Tips for Traveling Overseas

By North of Boston

This summer, my family and I are traveling to Europe to celebrate my 50th birthday.  Back in my young, single days, I used to travel internationally a lot.  However, those days are long gone, and I realize that it has been over 20 years since I last went abroad.  As I think about the upcoming trip, I realize that I have a lot of random questions about traveling overseas in the modern era.  Who better to help me with my questions, I thought, than The Totebag?

Totebaggers, I would love your input on the following questions.  If you have any additional tips for traveling internationally, please share those as well.  Also, if other Totebaggers have questions about their own travels, or would just like to chat about upcoming summer trips, feel free to jump in.

  • Many totebaggers have remarked in the past that it is considered very rude these days to recline your seat if you are sitting in coach on a plane. Is that true even for overnight flights when, presumably, most people want to sleep?  I don’t want to be rude, but I also want to try to rest on the eastbound, overnight flight.
  • Even when I was young, I had a lot of trouble with jetlag when going across several timezones . What is the current thinking about ways to minimize jetlag?
  • Back InMyDay, I remember that if you wanted to use anything electric overseas, you had to carry not only a plug adapter, but also a converter to change the voltage of your items. I think I have heard that most modern electronics (e.g. laptops, chargers, etc) already have converters, so you just need the plug adapter; is that true?
  • Also InMyDay, my pre-trip preparations always involved a trip to the American Express office to get a stack of U.S. dollar traveler’s checks. How do people pay for things these days?  Can I expect that credit cards will be acceptable pretty much everywhere (we’ll be in England and France), or should I also bring cash?  If the latter, is it better to get the cash in the U.S., or wait until we’re overseas?
  • What is the best way to get cell phone service overseas (I would like to be able to get my work voicemails, and to respond to any that need immediate attention)? Should I just ask my carrier what plans they offer, or should I do something else?

232 thoughts on “Tips for Traveling Overseas

  1. I cant answer to anything but I can offer you my friend’s advice for the last one.

    She purchased a burner phone when she landed. It was used only for that country (she was in Australia) and she emailed or used iMessage for overseas stuff. When she was done, she tossed the phone. She used her personal iphone for the emails/messages by turning the phone on airplane mode, then turning on wifi only. She logged into free wifi wherever she could and messages folks from there.

    Other than that, my abroad travel has only been to Canada, and I entered that country twice on the same trip – once by driving across the border and once on a boat whale watching. Nothing spectacular. Last time I hopped the pond it was pre-9/11 so things are immensely different.

    Good luck and have a great time!! Happy 50th!

  2. 1. I think there’s a special place in hell for people who recline in coach.

    2. For jetlag, assuming you’re taking an overnight flight, I take something to help me sleep on the flight, then stay up all day the next day and after the first night I’m fine. I think we were all good doing that on our Iceland trip last year. But everyone is different.

    3. We used this for a power adapter/converter – It has all the plug adapters and converts the power.

    4. Everyone takes credit cards and you can get cash from ATMs. No need to convert money or use travelers checks. Just make sure your cards all have chips. Also put PINs on your credit cards.

    5. Check with your carrier. Verizon has a deal to get international use for $10 a day. I don’t know what the others offer.

  3. What is the best way to get cell phone service overseas

    AT&T and (and I think) Verizon offer unlimited voice text and data in 110 countries for $10/day.

  4. Verizon just continues your plan. So if you have a 12 GB limit, your data falls under that. If you have unlimited, it’s still unlimited.

  5. Also put PINs on your credit cards.

    Yes, most countries use chip and pin America is the outlier by using just the chip.

  6. When we went to Paris/London between Christmas and New Year’s, we did the $10/day for international. I believe it was $10 a phone, and the first day we couldn’t figure out why the data plan wasn’t working and there was some roaming setting we had to change.

    I don’t recall even using our PINs when we were there, but I didn’t have one for my CC. It would have been nice to have though. We used our card for almost everything but had about $100 in cash for tips and buying food from street vendors and other small stuff.

    We only used an adapter and not a converter. I looked up online that our phones converted.

    Happy birthday!

  7. “AT&T and (and I think) Verizon offer unlimited voice text and data in 110 countries for $10/day.”

    We have AT&T and have used the $10/day plan.

    I am planning for a trip to Europe as well. The planning is a pain, as we have to book a lot of tours, transportation, etc before we leave. I think I’m almost done, but more things are popping up. I’m also a little shell shocked at how much money I’m spending.

    Next year, we are going somewhere easy!

    Have fun NOB!!

  8. Verizon also has a per month international rate that is easy to sign up for (and then cancel post-trip) if you think you’ll blow the limits on the per day deal.

  9. On jetlag – When you arrive – DO NOT NAP. Go for a walk outside. The exercise and sunlight will help your body adjust.

  10. Here’s a thread about the best credit cards to use. First, of course it’s good to take at least two cards just in case one doesn’t work. Also look for those cards that do not charge foreign transaction fees.

    I’m curious about where you usually get the best exchange rate when getting cash. I’ve used the landing airport ATM because I wanted to get cash right away, and then usually relied on ATM machines wherever I found convenient ones.

  11. I’ve traveled internationally for work so have some experience in Europe.

    1) most places still require outlet converters but some nicer hotel in London have USB and US safe outlets in the room for charging phones and laptops. Some even have personal cell phones which allow for free calls anywhere so I’d use that to call home in the States.
    2) Voice over IP for personal calls. I have Comcast and use the Xfinity VoIP app (phone on airplane and wifi mode) to call home and calls are free.
    3) yes, you can use credit cards and ATMs with little hassle these days but I’m old school​ and still will get from my bank some Euros or GBP before I leave for walking around money. Check to see if your bank is a currency bank and they can handle the exchange both before and after the trip. Some larger Banks also offer the service but I’ve found my home bank has better rates as a customer.
    4) jet lag. I usually start adjusting my body clock a few days before to get in timezone. Waking up earlier than normal helps me sleep on the plane and then I’ll stay up all day until it’s bedtime there.

  12. this is great because I am in the midst of planning a trip to Brittany for August.

  13. 1. Use a chip card. Chip and PIN is best, and very likely your bank issued a PIN when you got the card. Look through your reference file to see whether you saved the mailer. If not, call the bank and get a PIN if you still have time to do it. It might take a few days.

    2. ATMs will give you money for a particular country. I usually bring some Euros and Pounds (if necessary) from home, but I have leftovers from prior trips. I am going to be in Norway which uses its own currency, and I will get some when I land at the airport from an ATM for guide and driver tips. But Euros are always acceptable too as tips if you are spending a short time going through one country with its own currency. They don’t care for dollars for a number of reasons. If you visiting a rural area of your ancestral country ask your relatives or other knowledgeable individual about the need to use cash.

    3. I always go at least economy plus, so reclining is not an issue there. People do recline in coach on overseas flights, which are usually not as sandwiched in as a US domestic flight.

    4. We have Verizon plan. The current version is 10 dollars a day IF you actually use it for mobile data talk or text (on your plan) that day. So you can leave your phone on airplane mode and use it most days via WIFI in the hotel. However, since you personally can expense the 10 a day against your business legitimately, I probably would just not worry about that and keep the rest of the family on airplane mode.

    5. You do not need a power adapter. (I suppose you might for an electric shaver or pocket hairdryer unless it is dual voltage. Buy a cheap dual voltage one for the trip if you really need one) Just the plugs. Even my DH’s CPAP does not require a power adapter. Chargers are universal. Check the Google for plug shapes if you have an odd destination. UK is not the same as the rest of Europe. Most modern hotels have US compatible sockets on the desks.

    6. Jet lag is very individual, and also depends on your travel schedule. If you are taking an overnight flight to say Frankfurt (not London which is really short), one suggestion is to eat at the airport, put on eyeshades and earplugs as soon as possible after takeoff and refuse all food until the pre landing coffee. Then drag through the day and go to bed early. As for sleep aids or melatonin, try them out at home first if you choose to go that route. People react very differently.

  14. Excuse me Power converter. The adapters are for the plugs. But you know what I meant.

  15. Make sure your card has a chip and pin. We had a lot of trouble a couple of years ago in the Netherlands and Belgium because you had to have a chip and pin card to buy train tickets – and a lot of the stations are completely unmanned.

  16. In no particular order:

    1. Get a chip card with a PIN. Chip cards are mandatory. PINs are optional — they are not technically necessary on US-based cards — but we ran into many places that were confused and didn’t know what to do when we said we had no PIN.

    2. IME Apple devices can plug in with only the adaptor.

    3. Do NOT forget a data plan for Google Maps. Even if you rent a car with a nav system, there will be places it won’t work or it won’t be updated. You WILL use Google Maps, and it will cost you an arm and a leg.

    4. I never recline in coach. Except when it’s time to go to sleep on an overnight flight.

    5. Jet lag: I am horrible, horrible, and it gets worse as I get older. My current plan, which is the best thing I can manage:

    a. Spring for an upgraded seat if you can swing it — 6 hrs in a lie-flat bed is almost tolerable, 6 hrs in a skinny upright coach seat ruins the first three days for me,

    b. Schedule a flight that leaves late and arrives late if you can — it’s closer to US time and so will allow you more “real” sleep (vs. “try to fall asleep at 8 PM” sleep).

    c. Take melatonin an hour before you want to fall asleep on the plane.

    d. When you arrive, DO NOT NAP. Go outside, take a walk, make yourself engage in something that involves sunshine and requires you to keep moving (but does not require mental acuity or paying attention). I find wandering and basic grocery shopping good for this.

    e. Have an unfashionably early dinner, like 7 PM, with a glass of wine, and go to bed immediately thereafter, congratulating yourself on making it through. Use earplugs and make sure the blinds are shut tightly and let yourself sleep as late as you can (I find I really need 11-12 hrs that first night to make up for the night before). Immediate go outside into the sunshine.

    f. Continue to take melatonin an hour before your “new” bedtime — FWIW, I usually find night 2-3 to be the worst, because I am caught up on sleep and so my body realizes that it’s really only 6 PM my time.

  17. Heading to Europe, I usually just stay up the whole first day, go to bed at the local time, and then I am fine. Heading home, I have never found anything that works. That direction kills me, even if I go to the West Coast.

  18. Consider getting a spare iphone/ipad battery back-up, like Mophie, and make sure you fully charge it before your trip. (Made that mistake once.)

  19. We are deep in plannning phase right now, and it is really tricky because we are trying to coordinate flights, some kind of hotel in Paris for a few days, and then a weekly holiday village rental in Bretagne. There are tons of choices there, but they are selling out fast, because August is high season in Bretagne. The plan is to see some of the prehistoric menhir stuff, some churches, some ocean landscapes, and go to the big Celtic music festival in Lorient. Oh, and eat much seafood.
    In Paris, we will hit St Denis, the Beaubourg, the Musee de Cluny, Sacre Coeur, and have a beer at a cafe with a Notre Dame view, explaining to the kids that most of what we see today was the result of 19th century architect Viollet-le-Duc’s fanciful imaginings of what he though medieval style was about. Oh, and we will get some couscous. On the way out of town, heading to Bretagne, we will stop for the afternoon to see the cathrdral at Chartres

  20. My DD has traveled recently.
    1. Call your bank and your credit card companies and let them know which countries you will be in what dates and, if anyone at home will be using those cards at the same time. This prevents them shutting them down as fraud.
    2. When you make the call, or online, find out what their exchange rate policy is.
    3. Bigger restaurants, stores, hotels all take debit or credit cards, but not some of the smaller vendors. I would take a little bit of cash in the local currency. Check around, credit unions rarely have foreign currency and some banks will not charge you to exchange money if you have an account there.
    4. I can only speak for Apple products, but the “brick” for you iphone/ipad does not need power conversion in Europe, but does need to correct plug adapter. Look on Amazon for various, not very expensive options. Know that some appliances (hair dryers) even with the correct power conversion and adapter are not always as powerful.
    5. We generally just forgo phone service and stick with wifi. WhatsApp has been what we used most and imessage when attached to wifi. I did get a plan when we went on a cruise due to family being split in three locations (bahamas, italty, and us) that week. Sprint offered a plan that was an add on, but you had to cancel or it continues on. I called and cancelled the day I returned, but it was cheaper (though maybe because I was in the bahamas) around $30 a month.
    6. Take an inflatable neck pillow. Mine has a cloth cover. It allows you to sleep more upright and not need to recline as much.
    7. Jet lag – make sure your first day there is busy and active. It will keep you from feeling so tired and/or napping. Also, before you go look at the sunrise and sunset times. If you need very dark rooms to sleep, and sunset is past your “normal” bedtime, consider taking a sleeping mask.

  21. Electricity: you need ADAPTERS because the sockets in your room/apartment/villa may not accept your plugs. My last few trips I did not take a CONVERTER and had no problems charging my phones, computers. If you’re taking a blow dryer most of them have a switch/button to change from US current to Euro
    Money: I have never had an issue withdrawing cash at atms using my US issued debit cards. The ones at the airport when you land will give you the same rate as “downtown” so I’ve always used those for my first stock up. If it makes you more comfortable, order 100 euros and 100 ponds thru e.g. Bank of America before you go. The delivery of those takes ~2-3 days. Travelers cheques are long gone. Make sure you have a credit card that does not charge a fee for foreign currency transactions (Capital One, Amex (some), Chase (some)). Take >1 different card. You and any other adults / older teens should have their own cards in case one person loses theirs / gets pickpocketed. It definitely happens.
    Phone: as others have said, you can probably use your own phone’s data plan. That’s what we did in Portugal last year. Call them and ask. Verizon if you have them has a pretty good description of options on their website.

  22. In Australia and Paris, the only places we could not use our PIN-less chip cards were unmanned train ticket stations. But they took cash.

    Some credit card companies and banks still expect a heads up if you are going overseas so that your transactions there won’t be flagged.

  23. I think I now get my normal data plan internationally, at least as far as I can tell. Last year, the $10/day was only for voice and text, so we turned off data on the phones. The last time I went to Europe, I rented a mobile hotspot with an international data plan, and we drove all our devices off that (European hotel wifi can suck royally). One decision I need to make is whether to do that again, or whether my phone can do the job.

  24. Scarlett – in Belgium, the machines would take cash only as coins – no bills!!!

  25. speaking of chip + pin, if that can work for my Target Red card, why can’t we have it for everything else?

  26. I have never had to use a pin with a chip credit card in the USA. Where are they required or even an option here?

  27. I think Target is the only one who has it and it’s only with their issued cards. They did it after they had that big data breach 2-3 years ago.

  28. T-mobile has excellent and virtually free international service. So, I drop a call everytime I go over a bridge, but once a year it really pays off! We had free 2G data and texting across multiple countries last year and paid $.20/min for voice calls.

  29. +1 Do not nap upon arrival at your hotel. Get outside and get oriented. The fresh air will revive you.

    Download Rick Steves walking tours (app/podcasts) before you leave the US and use them on your first day in each new city. I like also like the app CityMaps2Go. You can download city maps to your phone and drop a pin at key locations like your hotel, etc. The maps work off of GPS.

    If you plan on shopping, some items cost far less in Europe than in the US. Handbags come to mind. If possible, do your shopping at a major department store. They’ll usually complete the VAT paperwork for you and sometimes will refund the VAT to you right at the store. If not, you can claim it at the airport before your return flight.

    Get local some currency shortly upon arrival at reputable bank ATM. Be prepared to pay cash if your American credit card is not accepted (especially at ticketing machines), the establishment is sketchy (you don’t trust giving them your credit card) or for small purchases, tips, etc. I was in Amsterdam last month and the train ticketing machines did not accept my card or bills – only coins. And, as Mooshi said, sometimes there is no manned booth to buy tickets. Even some of the major supermarkets will only accept their own cards, not even a European bank card.

    Bring Kind Bars, Power Bars, etc. They’ll hold you over if you’re not in a convenient place to stop for lunch.

    Limit your luggage to a rolling carry-on and a backpack. Bring a neck pillow.

    Have fun!!!

  30. This is when I envy the East Coast people — so much quicker to get to Europe. The Greece trip from Denver is going to be a pain.

  31. In London, Tesco, Marks & Spencer and the like have very good “meal deals” that we used for lunch. The “meal deal” included a pre-made sandwich, drink and chips or candy for 3.5 – 4 pounds in total. We usually ate in a park. If we were doing a day trip, we picked up the lunches first thing in the AM.

  32. Jet Lag – I am a pro at switching my sleep schedule frequently, as I often do blocks of nights. Maybe not a pro – because there tends to be a lot of yelling at my kids on the switch days. In any case, a very experienced amateur.

    I do nap on my switch days. I would do the same if arriving to Amsterdam this morning after a short sleep on the plane. A 3 hour nap will make you far more functional for the day, but still tired enough at night to go to bed. A little chemical assistance to get a full 7+ hours and you are all set.

    I think melatonin is great for the whole family. Use it an hour or two before bedtime. Diphenhydramine (benadryl) is the other commonly used OTC product for sleep, but I find it gives me too much of a “hangover” the next day. Alcohol should also not be underestimated for its sleep aid potential.

    When I took the little to Europe a few years ago, we had three nights of middle of the night wakeups, with toddlers ready to be up for the day. Watching TV was a huge mistake – it just got them more activated. After the first disaster night, I gave out melatonin, which worked in about 45 minutes. For myself, I will take melatonin if I have a mid-sleep wakeup and have at least 4 more hours I can be in bed. I also will sometime use 2 shots of rum to that effect – I know exactly how long it will stay in my body.

    I would be hyperaware of the role of screens in promoting wakefulness while you are adjusting – no staring at facebook in the hour before you go to bed, I wouldn’t even read books on an iPad if you think you will have trouble getting to sleep at the right time.

    For wakefulness, I have had tremendous success with Provigil. It has an indication for jet lag, meaning that is part of its “labeled” reasons for use. You’ll need a prescription from your doctor. It produces (in my experience), wakefulness without edginess – less tachycardia and jitteriness than pseudoephedrine or caffeine.

  33. Does anyone have a recommendation for a rolling backpack? I’ll travel this summer with a backpack (hands free for grabbing small children), but my mom wants something she can roll if appropriate.

  34. “Limit your luggage to a rolling carry-on and a backpack”

    Not even a checked bag? Where do you put your clothes? How do you get your purchases home?

  35. This is the charging case I have. It is cheaper than Mophie and fantastic! First one survived two trips in the toilet and saved my phone when those events happened. Will charge my phone up twice. If you are driving get or take your phone holder and bring a car charger. Waze works in Europe though if you go to some of the less developed parts of places like Ireland you can find it lacking but that is where you find the adventure!

    If you are driving and planning on purchasing things. I will buy a cheap pillow at Target and pack it in my bag to fill the space for the purchases and leave the pillow at the last hotel. This will ensure that you have at least a decent pillow at all times too.

    I second the bring snacks. I always travel with granola bars or those Toastachee crackers. Sometimes places are closed or you are in a hurry.

    I also second, do not go to sleep. Stay up. Be a shark, never stop moving that first day. Then you should be fine. I never can sleep on planes.

  36. Where are they required or even an option here?

    It’s not common here. The reason I heard is that while it would prevent a lot of credit card fraud, the banks are worried if they move to PIN first customers will just switch to one of their other cards that don’t require PINs.

  37. Not even a checked bag? Where do you put your clothes? How do you get your purchases home?

    Yeah, I know you’re supposed to take about three items of clothing, but that doesn’t work for me. I just schlep my suitcase and call it exercise.

  38. Last summer was surprised that Lufthansa limited carryon bags to 8kg. My efficiently packed travel pack was about 10kg. THANKS TO THE TOTEBAG, I had things in packing cubes. I just took a cube out, put all the books it and said, “Now I have two <8kg carryons!" They were weighing them at the gate.

    We'll be flying Singapore Airlines this summer, and their website says they do the same.

  39. The travel discussion sites that I’m reading keep warning about how you won’t be able to take a carry-on larger than a wallet onto Aegean Air. I figured I would check my bags anyway, but the way everyone keeps shouting about it makes me wonder if there’s some huge problem with checked bags. Maybe it’s just that they charge for checked bags? I’m not afraid of any problem that can be solved by throwing money at it.

  40. I am expecting massive security, so I will pack for that, especially since we tend to travel with a lot of electronics

  41. I would love if more airlines started enforcing the carryon rules. So tired of people bringing a small rolling bag AND a hanging bag that could hold a corpse and taking all the overhead space.

  42. So tired of people bringing a small rolling bag AND a hanging bag that could hold a corpse and taking all the overhead space.

    All they have to do is switch the incentive structure. Charge for carry-on, check bags for free.

  43. If airlines want to make a killing, charge for overhead bin space. Or for folks who are willing to have things at their feet, give them a discount.

    I wonder if people are still concerned about lost luggage. I’ve had that happen once and it wasn’t fun, but I usually carry-on the super important things and can buy the rest when I land. Again, it’s not like you’re going to a deserted island. London is on a civilized island where they have grocery stores and drug stores and serve tea.

    Packing cubes are on my list of things to buy this year. I want to separate our clothes from the boys’ in our luggage. Seems easy to give them each a cube because their clothes are tiny (for the moment).

  44. Rhode- when they were smaller, I did daily ziplocs for my kids. 3 pairs underwear, 3 tops, 3 bottoms. Each kid had a ziploc with 1-2 extra set clothes, pjs, swim stuff. In the morning, I would open one ziploc. It kept the squabbling down about wanting to wear or not wear certain clothes. It also helped me live my fantasy (re: yesterday’s topic) of having matchy color-coordinated kids. It also meant by the end of the trip, I had a whole bunch of empty bags, which are infinitely useful. I even bought the extra large ones to do this 6 months ago (they make 2 gallon version that will hold 3 sets of big kid clothes). This summer, they will each have their own bags, so probably not as useful.

  45. Our luggage got delayed on a trip. The airline was awesome. Notified US right when we got off the plane. Gave us some cash and we spent the whole day shopping – made the first long day much easier. Still have some of the things I picked up then. No it wasn’t a domestic airline. They’d give you a half used package of kleenex and wish you luck.

  46. For joint trips I usually check our US carry on sized roller bags which have expansion features not used on the way out, carry a small duffel loosely packed or medium backpack with the CPAP, camera, electronics, travel size toiletries, all of the 16 different pills and a change of clothes, and a small purse. For exotic solo travel, which usually has weight limits on the small aircraft and for which misdirected luggage would be a big deal, a medium sized duffle and a small backpack and I just carry them on. Ex Officio quick dry clothes take up very little space, and I wear the hiking shoes. The camera is heaviest item.

  47. I’ve had some bad experiences with lost luggage. I have no interest in spending time at my destination shopping, especially for shoes which can be very hard to fit. So I always try to pack light and carry on my bags. I will happily pay extra for overhead bin space if that’s an option. I’ve run into the smaller weight and size restrictions on international flights.

  48. Also, on longer or space/weight limited vacations I look at the availability of laundry service. As RMS says, in our life stage we try to avoid potential problems with money, not hacks. Otherwise I bring detergent packets. For a three day solo family visit I can travel with a backpack only.

  49. For lost luggage or delays keep in mind your credit card may come with travel protection. For example my Chase Hyatt Card:

    Trip Cancellation / Trip Interruption Insurance

    If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $5,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels.

    Trip Delay Reimbursement

    If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.

    Travel Accident Insurance

    When you pay for your air, bus, train, or cruise transportation with your card, you’re covered for accidental death or dismemberment during your trip up to $500,000.

    Lost Luggage Reimbursement

    If you or your immediate family members’ checked or carry-on bags are damaged or lost by the carrier, you’re covered up to $3,000 per passenger.

    Baggage Delay Insurance

    Reimburses you for essential purchases like toiletries and clothing for baggage delays over 6 hours by passenger carrier up to $100 a day for 5 days.

  50. I wonder if they’re really going to block all electronics other than phone on international flights. That would be a serious PITA. I at least want my Kindle, but they’re talking about blocking those too.

  51. This is when I envy the East Coast people — so much quicker to get to Europe.

    Plus they have so many options for non-stop flights. I think all we have are London, Munich, and Reykjavik.

  52. I need to bookmark this page. Thanks to Denver Dad and Meme, I’ve decided I want the family to go to Iceland next summer. Great tips.

    I’m in the great minority, but I actually do nap, and then take a melatonin in the evening if needed. I find naps in general to be so delicious, and it does make the first day more tolerable for me.

    Houston, I have told all my friends about your packing cubes, and there is general consensus as to the brilliance.

  53. I am on the hunt for an overnight flight to Reykjavik that has lie flat seats. If anyone happens to come across one. JFK – Reykjavik seems to be no such luck.

  54. All they have to do is switch the incentive structure. Charge for carry-on, check bags for free.

    Right, I’ve never understood the logic in charging for checked bags but allowing free carryons. Encouraging carryons just makes boarding and deplaning take longer, and gets people pissed off when there isn’t enough room so they have to gate check. Limiting carryons would speed up the turnaround times, which as I understand it, is a really big deal for the airlines.

  55. Lost luggage is a serious PITA. Who wants to waste precious vacation time shopping for toiletries? And try finding shoes that fit an American woman in China! In fact, anything in China. On one trip, I forgot moisturizer, went to a store to buy some, and when I got back to the hotel, it turned out it was skin whitening lotion. On that same trip, DS2 had an accident in a squattypotty, and needed new underpants stat. It took us over an hour in a department store to locate the right area and size, and then he ended up with these bizarre bikinis with little monsters all over them (he was 7 at the time)

  56. Our return flight home from the cruise would have been a disaster if we’d checked luggage. I can go for a week in a standard sized carry on and a personal item. If they go to no ipads/electronics in your carry on, I would then have to check something. I try to go using one main color – navy or black and make sure I can make 95% of it mix and match and use layers.

    On packing cubes, they have the ones that “compress” your clothing. I use a combination of the ones that do and ones that don’t to maximize the space in my suitcase along with ziploc bags (that can be helpful for something damp or extremely smelly).

  57. My husband is in London this week and his bags went through an airport type scanner before he could enter the hotel. The only other time that this happened was in

  58. Who wants to waste precious vacation time shopping for toiletries?

    Raises hand. I always thought it add a bit of jet-set glamour to have my Dopp kit stocked with internationally branded toiletries.

  59. A carry-on always works for me, except if I’m skiing, and then I have to check a bag. I can pack a week’s work of clothes in carry-on. If I’m going more than week, I stay some place that has a washer. I pack two pairs of pants (wear each pair twice), a clean shirt and u/w each day, PJ’s. Usually one extra pair of shoes, sometimes two. Maybe a dress. If I buy a lot of stuff, I’ll check my carry-on. There are a lot of places in Europe that are just inconvenient for full size luggage. Elevators, if they have them, are small. Rooms are small. Many hotels are on pedestrian plazas. It’s just a pain to drag around all that stuff.

  60. “Who wants to waste precious vacation time shopping for toiletries?”

    When traveling abroad for me it is impossible to take just a carry on and in this instance it was fantastic. The first day is always kind of cloudy – Notre Dame or the Hermitage aren’t fun if you are exhausted so shopping was a fun way to explore the city and see what kinds of things they have there and how much they cost. I got adult wonder woman underwear that I still have! It wasn’t bad at all. The bags came the next morning.

  61. Lark – The flights are very short from JFK and Boston – I think ours is only 4 hours in the air going east. Good for a doze only. I would take the afternoon plane, not the overnight one for an Iceland only trip. You’ll get in about midnight their time, 8pm your time. Sleep in the next day, and start your touring in the afternoon. But YMMV – I have zero issues east to west, unlike mooshi.

  62. We are going Saga Class next week (part of the cruise package). It is very comfortable. I have been seated in the last row of Saga seats when I purchased an economy plus seat several times – dynamic seating, I guess.

  63. I’ll second Ada’s ziploc bag idea for kids, and take it one step further. I packed a set of clothing (underwear, socks, shorts, top) in each one, then simply handed each kid their bag to get dressed in the morning. The ziplocs all effectively become space bags if you squish them when you close them, and it’s super easy to make sure you have enough packed – yes, 5 days plus two spares, everyone has 7 bags. My DH was kind of jealous for a while that we couldn’t pack ours that way. Maybe I should buy some of the packing cubes!!

    And for the germophobes, everything stays nice and clean in the suitcase, even if security has been rummaging through them. (Side note, I always feel sorry for those guys when I see they’ve left a notice in the bag that I’ve stuffed full of smelly, dirty clothes!).

  64. “Raises hand. I always thought it add a bit of jet-set glamour to have my Dopp kit stocked with internationally branded toiletries.”

    Yeah, I also find this cool. And I like to go into drug stores in foreign countries to check out the beauty products/candy anyway. I have enough sample/travel size beauty products to last a lifetime at this point between travel, Sephora samples, impulse purchases in line at Sephora, Birchbox, things taken from good hotels, etc.

    I hate carrying on a bag bigger than my (fairly large) purse. I will absolutely check a bag if I can without paying extra so that I don’t have to drag a bag through the airport & deal with it on the plane. Plus I hate cramming all my travel sized crap into a tiny 1-quart bag. UGH. Check it & see it again in baggage claim. I’ve never had luggage lost, but I also haven’t taken a non-direct flight in almost 20 years.

  65. My H and I use 2-gal ziplock bags for packing our bags. Still have not tried cubes partly because the ziplock bags work so well.

  66. I’m with Ivy, I hate carrying a roller bag through the airport. If I’m traveling on my own, I just bring a backpack. On family trips, we check a suitcase. I’ve only had luggage lost twice in my life and both times it was my skis on the return flight from ski trips, so it actually made things easier to not have to schlep them home from the airport.

  67. I would avoid a red eye flying from the east coast to Iceland. It’s like the redeyes from Denver to the east coast. They aren’t nearly long enough to get any kind of decent sleep.

  68. Oh and get Whats App on your phone. Free texting and phone calls. I chat with my girlfriend in Germany on it all the time.

  69. You can do that with Google Hangouts too. That’s what DH and I did when I was in Costa Rica.

  70. Depending on the quality of your ziplocs they may not stay “compressed” for very long. We did the change per day for the kids to summer camp for years.

    Because I only take 2-3 bottoms for a week of travel, I put the bottoms, plus 2-3 changes (1st layer shirt/uw/socks) in a cube. Then I stash the dirties in a ziplock until everything in that cube is dirty, then I put the bottoms back in and throw the ziplocs with the other dirties in them in the cube.

  71. Not international, but we have our august travel to the NE set. Total miles to drive 844 from Monday morning to Thursday noon. I am not normally a road warrior, but there wasn’t a better way to get it all in. Then we spend almost exactly 48 hours in NYC and we are home. The following monday, her senior year begins!

    She scheduled the tours and is now doing the follow ups on the “Can I meet with someone in the X department about Y major?” She HATES this part, but so far so good.

  72. I’m usually in the school of ‘don’t nap – wait till you can sleep all night’ for jet lag, but if you didn’t get any sleep at all on the previous night a nap may be called for. But don’t let it be more than a couple of hours, set an alarm, and then do get up and walk around outside even though every cell in your body is crying out that it’s time for deep sleep.

    I’ve done the combo of the rent-a-mobile-hotspot aka pocket wifi with one-month international phone / data plan (pretty limited data, really just enough that you wouldn’t have to worry about having to pay through the nose because someone sent you a text with a photo attached or something). The pocket wifi covered the critical Google Maps use.

    We’re supposed to be going to Europe next summer so I suppose I’d better start thinking about when is the best time to buy the godawful expensive plane tickets. I hope we can find something with only a single red-eye because double red-eyes are the worst.

  73. Luggage:

    Check your international carrier’s restrictions, especially when you have connections. On our last trip, we connected from Condor to Lufthansa, and discovered that we had a 2-bag allowance on Condor and a 1-bag allowance on Lufthansa! On the way over, it would have been fine, because their T&C clearly said that it was the check-in airline whose rules controlled. So we could happily have gotten over there with two bags and then had to pay an extra $100-200 to get the second ones home! Their weight and size limits can also be significantly lighter/smaller than ours, and the fees can add up very quickly.

    If I can manage it, I pack lightly on the way over and then put a separate duffel inside my suitcase, so I have overflow room to bring stuff home. DH and I also have been known to have our “luggage” be empty wine shipping boxes on the way over, which we then filled on the way back.

    Oh, and a few extra gallon ziplocs almost never go to waste, from corralling that shampoo that you didn’t know leaked to holding swimsuits/workout clothes that you don’t get a chance to wash before your return.

  74. @HM – I wonder if going via SEA via Iceland would make a lot of sense for you? Or Anchorage to Frankfurt? It seems like those could avoid the double red-eye – and be shorter than HNL-JFK-Europe.

    It’s shocking to me that you can go SEA-Iceland in 7 hours.

  75. HM, what about going the other way? I have no idea what the flights are like that way, just thinking out loud.

  76. I’ve also realized recently that my overseas travel isn’t as recent as i feel it is but I can handle some of these.

    Get money from the ATM while you’re there. It you have multiple cards you could use, check rates before you go.

    If you plan to do a lot of calling, pick up a SIM card in a phone shop there, but if you’re mostly going to be online; then just put your phone in airplane mode when you aren’t on wifi, and take advantage of free wifi where you can get it. You could also sign up for what’s app or similar apps that let you do voip from your phone, if you really need to talk.

    Electronics mostly don’t need converters, but some do. Check each device to see if it can handle 50/220.

    Curious about the seats. I can’t imagine someone getting crabby over lying down in seats that are designed to do that. Next time we go to Europe, I plan to take the airline LfB took. I think it was Condor. Her husband got screwed over when he missed his fonnection, but I generally don’t do connections within Europe, and I am comfortable enough with the train system that it wouldn’t be a big deal to me.

    Jet lag never bothered me. I took a nap hen I arrived( but not long, went to be at the usual time; and was fine. Some people use melatonin.

    Enjoy your trip, and tell us all about it ;)

  77. Ps–I love the Postcard on the Run app. You upload a picture, and it prints it as a postcard, with postage and message from you, and mails it to the address you specify.

  78. HM,

    It looks like JAL via Tokyo is about the same price as AA from Honolulu to London via Dallas. Just for a change of pace and JAL is nicer than AA or United…

  79. I am in Germany right now. Flew overnight and no one in coach reclined their seats at any time.
    I don’t sleep at all on planes, so I’m pretty incoherent the day we land. Just gut it out.
    We always take on outfit in our carryons and trade a couple outfits in our checked luggage–I take a couple of DHs and he takes a couple of mine. That way if they lose one suitcase you’re not totally screwed.
    This time, however, they lost both suitcases. They got them to us about 24 hours late, so the clothes in the carryons came in handy.

  80. You also have the option of China Eastern, China Airlines, ANA and Asiana. Note that China offers 72 hour transit without visa, so if you’re staying less than 72 hours you don’t need to go through the hassle of getting one.

  81. Ok the 2pm flight out of Boston is perfect. We could even come into Boston the morning before and get our fix of one of our favorite cities…

  82. Ben, yeah I’m sure that in economy with the regular seats you’d have the same conflict as anywhere else with those kind of seats. I’m curious whether people in seats that lie down flat or nearly flat also get into the same kinds of arguments over whether or not it’s appropriate to put the seat back

  83. I’m curious whether people in seats that lie down flat or nearly flat also get into the same kinds of arguments over whether or not it’s appropriate to put the seat back.

    No, the position of your seat has no impact on anyone else.

  84. “I’m curious whether people in seats that lie down flat or nearly flat also get into the same kinds of arguments over whether or not it’s appropriate to put the seat back.”

    No — they are generally designed to slide down and forward, so that your feet are in an open area beneath the seat in front of you. The nice lie-flat beds also are two-seats wide, with the seats on alternate sides, so your bed slides under the console for the guy in front of you, and the guy in back slides under your console, if that makes sense.

  85. I hope we can find something with only a single red-eye because double red-eyes are the worst.
    How’s this, e.g.
    HNL Honolulu – CDG Paris Sat, June 24 – Sun, July 9
    Outbound flight
    Sat, Jun 24 7:12 AM – 3:44 PM Honolulu (HNL) – Los Angeles (LAX) Delta 1150
    Layover in LAX 2h 16m
    6:00 PM – 1:50 PM+1day Los Angeles (LAX) – Paris (CDG) Air France 69

    Return flight
    Sun, Jul 9 10:20 AM – 12:50 PM Paris (CDG) – Los Angeles (LAX) Air France 66
    Layover in LAX 2h 06m
    2:56 PM – 5:44 PM Los Angeles (LAX) – Honolulu (HNL) Delta 1559

  86. I am usually too cheap to pay for upgraded seats. However, I will happily pay for nonstop flights at the times I want, taxis, a well located hotel, etc.

  87. Lark going to norway we leave on the aft flight, change in Iceland and land in oslo an hour before our normal bedtime. Long nap at the hotel get uo for a walk and dinner, all set the next day

  88. Rhett, I’ve tried just now searching JAL and China Air websites but when I have Honolulu as the departure city it’ll only offer me Asian cities as destinations.

    Ada, I tried running it through Anchorage but it didn’t seem to be any faster, probably because they’re still connecting through the NW / Canada rather than doing a true polar route. (Which they used to do once upon a time before hub and spoke.)

  89. Or are you thinking that we’ll spend a night in Tokyo or Beijing or somewhere, then have a fresh itinerary from that city to the European destination city? Hmm, that would probably get around whatever the regional restriction is that I’m running into, and could be interesting.

  90. I’ve been in meetings all day and am just now checking in. Thanks so much for the advice, everyone. Very helpful!

    We’re planning to pack pretty light (a carry-on size spinner suitcase and a small backpack each), but I’m planning to check the spinner, largely because of the liquids issue. For a full two-week trip, I want my regular toiletries — more than what will fit into a quart-sized ziplock.

    Someday I would love to fly business-class on a long flight, just to have the experience. Those little pods look so cool! Not happening on this trip, though.

  91. Mooshi, your family might like to stay in one of these places (but Idk what they have in Brittany)

    There are US chip cards with no pins( I never knew.

    Boston, idk if anyone in your family travels with a breathing machine. My dad uses a B-PAP. His needs a converter for European currency. It should be easy t check each device, near the UL symbol.

  92. most of what we see today was the result of 19th century architect Viollet-le-Duc’s fanciful imaginings of what he though medieval style was about.

    You could also mention the barricades, overthrowing the monarchy, and Hausmanns mandate to plow through the windy actually Medieval neighborhoods that that made that possible, replacing them with straight streets that light could shine through, eliminating decay of every sort. Hat tip to hygenicists.

  93. Rhett — yeah, JAL I’d have to phone and ask, it looks like. Air China will do it but will route us via LAX which is, um, non-optimal.

  94. Air China will do it but will route us via LAX which is, um, non-optimal.

    I got it to work. Make sure to use their hub at PEK as the stopover point. Also, I looks like Air China service to HNL only runs 3 days a week. If you select the wrong day it will route you via LAX.

  95. Ah, that would be it. China Air (the Taiwan-based one) might work too if I figure out the right connections, but it doesn’t look like it would be cheap. It is a nice airline though.

  96. it doesn’t look like it would be cheap

    It may be due to booking multi-city. Try pricing two trips: HNL to PEK and back and then a separate reservation for PEK to CDG and back.

  97. NoB, the reason I plan to take Condor next time I fly to Europe is that they have all flat seats for ~$1000. No cool pods, but I sleep poorly if at all on my back, not much better on my side, so being able to lie flat sounds amazing. Even if the seats don’t go all the way flat, I’ll put a jacket or something in the middle part and lie on my tummy. Ahhhhhbhmazing.

  98. What do people take in those big suitcases? My kid and I each have carryon bags and an underseat bag. At Christmas, it’s tricky to get everyone’s presents in, so I have big items shipped straight to my parents’. But otherwise…? For toiletries, there are some non-liquid replacements available–shaving soap, sunblock stick, and I’ve never had a problem with liquid makeup. I keep a tube of liquid cover-up (for the circles under my eyes) in my bag through the x-ray machine, and haven’t had problems. If I needed more room, my first step would probably be space bags or compression cubes. But my kid is growing and his clothes are bigger, so maybe in a couple years I’ll eat my words.

  99. HM- Condor has a 10h nonstop from Anchorage to Frankfurt. I think that is the only nonstop to Europe from ANC, but I think it is a true polar route.

  100. Oooh, I’ll have to check that out. I’ve never even heard of Condor so I suppose we’d have to fly to Anchorage on Alaska or something and stop over there for a night or so each way, but that might be a feature rather than a bug.

  101. “What do people take in those big suitcases?”

    I just took one for a long weekend at an all-inclusive, and I brought 5-6 pairs of shoes & a tennis racket. That took up the most room. I wanted running shoes, tennis shoes, a couple pairs of nice shoes for the evenings and a couple pairs of flip flops for the pool/beach. Plus warm weather clothes for 4 days – with a change between day & night. This was a girlfriend trip so no DH/DS. to share the suitcase either.

    When we do our annual beach vacation as a family, we bring a lot of random stuff – kitchen stuff because the stuff at the rental is always bad (plastic cutting board, sous vide machine, grill tongs, a good knife, etc) plus 3 nice beach towels (beach towels at rentals are always terrible). And then some sports equipment – baseball mitts, etc. Plus multiple shoes again (workout vs beach vs evening). But then we only bring a few changes of clothes and do laundry while we are there.

  102. @Meme – I’d never heard of Ex Officio before, but the pants look really comfortable for summer. I might order a pair.

  103. It looks like it can handle the HNL leg via partners. It looks promising! Thanks for mentioning the Alaska – Frankfurt flight, Ada. Even if we’re just looking at UK and France and connecting through Frankfurt, that could be a winner.

  104. What do people take in those big suitcases?

    Shoes. And extra everything because I will inevitably spill stuff, and sweat into stuff, etc.

  105. HM, perhaps a website like Orbitz or Kayak will allow you to use HNL as the departure city.

  106. “I hope we can find something with only a single red-eye because double red-eyes are the worst.”

    I had a double red-eye once. Singapore-Tokyo overnight, spent the day in Tokyo, then Tokyo-HNL overnight. I liked having the day in Tokyo for free.

    It helped that the Singapore-Tokyo leg was in business class with lie-flat seating.

  107. “I’ll second Ada’s ziploc bag idea for kids, and take it one step further. I packed a set of clothing (underwear, socks, shorts, top) in each one, then simply handed each kid their bag to get dressed in the morning.”

    They weren’t already wearing underwear?

  108. They weren’t already wearing underwear?

    No…presumably they were wearing p.j.’s. Do your children wear underwear 24×7?

  109. “What do people take in those big suitcases?”

    When we went to Iceland, we had four pairs of hiking boots, a hiking pole for DW, four sets of rain gear, towels (you can rent them at the pools but four towels almost every day adds up quickly), plus regular clothes, toiletries, etc.

  110. For my Australian trip, I found some great packable camping and shammy towels to take to the pool. So amazing. Wish I had had them for swim meets.
    Items like hiking shoes really take up a lot of space, however. Hard to avoid that.

  111. “Call your bank and your credit card companies and let them know which countries you will be in what dates and, if anyone at home will be using those cards at the same time. This prevents them shutting them down as fraud.”

    A lot of CC companies now let you do this on their websites.

    Our foreign travel has been to Asia, but some of what we’ve learned probably applies.

    Identify beforehand what the foreign transaction fees are for each of your cards. We have a few that have no such fees (e.g., Discover), and use them to pay for as much as possible. We’ve found the exchange rates the credit card companies use to be more favorable than for cash conversion.

    We usually get currency before we leave, through our bank. The exchange rates aren’t the absolute best (locally, there are some money changing outfits in Waikiki that I hear have the best rates), but they aren’t bad (I’ve heard, but not confirmed, that the rates we’ve been getting are as good or better than we’d get at the airport on arrival), and we want to have local currency when we arrive, for things like food or taxi rides, as well as not to have to spend our vacation time looking for places to get cash.

    Check your electronics before you leave. Whatever plugs into an electrical outlet should have specs printed on them. Chargers commonly can handle something like 100-240 VAC, 50-60Hz, which should work just about anywhere, in which case all you need it the adapter. But anything that only says something like 120VAC, 60Hz won’t work in many countries outside the US without a converter, not just an adapter.

  112. ” Do your children wear underwear 24×7?”

    Almost. I think.

    When I was a kid and my sibs and I still wore PJs, we wore underwear under the PJs.

  113. “What do people take in those big suitcases?”

    When we went skiing, one max-sized suitcase was dedicated to ski wear, including helmets, goggles, and pretty bulky jackets and pants.

  114. For communication, we rent pocket wifi units (like HM), turn off the cell service on our phones, and use apps like Facetime and Line (and email). DW ordered them online, and we picked them up at the airport.

    IIRC, last time we paid ~$6/day, although the per-day rates get lower for longer rental periods.

  115. and now I am being forced to admit, in a semi-public forum, that my children have worn Pull-ups to at night to a strikingly old age. If there happen to be any children that are not wearing Pull-ups, morning seems like a good moment to exchange old underwear for new.

    It also is an example of what goes in our gigantic suitcase. 6 million Pull-ups.

  116. “It also is an example of what goes in our gigantic suitcase. 6 million Pull-ups.”

    Also addressing the issue of where to put all the stuff you buy during your trip.

  117. When we travel west to east, we often take red-eye flights, and usually try to stay awake the day we arrive, sometimes aided by caffeine, and go to sleep early that first night. The second day is usually a good day to plan something for which getting up early makes sense, and by the third day we’re usually fully on local time.

    One exception was a trip DW and I took to Chicago, when the hotel offered early check-in, so we checked in right after a red-eye, probably something like 8am. We slept a few hours, then had lunch, which pretty much put us on local time. But we don’t usually get to check in that early, and we’re not usually willing to pay for an extra night of lodging.

    When we’ve traveled east to west, we also arrive the next day and go to sleep early the first night.

    Within the US, I find west to east trips much tougher, because time is lost, and often most of that loss is in sleep time. After an east to west flight of 3 time zones, I find adjustment to be minimal.

  118. “I’ve never understood the logic in charging for checked bags but allowing free carryons.”

    Charging for checked baggage was initially blamed on high fuel prices.

  119. I find west to east much harder to adjust to. I don’t have as much trouble east to west.

  120. “I find west to east much harder to adjust to. I don’t have as much trouble east to west.”

    Consider travelling from west coast to east coast, say on a Sunday for a Monday morning meeting. On Sunday night, if you get in early enough, you might try to go to bed at, say, midnight, but not fall asleep for a while because your body thinks it’s still 9pm. Then you try to get up at 6, but your body thinks it’s 3am, and the lack of sleep has you dragging all day.

    OTOH, travel from east coast to west coast. Easily fall asleep early Sunday night because your body thinks it’s late. Then you wake up, without your alarm, at 5:30am, feeling like you’ve been able to sleep in because your body thinks it’s 8:30, and you feel well-rested for the rest of the day.

    Especially traveling west to east, I find a workout helps a lot in adjusting by making it easier to fall asleep at what your body thinks is an earlier than usual time.

  121. “Apparently not when they are faux chamois.”

    OK, I get it…. shammy, aka sham chamois.

  122. Why big suitcases (for 2+ weeks)

    1. Shoes. Minimum workout shoes, comfy sandals, nicer sandals. Plus at least one sweatshirt/jacket and long pants, because I can figure out how to be cold anywhere.

    2. Full-size toiletries (saline, toothpaste, larger shampoos and conditioner, face lotion, makeup, deodorant, etc., plus whatever crap DS forgets to pack) — I usually end up with two gallon-sized ziplocs).

    3. If it’s not an overnight trip or I don’t have a plug on the plane, my CPAP so I don’t have to schlepp it everywhere.

    4. Books/toys we don’t want to carry on. Yes, sorry, I am old school, I still read actual books. Sometimes. And kids don’t have iPads/Kindles, so usually I am toting their extra books too.

    5. Empty duffel for stuff to bring home. Although I have also been known to forget this and pick up a cheap duffel as the last tourist purchase when we realize we have more stuff than space.

    6. Half the time part of one kid’s clothes — for two weeks, it’s usually slightly too much for a carry-on (especially European-airline-approved size), but too little for a whole giant thing, so we may end up with 2-3 checked bags for 4 people. Thus also conveniently leaving us more checked luggage room for said no-longer-empty duffel.

  123. I don’t mind packing my own suitcase, but I am spending a lot of time in my basement this week because the camp trunks have to be packed.

  124. The above link is related to conversation on cute kitties day about where to get a pet short-term.

    Scarlett, I discovered those towels after my time on swim teams. I’m surprised your kids didn’t see divers using them, at the levels they swam at. They are magic.

    Shoes and sports gear (also for the “sport” of playing on the beach) seem to be the common thread in what goes in those big suitcases. Can’t argue with that, but also don’t do it. I’ve worn 4-5 pairs of shoes so far this year, and not all in one week. I guess I was stingy with beach toys (colorful caps from liquid laundry detergent bottles in a mesh bag in which I’d bought onions, a shovel, & a bucket were about it usually. Maybe a small truck). He carried those in his usual toys/books backpack, and we often drove to the beach anyway. My daily toiletries are Noxema, Clinique “beauty bar” (soap), deo, toothbrush/paste, and Dr Bronners. I wash my hair about once a week and am not averse to most hotel shampoo or soap, so the sandwich baggie is fine for toiletries for me. A ski trip is in my dreams only.

  125. My son also wore pull-ups at night for a long time. I packed them, but when he was still in diapers, I bought them at our destination.

    I once nearly got into an argument with my sister over the undies-with-pjs question. She insisted most people wear them, to which I said “you check your overnight guests’?” When she said yes, I had to bite my tongue because really, just getting him to wear jammies, without an extra layer, was rare enough.

  126. My kids wear underwear with pajamas. They put on a new pair after baths/showers at night and in the morning. No pull-ups in our house any more! I feel partially vindicated because I got a lot of flak for not potty training my boys until 3, but they did the day and night thing at one time. And then my daughter day and night trained right at 2.

    I flew with the kids a few weeks ago. We took 2 of the big suitcases. When we left DC it was in the 80s and when we landed at our destination it was snowing. So, we had coats and all kinds of nonsense with us.

  127. Finn said ” we rent pocket wifi units “. Yes, I mentioned that above. I have done that on two European trips, and it worked well. We could drive all the electronics off the device for a flat fee per day. But now, given that Verizon has gone to just letting you have your data plan overseas, I am wondering if I should just use my phone as a mobile hotspot like this

    My experience is that European lodging wifi usually sucks, and we will have two laptops and two tablets with us, all crying for data. Thoughts?

  128. No historic hotels for us. I like my hotels sleek and modern, and kidproof. My lodging nightmare is being trapped in a B&B with too much floral chintz and an overly chatty host. I stayed in a place like that some years ago in Philadelphia. It was run by a gay couple, and filled with antiques, lace, breakable knickknacks, and of course floral chintz. The hosts insisted on making conversation at breakfast, which was at this huge formal table with floral tablecloths. I just kept thinking “Shut the F** up so I can drink my coffee in peace!”

  129. The NYT article is informative, and the One Bag blog looks like my style. A packing list is essential and minimizes the risk of forgetting important items.

    “I can pack a week’s work of clothes in carry-on. If I’m going more than week, I stay some place that has a washer.”

    Wash and wear synthetics make it easier to pack fewer items in my 20″ carry-on. Almost everything I pack is black or white, with scarves or costume jewelry to add color. Three or more pairs of shoes plus 4-6 tops and 2-3 bottoms. I always take one or two pairs of black and/or khaki pants that can be rolled up to wear as capris. These can take me from hiking in the morning to dinner at a nice restaurant in the evening. As far as toiletries, I’ve found as I get older I seem to “need” more stuff to look presentable but I try to pare down to essentials. Depending on destination may also have swimsuit, dressier outfit, etc.

    In my backpack I have another pair of shoes, electronic devices and cords, medications, and a few other essentials. I wear a packable down jacket and then a heavier overcoat to cold destinations.

  130. Just finishing up a red -eye flight in cattle class right now (not transoceanic). I would guess 80% had seats reclined. I can’t imagine that there are flight where this is not true.

  131. Mooshi – I am laughing reading your B&B nightmare. Somehow I pegged you as a B&B person. I guess I got that from you liking to visit Europe.
    My DH is the same way. He likes a hotel where they have A/C, TV and now Wifi. He doesn’t like to feel like he is staying in someone’s house with the host present.

  132. The hosts insisted on making conversation at breakfast,

    I kind of agree with you on the B&B song and dance. But I get the impression that B&B aficionados love it.

  133. Actually, on the continent, hotels tend to be sleek and spare. In western Europe at least, the aesthetic both in hotels and also homes is to have a historic, old looking exterior, and an uber modern interior. I think it is more common to find the overly floral interiors in the US, and also in England.

  134. Speaking of adorable beasties, the kittens are both awesomely cute and fun (they have entered the “surprise attack each other” phase) and driving me bonkers. We set them up in the room directly above our bedroom, and at about 5 every morning, they wake up and go at it — kaTHUMP-kathump-kathump-thump-thump. I had no idea that less that two pounds of puffball could make that much noise!

    Meanwhile, DD has totally bonded with the mom, who is the world’s biggest sweetheart. So, yeah. I definitely foresee a third cat in our future.

  135. “I get the impression that B&B aficionados love it.”
    Yes. This is my folks. Always interested in how the owners decided to get into the business, why in that location, what’s the off-the-beaten-track thing locally they should do, etc.

  136. Oh — and DH is in Italy this week, on “work.” He is texting me pics of the view from his hotel (near the Amalfi coast), and just this AM sent me a photo of dinner, including a real porchetta. Meanwhile, I am still dealing with the ongoing issues associated with Evil Work People from a few weeks ago and covering baseball playoffs in 95-degree sun. Bastard. He’d better come back with some good wine. . . .

  137. MM – that’s like the place I stayed in Spain.
    Wonderfully modern, FAST wifi, and a real shower with a closing door (though being Spain, there was no sweep on the bottom of the closing glass door so the water leaked and soaked the bathmat anyway).

  138. I take one of those quick dry “shammy” or “chamois” towels in my carry on. It makes a great blanket on the plane, works as a towel in the bathrooms that only have those awful air dryers, and as a regular towel if we need an extra on the trip. Plus, it takes up very little space in its ziploc.

  139. AustinMom – can you post a link to the shimmy towels ? I think we have one but I think I ordered too small a size to be useful.

  140. I had no idea that less that two pounds of puffball could make that much noise!

    Right? Either Carl Sandburg never had cats or he had freakishly loud fog.

  141. Louise,
    Try looking for the Youphoria Sport Multi-purpose Travel Towel on Amazon. They come in multiple sizes, all much bigger than the traditional shammy towel that divers use. The one I got (28 x 56) was big enough to use as a towel in the shower. A thinner product than the shammy towel, but it also stays soft when dry, unlike the shammy, which turns into cardboard that cannot be folded again until it is wet, which is really the way it is intended to be stored.

  142. About a chip and pin credit card: If I get a pin for my chip card, I’ll only be able to see if it works once I’m at the ticket machine London or somewhere trying to buy my ticket since no retailer that I use in the USA uses a pin.

    I like B&Bs fine and have not been badgered by talkative hosts. The rooms are not uniform so that can be a disadvantage. HOWEVER, I cannot imagine wanting to be a B&B host, which is a dream for some people. It would be like having houseguests who never leave. My nightmare!

  143. Love this thread. Makes me want to travel. DH hates traveling and doesn’t want to go anywhere. I think a lot of that is work stress and $$ stress, but also he thinks the kids will be ill-behaved so doesn’t want to take them anywhere. Sigh.

  144. About a chip and pin credit card: If I get a pin for my chip card, I’ll only be able to see if it works once I’m at the ticket machine London or somewhere trying to buy my ticket since no retailer that I use in the USA uses a pin.

    You can try it out at any ATM.

  145. he thinks the kids will be ill-behaved so doesn’t want to take them anywhere. Sigh.

    I hear a Disney cruise solves all of your problems. The kids do their own thing all day and you do yours.

  146. L – try to go somewhere easy and kid friendly. Beaches, theme parks, living history sites.
    Don’t do a very long drive. The hardest part is to get going.

    DH wants to go to Australia but I want a vacation not a trip and just don’t want to go this year.

  147. I’m kind of excited about a recent development. I’ve mentioned before my friend with the boat and summer house who, due to the boat and summer house, has to watch ever penny. I lamented the fact that I didn’t really care about anything enough to warrant being that cost conscious. Until now. We’ve had a few trips recently that have gone so well I’ve restructured our finances to support a lavish vacation budget.

  148. Ha! He would definitely not like a cruise, especially Disney (evil corporate cultural appropriation). He didn’t like Disney when we went there. Also hates beaches (too sunny, he is very pale).

  149. @L: That was me before we took the plunge on our big Italy trip — which, it turned out, involved better-behaved kids than anywhere/anything else. :-) The things that helped us: renting a house with a pool and a real kitchen, so on days when someone was tired or whatever we didn’t need to go anywhere; having rotating family members, so we always had greater than a 1:1 adult:child ratio, no one stayed long enough that we got sick of them, and different groups could stay or go or do different things (and the house had separate living quarters so we had sufficient room away from each other, too); and having repeated specific discussions with the kids about what to expect and what we expected (from “you will have to put your bag in the tunnel at security, but you will get it back in a minute” to the whole “Team Awesome”/we-will be-a-happy-family-dammit approach).

    But, you know, YMMV. You can always start out with a low-key weekend at a lake or something.

  150. “Ivy heading out for a long weekend with the girls:”

    HA! Yes. The driver for the hotel shuttle mocked our “very large suitcases”. We said, “No, no – those are regular size” and we all laughed hysterically. I don’t think I’m even that much of a heavy packer, but there are some vacations that require more stuff or outfits! And like RMS – I need extras because I spill and sweat. Definitely sweat. I don’t usually wear a lot of items more than once.

  151. What? Rhett being cost-conscious? Next thing you know he’ll be talking about MMM.

    Then again, nature does abhor a vacuum, and someone has to fill the void Milo has left.

  152. Oh, one more really really important overseas travel thing: check the trunk space/luggage room of the rental car you have reserved!! Even with just carry-ons, some of those European trunks are *very* small. On our British trip, we actually had to swap cars, because the car they gave us was “sportier” than the class we had reserved, which would be awesome if it was just the two of us, but we literally could not fit our suitcases in the back and had to swap it out.

  153. Rhett being cost-conscious? Next thing you know he’ll be talking about MMM.

    To fund long haul business class and staying at a Peninsula, so there is that. Or maybe an Aman, even!

  154. My motto when traveling with kids is to be like Nike and just do it. My kids act better out of the house than they do when we are at home. YMMV, but I hate staying home, so I drag them all kinds of places and it is usually fine.

  155. @Scarlett – I think I have that shammy towel. It works well. I mostly use it for yoga class though. It’s small enough to throw in the bag with my yoga mat. Generally I’m okay with hotel towels though.

  156. Yeah, we do weeks at the lake. I think the issue is space – we are always sharing a cabin or a house with someone else (like his sibling + family or my sibling + family) so he feels like he can’t get away.

  157. Kate,

    I know. But, an Aman? You know my love of hotels. That’s as high as it goes. Oh, it makes me giddy it do.

  158. L – cut down the time on those shared family vacations so that you have time to take your own family somewhere different every year.
    We have this sort of “must see cousins” but now it’s down to once a year as each family unit wants their independent vacation as well.

  159. LfB,

    We were originally planning to go to Europe, so I was looking at saver level business class award space on AA. Suddenly there was a ton, which is very rare. So I though wait a minute…. Let’s check BOS NRT…. Yes, tons of availability! I thought it was a mistake. But no, it went through and we’re now ticketed.

  160. Louise – thanks. Unfortunately those are the only vacations we take every year – 2 weeks. Maybe we can contribute more to one of the shared vacations so we can get our own cabin. ;)

  161. Rhett — want a full report after! Japan is extremely high on DH’s list (but hasn’t been on mine — the fact that I don’t really eat fish being a large part of that), so I am very interested in what the whole experience is like, and if that kind of blow-out hotel is worth it. (You are doing the Aman, right? Right?)

    And btw, you have been a good* influence on me. I am still not sorry I bought the car; in fact, I look at it and I think, you know, I saved for a long time, I’m 50, I can damn well enjoy some of the fruits of my labors. And I smile every single time I drive it. So, thanks for that. :-)

    *Unless you ask my mom or MMM, in which case you are Satan personified.

  162. LfB, when I was in Japan in the 80s, my friends and I ate way more noodles than fish.

  163. (You are doing the Aman, right? Right?)

    Not as of yet we’re booked at the Peninsula the last two days. We’re doing two days at the Park Hyatt on points, two days at the Ritz in Kyoto and then 2 more days back in Tokyo where I’ll actually have to pay for a hotel (shudder). Since so much is free I say splurge but I haven’t pulled the trigger yet.

  164. My family is really dying to go to China, Japan, and Australia. What gets us is the flights. I just can’t do coach for a flight that long. I’m sorry, but I can’t. And business class for 4 people is insanely expensive. Neither of us are road warriors, so the only way to earn points is through credit cards, which just doesn’t add up that much.

    DH says put us in business and the kids in coach, and that may be an option, but we had that one bad flying experience which makes me hesitant to separate.

  165. Lol at all the B&B comments. Fluffy, stuffy, and stuffed with overstuffed vintage stuff is not for me either, which is why I like the site I posted. The chateaus are too much; it’s the places that aren’t connected to luxury and nobility that interest me. (Someone mentioned Milo; I think he’d enjoy talking to the “hosts” at B&Bs). The medieval castles sound cool, in the summer (too cold in the winter). I wouldn’t want to do an extended stay in the Beauvoir Tower prison, but it might be fun for a night. The salt works place looks interesting with rooms that are goldilocks just right between comfortable and austere.
    I could get into the Abbey on the site’s intro page or the Saint Merry rectory in Paris, or this place in Valletta.

  166. May I introduce you to JAL’s highly regarded Premium Economy:

    Beautiful indeed. And perfect for internal flights. But I need lie flat, really, I do. Because I am a princess and not at all sorry about it.

  167. If you do the polar route from Chicago to Beijing, it is a little shorter flight. Also, I found that Cathay Pacific was pretty comfy even in cattle class.

  168. L, I agree with Kate and Louise. Cut back the extended family time at the lake to “only” 9 or 10 days and go somewhere with hubs and kids only. They’ll probably behave better than ever, and if not, then how else will they learn?

    You don’t have to go far. Try the Franklin Institute and Please Touch museum in Philly. Then hit a couple of historic sites and good restaurants at lunch, focusing on outdoor sites like Elfreths Alley or the equally cheesy Peddlers Village and places with good outdoor seating. Go to Diggerland and tell him it’s for the kids.

    Writing that paragraph, I think I just decided where to go for DS’s next birthday ;)

  169. Rhett, you’ve mentioned before that most people search by price only. How do you set up a search for flat seats on sale?

  170. L, that KOA-in-France type chain MM posted yesterday looked like it would work well for little kids, and at least the one I checked out had some whole houses with 3 to 5 bedrooms you could rent (gites), not just tent sites or cabins, so it seems workable for someone who wants to have time to himself out of the sun with his laptop.

  171. Rhett, excellent, thank you. I’m pretty sure we are going to do Boston + Iceland next summer, especially knowing about the flight out of Boston. Then maybe I’ll try for China, Japan, or Australia the following year. Gives me time to save my pennies.

    Please do give us a report on Japan.

  172. Rhett – just had a chance to look at Aman. Very cool. Have you ever booked through Virtuoso? They sometimes have really great deals/upgrades for fancy hotels.

  173. HM, I like that one. But I am picky. *I* want to go on a vacation that is not a lake, more like a London or Paris active vacation with museums and historical stuff and then go up to York and see some ruins. I adore ruins!,_York#/media/File:St_Marys_Abbey_Church_York.jpg

    I think I just need more vacation time AND more money. Unfortunately one lake vacation is with his family and one is with mine, so impossible to cut time.

  174. L, then obviously for your next “big” anniversary (anything divisible by 5), you want your whole family–both sides–together for a week at the lake. The trip to Europe can also be billed as part of that special year.

  175. Rhett, are you familiar with or the hotels offered through that site?

  176. We’re thinking New Zealand and Fiji for our next big trip, but it’s about 2 years away.

  177. We are going to Europe this summer for 12 days, with two kids. My plan is to do two carry-on suitcases and a backpack for each of us, and then do laundry 1-2 times while there (we have family to stay with for 1/2 the trip). I was also planning to pack a duffel bag to fill up with stuff and then drop it off at a postal office to mail back home before we leave. Has anyone done that successfully? I really don’t want to check in bags.

  178. Cal Atty, I did that coming back from Japan and it worked out well. I googled the concept ahead of time so I knew it was a thing and knew I could buy a box at the post office but should bring my own tape and marker.

  179. CalAtty, that sure sounds like it should work. And if it somehow doesn’t, you could fall back on checking the duffel through or having relatives take care of mailing it for you. I agree with HM on checking out as many details as you can before you go. Used to be that Germany expected boxes to be tied up in string. When I planned to use just tape, that was not one of my favorite things. Who knows what little oddities might be in the reqs where you are.

  180. International postage is crazy expensive now (at least from the US) as there is no cheap boat option. Three candy bars packed with cards from the kids costs us about $10 to get anywhere in the world. I would expect a duffle sized thing to cost several hundred to mail. Also, I don’t think it would be accepted if it wasn’t in a box. I don’t love checking things, but it is absolutely the cheapest way to move things across the ocean.

  181. Ada, you’re right, our package was around $90 for the slow speed (only took a week but was supposed to be a month). I don’t think it would have cost us anything to check another bag. But since we were travelling everywhere by train, it was worth it not to have to lug an extra bag from the neighborhood in Kyoto through the several train rides and connections between us and check-in at Narita.

  182. HM, a probably less expensive, but also less convenient, option might’ve been to send your stuff ahead to your last hotel. I’m not sure, but sending ahead to Narita was probably an option too.

  183. Good point, it’s likely much more expensive than just checking it in. I’ll do my research first. Thanks for the responses!

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