I have my first real vacation coming up in October. It’s been a long time since I’ve traveled to another country. When my husband was alive, he had his passport but never wanted to travel outside the U.S. I wanted him to see some of the countries I visited after high school but he never had the curiosity for international travel. It’s a shame. I would’ve liked to experience another adventure with him. I lost him in 2014 and have missed him every day. It’s been a process of redefining who I am without him, but with every day that passes, I feel stronger and more hopeful.
I didn’t write for two years after he died. I was in a fog for a long time. Faced with selling my large home and an extra car and downsizing was a daunting task, but I had lots of support. After a friend contacted me to write for her Amazon Kindleworlds, I finally got back into writing and that helped me deal with my grief. I wrote about it. In the many characters I developed in my Amazon novellas and in the novels I’ve written after my husband died, I explored my emotional frailties through the eyes of my characters. Writing helped me heal. I will never be whole again, but through hardships, you develop strength and you see how important friends and family can be. In many ways, I’ve been blessed.
This trip is more than exploring the world and meeting new people. It’s an awakening for me. It’s as exciting as it is frightening but I can’t wait to get the first stamp in my passport and I have more trips planned over the next two years.
This year, my travel plans will be to the Lakes District of northern Italy and Milan. The area is nestled into the Swiss Alps, on the border with Italy, and covers beautiful lakes (Lake Como, Bellagio and Maggiore) with quaint villages, shopping and restaurants on glistening waters. It’s picture post card scenery when you see the idyllic images of this beautiful part of the world.
I will also visit Milan, the fashion district of Italy, and there are other daily excursions to different islands using a ferry system. A rail system can also get me into Switzerland on my free time, between organized day trips.
I’m looking forward to seeing the LAST SUPPER by Leonardo da Vinci (housed in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan) and the iconic La Scala Theatre and its Opera museum.
I’m traveling as a solo traveler with a small 28-person tour organized by the Traveling Aggies (an association of former A&M students, but you don’t have to be alumni to travel with them) through AHI Travel. It may be a little intimidating to travel solo, but I am looking forward to meeting the group under the guidance of an established travel guide and Texas hosts.
This is my first adventure, but I have friends and family lined up as travel companions for trips in 2020-2021. I’m planning a river cruise with some dear friends in 2020 into Europe and have a Germany trip in the planning stages with my older brother and his wife for July 2020.
I feel very unprepared for travel these days, but would like to ask help from you seasoned travelers.
I’ve learned that I can get TSA pre-check for US domestic flights–to avoid the longer security checks by obtaining an early background check for ease of travel–or I can also get something more global. GlobalEntry.Gov is geared more for international travel, but also covers domestic flights. For those unfamiliar, the GlobalEntry.Gov application costs $100 but also pays for TSA Precheck on domestic flights. I had already paid $85 for TSA precheck when I could have paid $100 for the Global Entry and gotten both clearances for worldwide travel. Live and learn.
I purchased Rick Steves’ book on Milan and the Lakes District and he has a video on Youtube. Lots of tips. Steves suggested I acquire a credit card that doesn’t charge for currency conversion with charges. I did my research and have done that. In addition, Italy is part of the European Union so EU currency is what I’ll need.
I’m also acquiring travel accessories, like electrical outlet converters for Europe, neck support & eye mask for sleeping on the plane, money belt with RFID protection, and I’m considering the purchase of a good theft-resistant backpack for the day trips.
Other things I have done to prepare ( in no particular order):
1.) Notify my credit card company of my travel dates, so my transactions aren’t flagged or stopped.
2.) Notify my bank of those dates, in case I need a wire or expect an ATM transaction.
3.) Expand my cell service for international coverage.
4.) Check health warnings for the country I’m traveling to, if any. Get any vaccinations I may need.
5.) Set up email alerts for my country of travel through Smart Traveler Enrollment Program – STEP.com to get State Department advisories via email.
6.) Purchase trip cancellation insurance.
7.) Verify that my present health insurance covers foreign travel. Will I need more?
8.) Set up Mobile Passport in advance, the app for U.S. Customs and Immigration to make my border crossings run smoothly.
9.) Make copies of all my important documents & emergency contact information (keeping them in a separate & safe location – ie locked in my hotel safe) for reference if they are stolen and I need to report it.
10.) Send out my travel itinerary to family (with contact information) for emergencies.
11.) Record emergency contact phone numbers in my cell phone contact list with a hard copy backup if my phone is stolen (ie embassy info, hotel phone number and instructions on how to make a long distance international call).
Any tips that I’ve missed? I would appreciate advice from you more seasoned travelers.
Should I get local currency (Euros) before I leave? How much should I bring? I plan to see my bank this week.
Has anyone been to the northern Lakes District of Italy & Milan? Any recommendations for restaurants or fun places to see?