The Travel Bug

Written by admin on January 13, 2006 – 4:20 pm -

Many people think I should stay in France overseeing my “baby”, www.bonjourparis.com. The reality is the more I travel, the more I want to hop on a plane and explore the world. And this time, my husband Victor was having none of this, “I’m going on a press trip. See you in a week.” He was adamant that I wasn’t leaving home without him.

I loved having the companionship but worried about certain things.  Victor is 20 years older than I and would he be able to keep up with my pace? The reality is that he did more than fine.  There were times he’d grabbed a nap but I could always work.

Around-the-world trips present special challenges. Had we not just finished one, I’d never have known just how complex and precise the planning has to be. Visiting Paris from the US is a piece of cake compared to circling the world. Next time (and there will be more trips), I’ll use a spread sheet to organize all the components laid out.

First key piece of advice: If you’re going long haul and clocking thousands of miles or doing multiple stops, flying business class is not a luxury. It’ll ensure that you can walk – and stay awake – the next day. Usually it also gives you a more generous baggage allowance and use of airport club lounges (see below). The problem, of course, is the cost.

My husband and I lucked out and found Dave, http://www.ax.imptrav.com/ our new “best friend.”  For less than the cost of flying us west in business class from Paris to San Francisco, he was able to get us there by going in the opposite direction – through India, Cambodia, China and Japan, with LA, Washington and NY thrown in, before returning home to Paris. In other words, around the world.

The fat envelope with tickets arrived on schedule. It provided for thirteen stops, including some intra-country tickets – all in business class and all on major carriers. No trick tickets, changeable dates, valid for a year and yes, we’re earning frequent flyer points.

The only caveat: to save $1600 each, our trip had to originate in Stockholm rather than Paris. The additional tickets from Paris to Stockholm cost $80 each. No big deal. We seized the opportunity and spent the night at the elegant Grand Hotel overlooking the harbor. What are another two hours of air time and a relaxing overnight in a historic hotel?  We were starting our vacation in elegant style.

Dave’s air travel planning service  http://www.ax.imptrav.com/ was impeccable and very personalized. He swears computers help but aren’t essential to his company. Maybe it’s because he started the business when they didn’t exist.

In retrospect, ticketing may be the easy part. I won’t get into reserving hotels now. Just let me say this: that’s part of the fun – or the horror — depending on the places, dates and circumstances, and whether or not you’re the last minute type.

Some major considerations in planning your RTW adventure

Before leaving home:
Be sure to have a list of all of the medications you normally take. If you have any ongoing medical problems, ask you doctor to write a medical summary in the event another doctor needs the information.

Visas. Don’t forget that for some countries they’re still essential. If you require more than one, a visa service is often the way to go. Our current trip required three.  Rather than standing in line at three consulates, we used an expediter that charges a fee for their efforts plus the cost of the visas, etc. But, unless you have unlimited time (not to mention patience) and live in one of the few cities with all the consulates you need, you’ll be glad for the service. The expediter will require your passport, so be prepared to part with it for a minimum of ten days. Be sure to send passports by a tracked shipping service.

Vaccinations. Check which ones are required as soon as you’ve booked your trip, and whether your doctor can do them. Be sure you have them early enough to be effective. Road warriors to developing countries make sure to keep them up to date. It had been a while since I’d been inoculated for polio and Hepatitis B so after my boosters and shots for ominous new diseases, I felt like a pin cushion.

Travel Insurance. Buy repatriation insurance if your company or travel agent doesn’t provide it. If you plan more than a couple of overseas trips a year, it makes sense to buy a one year policy instead of the one-trip version. A year’s repatriation insurance policy costs about $200. It will make sure you don’t get stranded in a place that doesn’t offer the right medical facilities. If needs be you‘ll be flown to a hospital that does, and by a well-staffed medical jet – a sort of flying ambulance. All arrangements (they can be very complicated) and costs are taken care of by the insurer. Keep in mind that features and benefits vary by company and by price level.

Health Kit. You may need one some day – really need it — so you might as well have it with you. During these days of increased health concerns, here’s a list of things you may want to pack (but please check with your doctor and/or consult www.travel.state.gov):

Cipro (a powerful wide-spectrum antibiotic)

Tamiflu (not that you’re planning to kiss any live chickens). Some countries such as Vietnam are pulling it off the open market so that the ten-day treatment can now be administered only by a doctor.

Anti-malaria pills (for Africa and India plus some other countries)

Airborne (an herbal remedy that some people swear by) that allegedly keeps people from getting sick while sitting on plane breathing re-circulated air.

Boroleum (a great ointment to keep nasal passages clear and for superficial cuts and sores)

Anti-Diarrhea medication (a MUST!)

Purell hand sanitizer (1/2 ounce bottles are the easiest to pocket)

Lip balm

Baby Wipes (you’ll be glad you brought them along under so many circumstances…’nuff said).

Some doctors recommend taking packaged syringes from the US or the EU. We didn’t go that far.

Red Tape and Other Aggravations:

Getting to and from airports, clearing security and customs… some airports are clearly better than others when it comes to minimizing bureaucratic hassles. If only airports would standardize methods. But after 9/11, dream on.

Some airports require you have all your baggage x-rayed and given the security officer’s stamp of approval even before arriving at the check-in counter.  If you’re traveling heavy, your back may be aching by the time you get to the front of the security line – especially when it feels as if the word “line” isn’t anyone’s vocabulary. For example, Delhi.

Our first airport in Asia, Delhi, was a nightmare. From the time we hit the ground to when we were greeted (thank God)! by our Taj hotel driver, nearly three hours had gone by. We were extracted from the crowds, relieved of our luggage and rushed into a car where there were hot towels and bottles of cold water waiting. Total chaos as people had to push and shove to get to immigration control. There were no provisions for queues or cops to keep order. While we were in India, numerous outraged letters were printed in the Hindustan Times over the situation the airport. Authorities clearly weren’t anticipating times of high influx. To add to the traffic, this past November two additional non-stop flights – Continental and American — from the US to Delhi were inaugurated.

Airport Lounges:  If you’re flying business or first class, you’ll automatically be presented lounge passes with your boarding tickets. If you’re flying coach, invest in a Priority Pass. Being able to relax or work, have something to drink or just snooze in a quiet place is a godsend especially if there’s a delay, as often happens in developing countries.

Reserving cars to meet you:

I used to think this was an unnecessary extravagance. But if you’re arriving in a country where you speak not one word of the language, a hotel driver greeting and delivering you to the airport and facilitating your check out and can be well worth the extra money. The drivers and the hotel representatives have an on-going relationship with the airline counter personnel. Probably they’ll be able to sneak through a few extra pounds of luggage.

Too Much Luggage … Never again!

Traveling light may not be an option if you’re going to be away for an extended period; or, more specifically, jumping from one climate to another and back again. During this trip, we’ve needed to be dressed for all climates – from tropical to cold-and-snowy, and for social situations from utterly casual to prim and proper. (Thank goodness for silk long underwear and permanent press!)

Another pitfall: If you are traveling to China, Viet Nam, Thailand and other low-cost countries, acquisitive types may not be able to resist the urge to buy.

We ended up doing our gift shopping for the next 22 years — including having to buy an additional mega suitcase to transport all of our treasures.


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