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herpsky

Share your "superfuture" travel experience

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This thread could totally fail but I just wanted to, maybe, make a thread where posters can share their travel experiences. I just came back from a trip to Europe so I just wanted to share some pointers and etc. 

 

 

Booking the trip

I used the methodology outlined in this guide I found through lifehacker (I think). This guy outlines and shows you some insanely helpful websites that I haven't even heard of. The guide is here I suggest that you evernote it in case the website dies.

 

Accommodation

The question really comes down to booking a hotel vs airbnb. I've been a longtime airbnb user and have not had major issues. As long as you stay at a place with lots of positive reviews, it's usually fine. This time, I only stayed at hotels because I was traveling from the US and was afraid of playing phone / email tags with the hosts. 

 

Hotels in Europe may be expensive but it really depends on where you go. Copenhagen was very expensive. Berlin and Prague were extremely cheap e.g. 50 euro per night at a safe, nice hotel. 

 

Cell phone

This is an issue that has repeatedly come up but no one has been able to provide a definitive answer, especially if you do a multi-country excursion. If you have T-mobile, good for you. You get unlimited 3G overseas. A SIM-free phone is a must if you are traveling to the EU. Some suggested Three.co.uk's roaming SIM but it excludes some EU, making it practically useless. But there is a solution, it’s Vodafone Ireland’s prepaid SIM card. They provide a service called RED roaming, which gives you 2 or 300 MB of 3G data per day. It costs 2.99 euro per day and automatically gets deducted from your balance. Where do you get this card? I bought one from ebay. Just make sure you get the correct SIM size. The seller I dealt with sends SIMs directly from Dublin and got to the US in 3 days. Once you receive your card, you go to Vodafone.ie and create a login for your card. The card itself is preactivated so it’s ready for use. You need to make an account on vodafone’s website so you can load money onto it. I suggest that you load 2.99 euro x the number of days + 5 euro extra for some extra unforeseen charges. If you have a SIM-free router, you can share the connection among a few people though I wouldn’t recommend it.

 

 

Also, carry a portable usb battery pack.

 

Cash

Where to get cash? You basically get totally screwed if you try to get cash at the airport because of the exchange rate and convenience fees. Use bank-based ATMs at the airports or the respective destinations. 

 

Credit card

Make sure you have a CC that has no foreign transaction fees. Capital one is one example. The only issue is that they don't offer cards that have embedded smartchips. I was told that most places only take cards with the chips but I was actually able to swipe chipless cards at most merchants. 

 

VAT

One of the absolute highlights of taking a trip to EU is the opportunity to cop luxe jawnz for much less than their overseas retail. For example, I was able to buy a pair of Acne Stay Cash for 150 USD and a rimowa for 290 USD. 

Getting VAT can be tricky. Let me explain this:

 

First, whenever you buy some luxe jawn at a store, you must ask for a tax free form. The store needs to stamp it. You'll get a form from either one of the two companies, Global Blue or Premier. These are the companies that run VAT collection and refund. 

 

Once you buy the items, you MUST bring the forms along with the sales receipt to the custom agent at the airport from which you are leaving the EU. I was leaving from Berlin with a connecting flight in London. Technically speaking, London is the last port of departure so things must be claimed in London BUT you can just do it at the first airport you are leaving from. 

 

This is the tricky part. Because the VAT forms may come from two different companies, you have to go to the respective agents at the airport. Each company has a different service desk. Because my flight was leaving at 7AM, I only had the time to get the custom forms stamped but not actually claim the refunds at the airport because the GB and Premier service desks open at 6 and 630, respectively. The custom counter is basically open from 5AM so I was able to get everything stamped. 

 

If you do have the time, go to the actual service desks, otherwise see below.

 

Fill out the tax exemption forms (do this the night before) and opt for a refund in your credit card. Because if you opt for cash, they will shaft you with convenience fees and shitty exchange rates. The credit card does NOT have to be the same card you used to purchase the luxe items. Write your CC number. No expiration dates needed. 

 

Once you show the completed forms to the agents, you get a refund back within 5-6 days. These will show up on your CC statement. 

 

How did I actually claim the refunds when I didn't have the time to do it in Berlin? The travelex counter at Heathrow where I was connecting outsources Global Blue and Premier, and the guys there can just process the refund on the spot. 

 

Apply for the global blue card - If you go to global blue's website, you can apply for a free membership card. You can tie this card to your credit card. If you present this to a merchant (probably not all), you can directly get a refund. It takes about a week for the card to arrive. 

 

If you are really screwed and do NOT have any spare time whatsoever, you can drop off the forms (once again, these MUST be stamped by the custom agents) into the collection boxes at the respective airport service counters. I did this with Premier and have yet to get the refund but this reportedly takes 2 to 3 weeks. 

 

Also, the custom officers need to see your items in unused condition. For me, they just asked whether I had the items on hand. From what I heard, I hate to profile people but especially those of you with "Asian" passports e.g. Chinese passport and  look like mainland resellers, go through more vigorous screening. Especially if you pull up with multiple rimowa topaz. 

 

Figuring out places to go to

I made a mistake of using mymaps on google maps to create custom maps of things to see. Big mistake. 

1) Doesn't have a native iOS app 2)even on android, it gets all crappy especially if the network is slow. 

 

One way to prevent this is to "fav" or star all the spots you want to go on google maps while you are signed into your gmail. 

 

2) Yelp is popular in the EU but fairly unreliable because most posters belong to the "my hubby" crowd

 

3) Rome2rio is a useful website. You just enter two places and figures out all the possible routes. Very easy. Even international. Buses, boats, car sharing, you name it.

 

4) 12 hours in ___ is a useful website. Highlights some cool spots.

 

5) Sufu guide is somewhat outdated. There are a plenty of spots that have already closed or moved. The corner outlet in Berlin - case in point.

 

Not getting ripped off

As I stated earlier, there are ways to get cheap hotel deals. One way is to book your flights using expedia or other online travel agencies. They basically allow you to get discounts on hotels if you book them with your flights. Even if you book cheap airlines e.g. airberlin and czech air, they'll offer you combined discounts. They also give you a grace period of like 10 days. You don't need to book all at the same time.

 

If you are traveling by plane inside EU, try NOT to use the cheapest airline possible. I think I had a couple of airline options between Copenhagen and Berlin but I opted for airberlin because they didn't have a checked luggage fee. 

 

Airline delays

Luckily I didn't have to use it but I had travel insurance. Just cop one online. There are a few comparison websites. Some companies exclude certain airlines so choose carefully. 

 

Finally, getting refunds on delayed or cancelled flights. Apparently, customers are entitled to refunds if the flights aren't on time. My flight was delayed by three hours on the way back. I used airhelp (getairhelp.com). This is a company that claims refunds on your behalf but keeps a %age of the refund. I'm entitled to 500 euro of refund. Takes two months. Who knows but takes 3 minutes to file a claim. It's worth it.

Edited by herpsky

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Your airline delay claim may not go through if the airline isn't at fault. There are so many get out clauses where the airline doesn't have to pay out it's ridiculous.

 

I've lucked out once when the technical fault was down to the airline's maintenance crew. I managed to get my ticket fully refunded (£700), despite being put on the next flight the following day.

 

In contrast my missus tried to claim for a 4 hour delay from Frankfurt to Amsterdam, but was unsuccessful as the technical fault was the airport's fault and not the airline (lol). However, as she is a frequent flyer with the airline she was credited with air miles as a gesture of good will.

 

It's pretty easy to claim yourself as you can get the template from Money Saving Expert (http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/flight-delays). No need to use a third party company in my opinion.

Edited by rirawin

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http://thepointsguy.com/2014/12/10-best-web-resources-for-cheap-airfare/

 

You guys should all evernote this post. The information is pure gold (especially if you don't want to shift through pages of info on flyer talk).

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Flightfox has been occasionally awesome for me. (Did some multi country hopping through lots of small airports, like Yakushima's and saved a ton vs what I could find via Kayak/Hipmunk)

 

Adioso I think is a great idea, just has never delivered for me. I'd definitely use a "Where can I fly cheap next weekend?" site with a nice layout.

 

I like thepointsguy's advice on maximizing points use generally; the layout/presentation style leave something, actually, a LOT to be desired though.  :angry:

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Herpsky – if I could tip you for this shit, I would. Golden fuckin' advice, needs to be stickied by mods.

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I'm going to Tokyo in one week.

Currently in the process of getting my carrier-locked iPhone 6 unlocked through a gray-market provider. 

 

Will test it out and report back.

 

 

nfPHAbC.jpg

Edited by herpsky

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i'm not sure if this is the right place to put this but...

 

With my job right now, a lot of it is done via computer.  Rarely do I have to go in...and when I do it is for misc household stuff (my job is really hard to define).

 

I want to see if it is possible to travel in 2016.

 

i had a client (who is in the tech space) that worked while he was snowboarding in whistler. sounds amazing...

 

Ideally I would like to head towards Europe and than buy the 3 (?) month pass that allows me to travel via train all over...

 

and than afterwards I would love to go to south america / Africa.

 

followed by Australia and then wrap up in Asia.

 

My Qs are...

 

- how long can I get away with being in each country without falling out of a "vacation" visa (US passport)

- phone wise..what is my best course?

- for wifi (i need this... time wasted trying to find a wifi spot is a deal breaker), is there something I can buy, where if I attach it to my computer or smart phone... can get internet instantaneous. i would REALLY like to go to those off beaten spots, but I think those I'll reserve for the weekend when technically i'm not suppose to be "working".  But if there is a device that I can connect my computer to and pay service for to get A++++++++++++++ internet..i totally will splurge for this.

- i'm thinking of a combination between couchsurfing + hostels/hotels + airbnb...ideally I would love to couch surf without having the hosts feel like they have to entertain me 24/7.

 

has anyone traveled around the world + worked a the same time?  from the US?  how is the tax implications like... any thing I should know about?  would appreciate any heads up + insights.

 

---------------------------

off side:

 

I use charles scwhab (which is awesome btw, they refund ATM fees charged by the other parties ((that they catch)) and they have no FTF or ATM fees on their end + capital one (also same as schwab, but no need for brokerage account for those who don't like/need that)).

 

CC is with amex, discover, and csp--no FTF and I think all three has me pretty well covered.

 

I get paid direct deposit, which I plan to use to pay off CC just like i do now.

 

I probably will be just traveling with a 22" carry-on and my backpack.

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i don't have really much to contribute re: questions but for CC: 

 

i'd get chase sapphire. i have a capital one quicksliver, which has 0 FTF and 1.5% cash back on all items but chase sapphire's been pretty insane. 

 

the benefits / perks have been discussed 10000x before but i'm pretty glad i got it. the 2x points on all food including coffee; 3-6x on places i regularly buy from e.g. nike.com, yoox.com – crazy

 

Capital one's bank account is a really good one to have because unlike the big banks ala Chase, they don't charge ATM fees. Once in a while, they run promotions where they give you ~$200 if you open an account. 

 

When I did a multi-country trip in Europe, vodafone.ie SIM and unlocked GSM phone served me well. if you have tmobile, all data is free (though limited to 3G). 

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i just renewed with verizon so... :/ and i have two lines. three would be crazy... i guess i can always wait between now and 2016 to see if they run another "pay to break your contract thingy".

 

but tbh i have verizon strictly for the nfl app.

 

i bank with chase only b/c its free for me. i would never use their ATMs outside of US... but to be fair, even if I do use it in Europe, I only get charged the 3% FTF.

 

i love the ability to transfer funds from one bank to another quickly.  For small amounts, pretending to be someone else and using square cash works awesome.

 

Multi-country trip in Europe...how long were you there for?  You sound like you travel a lot...do you work when you travel?

 

I seriously want to try not living in one spot for longer than 2 weeks in 2016, but still be working...because 1) i'm a workaholic and 2) i like accumulating $ (what you get for working at a financial institute) 3) I will got stark crazy if I don't feel like I'm contributing to society via work...

 

I just need to convince my boss of this  :D

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from my experience

 

all of the newer verizon lte phones come unlocked and they'll let you suspend your service/contract for a fee, so depending on your phone any sim card should work. 

 

amex spg has been great for me. it's the only card i use that's been better than cash rewards. 

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1. Airmiles are a sucker's game. Sure get the ones for whatever flight you take and redeem them where possible, but if you're flying connect just to get 10% of a free upgrade worth of miles you need to get your head examined. You save much more by taking whatever airline has the best offer for your route that day than by sticking with one just to get more miles. All this money and time you're investing into "free" upgrades just isn't worth it. It was different 5-10 years ago maybe, but now traveler's perks are useless for all but the most high-frequency flyers (ie long distance at least once a week).

 

2. For phone stuff in Europe it's getting really easy now, for example 3 UK has a £20/month prepaid thing that gets you unlimited 4g in many European countries. Worst case Lycamobile is in pretty much every country by now so you can get your 2GB data for €10 or whatever, and if you need to use a bunch of data one day it's not difficult to find free cafe/restaurant wifi just about anywhere.

 

I always travel with a pair of iPhones, my current one and an old one. In one I have my home SIM and in the other a local one, it's very nice to have both. Also if you ever get your wallet and cards etc stolen, an old iPhone 5 or whatever can be traded in for 100-150 Euros cash in no time, which should be enough to get you through until you get your documents back. 

 

Please don't buy carrier locked phones.

 

3. If you use AirBNB, always have a backup plan. If you use it often enough, you will sooner or later get a host that cancels on you, forgets to have the keys waiting, something like that.

 

4. Invest time in finding the best place to stay in your budget. Also maybe try staying in a place that's under your budget? There are often wonderful places that aren't very expensive, and if you only look at the ones on the top end of your budget you'll never find the gems. I'm amazed by all the people who spend ages obsessing over perks and then stay in mediocre, way overpriced accommodation. A bit of research there can save you more money than any perks etc ever could.

 

5. Always consider all travel options. For example it's common knowledge to take the Eurostar or Thalys where possible, but flying can actually be cheaper quite often.

 

6. Avoid staying in places without a real kitchen for more than a few days. Eating out three times a day for several weeks is a great way to get fat.

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I have about 70k miles with delta w/which I'm exploring options w/air france or klm ; ur right tho, the downgrade worth of miles tho... :/

I'm going to look into 3 UK; thank you! Would I be able to tether my Mac and how good would that work?

I have an old 5s that's cracked; I can probably get the screen fixed with third party parts real cheap to hock in case anything...but I'll definitely bring that and one of my six.

I think with my budget...ill be in hostels and trying couch surfing with occasional airbnb and hotel... I don't anticipate any of my spending to be more than housing + food with the occasional splurge like right now in the US. The goal is that instead of spending $$ on rent for a year, I'll spend it on housing overseas for a year...transportation factors into that which greatly ups my expenses. I was thinking of trains b/c of passes but ur definitely right, I flew to Zurich from Paris for the day because it was a lot cheaper than a train ticket (sadly, I love trains) and it was a lot faster too.

I would consider a kitchen except I haven't cooked in years (unless u count boiling hot water for ramen or frying spam cooking) so usually I eat out with friends or take take out :P

Thank you though, I need to sit down and figure out how much I'm willing to spend/not save. I would love to be able to live a few weeks in cities all over the world, but Europe would be one of my first stops.

But this is after I present the idea

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:/ on the no tether

I recently see I can tether my phone to my mac on Verizon (hasn't come up before the recent contract renewal).

Freaking awesome (I'm so behind)

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The 3 sim has 4GB/month of tethering which i believe is included in feel at home (but I looked at the country list just now and some pretty important ones like Germany and France aren't included on it). I use it in the UK and I'm pretty sure I've tethered off it before while visiting family in Austria. Anyway tethering isn't as important as it used to be I think. Just about every hotel and airbnb has unlimited free internet now, as does every restaurant and coffee place. so you're never too far from a wifi connection, in fact it's pretty hard these days to sit somewhere and not have free internet available. So all you really need is a bit of 4G for emails maps etc on the phone.

 

Oh getting back to actual travel tips, always see if a city you're going to is available in Citymapper. It's so much better for directions than Google/Apple maps, and has much better offline features as well.

Edited by ProfMonnitoff

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feel at home leaves out some scandinavian countries and czech, i think. 

 

new thing: apple now offers an Apple SIM. the SIM card works everywhere in the world seamlessly. the card costs 6 bucks but you have to buy it in person from an apple store. 

 

one thing i don't understand is that some of the partner carriers for apple sim are CDMA-based providers like Au in Japan. do the newer iphones have both cdma and gsm capabilities? 

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3 PAYG sims do not support tethering, it says so further down on the page I linked to... 

 

If you're after offline maps and navigation, Nokia Here is the one I recommend - well until Google release proper offline maps. With Nokia Here you can download country/city map packs onto your phone and use it when you have no 3G/4G connection. Your location will be overlaid via GPS, which doesn't use data. It supports driving, public transit and walking directions. I've used Nokia Here for navigating Porto in Portugal on foot earlier this year and it worked a dream.

Edited by rirawin

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Can anyone help me out with booking flights and not getting fucked?

 

I've gone on solo trips a few times (I'm 20 so without help from parents)

 

but they were always only one or two flights (Taipei roundtrip, Vancouver to NYC bus to Montreal then back home)

 

I'm now planning on booking a trip from Vancouver to Shanghai, Shanghai to Europe (probably landing in Paris or Amsterdam), Europe to Montreal and Montreal to Vancouver

 

ITA matrix comes up at 4k CAD cheapest. Kayak brings up a 1500 CAD flight (hacker fare) but I gotta book two flights from Travelocity and one from Flighthub and a 1600 ticket from EDreams (which sounds like shit from the reviews)

 

Being a fairly long complicated trip I'm not really sure how to tackle this.

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One site (pretty finnicky so I wouldn't rely on it too much) that allows multi-city planning: http://questorganizer.com/

 

I usually use http://www.rome2rio.comto figure out how to get to point A. 

 

I prefer Momondo and google flight over Kayak.

 

#1 go-to article for finding the least expensive fare. 

http://thepointsguy.com/2014/12/10-best-web-resources-for-cheap-airfare/

 

Hopper is a pretty good app that "kind of" predicts how likely your saved fare will go up or down. 

 

Insane deals to be had are at: http://www.secretflying.comMost of the deals require to travel out of a big hub airport. 

 

That article by thepointsguy has a website that tells you when the peak travel times are. 

I actually scheduled my vacation according to the fare prediction posted on that site and I was able to travel to do a round-trip to Japan for like 800 bucks. 

 

Also, I usually abuse the 24 hour cancellation policy and fare locks. That's pretty important. Requires a shit load of patience but it's one way to "win". 

 

CCs: Chase sapphire preferred or SPG AMEX.

Edited by herpsky

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