When do I need a Passport?

passportIt seems so confusing, but it is not.  I will cover the Passport Card in a separate Post but in general, you need a Valid Passport if:

  • you are flying into or out of the United States of America
  • you traveling into or out of the U.S. by land border-crossings or ports-of-entry by sea from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda

However, there is an Exemption if you are cruising from a U.S. Port and returning to the same U.S. Port.  Other paperwork can be used instead. Continue reading When do I need a Passport?

Credit Cards / Debit Cards when traveling

Do not forget to notify your credit card company when you are traveling.  It would be unfortunate if your card was flagged for possible fraud and you were out of town or even out of the country.  Bring 2 cards with you for this very reason.

Debit Cards – use at ATMs to get local currency, conversion rates for the day’s activity are used.  Make sure you know if there are any fees.

Credit Cards – Companies do not have to use the current day’s exchange rate and you may pay a higher exchange rate than you anticipated.  Also, some companies charge a fee for this service.

When looking for a travel card, look at your local credit unions.  Our local credit union does not charge a currency exchange fee.  Also, the Visa Check Card can act as either a debit card or a credit card.  If you don’t already have an account at a credit union, open one and use it just for travel.  Our local credit union can now print your Debit Card on-site.  Since Credit Unions are actually owned by the users, they usually do not have fees or have much lower fees.

When you are traveling or when you are at home, it has become more important to protect your credit and debit cards.  I see videos all the time on how credit card information is stolen.  I purchased some RFID blockers before my last trip (from amazon).  The package was so big that I shared with my family and everyone has their cards in them all the time.

Packing for Portugal & Spain

I spent quite a bit of time researching and trying to figure out what to pack for our trip. We traveled in late April / early May.  Hope this helps you pack for your trip!

Here is a list of what I packed:

  1. Black pants (they are yoga pants but they aren’t tight on my legs and they pass for dress pants – daughter approved)
  2. Gray pants (similar to the black pants)
  3. White pants
  4. Jeans
  5. 3 pairs of shorts in the same shade as each pair of pants (black, white, jeans) — I only wore 1 pair of shorts but several people in our group wore them more often.
  6. A dress shirt that matched both the black pants and the white pants — wore this to our farewell dinner.
  7. Enough Shirts to wear each one twice
  8. 3 scarves to wear with my plain t-shirts (mix-n-match)
  9. Cardigan for the plane and evenings – brought the one that doesn’t wrinkle easily and is easily stuffed into my bag.
  10. Black warmer jacket
  11. Rain Poncho. This is also easily stuffed into my bag when not in use.
  12. Walking shoes – my research said that women in Europe do not wear tennis shoes — our guide agreed but I saw many tennis type shoes for sale in the shops and I saw many people wearing them.
  13. Chargers and Two converters — good thing because 1 broke!
  14. Sinus medication — packed extra and I am so glad — it was a late spring and my sinuses were very active.
  15. Lotion — I come from a humid climate and it was very dry there — so glad I had some good quality lotion because the lotion provided in the hotels is ok but not great.
  16. Snacks
  17. 31 Vary You bag that turns into a backpack.  I don’t like the backpack very much but I do like the extra zippered pouch that pick-pockets cannot get into.  The inside compartment is large enough for my cardigan and rain jacket and tissues and hand sanitizer and more.
  18. ATM card — super easy to use and get money.  Credit Card in case I had problems with the ATM card.  Read my blog post on this subject.
  19. Travel steamer — what a great idea — it doesn’t really wash out stains but it kills all the germs in the clothes so when I wanted to wear something a second time, I steamed it and told Mom that I was “doing my laundry”.
  20. Bus Bag / Plane bag — this was a easily folded-up bag that I used to carry the airplane pillow, blanket, books etc on the airplane.  While touring I used it for anything I wanted to have with me but not carry around, like the rain poncho or walking shoes and anything I bought.  I bought it on clearance from Travel Smith but I liked the lightweight bag my mom had better — it just crumpled up and fit into her purse or suitcase.
  21. Sunscreen — needed it almost every day
  22. My Kindle e-reader and some paperback books with short stories.  (My kindle does not have the ‘special offers’ and I love that).  The paperbacks took lots of space so I left them behind when I was finished reading – I only brought them in case I couldn’t read the kindle on the plane during takeoff and landing.  The Kindle e-reader is awesome, it is lightweight, mine has a back-light and keeps the charge for a long time.  I pre-loaded lots of books to read and never ran out.

Here is a list of what I wish I had packed:

  1.  An umbrella to go with my poncho.  Sometimes it just sprinkled a little bit and a small umbrella would have been nice instead of having to get in and out of the poncho.
  2. Puffs-plus.  I had sinus problems and remembered to bring the medication but had a difficult time finding soft tissue.
  3. Charmin Toilet Paper – not going to discuss this but I think you understand
  4. Wash Cloth
  5. Second pair of walking shoes — just one pair was not enough.

Things I didn’t need:

  1.  Shampoo, conditioner, soap — provided by every hotel.  I would only pack a single sample of each in case of an emergency.

Good Ideas / Bad Ideas:

  1. I was concerned that eating lunch at 2pm and dinner at 8pm would cause me problems but after the first week I didn’t need any additional snacks.  I would still take snacks but not quite so many — plenty of stores around if I needed to restock.
  2. I wore flip-flops on the plane — that was also a great idea!
  3. Pack your toothbrush & toothpaste in your carry-on.   After the over-night flight you will be happy you did!
  4. Leave room in your suitcase for purchases or bring stuff you will use or leave behind (like paperback books), leaving extra room in your suitcase.