensive delay and it almost didn’t happen. Learn from my mistake. Make sure you check your passport and any necessary visas required for your trip weeks ahead of time.

Tip #3: When traveling abroad purchase medical travel insurance to cover you and your family members. If you’re pregnant make sure you check the policy carefully. There are some travel insurance companies whose policies do not cover pregnant travelers.

Tip #4: Be sure to check the expected weather for your travel destination. While traveling around all summer to hot locals, I forgot to check the weather in Peru, my final destination. It was winter in Peru and the temperature was in the 50’s. A little cool for my shorts and flip-flops. I had to buy sweaters and a jacket. Do not assume the weather will be similar to where you live. This is rarely the case.

Tip #5: Buy trip cancellation insurance. If you have to cancel or delay your trip at the last-minute it can be costly, so you want to be covered.

These tips can help you have a smooth and worry-free vacation. Hopefully, a romantic getaway filled with hugging, cuddling and kissing.

Ethiopia Adventure

In November 2010 my husband and I travelled around Ethiopia for three weeks by public bus with a private guide. Travel (especially bus travel) is a real adventure and not for the faint hearted as there is long travel days (even longer if the bus breaks down) on poorly maintained roads. But it is an excellent way to get up close and personal and experience the life and culture of the locals.

Addis Ababa
We arrived at the airport at 3.30am. We had not booked any accommodation due to our early arrival so we stayed at the airport till about 7am. A taxi agreed to take us into the city for USD$10. We went to the Ras Hotel where we had to wait till 9am to see if they had a room.
Travel Tip: We stayed at the Ras Hotel 3 times due to its central location. The price includes breakfast which is awful but lunch and dinner are good.

Bahir Dar
We stayed at the Ghion Hotel on Lake Tana and did a boat cruise to the islands to see the painted churches. The Blue Nile Falls area is pretty but not worth the long bumpy ride to get there. Since damming the river, the waterfalls are certainly nothing like the posters show.
Travel Tip: Check if a guide is included with your Lake Tana boat cruise. There was 9 of us on our boat. No guide accompanied us on the boat except for our private guide Samson. The first island we visited Samson acted as intrepreter otherwise we would have not understood what we were looking at. The second island we visited the church guide spoke English.

Gonder
The abandoned castles are very interesting and it is worth hiring the guides inside the gate.
Travel Tip: We stayed at the Belgez Pension which was cheap, clean and quiet but the rooms were very small and cramped. They do your washing for a very small fee – give to the cleaners in the morning.

Simien Mountains
We did a one day 4WD day trip with another traveller and our guide Samson.
Travel Tip: We would have liked to have stayed overnight even though we are not trekkers, as the scenery is stunning.

Lalibela
We spent 2 nights in Lalibela exploring the amazing rock churches.
Travel Tip: Keep your entrance ticket handy as they will be checked at each church entrance.

Arba Minch
Arba Minch is a overnight bus stop between Addis Ababa and Jinka.
Travel Tip: Spend an extra night on one of the stopovers and do the lake tour.

Jinka
We hired a 4WD locally to tour the main 3 tribes in the area (Mersi, Hamer and Karo tribes). We shared this cost with 3 other travellers who were on the bus and stayed at the same accommodation as us.
Travel Tip: Buy your bus ticket to Addis Ababa early (at least 1 day in advance) so you can obtain a better seat number otherwise you will find yourself stuck at the back of the bus on the 2 day journey. Buy good ear plugs so that you can block out the noise of the loud music videos playing.

Transport
We used a variety of transport that included: public bus, minivan, 4WD and boat.
Travel Tip: If you find that quite a few of you are heading in the same direction, it will be more economical and comfortable to rent a minivan and driver like we did from Bahar Dar to Gondar (7 people).

Tour Guide
We used the services of a private guide. This was the first time we have hired a guide for the entire trip through a new country. The guide proved invaluable in keeping the touts away (worth the money alone), dealing with local tour operators and obtaining hotels.
Travel Tip: Use a private guide’s extensive knowledge and experience to enjoy Ethiopia through the eyes of a local.

A List of to Make Your Vacation Planning Easier

Many people spend their vacation traveling either in country or abroad and find it can be a complicated ordeal to remember all those little details before leaving home, and while on the trip you thought was so well planned out. This is where some can be most useful. It usually helps to make a list of necessities and then divide it between what needs to be done before locking that door at home and what needs to be remembered when traveling to your destination. Here are some valuable to include on your lists:

• If traveling out of the country scan your passport, travel tickets (cruise or air travel), ATM card info, emergency phone numbers, and store this information on your email address so it can be accessed by you if necessary from anywhere in the world.
• Do not carry all your valuables in one place. Split up your cash, bank cards, credit cards, and travelers checks into different locations either in pockets or your baggage (best if kept on your person in case of luggage misplacement). That way if you get robbed you may not lose everything all at once.
• Take bar soap and toothpaste powder instead of liquids and tubes to simplify matters for security clearance. Purchase the sample sized items if possible.
• One of the best suggests you pack everything you possibly can in plastic bags because they keep cleaner and are visible to those who feel it necessary to go through your luggage at airports, etc. They also come in handy as an emergency umbrella.
• Travelling with a flashlight (or torch) is common but don’t let those batteries run down if the light comes on accidentally. Turn your batteries around before storing it, and then turn them around again when you get to your destination.
• Shoes should be put into plastic bags to keep the other items in your luggage odor free and clean. You could put a pair of socks inside each shoe for easy packing.
• When flying, especially on a long flight, keep any necessary medications along with your important papers close by in overhead baggage. It might be useful to also bring along a clean change of clothing when on long flights.

The last item on this list must be to remember to get any necessary vaccinations that may be required (depending on the location) and to not forget your list!

4 for Couples Traveling Abroad – Part 2

A romantic getaway is an exciting way to fan the flame of romance in any relationship. Before you can stroll hand-in-hand in the moonlight, you need to properly prepare for your trip. In this article, I’ll share four to get your vacation started on the right track to ensure your romantic getaway is smooth sailing.

Tip #1: Be sure to make copies of your important documents. If you’re using traveler’s checks make sure you keep the copies with the serial numbers separate from the originals. It also wouldn’t hurt to email the serial numbers, credit card numbers and your passport number to yourself. That way you can access the documents easily via the internet should your luggage or purse be lost or stolen. You can access the internet in almost every country. You can also leave a copy in your safety deposit box or with a trusted relative.

Tip #2: Check for travel alerts for your destination country. These are usually posted and updated by your country’s foreign travel department. It’s important to be aware of travel alerts to see if there are any health-related medical outbreaks or local political uprisings you need to be aware of. Sometimes these alerts can delay your vacation. I had to visit the airport health department office before I boarded my plane to leave Jamaica. At the time, they had a cautionary health alert.

Tip #3: Read up on the customs in the country of your destination. It also is good to know how to say good morning, please and thank you in the language of the country you are visiting. Learn how to properly greet someone. We tend to informal in the United States. In other countries, it is downright rude to address a stranger informally. If you respect the people in the country you’re visiting by learning a few of their customs, you’ll find that their response to you will be warm, friendly and helpful.

Tip #4: Leave a copy of your itinerary with someone you trust at home. Be sure to let them know of any changes. In case of an emergency on their end or your end, you want someone to be able to contact the authorities. They should know where you are or at least where you are supposed to be.

Keep your romantic getaway safe and fun by using these when booking your vacation. Don’t wait until the last-minute. Procrastination cost time, money and unnecessary stress. Advance preparation makes for a smooth trip and a fun vacation for you both.