20 October 2015

 

SAFE TRAVEL

We've already mentioned Safe Travel before, but it is still one of the top tips for Kiwis travelling overseas for advisories, general information and their itinerary registration service.

 

AIRPORT

For those for whom it has been a while since they travelled, there is no longer a Departure Tax payable at the airport.  This has been levied onto the airlines (who undoubtedly add it into their fares to you!).

Luggage trolleys are free to use in the terminal.  

 

WINZ

Contact Work & Income New Zealand (WINZ) if you or someone in your family are receiving any form of benefit or allowance before travelling overseas.

 

INSURANCE

Take out travel insurance when (or before) you book your tickets.  You don't necessarily need to get it through a travel agent either - you can use any broker or insurance agent.  Shop around!

If you have left a house, possessions or a vehicle behind, make sure the insurance payments continue for those in your absence. [NB your home may need continued use of electricity to power your burglar alarm.]

 

CARRY-ON LIQUIDS

Remember that you may only have liquids to the volume of 100ml each in your carry on, that must fit into a 1l plastic bag (or 20cm x 20cm).  You will find the definition of liquids quite broad.  Everything else should go in your checked-in baggage.  This also means water bottles or containers.  You must empty them prior to customs clearance and may re-fill them after that.

Totally prohibited items are listed on the Aviation Security website.

 

MEDICATION

If you have prescriptions, keep them in their original containers; and have a letter from your doctor listing their names and current dosage.

 

MONEY

Decide how you are going to spend your money.

  • Cash
  • Credit card
  • ATM (debit) card
  • Money transfer
  • Prepaid money wallet (like a pre-loaded credit card)
  • Travellers cheques
  • New bank account in the country you are travelling to

Each will have particular rules and fees which makes comparing one option to the next less than simple.  Consider leaving some money in a NZ bank account for ongoing payments and emergencies.

Inform your credit card company of your impending departure and which countries you will visit.  That way you don't have a transaction declined as it is out of your usual spending habits.

 

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

How are you going to keep in touch with family, friends, colleagues or clients?

See whether you can take you cellular phone with you overseas and what it may cost to continue your NZ plan; or whether it is compatible with the country cellular network where you are going so you can pick up a new SIM there.

Do you need to take a calling card from NZ or buy one overseas?

Will you email folks or update a social media account instead?

 

IDP

Do you need an International Drivers Permit?  If so, then visit the Automobile Association for the forms to fill in, and where you can lodge your payment for this service.  It will be sent to you via post.  [There is an extra charge for processing an IDP application online or via posting it in.]

 

WILLS

Are your wills up to date?  Do you need to leave someone a Power of Attorney over all or part of your affairs?  

15 September 2015

Our new multi-function headgear & The Fabric Store care card

 

One of the items I saw on a Youtube video about packing for the Icelandic weather was called a Buff®.  Not being part of the outdoors community I had never heard of it before so had to do a bit of research on this famed multi-functional tube of stretch material.

Apparently it originated in Spain decades ago, and has been so well-marketed that the name Buff® is used as a generic term.

You can wear it as a neck scarf, a hat, a balaclava, head band and the list goes on.  This short video shows you more of the ways it is worn:

 

Convinced that this would be a useful additional to our packing list but not about to pay $40-$50 each I wondered whether it was something I could make. This tutorial showed me the basic dimensions and the rest is history.

The real product is seamless so that is the big difference - the ones you sew will have a seam.

I made ours out of 150gsm black merino tshirt-like material (purchased on special at $12 per metre from The Fabric Store in Auckland) so it is tightly woven and fairly thin.  What I didn't know from the online product listing was that this fabric shrinks. The sales person did tell Atlas about the shrinkage went he went in to buy it but he didn't know to then get extra length to compensate.  It went from 142cm across the width to 133cm.  I was impressed though with the care card (above right) that came with the fabric - no one does that these days let alone understand the features of what they are selling.

I had planned on getting 3 out of each width but ended up only getting 2 widthwise and seaming together a couple of off-cuts to make a 7th.  Oh well - mine has 2 seams.  To accommodate for Atlas' larger head circumference (60.5cm) and Kita's smaller one (51cm), I adjusted their widths (not including seams) to 55cm and 46cm respectively.  The rest of us have a circumference of 56/57cm which works fine with the 50cm base dimensions.  I cut all heights at 48cm. 

I over-locked the upper and lower edges and left them as is, before sewing the lone seam.  I had wondered about turning the edges over and zigzagging them down but don't feel it needs it.  Time will tell how this wears but there certainly isn't any issue with the over-locked edges not stretching enough which I was also mindful of.

The fabric feels beautiful and they are thin enough to be worn as an additional layer as well as being substantial alone.  

However if I were to make these again I would add an extra 50% to the length (so approx. 70cm) as the material is thin enough and has a lovely drape that there wouldn't be an issue with it feeling too bulky. In fact I am tempted to get some more regardless and trial the two lengths to find out what works best for each of us and the way we come to most commonly use them!

There are also Buffs® with Polartec® fleece, reversible, UV protection and with visors to give you some further diy ideas:

 

TIP:

If you are making all the same colour 'Buffs®' for your family (and/or need to make different sizes) and want to assign them to specific people, run a few strands of each person's chosen coloured embroidery thread or wool through the inside over-locked seam.

We have used colours to differentiate our packing cubes (recommended by another travelling family as a must-have); and hope to continue it with the travel towels we plan to get too (recommended by a motorhomer).

04 August 2015

Southern Germany to Denmark via Berlin

Images courtesy of Google

 

Planning exactly where to go is not a science at all.  It is a mixture of heart and mind, and finding a balance between the two.

The countries we want to visit are just the big picture and it is up to me to design our itinerary to satisfy more than the 'stamp in the passport' mentality of visiting a new land (and in Europe where there are no internal borders, stamps are a bit of a thing of the past anyway).  Let me take you through the beautiful but messy process that is planning an overseas experience (O.E.).

 

THE WHERE

First Atlas and I prioritised our country wish lists.  You will notice when doing this exercise for yourself that some decisions you make are based on what you know or do not know about a place; othertimes it's how you feel that wins over.  Comparing fact vs feeling is like comparing apples to oranges but it can be done! Surprisingly the first group of 6 (out of 18 destinations) were the same with only 1 difference.  Germany is of course our number 1, but with the potential to stay another 3 months and travel after that, these other countries are our next focus: Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Iceland, Belgium & Greece.  

 

THE WHAT

Next I asked each person what they do or might enjoy doing or seeing in a new place.  I wrote about those in our What we'll see and do in Tuebingen post.

The challenge is to find what opportunities exist in each place, not doing too much, and how it might work to get there.

 

THE HOW

Google maps is a real boon to route planning and moreso when you discover that there is an 'avoid tolls' option that you can select when travelling by road.

 

Another tip is instead of entering a broad start and finish location and dragging the route to the places you really want to travel through on the way, use their '+' feature.  Start with your beginning location, add the next one, then press the '+' to add another etc. [Note: it only allows for 10 points.]

 

 

To a certain extent you may also need to consider the time of year you will be visiting.  For us, this applied especially to Iceland, as Atlas wants to see the Northern Lights and they are only visible in the (northern) Autumn and Winter months.  Sadly not being there in Summer means not seeing the Puffins and Reindeer though.  That is something I figured early on:

We are not going to be able to see & do everything; we are not going to ever have the perfect itinerary; we will miss some things BUT we will have experienced something, and experienced it together! 

 

THE WHY

Yes, for us it's primarily experiencing something together.  Parts of our journey are because I want to share something of the past with the family, or conversely try something altogether new; others are because a tourist attraction is in a specific town; one country is for family heritage, others as our foreign 'son' or 'daughter' lives there.  There is no wrong or right reason to go somewhere or do something.

 

In all this complex inexactness of designing our trip I found that it is neither what, where, how or why that consistently trumps the others.  Each takes a turn as the raison d'etre, and that's okay.

You are not going to be scored out of 100 for your personal planning prowess.

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