If all goes well in about 6 weeks from when this is being written I will be off on my first trip “overseas” and headed towards Egypt! Land of the Pharaohs, pyramids, temples, and the fabled Nile River – on which I will be cruising.
I’ll be honest, I did not expect my first trip abroad to be to Africa. In fact the dream is still to take a cross-European trip from London to Rome via Disneyland…er…I mean Paris and other points of interest along the way. In 2019, with the urging of friends who suggested that I travel with them for my first overseas adventure, I had planned to go to Greece. But, you know, COVID…
So, now that I’m fully vaccinated and ready to see the world again those same friends and I will be heading to explore a culture that pre-dates the Greeks. I thought it might be useful to others to share some of my trip prep and my decision making as I get ready for this new adventure.
Alone or With A Group?
I recall reading somewhere that famed travel guru Rick Steves said that the best way to travel as solo (never mind that he often travels with an entire television production crew). The reason being that if you travel alone you will be treated as a person. Go in a big group and you will be treated as a group. Two very different experiences – by yourself you have the opportunity for conversation and getting to know other people. In a group, you will be mostly talked at and instructed on where to go and what to do. Also, you are traveling in a virtual “bubble” when you travel with a group. Sure you’ll meet people – but they will mostly be people in your group and likely from your country. Which works against getting to know another culture.
But there are advantages to traveling with a group, especially for the first timer (me). As part of a group tour most of the details are arranged for you. I don’t have to worry about hotel, transportation, or meals. Also, the language barrier is essentially eliminated which is a plus and a minus I think.
There are, of course, many touring agencies who offer a variety of trips. In this case we decided to sign up for a trip offered by Road Scholars. From what I can tell it seems to be a fairly standard package (my alumni association offers almost the same package), but it does offer an educational component that I think some tours lack and the price was reasonable. Over the course of two weeks we will visit Cairo, see the major historical sites, and cruise the Nile.
Getting Ready – Practical Matters
Even with the big items being taken care of there is plenty for me to arrange on my own:
- Passport/Visa – my passport is good for several more years and the Visa is actually purchased when I arrive.
- Medications – if you are like me and a mature traveler with a couple medical conditions I bet you take a few pills each day. Don’t get caught short. Make sure all your prescriptions are filled before leaving and that you have enough to take with you – plus a few extra in case of delays. The recommendation is to take the original containers that your pills came in so that airport security and customs can better identify what you are carrying.
- Other Medical Concerns – the flight over to our first stop in Frankfurt, Germany is more than 8 hours in duration and an overnight flight. I’ll need my CPAP for sure. While most modern plans have outlets I noted that our airline could not guarantee this. So I’m investing in a battery for my CPAP (good for power outages at home, too). The battery will also have to be registered with the airline’s Medical Operation Centre.
- Cell/Mobile Phone – verify that you have a “global” plan for your phone. Of course, you should be able to use it with Wi-Fi whenever available but you don’t want to be surprised with unexpected roaming charges while abroad.
- Electricity – oddly enough electric outlets are not universal throughout the world nor are electric supplies. Get some adapters and make sure that any electronics you take with you can handle the voltage where you are going. You may need additional transformers.
- Cash – Road Scholars suggests taking a certain amount in cash and to exchange once we arrive. However my friends, who have taken a few international trips already, feel it’s best to exchange currency with your bank before heading out.
- Credit Cards – Visa may be accepted everywhere but save yourself the hassle of fraud prevention turning off your card when you might need it most. Contact your card provider to alert them of your travel dates and destinations at least a couple weeks before you leave.
- Join the airline’s frequent flyer “miles” club. This trip should earn me a couple!
Pre Trip Education
One other thing I am doing is reading up about where we’ll be going on our tour. I’ve started with some of the books that Road Scholar recommended and am also doing some reading on my own as well (it’s a good thing I never throw out my old National Geographic Magazines!).
What other ideas or suggestions do you have when prepping for an international trip? I’d love to hear them! Comment below or on my Facebook page (@JourneyswithDave).
More on my trip to Egypt to come!
All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted in which case the original artist retains all rights. Otherwise photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr