More Travel Tips from a Now “More-Seasoned” Traveler

By Carrie Pokrefke

I went on a month-long trip to the southern hemisphere and have come back with more travel tips to add to my previous “travel tips” blog post.  I’ve never taken a trip for that long.  The closest to a month that I’ve been gone is when I went to DC for three weeks for training after college.  Being gone for an extended period presents a whole new set of challenges.  Add to that it was to remote areas of the world and with two entirely different climates.

1)  Since I was going to Antarctica, I knew I needed emergency medical evacuation insurance.  (It costs about $40,000 to be medically evacuated from there.)  I called a few companies that offer emergency medical evacuation coverage, but most wouldn’t come to Antarctica to get me.  Turns out that my primary medical insurance DOES cover medical evacuations from Antarctica and they actually had to do one a few months ago.  While my primary insurance company would get me OUT of Antarctica and to the nearest medical facility, they would not take me home.

I knew I wanted travel insurance in case any of my flights were delayed or if something big happened.  Turns out that the company I got my policy from would have brought me home from the “nearest medical facility” if I had been evacuated from Antarctica.  A serious medical event that required me to be medically evacuated would have triggered a “disruption in a trip” and that’s how I would have been able to get all the way home.

Tips:  Get travel insurance within 21 days of paying for your first part of your trip.  Most companies will only let you purchase the “cancel for any reason option” if you buy the policy within so many days of your first deposit or booking.  Check to find out if your primary medical insurance company will evacuate you from where you are visiting.  If not, research companies that offer medical evacuation services.  Ask where they will take you and ask if they will take you home.

2)   I kept a file folder for all the physical files I received the months leading up to my trip.  I used Google Docs to put all my flight and hotel information into one place.  The day I left, I printed out all the information, so I had it all in the one physical file.  I wasn’t sure when or if I could get to the internet if I had to in an emergency.  Share your travel plans with someone back home.  Since my travel info was in Google Docs, it was easy to send all my contact info to my parents.

Tips:  Maintain all your travel plans in one place. Keep a file folder handy and as you get any information (travel insurance policies, itineraries, contact information, etc).  If you receive anything electronically, print it out and keep it in your folder.  Consider keeping all the electronic information in one place and printing it out before you leave.

3)  Since I went to Antarctica and Easter Island, I had to pack clothes for two different climates AND stay under the weight limit for checked baggage.  All my flights in South America were on LAN Airlines.  They have a max limit of two checked bags with a max weight of 50 pounds.  I called the airline to try to figure out what the charge would be if I went over the weight limit.  I never got the same answer when I called the airline, so I decided my best strategy was to keep my luggage under 50 pounds and to keep it all in one piece.

When I started working on my packing list, I realized that my suitcase was “too heavy” and was cutting into my 50 pounds.  At 12.8 pounds, that only left 31 pounds for clothes.  It sounds like a lot of weight, but my boots alone weighed 3 pounds and I knew I had to get my parka home that was waiting for me on the ship.  (Plus, I had to allow for any souvenirs that I wanted to buy).  I bought a hand-held luggage scale and went suitcase shopping.  I found a larger piece that weighed only 9.2 pounds. Doesn’t sound like much weight difference, but 3.6 pounds is a lot of weight when you are packing for a month.

Tips:  Find out your airlines’ baggage restrictions well before you leave.  If you have a frequent flyer status or credit card with any airline, you might have more leniency when it comes to the number of bags or the weight of your bags.  Also, airlines usually have different limits for domestic and international flights.  Consider the weight of your luggage.  It might be more cost-effective to purchase a new suitcase vs. the risk of getting charged an overage fee.  If you do decide to purchase a new piece, invest in a small, hand-held digital luggage scale for your shopping trip.  Many suitcases that I looked at said that they were “Light!” when they were actually 12 or 13 pounds.  Also, a lot of suitcases aren’t labeled with their weight.  (Having the hand-held luggage scale also helps when you are all packed up and ready to go, instead of having to step on your bathroom scale with a full suitcase.)  Another good idea I learned from one of my shipmates – pack old clothes that you don’t want anymore for your trip.  When your trip is over, you can leave them behind for someone else that can use them.  She left her clothes for the crew on the ship and says that’s how she travels.

What travel tips do you have to share??