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Eurotrip Part I: Preparation!

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Jet lag is no joke, but was it worth it? Absolutely! I’m back in the States after my Eurotrip and what a trip it was. Of course watching the movie before going was in order, and the tune of “Scotty Doesn’t Know” was in my head for at least three days straight. It’s hard to prepare for your first time in a different country. You read articles, see pictures, and get those translators ready, but you aren’t actually prepared until you get there. The British Pound and the Euro cost more than a US dollar so prepare for things to be expensive over there.

As of August, 2011, the euro dollar (€) exchange rate is 0.349% higher with 1 EUR = 1.3512 USD. The euro pound (£) exchange rate is 0.168% higher with 1 EUR = 0.8688 GBP

On my 10-day trip we went to London, Brussels, and Amsterdam. I figured I’d be okay in England, but in Belgium and Netherlands there is a mixture of French, Dutch, German and a few other languages… You get to understand the gist of things pretty quickly though and after a day, you’re pretty much set as long as you have a map of the city.

Planning ahead, I must have googled about 50 different world travel voltage converters, each with four to six different prongs to use in different countries. I at first had to question, what could I bring that would actually work? I had read horror reviews about people bringing their laptops, hair dryers, straighteners and other electronics on trips overseas without the proper converters and them exploding and shorting out. Naturally, I didn’t want this to happen, so I did some research. I found the same converters from prices that ranged from 99¢ on Ebay to $40.00 at Sharper Image, I also found these large 30lbs generators that you could use that just had a two prong US plug which was close to $200 bucks and weighed a ton. Who would ever pack that in your luggage? No, Thanks. Luckily, for me, I was staying in hotels and not hostels, so bringing a hair dryer wasn’t an issue. Both places that we stayed at were equipped with hair dryers in the room. Problem one solved. At this point I was going to forgo bringing the straightener altogether as London has its reputation of raining and straightening my hair would have been pointless. In addition, the forecasts looked a little bleak and rainy in both Belgium and the Netherlands.

The second problem was bringing my laptop. I debated even bringing it, but I knew I wanted to offload pictures from my camera and be able to mildly check email if at all possible. Since I wouldn’t be able to use my phone over there (which by the way, was really nice…) I wanted to be able to check in with friends and family. I did enable and use Wifi only over there (which I will probably dedicate an entire blog post about after the Eurotrip series to prevent ridiculous roaming fees and still check email, etc.) My Macbook Pro is heavier than I wanted to deal with but I’m glad I brought it. Definitely getting an upgrade next year when I graduate, I’ve had the bulky thing since 2008! So I have the laptop, I figured out which charger to get…the Targus World Power Travel Adapter. It worked perfectly in all of the places we went, reasonably priced and compact so if you were backpacking it could easily fit in your bag. One thing to remember, as I sort of forgot, I had a few things to charge over there, might want to think about getting two of them since the charging takes a little longer to complete than it does here in the States.

Once the packing was more or less complete, I compiled all of my cords and electronics together and figured out what I needed to bring regarding camera chargers, etc. I just so happened to have looked at my mini straightener that I had in the box with the rest of my cords. This thing has been a lifesaver during football and basketball season, especially going to and from stadiums and arenas with just a small bag. It is a lifesaver for anyone working or on the go for long hours. Just for fun I looked up the specs to see if it was even possible to bring it with me. Hey, it said “travel”, right? Turns out, it is a dual voltage straightener, meaning that it designed to operate on voltage anywhere between 110 and 240 volts without damage. The one I have is automatic, so there was no switch to set it, just an on and off and it gets pretty hot, about 400ºF. The BaByliss Pro costs around $20 bucks, highly recommend.

The majority of responses upon returning home was “how was it?” Hard to sum it all up in one or two sentences so I figured blog posts were in order.

I wore sneakers for most of the trip, definitely necessary, I didn’t see many that wore flip flops during the day as you do a LOT of walking, and then again going during September over there it gets pretty chilly so sneakers worked best. Also, definitely check the weather, I’m glad I brought my North Face jacket with me and I had a couple thin scarves and it was fine. It wasn’t cold enough for gloves or anything super heavy but at night the temperature got down to the low 50s.

Next stop, London, Baby! (Total Friends reference, and I said this often…maybe a little too often!) We took the red eye flight, which ended up getting delayed because of the storms in DC, I attempted to sleep, but only got about an hours worth. Not sure if it was the comfortability factor, the excitement or what, but the flight itself was fine, big plane, and sitting in Economy Plus for an International flight was worth the extra dough. You get about 4 extra inches of legroom, even on the flight back from Amsterdam we had outlets in our row…pretty nice deal. My experiences flying was great thanks to United/Continental, my bag was a couple pounds overweight both coming and going but they didn’t end up charging me for it, I also got the free upgrade for Economy Plus on the trip there which was awesome.

We arrived in London mid-morning and Heathrow Airport was amazing. Huge, bright, and awesome, and with over 63 million passengers a year, it was indeed impressive. Currency exchange kiosks everywhere and there were large directional yellow with black signs telling you where to go. From a design perspective, it is the best combination of colors to use that can be read clearly and stand out. Now we know why road signs in the US are black and yellow. (Also explains why Ben Roethlisberger’s neck is so big in Steelers jerseys…)  The bathrooms had this little green running man with arrows pointing to where they were above them, it became an ongoing joke throughout the trip and of course we had to take pictures mocking the signs one night.

Check back for Part 2: Exploring brilliant London! Stay tuned, as the Eurotrip experience will be over a series of posts. I took over 2,000 pictures during the trip (again, are we surprised?)

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