Seven Worry-Free Tips for Your Next Trip “Across the Pond”

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Planning a trip abroad takes a lot of planning, preparation and understanding of what to expect. Hospitality, in the form of accommodations, travel, food and entertainment can be very different in the UK than in the good old USA. If this is your first trip to a foreign destination, you could be very disappointed with the hospitality unless you first understand some of the basic differences. After four trips to Ireland and the UK, here are seven tips for planning your next trip across the Pond:

1. Be aware of exchange rates. When the price is listed as “59,” it could be Euros or British pounds. Depending on the exchange rate, the cost could be double that in US Dollars. It is shocking to get the credit card bills and realize that the bargain scarf you bought in Ireland was really twice what you expected.
2. Hotels. You can find many U.S. hotels abroad, and they offer fine accommodations. The beds may not be as large, or availability for king-size beds may be limited. If you expect exactly the same in a Hilton in London as you did in New York City, you may be disappointed or pleasantly surprised. Don’t miss the charm and adventure of foreign travel by wanting to be just like it was at home.
3. Bed and Breakfasts. On our first trip to Ireland, we wanted to stay at a Bed and Breakfast to experience authentic Irish hospitality. We booked our stay over the Internet. When we arrived at the Inn, we were surprised to find that it was a private home in the middle of a subdivision outside Derry. Our vision of a charming cottage in the countryside was replaced by the reality of suburbia. The Inn didn’t have an elevator or bell staff, so we had to lug our oversize luggage and other bags up and down the stairs ourselves. The lounge was the family’s living room, and we were restricted to our rooms, and the dining room. Though the family was lovely, it wasn’t the experience we expected. We went from a luxurious king-size bed at our last hotel to a small double and a twin bed in the Inn. We were happy that we only booked two nights there.
4. Transportation. It is very easy to get around the U.K. and Ireland with public transportation. Driving is easy but you have to think “left is right” when it comes to choosing the side of the road to drive on. Also, most affordable rental cars are standard shift, and you’ll have to pay a premium for an automatic. Since the driver’s seat is on the right side of the car, you will be working the manual shift with your left hand. A lot to think about when you pull out into the London or Dublin traffic.
5. Give your credit card companies the “heads up.” With so much credit card fraud and identity theft, your credit card company may block purchases or freeze your card when charges start to show up from another country. Call ahead and let them know you are traveling and your spending requirements.
6. Set up your phone service. Contact your phone service carrier to see if you can get a temporary plan for calls to and from your destination country, and whether email, texting or Internet services are available and at an additional charge.
7. Lastly, contact your health insurance carrier to find out whether you are covered for emergency health care when out of the country, and what the procedure is for filing claims. You want to be sure you have the correct documentation and identification should something happen to you or a family member.

Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, is a freelance writer, blogger, and consultant. Based in Savannah, GA, her work has appeared in "Training" magazine, "Training & Development" magazine, "Supervision," "Pulse" and "The Savannah Morning News." You can read her blogs at, and on the web at

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