Terrorism and Travel

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On May 22, another act of senseless and cruel terrorism occurred in Manchester, England. The fact that it targeted children and young adults has shocked many in the world, however brought together a beautiful city of caring inhabitants. This is their city, and they will not allow this terrible atrocity to do further injury. The government’s response is to go into the UK Terror Level of the highest “Critical”. Troops are deployed to work with law enforcement.

I remember my first trip to London back in my university days. I arrived a few weeks after a terrorist attack. I was very young and had just come from the bubble of American life where we were mostly untouched by such acts. I read the local papers and went to where it happened and looked around. Londoners were determined to carry on. It was a truly humbling experience to talk with locals.

Many other cities in the UK are on high alert now because they have very public events going on. In Scotland, where I am going, concert venues are stepping up security and soldiers are being deployed to guard nuclear facilities and infrastructure that may be possible targets.

As a traveler the summer, you will be experiencing heightened security on planes due to the new laptop and devices restrictions. There will now be another layer of security in airports due to these recent events of terrorism in several cities around the globe. Prepare yourself for longer times in customs and be patient. Much of what is being done is for your security. Add an hour to your pre-flight time.

Show solidarity when you travel. If you are traveling to any of the cites recently affected by these events, show your support in your tourism by participating in the economy and talking to local people. Listen to what they are saying and experience their cities’ greatness. Let them start the conversation.

For more reading:

http://www.bbc.com/news/live/uk-england-manchester-40007967
http://www.scotsman.com/regions/glasgow-strathclyde/scottish-concert-venues-increase-security-after-manchester-attack-1-4455976
http://www.scotsman.com/regions/edinburgh-fife-lothians/in-pictures-armed-police-deployed-across-scotland-1-4455556

Roam Where You Want To, International Travel Plans

15143063700_5a55e99829_oOne week into the last trip and my minutes and data I had purchased from my cellular provider had run out of time. Glasgow had sucked up a great deal of minutes. The constant use of apps and maps on the phone, even after turning off all apps running in the background, had blown through the mid level pricing plan plan I had purchased. It’s no wonder. The carriers I had to backbone on changed every five minutes it seemed in some locations, especially traveling on trains. Gotta use that WiFi more if it’s up on the trains.

Roam Around The World

When you go overseas or over the border, the carriers will change the minute you land. Your provider will charge you phenomenal fees if you roam. You contact your carrier before you go and purchase a travel plan. There are usually several tiers of service and most of us will pick the one up from the lowest priced plan. Don’t. I know it’s painful to look at, but just buy the plan that is unlimited, and read the fine print. No matter what you think, you will blow through the other plans in a matter of days. That is unless you are very careful, and turn the phone off most days.

Traveling with companions can cut down on many costs. One of these can be coordinating who has phone access live. That’s right, if you are a group traveling and have only two of you up and live at one time, and the others completely turn off the phone, you can keep costs and phone charging way down. If you are brave enough to coordinate so. Then fight that impulse.

Pricing and Decisions

So, to get through your trip without having to think too much about a $500.00 bill when you get back, you will probably have to go for a $300.00 unlimited plan. I would still turn off all background data for the apps as this will suck data power on your phones. You will probably need to recharge often, carry your power converter with you. I would still ask the rep what unlimited truly means, there may be some other charges that happen while say AT&T is using Vodaphone in the UK. Be prepared to get a surprise when you get back, regardless.

Surprise

Got your iPad or other tablet with you and it’s got it’s own phone number as back up in the states? Guess what, while you are using it, this second phone is also racking up background data on your account. If you really don’t use the phone number as a phone, disconnect it before you leave. WiFi is in most hotel and accommodations, and there are apps to help you locate local free hotspots you can access.

Want to feel the international spy feel? You could try a pay as you go Euro phone. Would it be a good idea to buy a throw away phone and prepay minutes? If you really want to spend your time having to reload minutes while traveling, and you really are a stickler for budget, you could go this route. The cost on the prepay could be appealing, but the amount of minutes you would have to reload with and data would possibly mean more money if you count the time you spend on it.

Go Retro

Go offline. Eek. Yes, you are on holiday. Put it off and away when you are not using it for a walking tour. Get a physical map, you know the quaint old time things that you fold out? Or the free one that you get at your lodgings. It does scream tourist? Yes, but so does following a map app all through the city.

Do check in with your provider and see what plans they offer for overseas travel for the dates you will be planning. There are always new plans, and you need to really look at them to see if they are right for you. Make sure that the plan starts the day of travel before you leave since you will be on different carrier the minute you get off the plane. Good luck.

Further Readings
https://www.whistleout.com/CellPhones/Guides/global-roaming-which-carrier-is-best
http://www.androidcentral.com/international-roaming

Travel Insurance, The Necessary Evil

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Getting ready for the trip in two months, I had to do the reality check on mortality and everything else that is taken for granted in your home country. That’s right, the whether to buy a vacation insurance package or not for your upcoming trip. What could really go wrong on a trip you have planned on for months. Just about everything.

Flight Insurance

Yep, your flight you have booked for months can get cancelled. Granted, airlines are responsible to a degree to get you on another flight, but if it ends up being on another airlines so you can make a connecting flight, you may have to haggle to not pay a difference in ticket costs. Demand that the airlines cover this of course, but there may be a different story at the other ticket counter and you will have to eat it until you can get the airlines to reimburse you. Or, make a claim on the flight insurance you hopefully bought. Since I got my tickets at a steal last fall, I am only covered for the $876.39. That’s the trip cancellation. Trip interruption, caused by airline having to rebook flight, is about $1,300.00. Considering that will probably be what it would take to book a flight suddenly, I may eventually not be at a loss.

Baggage Loss

I call it loss. It’s lost until you find it. And sometimes you can’t find it. Airlines call it misplaced or some other marketing name that doesn’t seem so disastrous. It’s still a disaster to you. Sad thing is the insurance companies will barely cover $1000.00 of loss. That doesn’t cover the laptop you will be forced to put in your luggage now, much less the clothing. You will need to shop around for travel insurance that covers your losses with luggage. And make sure it does not exclude electronics. Electronics like an iPad fall under the luggage category and many insurance carriers require you have the original receipts for your items. I have no clue where those are. I used to keep every single receipt, of course now that I need it… The baggage loss for overseas is not covered by federal regulations. So I am lucky I get $750.00. That will barely cover a iPad that I don’t have original receipts for. Wait, I bought that at Apple, I could bother their customer service to help me research back 3 years, right?

Laptop Travel Ban Expansion Imminent

Search Me? New Travel Restrictions, Customs Searches, and Your Mobile Phone

Medical

Sadly in the US, we still don’t really have socialized medical care. And our company issued insurance will do anything to not cover any claim. It certainly won’t cover you when in another country, and it’s a battle if you are in another state to get coverage if you get in an accident. Research the medical coverage portion of the policy you are buying. The policy I have covers $50k, and EMC and Transport to hospital is $25K. This may cover a small portion of a hospital stay and won’t cover any operations that may ensue. If you are in a socialized country, you will receive treatment but they will still come after you for a bill. If you are in a EU country and from another EU country, some things will be covered, but not all. I would advise trying to bump the insurance coverage up to $100k if you can. You may need to get a supplemental plan when traveling.

Mortality

I just called the policyholder today and informed them of my beneficiaries name for the accidental death coverage. Good thing I thought of it. It’s easy to not think about death when you are on the vacation you’ve waited months for. What, “I am inflatable” you think. Think again.

No one likes to think of their demise happening when you finally get on that trip. But it does happen. From the minute I get off the plane in a country that is left hand drive, I start self talking the “Look to the right” for cars immediately. Unfortunately, tourists do die while away from home. Could be traffic, could be a mugging gone wrong. Or your health gives out with a heart attack. Then your loved ones are left with the impossible task of getting your remains back to home. I have read articles of family and friends having to run crowdfunding campaigns just to bring a body home. It’s not just a simple matter of getting a plane ticket for a body. Each country has their laws for the transport of a body on planes and trains. There are fees. I have read that it can cost upwards of $5000.00 just to bring a body back. Got life insurance back home. It may cover just the loss of your life, the income loss to family. It will not cover transport costs. Will the $50k really cover my life? I have other life insurance, but there is probably some fine print about being in another country.

Read the accidental death coverage for the insurance, and any fine print.

Who to Go With

I chose the the insurance company preferred by the airline. Probably a mistake, but looking at all the other choices was getting to be a chore. I am not taking equipment with me. That is when you really need to pay attention. If you are really into your camera or are a professional film crew, of course you have to go with industry standard insurance coverage if you can get it. Your average person used to be able to carry cameras and laptops in carry on and I would still recommend that you do. However TSA rules are changing due to terrorism threats, laptops and electronics being the place to conceal explosives now. And you should lock your carry on luggage for when you have to use the toilets, the can get riffled through on a flight in the overhead.

So, who do you go with for coverage? The one that is offered at ticket checkout may cover your very basic needs. However, if you have the time, do a little research on reviews and complaints against carriers. Make sure you get and print out your Policy Confirmation Letter. Make sure you make 2 copies, one you will have with your other travel plans folder and the one you leave with your beneficiary of the life insurance. Do a specific quirk search on each travel insurance company, and search for complaints against them.

Further Reading
http://www.travelinsurancereview.net/faqs/does-travel-insurance-cover-laptops-and-tablets/
http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/06/do-you-need-travel-insurance/index.htm
http://lifehacker.com/do-i-really-need-to-buy-travel-insurance-1674681487
https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-cards/credit-cards-offer-lost-baggage-insurance/

Scotrail Disruptions, Again and Buying Train Tickets Well in Advance for Best rates

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Just my luck. Looks like my main hub travel plans out of Glasgow will be impeded yet again this summer. Not a rail strike, but line improvements. I just have all the luck. So the 6 hour trip turns into 7 hours. At least it’s through the Highlands and can make up for delays once I get going. Unless clouds of midges take over the tracks.

To economize on travel, I was buying my train tickets for my journeys as some of the dates had finally opened up at Scotrail booking and I could purchase two months out. I learned long ago that sometimes the rail cards just don’t help if you are coming from another country, you pay a lot of money for something that is supposed to save you fare money and during festival season, it’s hard to just walk on and get a seat. Everyone else pre-books, so do as the natives do. Set up a free account on rail lines ahead online and you can manage your journeys.

Warning, when reserving online, not all rail stations have a machine where you can retrieve your pre-bought tickets. Check the messages you get while purchasing and make note if you will need to pick up ticket at a larger station like Queen Street or Central on your way out for other trips you are taking.

Why the concern? Rail journeys are not as economical as they used to be. In some cases it is cheaper to drive by car for most residents of the UK. But if you don’t have the luxury, and that is what it is in the UK and Ireland, of having a motorcar at your disposal, you are dependent on public transit.

However, for the most part, public transit is in far superior shape in the UK and Ireland than in many parts of the US. You may not know the routes but you can figure them out with many city routes apps that are available. Printed time tables can be difficult to read coming from the US as the format is a bit different than we are used to, so grabbing a free transit App map is convenient.

The cost of train rides can get high. I did some research on buying tickets 2 weeks out on Scotrail going from Queen Street Glasgow to Inverness/Kyle of Lochhalsh, £73.00. Yikes. Adding in the trip back out to Edinburgh at around £43.00, it was getting expensive. I remembered some train chats I had last year with some frequent travelers in Scotland. They said book online 1 to 2 months out if you have set travel days, and you could get a deal. So after waiting for the schedules to get a few months out, I finally did my round of bookings and saved heaps. What was getting close to £115.00 is now about half that. I also was able to splurge on a first class in the Virgin East Coast line for less than Edinburgh usually runs on that line. Wow, I get to see what their tea trolly looks like, or do they have a bar? Hmmm, mimosas?

Delays Expected on These Trains in Glasgow Through 2017

Bad news, there will be delays. At least the Clockwork Orange subway will be running this year I hope. Last year it was under improvements. Yeah, I geek on the weirdest things. I like subways sometimes. The Clockwork Orange is one of the oldest subway systems in the world. It runs a circle under Glasgow, making it very convenient for a hop on and off to neighborhoods. There is also a student pub crawl that uses the system for a ripping night out. Bring plenty of coin, bills don’t do so well with the public transit systems in Scotland. They have an app, so download it at Google Play or iTunes. Nice thing about a loop is you can always get  back if you miss the station. Try to get a day pass if you can.

You can now buy tickets with a phone app, pilot program.

Now if Iarnród Éireann would open up their bookings a for July, I could get set.

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Photo ©2011 by Greg Neate

 

£ 5.00 Pound Stirling Paper is Now Worthless, New Issue Polymer Only

Got any £5.00 notes from your last journey? Worthless now. May 5 was the deadline to turn in the old bank notes. Not so good for those of us trying to change money in US and other countries. If you are ordering cash for your trip, play it safe and get denominations £20.00 and £50.00 if you must have the cash. The new tenner note £10.00,  is due in a few months. You may be able to specify through your bank to get the new “plastic” notes, but just play it safe. Of course, you can just use your travel card, but it is good to have some cash on you for airport and taxi use. You don’t have fees with that unless you exchange it. Check that you receive change in the new polymer style notes if you are traveling over the next few months if it’s fiver in the UK, Scotland and N. Ireland. They have a plastic feel and look like:
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And for you Jane fans, the new tenner will look like this:

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The date for the Jane will coincide with her birthday, July 18th 200 birthday.

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Scotland’s new polymers were issued last fall, but UNLIKE their British counterparts, they are pulled as they come in from circulation and replaced with the new notes. A much more sensible solution.

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See the Scottish policies here

http://www.scotbanks.org.uk/banknotes.html

 

Articles and Resources

How to Spend or Exchange £5.00 Now They Are Not Legal Tender

https://www.thesun.co.uk/money/3409365/old-5-pound-notes-legal-tender/

 

http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/valuable-5-pound-notes-numbers-8903425?service=responsive

 

Official B of E Statements

http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes/polymer/Pages/default.aspx

 

Current Banknotes News

http://www.acbi.org.uk/rbs.php