Thursday, June 13, 2013

Almost Time to Go!!!

The trip is almost upon us! This is both the most exciting and, potentially, the scariest time time of the whole trip. For those of us who have not traveled much or maybe not at all, the unknown can be worrisome.
I will do my best to make the trip as easy as possible for you all. Please follow my directions for things like getting through customs and immigration and when and where to meet for each of our daily excursions, I will be providing maps of each of our locations and giving out 'emergency cards' that will have information like the addresses and telephone numbers of each of our hotels - so that, in a pinch, you can just show the card to a taxi driver and get 'home' from anywhere. Unlike here at home, you will be able to get cabs quite easily (OK, not so many cabs in Dalkieth, but everything is within walking distance and showing the card to anyone who lives in the area will quickly produce directions to the castle). SO, don't be too worried about travel or getting lost.

We will be meeting at the bus pick up area Tuesday morning - please see the trip web page through the OIE for details (oh yes, you can leave a car the entire duration of the trip but if you don't have a current UWO parking sticker you need to see the wonderful folks at Parking Services for a temporary sticker). Lee and I will be there by about 9:45. The bus should show up around 10 to 10:15 and we will be leaving for the airport about 15 minutes after the bus arrives. Lee and I will be checking everyone to be sure you have your passport and your UWO student id card. Recall that your luggage cannot be over 50 pounds and you are only allowed one suitcase and one carry on without paying extra (and the overweight charges are pretty extreme) and, of course, the trip does NOT cover baggage overage fees. Please also realize you may be bringing back souvenirs - and leave some room in your baggage for them for the return trip.

Please refer to the 'hints and tips' that I sent you some time ago for things you will want/need to bring. I cannot emphasize enough bringing comfortable walking shoes and a rain jacket. Also, bringing a good tour book so you can do a little sightseeing on your own will be very valuable to you (you have free afternoons in London, Cambridge and York and quite a bit of free time in Edinburgh). Don't over pack (though I tend to do so myself). You will be buying souvenir t shirts in all likelihood so don't bring a lot of clothing. You might want to think about dressing in layers - it can be quite cool (some trips I was not comfortable in short sleeves for more than a few daytime hours even inside the castle) and rainy all the way up to 80 degrees or more and very humid.
Bringing power converters (other than just converter PLUGS) is also something to think about. You can purchase these most anywhere, even at your local Walmart. You will at least need a plug for the UK - the plugs in the castle have three very weird looking prongs on the plug, though other places in the UK where we stay may be using the two round prongs. Make sure the plugs you buy include both (read the back of the package). Unless you are bringing a laptop and everything else you have charges with a USB port, you will need a CONVERTER not just PLUGS. You will fry your camera (or other device) charger unless it clearly says it will handle from 110 to 240 volts (UK is 220 volts). You have been warned (again).

Bringing money - there are ATM's everywhere and are far and away the easiest and usually the cheapest way to get money. HOWEVER, you must notify your bank and any credit cards when you will be in the UK (call the customer service number on the back of each card). If you don't they will likely cut off your card and you will be stuck. Also, ask about fees they charge for international transactions. Many places will charge up to 3% or even more PER TRANSACTION. Also, recall that the exchange rate is about $1.60 or so per British pound. When you take "100" out of your account, you will be debited at least the $160 and also fees. Budget your money. You have been warned (again).

Gosh, I don't intend for this entry to sound scary or frightening or mean, but I am very serious about these basics: pay attention to directions from me and Lee, bring good shoes and a raincoat, think about converting electricity, and your personal finances. With those things taken care of, you will have a GREAT trip!
I encourage those of you who are going on the trip to comment on this blog with the thing (or things) you are most looking forward to and the thing (or things) you are most worried about. Also, while we are away I will be assigning blog posts so that you can potentially use this blog to keep in touch with people in the states that want to keep track of you!


  1. Thanks for the update and tips.

    Looking forward to:
    • Seeing the sights and learning new things. I know it’s kind of a lame-o answer, but I really am looking forward to seeing the locations and attractions I’ve only seen on TV or in the movies. I just watched both Elizabeth movies with Cate Blanchette , Mary of Scots with Katherine Hepburn and Smithsonian Channel specials on Edinburgh Castle and Richard III’s bones.

    Not looking forward to:
    • Simply being out of my element. Another lame-o answer. I eat a lot, drink often, sleep more than average and love warm weather. I am a wuss, so I will do my best to be prepared for everything.

  2. I am really hoping to take a trip to the Highlands!!!!!! I am also looking forward to leave the States for the first time and experience a different culture and way of life!

    Emily Jung

  3. When I think about what I'm most looking forward to, the first thing I think of is London. I'm really excited to see that city and all the history that's there. I've been dying to go to London for...I can't even remember how long! But then I think about being in Scotland for about three weeks. I feel like it's an entirely different experience being in a place long enough to feel comfortable there and get into a sort of routine as opposed to just touring it for a few days. Being able to have that experience is something I'm really looking forward to as well.

    The whole trip is going to be great; it's really hard to decide what I'm MOST looking forward to. :)

  4. Thanks for all the pre trip prep! It definitely helps ease the jitters a bit.

    I am really hoping to take a tour of some of the more rural areas of Scotland. I think that would be super neat!
    Also, I am an avid scotch drinker, collector and connoisseur, so I am stoked to check out some distilleries while I am over there and actually enjoy scotch like it was meant to be!

  5. This may sound corny but the thing I'm looking forward to most is just going on this trip! I think everything is going to be an awesome experience. If I had to choose tho I would say playing a round of golf or seeing London.

    I just hope we have a great group and have a great time!

    Can't wait for this guys!

  6. I am looking forward to experience a different culture besides the United States. Plus, the amazing opportunity to venture out and explore the different surroundings first hand instead hearing/seeing it from a book/movie.

  7. I'm looking forward to being in another country and experiencing a new culture. I've never been outside the country so I can't wait!