Give me last minute travel advice

You’re a Doper, you love to give advice, go for it.

I’m leaving (USA) on Sunday for a week in London. The last time I traveled overseas it was a different millennium.

My bag is packed, my itinerary is planned, the weather forecast looks good…

what am I probably forgetting?

Your passport?

Swimsuit (if there’s even the slightest chance that you’ll need one)
Extra underwear in your carry-on luggage in case your suitcase is delayed.

All of these are a pain to acquire unless you’re really familiar with your travel destination. I speak from experience.

The Brits don’t know the lyrics to America. I’m sure they’d appreciate you singing it for them.

This is England in June: I don’t think I’d bother.

I lived in London for about 9 months as a teenager, so one of the things I learned was the joys of just wandering around, constantly coming across interesting things. Just have a map in your pocket, so you don’t become completely lost.

And while you now have to pay for things that used to be free 50 years ago, there are still places that you can visit for free, e.g., the British Museum, both Tate galleries, and Sir John Soane’s Museum (which is a real treasure).

Wear pants with an elastic waist for your flight.

Did you pack a jacket, a sweater and some longsleeve shirts? If not repack the bag you will need them. Did you get some Pounds from your bank? If not you will pay too much in exchange rates, also call your bank/cc companies and tell them you are going overseas so they don’t think you spending activity is suspicious. Have a blast, and have a pint for us Cheers


Things may have changed in the last few years, but I recall that ATM PINs longer than 4 digits used to be a problem overseas, possibly necessitating a change before you leave the country.

Also, you might want to call your bank and let them know you’ll be out of the country so your account doesn’t get flagged for suspicious activity.

Of course, if you plan to just carry wads of cash you can ignore all of the above…

Remember to always look to the RIGHT when starting to cross a street.

And mind the gap!

Thanks for this! I meant to do it and completely forgot.

All good advice, thanks Dopers

pounds, check

elastic waist, check
that sounds logical.

I wish someone had told me before I went abroad: if you’re exchanging money, get small bills. It’s awkward when you need to tip someone and only have a ridiculously large bill. I had to baksheesh a men’s room attendant with a 20 in Cairo. :smack:

This is probably too late, since it’s Sunday and I hope you’re winging your way across the Atlantic right now! :slight_smile:

But, I traveled a lot for business for several years, and came away with the following philosophy: When walking out the door to go to the airport, check that you have your passport, a credit card and any prescription meds you need. Everything else is gravy.

Definitely plan and pack appropriately for your destination, but don’t stress about anything but your passport, your credit card and your prescriptions. With those you can take care of anything else.

I think for most ordinary tourists, the hassles and cost of finding and purchasing foreign currency before they go is no longer worthwhile. The exchange rates paid in a US city will be outrageous, if you can even find a bank who knows what foreign bank notes are. The ATMs at the arrival airport will offer up $200 worth of local currency on the spot at a much lower cost. If you don’t trust the ones at Heathrow, just use a credit card to buy your OysterCard and stop at an ATM once you get into town.

Actually you are correct, I was running a bit on automatic. I get money beforehand because I am a tour manager for bands, it is easier for me because whenever we get to whatever country I can just hand the “boys” a 20 of whatever currency we need and they can easily get a beer or a sandwich or whatever, while I sort Customs and rental vehicles. It is a lot like having a large group of four year olds in bigger bodies, I do love my job but it has it’s moments. I also need to have cash on hand for the little surprises on tour so I usually carry $500 to $1000 in cash at all times. In the US it is easy to get and deposit foreign currency at your bank, exchange rates are the best you will see, you do have to order it beforehand at least a week.


Two words: Neck Pillow. Never fly without one.

I also wished I had a sleep mask since the light of the other TV screens was keeping me awake.

Wear stretchy comfy shoes. I wore dress shoes on a flight to Germany and when we landed I had a hell of a time squeezing my swollen feet back into them.

Socks. I had bare feet in sandals and put socks on for the flight because it was so chilly in the plane.

Snacks. On the flight home we couldn’t pre-order a vegetarian meal (flying on our airline employee passes) so thankfully I had a bunch of granola bars in my backpack. Plus airplane snacks are expensive.

Noise-cancelling headphones. Worth every penny. I’d just turn them on without plugging them into the system for some sweet quiet.

The three times I have been to London (1987, 1994, 2004), the crosswalks were almost always marked something like “WATCH RIGHT” (or “WATCH LEFT” if it was a one-way road from left to right). Speaking of which, note that, unless the law has changed and I missed it, there is no such thing as “pedestrian right-of-way” for jaywalkers.

And isn’t it, “Mind the gap, please”? (Back in 1987, it was a man’s voice almost yelling, “MIND…the GAP!”; in 2004, it was a rather pleasant female voice saying, “Mind the gap, please.”)
For those of you wondering what we are talking about, “the gap” is the space between a subway train and the edge of the platform. (Those of you in the San Francisco area who have seen the “Watch the gap!” signs on BART know what I mean.)

I have always heard that, while you should have some foreign currency with you when you land for some unforeseen emergency, you should do most of your conversion in the country to which you are converting (i.e. dollars to pounds there; pounds to dollars back here).

Speaking of converting pounds back to dollars, you might want to ask whatever bank you use here if they will convert one-pound and two-pound coins. Normally, only currency can be converted, but recently “high demonination” coins have been converted as well.

Also, consider bringing at least one ATM card - but keep in mind that some banks will charge you even if all you do is check your balance from a foreign ATM.