Shelly and I are heading to Switzerland in the new travel environment. Those of you who have read my posts before, know that I am a proactive traveler. I know that what is likely to happen will probably happen. There are many possible bumps in the road and adequate preplanning will help you maneuver through the bumps when they happen.
We have our Covid vaccinations but that doesn’t mean the world is open to us like before. The first planning task is to determine what countries of entry will require for admittance:
- Covid testing,
- Covid vaccination,
- Covid requirements,
- Pre-entry requirements,
We are headed to Switzerland so that’s the first place I check with. I determined the current entry requirements and I have planned ahead to comply. Here is how we are preparing:
- Covid testing,
- Packing our Covid vaccination records and
- Submitting the Switzerland entry documentation ahead of time.
When it comes to Covid testing, it is important to know what the requirements are at the other end and working the clock backward for testing. We need to have negative tests that were taken within 72 hours of arrival. To determine when to schedule our test, I ran the 72-hour clock backward, accounted for the nine-hour time difference at added six hours for any delays in transit to Switzerland. Switzerland wants to see negative test results using the PCR test.
Walgreens offers free Covid testing and the appointment setting is based on a rolling 72-hour window. Since I determined the optimal time for our Covid tests would be Monday at noon, I booked our testing appointments on Friday – within the booking window. We will have the results of our PCR tests in a few hours by email.
Our return flights will take us through Dubai, UAE for a two-night stay. Dubai requires a negative Covid test within 72 hours of arriving in Dubai. The United States still requires a negative Covid test when reentering the U.S. This test is required whether you have been vaccinated or not. Again, I ran the clock backward and I determined that if we get tested in Switzerland on June 26, we will be able to satisfy both the UAE and U. S. testing requirements.
Make sure that your passport is valid. Most countries want your passport to expire no less than six months prior to your return home. If your passport will not meet this requirement, you will have to renew your passport early. Check the countries you plan to visit for visa requirements and begin applying for these visas early.
A Boatload Of Confirmations
We have confirmations for four flights in one direction and three flights on the return. We have confirmations for hotels and tours. I am tech-savvy and I could rely on my smartphone for this. Allowing for any kind of communication issues, I have printed out all of our confirmations for flights, hotels and tours. I have also printed out our Switzerland entry documents.
I have a report cover with sheet protectors that I use. All of these documents are placed in the report cover in chronological order. Within seconds, I can review every aspect of our trip without relying on the internet. Everything is in one place and easy to read.
Currency and Communications
The currency of Switzerland is the Swiss Franc. Most of our spending will be by credit card but we want a small number of Swiss Francs for the trip. I never change the currency at an airport where you will be taken advantage of. I ordered 100 Swiss Francs from Bank of America at the daily exchange rate plus a $7.00 charge for FedEx delivery. The money arrived two days after placing my order.
The credit cards used in foreign countries are important. Foreign transaction fees (FTFs) can add service charges to your credit card statement. It is important to use credit cards with no FTFs and make all charges in local currency. One scam that hotels, restaurants and merchants use is called dynamic currency conversion (DCC). The merchant will tell you that they can charge you in U. S. dollars at the time of transaction. Yes, you can avoid the FTF fee but you will end up with a DCC fee. The DCC fee will likely be more than the FTC fee because the merchants received a commission for pushing DCC. Always use a credit card that is FTF free and charge in that Country’s local currency.
Be sure to notify your credit card issuers that you will be traveling out of the country. This is important to keep your credit card from being suspended for foreign transactions.
I have a dual-SIM cellphone and I always buy a prepaid SIM card when I am traveling outside of the U.S., Mexico and Canada. I get both international cell phone service and internet for a low price. Again, the airport is not the place to make a purchase.
Let your family and neighbors know what your travel plans are and how they can reach you in case of an emergency at home.
Electricity – Watts The Difference?
There are electrical adapters and electrical converters. Unless your device works on both 110 volts AC and 220 volts DC, you will need an electrical converter that will:
- Step down the voltage from 220 to 110 and
- Will have the correct plug for the country you are in.
My voltage converters come in two flavors: 110 volts AC and USB. The converters that I use for power conversion have the standard U. S. 110 volt outlets. The USB converters I typically use in airports to charge our cell phones. Adapters convert plug type, they do not convert voltage.
When using voltage converters, make sure they are enough capacity to power the devices that you want to power. If your voltage converter can handle 1,000 watts, don’t try plugging in a 2,000 watt hairdryer. Bad things will happen including the converter catching on fire.
Of all of the logistics involved with traveling, transportation is the one where you have the least control. Since we have multiple flights, making timely connections is extremely critical. Minimum connection times might not be enough. I wrote a post on minimum connection times, you can read it here.
Our flights to Zurich have multiple legs on multiple airlines. This is what happens when you fly on award tickets, you are not the master of your itinerary. Our outbound schedule looks like this:
- June 21 – Alaska Airlines PDX to SEA,
- June 22 – American Airlines SEA to DFW,
- June 22 – American Airlines DFW to LHR and
- June 23 – British Airways LHR to ZRH.
The itinerary is complicated and I am concerned about making connections at DFW. I wrote a post about my connection issues and remedies which you can read here. I have a plan B and plan C in case I need to use them. In addition, I have done the following:
- I check every day on the flight performance of the SEA to DFW flights as the on-time performance has been problematic,
- I check the weather for DFW every day. Thunderstorms can cause landing delays. So far, the weather for DFW on June 22nd looks promising,
- I anticipate what terminal the flight to DFW will park at. It is highly likely this flight will park at Terminal A or Terminal C,
- I anticipate what terminal the flight to LHR will depart from. It is highly likely this flight will depart from Terminal D and
- I have planned on how to transit Terminal A or C to Terminal D using the terminal connection train.
The British Airways flight from LHR to ZRH is on a separate booking. Lucky for us, American Airlines and British Airways are both using Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport. We will have to go to the British Airways ticket counter to check our bags. We are Oneworld Emerald members so we should be able to use the express lanes. If we have time, we will head to the British Airways lounge to shower, change clothes and eat breakfast. After we land in Zurich, the Hilton Zurich Airport Hotel will pick us up and we will have made it.
As prepared as we will be, there are still problems that could arise that may be unknown to us. Being prepared and proactive will help greatly in dealing with any problems that may develop en route. Donald Rumsfeld brilliantly and comically explains these unknowns in this 30-second video:
Whew! I’m already exhausted and we haven’t left for the airport yet. The checklist is complete. With proper planning and preparation, the trip will flow easier and those bumps in the road will be easier and quicker to navigate. We’re looking forward to once again exploring the world. More important, we are looking forward to a smooth trip thanks to planning and preparation.
Now that you are fully prepared, there are a few steps left:
- Enjoy yourself,
- See and experience the local sites and customs,
- Learn the culture and become a local. Try booking a cooking class or cultural tour and
- Take lots of pictures.