Friday, October 21, 2011

Incan Empires Cruise only a month away!

It is only four weeks until I depart from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida aboard the Rotterdam for an extended cruise through the Caribbean and Panama Canal to Ecuador and Peru in South America.  After seeing the famous Machu Picchu, the Rotterdam sails up the west coast of South and Central America to San Diego, taking 30 days in total.  I'm really looking forward to this trip, since it will give me a better taste of South America than my previous travels.  It also stops in several Central American countries I have not previously visited, and I get to visit other countries I've traveled to before but want to return to.

The trip is completely planned and paid for at this point.  As discussed in my previous blog entry, booking the excursion to Machu Picchu using a third party travel agency was the biggest challenge with this trip. We had to notify Holland-America of our intentions, get a letter from them, and book the over land excursion. Obviously, this sort of diversion has to be carefully planned to ensure we don't miss the ship's departure!

What is left to do before the trip beings?  There are several items on my list:
  • Travel medicine
    • Ask my doctor to write prescriptions for my medications to last past the end of the trip on Dec 21st
    • I need a prescription for Dukoral, an effective preventative vaccine against sickness caused by e coli
    • Discuss my upcoming travel plans with a travel medicine clinic doctor, and ask if any additional vaccines are needed, or if they has other thoughts on health precautions I can take while on this trip. For example, since I'm traveling to Colombia and taking an excursion to a National Park, I likely will need a Yellow Fever vaccine.
  • Finances & insurance
    • Plan my cash flow so my credit cards I plan to travel with are paid off before I leave
    • Ensure I have extra funds available in my chequing account in case I need cash to cope with an emergency while enroute
    • Withdraw US$ cash sufficient for 30 days aboard ship and for expenditures while ashore
    • My RBC Rewards VISA Preferred card from the Royal Bank provides me with comprehensive travel insurance coverage for the first 31 days of travel. If you don't have the following coverage, you should consider purchasing some before you leave on any vacation.
      • Out-of-Country/Province Emergency Medical Insurance .
      • Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance .
      • Emergency Purchases Insurance/Flight Delay Insurance .
      • Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance .
      • Auto Rental Collision/Loss Damage Insurance .
      • Travel Accident Insurance
      • Zero Liability for fraudulent card transactions
      • Emergency travel assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Destinations
    • Research and save information about the destinations we will see on this trip. I store all my online research in Evernote so the information is available on my tablet PC, MacBook Air and my iPhone.
    • Pull out any maps of the areas to be visited, and order any new maps that might be needed from ITMB
    • Decide on any guidebooks that might be useful to take on the trip
  • Documentation
    • Double check my passport's expiry date to ensure there is more than six months leeway
    • Log into the Holland America website for passengers and check in online.  Print luggage tags, boarding pass, itinerary, and shore excursion confirmations.
    • Print the letter from Holland America acknowledging our departure from the usual itinerary for our arrangements to see Machu Picchu
    • Print the invoice from Bestway Tours & Safaris indicating our Machu Picchu arrangements are paid in full
    • Print hotel confirmation for Ft. Lauderdale overnight stay before the start of the cruise
    • Print airline e-tickets for both departure and return
    • Store electronic versions of all documents that are printed (above) on a memory stick, smart phone, notebook or tablet computer - on whatever devices I decide to take along on the trip.  Ensure this information is secure and encrypted, so if the electronic device is lost or stolen you have no worries.  Ensure a scanned version of your passport picture page is also included in this backup travel document store.
    • Create an emergency contacts list and print it out for both yourself and for someone you can rely on who is not going on the trip.  Contacts on this list should include emergency contacts you might need while traveling as well as contacts for whomever is taking care of your house, family members and/or pets. I also include contact info for the cruise line and ship, hotels I will be staying in, and tour companies I will be using.
  • Electronics and batteries
    • Try out all camera gear before leaving - take photos with each lens and camera body and test the flash and other accessories
    • Repack my camera bag using my "travel mode" configuration, which includes removing stuff I don't need for this trip, as well as adding stuff I do need
    • Determine which batteries and  rechargers I will need for this trip, and test them all before departure.  If batteries are more than two years old, replace them with new ones where it makes sense to do so.
    • Start moving files about the trip from my desktop computer to my notebook computer, which I will be taking along on the trip.  I store these files on a secure and encrypted drive on my notebook, to guard against identity theft while traveling.
    • Test my backup procedures using my notebook computer and external drive to ensure it is working properly
    • Test the transfer of photos and video from my cameras to my notebook computer to ensure all is working as expected
  • Communications
    • Check with Rogers, my cellular provider, to see what coverage they offer in the countries I will be visiting (and aboard ship), and the costs.  Rogers offers travel packages for both voice and 3G Internet that are quite competitive with third party suppliers. I need to review how to use their services from my cellphone.
    • I use a Gold Line prepaid phone card for long distance calls back home while traveling ashore, however I need to review how to use their services and what the current rates are
You may notice I'm not too concerned about packing clothes or what suitcase and coat to take.  At this point, I concentrate on the items I need extra time to to put in place.  Clothes and leisure items can be planned for closer to departure day, although it is always a good idea to keep your trip in mind when you are at a store.  You never know what might strike you as the ideal travel bag or hat or shoes.

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