Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Plan Ahead Travel Ideas

My Travel Pre-Checklist includes a lot of details that when once accomplished can make my trip easier, more comfortable, and with less hassles.

A few weeks before I go, I call my mobile provider (I use T-Mobile whom I have found to be very helpful both at home and abroad) to determine their international rates to call to/from the countries I’ll be visiting. Usually, it’s more than I want to pay, so I’ll check to see if using my phone on its Wifi settings will avoid those charges or reduce them. I mostly make my calls using Skype (with my computer or using the application for my BlackBerry), or send text messages to locals whom I need to contact.

I also arrange in advance to have my phone unlocked (by my mobile provider) so it will accept a foreign SIM card which allows me to buy an in-country card (if I think I’ll be doing lots of calling to exceed the $25 that these cards seem to cost) and install it in my phone when I arrive. I have to remember that when I’m using the foreign SIM card, it prevents me from getting my e-mail, so sometimes it’s not the best deal. However, the SIM card can be swapped quickly and is a good option for those who need to make lots of calls abroad.

I do sign up for the International roaming on my mobile which allows me to pick up my e-mail on my BlackBerry 8120 Pearl at a very reasonable $5 per week. Keeping up with those e-mails that are critical is a big bonus to making my return home less hassle-filled. T-mobile allows me to start and stop the service exactly when I specify, so I call them a few days or weeks before I leave and arrange to have the service in effect for the days I know I’ll be gone. When I board my flight out of the U.S., just before they close the door and I have to turn off my phone, I set my mobile to call-forwarding to send any incoming calls to my home number where my answering machine will catch all the calls in one place. This saves me paying long distance international charges for wrong numbers or non-critical calls. I send an e-mail to my friends giving my itinerary and suggesting that if they want to contact me while I’m gone, the best way if by e-mail as I’ll receive it immediately. A call, I tell them, will just get forwarded to my home number, which I’ll check for messages several times per week from abroad using Skype.

To charge my mobile phone I’ll be sure to take with me the USB adapter so I can charge it through my computer. This saves me having to carry the AC adapter and a converter. I do carry, however, the car charger (or a plug-in car adapter that allows me to plug the USB cord into that auto plug) so I can re-charge if I’m driving or being driven during my trip. A spare phone battery is also a must, along with the ear plugs. By the way, the new Comply NR-10i (www.complyfoam.com) in-ear noise canceling ear phones work great for making calls in noisy environments, like in a car or bus/train station. I like their NR-10 earphones to use on my flights because I can eliminate the tiring airplane noises while being able to hear seat-mates talk. I can also plug into the airplane’s audio system or listen to my own iPod or computer. Sleeping with the Comply Foam headsets is much more comfortable than using an over-the-ear style noise-reduction headset, particularly if I want to turn head from side to side while resting.

More tips next time on packing, finances, paperwork and in-flight comforts…

Fly Smart, Fly Safe,

Captain Karen