TRAVEL TIPS - Generally Useful &
Travel Tips include
information that is generally applicable to travel in many areas.
invite you to send me "Travel Tips" to include on this webpage.
What is the first thing to pack in your suitcase for a cruise?
A corkscew. Never leave home without it.
What is the second thing to pack in your suitcase?
A USB flash drive with copies of all of Toms Port Guides to share
with fellow passengers.
difficult to download port guides from my website on a ship due to
sloowww internet speed.
to find Internet cafes & WiFi connection sites
ship internet connection is very slow. Many passengers look for
a high speed internet connection in port. Here's a great tip
from Paul Seyler. He does a Google search such as "Venice
Italy free WiFi". You'll find a few free places, but
generally you have to pay. See some of the search results
internet sites include McDonalds, Starbucks, etc. that often offer
way to find internet cafes is to ask a staff member on the ship -
your waiter, one of the singers, dancers, a ship's officer,
etc. They know the internet sites because they use them in
port. If you see them leaving the ship with a computer, that's
where they are going. Ask them or follow them to the internet
site. Also, some cruise ports have free WiFi in the terminal.
use of ship's internet for EMAIL
spend 95% of my email time reading and writing; only a small fraction
of time is used to send/receive. Install software that allows you to
work OFFLINE and connect to the internet ONLY to send/receive
messages. Download the FREE Windows Live software to your
laptop BEFORE you go on a cruise. Use this web link
Live Mail is one of a half-dozen programs in Windows Live Essentials.
It can help you organize your life all in one place on your PC. Add
and see multiple email accounts in email programs like Outlook, Mail,
Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo! Even see your email, calendars, and
contacts when you don't have an Internet connection. The software is
lighting fast and user friendly.
it and click on “Add E-mail Account” to recognize your multiple
email accounts by entering email addresses and passwords. Click the
“Sync” button in the main menu. The software connects to your
email accounts, downloads a copy of all your email onto you laptop
and then uploads/sends any new emails you've written from your
laptop. Set it up so it does NOT delete the original email at the
server where your email resides. Make sure Windows Live Mail
DISCONNECTS from the ship's internet service when it's done
Google or Bing Maps to plan your vacation
use Map Coordinates to describe tourist sites in my port guides.
Advantages of map coordinates include:
Google Maps, the location of the map coordinates is shown by a down
pointing green arrow with a red balloon at the nearest street
address. In Bing Maps, the map coordinates appear as a blue dot.
can point to any location whether or not it 's on a public road,
arrow accurately points to within 50 feet of the location, and
coordinates are a simple set of numbers, not dependent on common names or foreign
An easy way to use map coordinates in the port guides is:
the port guide in a window on your computer and size the window to
less than half of the screen.
Open a second window on your
computer with Google or Bing Maps. Copy and paste the map coordinates
from the port guide into the map. Use the “Get Directions”
function to plot either a driving or walking route between the points
Move the little yellow man icon onto the map and
move it around near the map coordinates to see a street view of the
area to “preview” your visit to that site. When you see blue dots
on the Google Map, move the yellow man icon onto the blue dot to see
photos taken by other tourists at that site.
with satellite and “Birdseye” views of the tourist site in Google
and Bing Maps. View the area at different magnifications to become
familiar with the area before
Map coordinates are differnet from GPS coordinates:
convert map coordinates to GPS do a Google search for "convert map
coordinates to GPS". Use one of the websites and enter the map
coordinates to have them converted to GPS coordinates.
of exchanging money depends on exchange rate and additional
exchange is complicated.
merchant, bank, organization, etc. can set their own exchange rate.
The most favorable rate for consumers is published each day on the
internet by large banks and financial organizations. The numbers for
this “official” rate are slightly different from different
organizations, but the variation is small. I use the MasterCard rate
for my calculations and financial planning. Transaction fees to
exchange money can add 8% or more to your cost.
the most favorable Debit/ATM and Credit Card foreign exchange
goal is to get the “official”
exchange rate with NO fees. This
website has useful information on Credit and Debit cards in Europe
you can see on this website, some banks offer Credit and Debit-ATM
cards which use the “official” exchange rate with NO fees. The
“right” cards save us money on large purchases!!! We use Capital
One. Capital One Debit-ATM cards will also rebate some of the
"ATM use fees" charged by local banks in Europe.
ships and independent money changers are usually poor places to
exchange money. The best place is an international bank ATM. If
we fly to Europe, we use the ATM machine of a major bank in the
airport. If we are arriving in Europe on a ship, we go to the ATM at
the first port where we can get Euros. Note: Gibraltar
use their own “Pounds”, not Euros. Some ATMs in Gibraltar
give you a choice of Euros or pounds.
largest purchase with Euro cash is for personal tour guides. We
also use Euro cash for cabs, coffee, and small item purchases and
always carry Euro coins for public toilets. Typically, ATM
machines limit the withdrawal to 250 Euros. My wife and I can
collectively withdraw 500 Euros ($ 700) a day because our ATM cards
have different card numbers for the same account.
to your bank before you travel
the terms for use of your credit and debit cards for your account i.
e., which exchange rate is used and whether there are additional
fees. Check to determine which bank(s) in the countries you are
visiting accept your debit card. Not all banks honor all debit cards.
Advise your bank of your travel plans and which cards you are
carrying to minimize denial of purchases due to suspected fraudulent
use of your cards. Get the toll-free international number to contact
your bank if your credit card charges are denied. Some banks provide
a secret password to verify it is you on the phone to expedite
correction of any problems with your cards.
carry an extra credit card as a back-up in the event of denial of
purchases or suspension of their main credit card by US banks
of the card.
Make sure that you and your spouse have
different ACCOUNT NUMBERS on your cards. If you have the same account
number and one of your cards is lost to a pickpocket, both cards will
I usually sign up for fraud and identity
insurance with my credit card company just before leaving for Europe
and pay $ 8/month. When I return to the US, I cancel the
a list of the credit card account numbers you are carrying on
vacation with all the details on the card and contact information. I
keep this list and a photocopy of my passport in my shaving kit and
on my computer.
Light Photography - taking pictures in the "dark"
always wanted to take good photos of the ship's entertainers in the
theater, photos in churches, museums, etc. where flash is NOT
permitted and tripods are impractical. I found a camera
that does a remarkable job in low light. The attached 8-page
report includes photos of entertainers taken in the ship's darkened
theater to illustrate the capabilities and limitations of my Nikon
D5000 under difficult low light conditions. Note that the D5000
has been replaced by the new Nikon D7000 and D5100 models.
here to view, print, or "save" the file to your computer
(3.7 MB) LowLightPhotos
of losing your US passport in Europe
of the most costly items to lose is your US Passport. Been there;
done that. My wife's purse was stolen with both passports the morning
of our flight home from Zurich Switzerland to USA.
you lose your passport on a Friday, you'll need four days and ~ $
2200 to resume travel.
high cost is booking four days hotel on an urgent basis, traveling to
the US embassy in another part of the country, paying for meals, and
cost to rebook flights to the USA. Unless you happen to be in
the city of the US embassy, you will need to travel to a different
location in that country, go to the embassy on Monday AM, and will
have new passports in 3-5 hours. Then you can book your plane back to
USA for Tuesday.
to get a new US passport
US Embassy will want a police report on theft of your passport.
Because the theft occurred in a Zurich hotel, the manager helped me.
He drove me to the police station and explained the situation in
Swiss-German. The hotel manager used his influence with the
police. They delivered the report to the hotel in an hour.
I would have had a heck of a time on my own dealing with police that
speak a different language and having no "influence" to get
them to expedite preparation of the theft report.
There is one
US embassy in each country. We lost passports in Zurich and had
to travel to Bern to the US Embassy. We took a train.
can't just walk up to a US embassy dragging your luggage past the
Marine guards. Leave your luggage at a hotel. You will
need passport photos. Get photos at a train station, but do not
"cut" them to passport to size. The US uses a
slightly larger photo than on European passports. The US
Embassy complained my photos had been trimmed about 1/4 inch smaller
than required, but finally accepted them.
You need information
about your parents and family history to fill out the passport
application form. I now keep that information plus photos of my
passport, drivers license, birth certificate, credit cards, etc. in a
password protected file on my computer. The file is also
encrypted, password protected, and backed up to a server at
that I can access it from an internet connection anywhere in the
The embassy only accepted cash and a few credit
cards. Fortunately, I had one of the cards they accepted.
Two women at the embassy had lost all credit cards with their
passports and only had enough cash to pay for one passport.
Their plan was to take that passport to pick up $ 500 which had been
wired to them; you can't pick up wired money without a passport for
identification. I charged both their passports on my credit
card and they sent me the money when they got back to Colorado.
The US Embassy was insensitive to needs of Americans in
trouble. When I learned that American Express has a policy of
helping travelers get cash, replace passports, etc., outside the USA,
I got an American Express card.