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Three Things That Will Ruin Your Vacation

The Devil is in the Details

At times, on our blog and others “we” glamorize travel.  Our posts are dripping with pics of white sandy beaches, dense lush jungles, and wild and crazy adventures.  We kind of like it that way.  But at times, we must take a step back and fill you in on some the more “boring” yet practical details of travel.  We hope that these “Devil is in the Details” posts help.  Let’s dive in:

customs visaVisas:

Some countries want to make it as difficult and confusing as possible to get into.  Other countries want to collect half of their gross national product by charging unsuspecting tourists for the “privilege” of coming to their country.  One of their best tools in inflecting this pain and suffering is the almighty VISA.  Sheepish tourists land sleep deprived and loaded to the gills with cash to spend on trinkets to take home to prove that they have been somewhere.  They are herded through a zigzagging maze to the Visa window.  At this point in your adventure, a stuffy uniformed attendant lightens your wallet.  Nothing says, welcome to our country, like taking your money.  (Some more interesting visa charges: Bahrain: $280, Russia $150, UAE $250, but Angola takes the cake with a whopping $600. Ouch!)  Don’t say we didn’t warn you.  Hey Angola….enough already.

Visa requirements are one of those know before you go details.  Every single county is different.  Some countries require you to purchase the Visa weeks or even months in advance.  One of our friends neglected to look into this detail, and tried to board a plane to Vietnam.  Bad idea.  Vietnam requires a Visa that takes weeks to get.  Once you pick you destination and book your tickets, seek out info on the all-important Visa.  Regrettably, we couldn’t find a website that had all the requirements of every country in one place.  We would recommend your own due diligence and look it up the old fashion way-one country at a time.

The Checks in the Mail:

One of the key details you should never neglect is mail collection.  Sounds like a boring detail for sure, but life can get really interesting if you neglect it.   Make arrangements with friends, family, or a service to regularly check your doorstep for deliveries.  Better yet, arrange with the major package delivery companies to hold you items.  Put your regular mail service on hold.  If you live in the States you can do that HERE.  Nothing says, “We are not home, here are some packages you can steal, and feel free to come back and break into the house because we are gone,” than a stack of goodies on the doorstep and mail gushing out of the box.  Bad form.  You might also be at further risk of identity theft if a Baddie takes your credit card bill out of the box and goes on a shopping spree in Angola (granted they have $600 to get into the country).  Really bad form.

moneyMoney, Money, Money:

In the immortal words of AC/DC:  “money talks.”   We could write an entire post on the topic of travel money.  Let’s keep it simple.  Step one is to have good credit cards which means – ones that don’t charge horrendous fees and interest.  That is a given.  Step two is to let them know where you are planning to travel.  Turn the card over, call the 1-800 numbers and give them all your details.  Ask about exchange rates on the card and fees.  Take at least three different types of cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc.  Time and time again we have found that one card didn’t work at one ATM or hotel while another did.  Compare the benefits and don’t keep them all together.  Each traveler should have their own card.  Leave copies of each card, your passport, and medical card at home.  One little suggestion that we always do before departure is buy some foreign currency before we leave from our local bank.  We do this for a number of reasons.  It avoids stress of finding an ATM right out the gate.  More importantly, it helps you acclimate to what the new currency looks like, and what denominations are available.  Some currency is different sizes and colors.  Having some of the new cash in hand creates options for you.

Thailand beauty

What if something happens abroad and you need currency quickly?  While we have yet to face this challenge, learn more about international money transfers.  Accidents, robberies and other “stuff” can happen whilst abroad.  Knowing a few of your options is never a bad idea.  We get asked a lot about traveler’s checks.  We don’t believe in them.  They end up being more of a problem than a solution.  During a visit to Israel a number of years ago, I struggled to get them cashed in a pinch.  This search cut into my get out and vacation time.  Credit cards have become the payment tool of choice in most countries. Nothing says, “I don’t travel and I have no idea how to function in the 21st Century,” like buying travelers checks.

Heed these three details and you will have a much better trip.   Never neglect the so called little things.  Now go back to looking at the glossy pictures of pristine beaches and green jungles…this stuff is no fun.  Happy travels from the Fighting Couple.

Did you neglect a “detail”?  Did it impact your travel?  Drop us a line below in the comments section and tell us about it!

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10 Things to Know for Your First International Trip

We put together a little cheat sheet for you folks who are attempting your first international trip.  These little hints are the sum of all our knowledge from visiting a couple dozen different counties on 5 continents.  These are the things that we wish we would have known, but were painful lessons learned out on the road.

1)Roll with it

Ok, this is your first trip abroad.  You happen to be the type A, planner type.  Take a chill pill!  Regardless of how planned you are, things are going to be different than you expect.  Roads don’t exist that are clearly on the map!  This is a really good thing.  Experiencing another culture, another language, and another environment makes you a better person.  You can understand and cope with differences better after your return.  You become more deep as a human being.  Just to recap, things are going to be crazy.  A lot of things are going to come at you fast.  Savor every moment!

2)Speak the Language

If you are a loyal 1000 Fighter, you know that we always harp on this.  It is so critical in order to really get to know a new country, you must, must, must know some of the language.  You by no means need to be fluent.  Its better if you are not.  You do need to know enough to engage in a small conversation without relying on your native tongue.  Our goal is always to know enough to chat up a taxi driver for 10 mins.  Know how to talk about the weather.  You don’t need to conjugate every verb, you need to know how to ask a kid their name, and how old they are.

Turkish Breakfast

3)Just Try It

This little nugget of advice applies on so many levels.  Lets start with the food.  As you departing on your first international trip, you are going to see menus that look Greek even if you are in China!  When you walk into the food establishment, glance around,  pick out something that looks interesting and give it a try.  Why not?  (If your are in Cusco, Peru- give the guineu pig a try!) You have never been on balloon flights UK?  Follow rule number 3.  Just try it!   The beauty of experience days is stepping outside your comfort zone.

4)Ask a Lot of Questions

Luci is a real pro at this.  It is her reporter background.  Regardless if we are on a plane, in a museum, taking a nature tour, or just in a cab, she is always pumping anyone that will listen for information.  Why?  Frankly, you don’t know what you don’t know.  There may be another bigger unknown waterfall just around the corner.  There may be a cheaper place to buy your souvenirs just down the road.  The taxi driver might have a brother that runs a better tour.  All of these things have happened to us.  Only because we asked.

5) Follow your instincts

Traveling internationally, trust your gut.  One of our fave couple travel bloggers: Y Travel Blog recently did a post on safety tips for single female travelers, in this article Caz says: “Trust your intuition.  It always knows best. If something doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it. There is a reason why you get that unsettled feeling in your stomach when you meet that strange person on the beach.  Don’t freak yourself out by imaginary monsters, but definitely pay attention to those little messages our animal instincts give us.”

If you are in a place that doesn’t fell right, leave. Common sense kinda stuff.  We must say, be careful of situations where your instincts are dulled: “see drinking too much barley pop.”

6)Smile

We give you permission to forget every other one of our hints in this post, please don’t forget this one.  This is the most powerful hint to traveling abroad.  The smile is the universal language.  Attempt to speak Turkish,  compliment them on their beautiful country and then grin ear to ear.  Your feeble attempts at communication  will be supplanted with the power of the smile.  If you are struggling figuring out the exchange rate and what all of the multi-colored monopoly money means…flash a big toothy grin.  No problems.   Smile at everyone.  Give the little children you pass on the street a warm smile, the old man in the chair in front of his flat a big one as well.  The returns from this small gesture will pay huge dividends.

7)Be Prepared

The old boy scout motto applies to international travel.  If you are going to the Amazon, buy some medical evacuation coverage.  If you are going to Tahiti and you only wear a certain sun tan lotion, bring it.  Think through things on a couple of levels.  Put your money in a couple different places.  Another couple of our travel friends, Cam and Nicole have a great story about this!  “How I got robbed by a Thai prostitute on the streets of Bangkok.”  Cam shared this story with us when we were up in Vancouver, BC this summer.  We are still laughing.  The moral of the story is always be prepared!

8) Don’t Follow the Other Tourists

It is soooo tempting when traveling abroad to do what everyone else is doing.  But didn’t your mom warn you about doing this?  If not, we are!  Don’t go on a tourist bender.  If you are prepared, and follow the other tips above, wander out of the norm.  See the undiscovered sites.  Are they still out there you ask?  YOU BET THEY ARE.  Will you get lost?  We sure hope so.  Some of our best moments traveling are when we get lost.  Be a leader, not a follower.

9) Show me the Money

Every place you go, you are going to need rupees, pounds, yens, or coconuts…Be prepared.  Exchange some cash at the airport.  Have a couple different flavors of credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, and something else.  Anywhere you go, money will flow.  Have some.  The law of travel we have found that is that ATMs are never close, and they are finicky.  Having cards from different banks is literally a lifesaver.

10)Pack Light

We really hate to put this one in.  How can we preach something we don’t practice? Mike is the all time worst packer.  He packs a ton.  He is a child of the 1980s so he has to match the seasons, with clothes for every event, restaurant, and setting.  Don’t follow his example!  Here’s why it is so critical that you follow this suggestion.  Luggage is heavy.  On every single international trip we have taken, we have ended up walking long, long distances with luggage.  It WILL happen to you.  If you pack heavy, you will be tired.  Good decisions are rarely made when tired.  Especially if you are traveling as a couple.  You can always buy more clothes when you get there.  In fact, this is a really good idea.

So that’s it!  Our 10 ideas that will make your life a little easier making your first trip abroad.  Now go and book those tickets.  After you come back, please share with us the lessons you learned!  We would love to hear your ideas and suggestions.  Just leave us a comment below.  Bon Voyage!

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