Aug 10, 2016
Traveling Alone, Part 3— MY Credit Card(s) Won’t Work, Money for a Hotel, and a 'Bit' More about Phones…
When I arrived in Katwijk, the first thing I needed to do was purchase a shopping trolley to carry my painting equipment down to the beach (a covered vertical grocery cart). Normally I would have brought one, but it would have taken up too much room). The owner of the B and B found a local store (Blokker) very close by that carried them, but when I tried to pay with any of my cards, they were declined. All. Of. Them. I paid cash, and was in a bit of a panic about paying for my room (which I had not done yet). I called the bank, but they said it was not a problem on their end, all was activated. At this point I had not tried an ATM (there one down the street).
I told the B and B owner what had happened, but when we ran the credit card, there was no problem. Whew! The same problem occurred at another local store, but all was fine with restaurants, hotels, cabs, etc. My card worked in the ATM as well.
This was just one of those quirks of travel. Like finding places that do not take plastic at all.
Thank goodness I also had extra American dollars, and the reason will become apparent in a minute…
For my return home I had booked a hotel outside of Dullas Airport. The reason for this was twofold:
1) I was able to park my car there, take a shuttle to the airport, and leave it there FREE for 14 nights. When I returned, I took a shuttle to the hotel and
2) I was able to get a good night’s rest BEFORE I got home.
Some might disagree with me, but I found that getting this good night’s rest prevented me from suffering many jet lag symptoms once I got home. I was able to decompress, relax, and drive back into reality. If I had gotten a commercial drive to the airport, it would have cost only a little less than the room. If I had caught the plane in Richmond, it would have cost me more. That would have been OK, but the hotel arrangement was jus too easy, and so many people do this. This enabled me to have a direct flight. THAT is priceless.
HOWEVER….Remember I had lost my cards. When I got to the hotel, I did not have any credit cards, and they had been cancelled. I had enough cash to pay for the room and and get some meals. That’s why you carry more American dollars than you normally would. Actually, my last blog said $200, but I would really suggest $250 to $300. Cushion. I might also have been able to get my husband to call in his credit card number for the room (darn, I didn’t think of that, until right now).
One more thing about phones overseas. For the past few years many people have advised me to buy a phone and pay for a plan when I got to where I was going. Really? I have looked around while traveling, and I have had NO IDEA where to go. Someone said the post office, or “oh, they’re everywhere”. Well, I could not find ‘everywhere’, and this comes under the category of MY TIME IS THE MOST VALUABLE THING I HAVE WHEN TRAVELING. Time spent looking for these places, studying usage plans, making decisions, all take time away for painting. Or visiting. Or watching the waves come in. I paid a lot of money for THOSE things, not shopping for phones. So I signed up for a travel plan with Verizon ($85), and watched my data usage by turning off cellular data or using ‘airplane mode’ most of the time (you pay extra for data usage above a certain amount). I just did all my posting at my B&B, where I had wifi. FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, I only had to pay the straight monthly fee, and nothing more. Even though I had scheduled my international phone usage to coincide with my travel, I still called as soon as I got back to the states to make sure it was deactivated. And by the way, the ‘extra cost'? It depends on the company and plan. But something like $25 for every 100 mb of data. Since April, the monthly fee has gone down, and a certainly amount of calls and texting are free. Perfect.
Thank goodness I had a battery pack for my phone, too! This is an ESSENTIAL. Photos, trying to pick up signals, they all use your batteries, but photos and videos BY FAR draw the most energy. Do you REALLY want to be in a great spot at 7 in the evening and not be able to take a shot because your battery is dead? No, you do not. For me, this moment would occur about 1:00 in the afternoon, unless I had my ‘juice pack’. Thanks to Amy HR Donahue for THAT reminder after my last blog. It’s so obvious I forgot. www.amydonahuefineart.com
Be sure you know how to activate it —I had to call the store I bought mine from to activate it right after I got to Holland. I THOUGHT it automatically did that, and I was wrong. I suggest buying it and using it at least a month before you travel. They weigh more, take up more space in your pocket, and as always, takes some getting used to.
I even had a small external battery pack, with cord to attach to my phone, in case I needed a back up for the back up—Don’t laugh, I used it twice.
And be sure if you have anyone traveling with you, THEY have a phone. Unless you are joined at the hip, in all likelihood you will separate. And when you do, you NEED TO BE ABLE TO CONTACT ONE ANOTHER. Both with a phone. TURNED ON! You should not be on Airplane Mode when you are separated, because then you cannot get a phone call, or anything (you can take pictures, video, and tell time). If you just turn off Cellular Data, you will not use data, but you can call.
WHAT DID I USE MY PHONE FOR?
• Calling home (husband, bank, credit card companies)
• Using Google Maps app to find where the store/museum/street was while walking around. It showed me how to walk there, like it would show a car how to drive). Sometimes the place was only a block away! That also allowed me to be sure the taxi was more-or-less heading in the right direction. I would check out the directions the night before.
• Using XE app to check currency exchange rates
• Using Mila’s Tools to convert metric measurements to something I could understand
• Using my Translator app to translate
• Checking my flight status
• Using Booking.com to make room arrangements (I did this in Katwijk to book a room in Amsterdam)
• Calling a Dutch friend to reschedule a lunch appointment, so he would not worry (Okay, he left HIS phone at home, but it would have worked IF HE HAD HAD HIS PHONE WITH HIM)
• I COULD have used my Square app if someone had wanted to make a purchase
One last thought about the phone cost. You have spent $1000, $2000, $3000 for this great trip. Do you really want to spend your time quibbling and worrying over $25, $50, $100? No you do do not. Relax.
Next blog— Location: Venice. How not to fall in a canal, and what would you do?
p.s. I will soon be able to reply to comments! But for now, if you want me to reply, please include your email address within the body of your comment. You must also put your email in the email box, but I can’t see that (for now). Later, it will still not be visible to others, but I will be able to see it.
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