Travelling Tips

PillsAs we get older our medicine kits start to take up more and more space in our luggage. We know we are not as fit as we used to be and are more susceptible to injury and illness.

There is nothing worse than getting sick or running out of your medication while on holiday.

Here are some reminders about what to do before you go away and while you are on your travels.

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I cannot believe that it is more than half way through the month of May!  That means it is 7 months to the day before we leave on this wonderful trip. It is getting really exciting but there is so much to do. This past week I completed a couple of tasks taking those few steps closer to having a wonderful holiday in December.

As I have mentioned before, after having been to Northern Norway to see the Aurora Borealis, we will be working our way south through Europe to Southern Spain’s Costa del Sol for a week ‘to warm up’. Well, I booked a week at the Marina del Sol in Fuengirola.  My sister and I stayed in this very popular part of Spain in 2002 and I loved it so much I could not miss the opportunity of visiting there again. It will be a first time for Trevor and it will be great fun to show him what I remember and also to see some places we did not get to see due to my breaking my leg while on a tour to Rhonda. Of course, Pat and I decided that it was not broken and we had a wonderful time going from Spain all the way north to Scotland.

The second step was to confirm with Bjarni, the Tour Operator in Norway, that the deposit for our trip will be paid this coming week. Once that is done then it is definitely going to happen. Over the past 3 months there have been over 25 e-mails between Bjarni and myself and, as it goes with e-mails, replying back & forth, a lot of repetition gets included so last night I copied the content of the e-mails into a MS Word file in the Northern Lights Folder that I created right at the start. I have dated each one and used different colour, size and format fonts. This has been printed out and placed into my 2-ring binder so that I have all the information in one place.

I read an interesting article the other day. Its main theme was to inform the readers on how to create a signature on to a PDF file without having to print it out, sign the paper copy, scan it back into the computer and then return to whomever had requested it. The author was bemoaning the fact that the use of computers has not brought about the paperless society it has always boasted it would. Instead, there seems to be just as much, if not more, paper used. I have to admit I am one of those who adds to that ‘use of the forests’. I am much more comfortable with pen and paper and being able to write down and mark out whatever it is that I am working with but, on the other hand, I am also an avid recycler wherever and whenever possible.

The next step in the preparation for our holiday is the one of education. We want to learn as much as we can about the different towns, cities and countries we will be visiting. Then there is also a not very exciting but very important part ot preparation and that is to ensure that all our own paperwork and financial records are up to date and accessible in case anything happens to us and someone else has to 'pick up the pieces'.

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As always, time just flies when one is busy and has a very exciting trip to plan. I have had people say to me that it is so early to do all this but, as said before, having had some unexpected occurrences and missing out on some things we have planned to see due to not doing all the homework, I am doing everything I can now. Of course, that does not mean we will forget to “Expect the Unexpected”.

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If, like me, you have often searched the internet for the cheapest flight to your planned destination only to discover that it is not actually as cheap as advertised at the start. Well, you see, as with so many other things advertised, there are Terms & Conditions. These are often long and in small fonts so we read the first few, if any at all, and then we give up. One cannot have the cheap flight if you do not agree with to the Ts & Cs so just click 'Accept' and continue. By the time we have to put in our Credit Card details, the price is nearly twice what we had expected.  

These Irish ladies sing for us in a wonderful way telling us why Cheap Flights are not always that Cheap.  Take a moment to listen and, not only have a good laugh, but remember the messeage too. 



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As I said in the article, ‘The last few days’ , the final article in this section would detail some of what we learned, both helpful and what we could, and should, have done better.

  1. Firstly, 6 weeks was definitely too long. I have long held the belief, and still do, that when one is spending big on airfares to get to a foreign country it is not worth spending just a short while but 3-4 weeks should be the maximum.
  2. Don’t hire a car in a foreign country where you will be driving on the ‘opposite’ side of the road as your very first venture.
  3. Get to know as much as possible about the places you will be visiting before even making final bookings if you can.

          3.1  Weather patterns - remember how we got stuck in the snow in Sestrierre

          3.2  Places of interest

          3.3  Transport facilities

          3.4  Accommodation types and costs; Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet; check with a travel site such as Trip Adviser. Our experiences in                  Rome & Paris were enough to confirm this.

          3.5  Currency used (just because a country is part of a bloc, it does not mean that it uses a common currency!) Croatia, Slovenia & Hungary are members                  of the EU but do not use the Euro.

          3.6  Can one get the currency in your own country or do you purchase common currency first & exchange on arrival? 

         3.7  Can your credit card be used? We learnt that many B&Bs do not accept credit cards because of the service fees; similarly, some shops require                           a minimum purchase before you can use your card.

  4.    Road rules, if you are hiring a car. Most countries live by the rule: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. 

  5.    Pack a full change of clothes and in your hand luggage. Do this however you are travelling; eg self-driving, train, coach etc. It is always handy. You may             get stuck or delayed somwhere and it is so much nicer than opeing your suitcase and digging for underwear etc

  6.    Don't be afraid to ask for Senior Citizen Discount


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Preparation 3

The past couple of weeks have been spent reading the Terms & Conditions particularly with regard to cancellation after payment of the deposit. It appeared to me that the 50% deposit is completely non-refundable. I asked Bjarni to confirm my understanding which he did, giving the reason that the hotel, train and cruise bookings are non-refundable to their company, Nordic Visitor. Now we need to think carefully about exactly when to pay the deposit. At present the Euro is weak giving us more Rands for each Euro. It has gone down from a little over R14/Euro to R12.77/Euro. Will it weaken any further? No one can answer that with conviction. If we pay well in advance, will something happen and we lose a lot of money? Might have to take a risk to ensure a booking.

Interestingly, Bjarni also mentioned that this is not a guided or group tour. What happens is that Nordic Visitor make all the bookings and send us the paperwork and we are on our own to follow the trip. Actually, this is quite a nice idea. We know that we have bookings but we are not bound by time or activity constraints as happens on a guided tour. Before making any payment though, I shall confirm item by item as to what they book so there is absolute clarity.

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The type and form of transport and accommodation of any holiday depends very much on where and for how long one will be on holiday. If you are like us and prefer to spend no more than a few days at any one location, you will not only have to arrange transport to your initial destination but also for travelling between locations.  Travelling within your home country will usually mean that you will use your car or public transport with which you are reasonably familiar. Should you not actually know much about it, it is not too difficult to get the information. If your trip is abroad it can be quite different.

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Having mentioned to Teresa Smith that I had already contacted a travel company in Norway she suggested that I hold off going ahead and booking that tour without looking at other possiblities. Teresa contacted a local agent for tours offering the opportunity to see the Northern Lights. Within 24 hours I received an e-mail from Teresa with 4 possible options. I took a fairly quick look at the offerings and found that they were all very similar with the duration of between 4-6 days and all included spending most of the trip at an hotel in Tromsø. 

Immediately I wrote back to Teresa to say that we did not want to spend that much time in any one place as we like to travthe el and see as much as possible of the places we visit. For this holiday we want to see Norway and not just Tromø! This is a bit of advice to anyone planning a holiday - decide what it is you want to see and do and how long you wish to be away from home BEFORE making any final decisions. It has always been our philosophy when travelling abroad, tha,t having paid big prices for flights and insurance, it does not make sense to go to one place for so many days and then go home. Remember we are retired and are travelling for pleasure and leisure. We love to see and learn as much as possible. 

Teresa then sent the information on the tour we had originally selected and asked what her local agent could offer in a similar package. On receipt thereof we considered the 2 possiblities and we have decided to stay with our original decision as it seemed to offer better value and visits more places. Having made that decision I wrote to Bjarni, the contact in Norway, requesting the Terms & Conditions for this tour and, in particular, the Cancellation Policy. This is very important to study and be sure of BEFORE making any payments. We got badly bitten last year when we had to canceil a trip and discovered at this stage that there would be no refund as it was a package deal. Once bitten, twice shy. We have received the Ts&Cs and they will be checked regularly as we continue to prepare to travel.

The other thing we are watching closely is the value of the Rand against the Euro so as to know the best possible time to pay the 50% deposit. Currently the Rand is gradually strengthening and we hope that it will contiunue to do so. At the same time I am looking up the various places we are to visit on the tour to lean as much as possible in advance. Having some knowledge of where we are going makes it so much more exciting when actually seen.

That is instalment 2


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About Me

I was born into the early part of the Baby Boomer generation, the 3rd of what came to be a family of 6 daughters. Although both our parents, who are now deceased, had been raised in rural Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and the 2 eldest daughters were born in a country town, the other 4 of us were all born at home in Durban. Read More

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