Here are a handful of helpful tips and suggestions to consider when preparing to travel on the Homeland Tour.
- Travel & Health Insurance
Contact your health insurance provider to verify your "out of country" health insurance coverage on your existing policy. According to the U.S. Department of State, the Social Security Medicare program does not provide coverage for hospital or medical costs outside the USA. Depending on your coverage, additional health insurance may be warranted for this trip. Contact your personal property insurance provider regarding your coverage against loss of material goods on your homeowner’s policy. Some insurance providers do not cover against theft or loss on items when you are outside the USA. Still cameras, video cameras and other personal items can be expensive to replace if lost or stolen.
We highly encourage you to purchase travel insurance for your tour costs to protect against the loss of tour fees should you not be able to make the trip for some reason. We recommend contacting Cheyenne at All Travel Matters LLC at email@example.com or (701)-891-8135.
- Money & Credit Cards
Below are just suggestions; you may want more or less money depending on what you plan to buy. Plan on bringing enough cash for your purchases of souvenirs, extra beverages, meals on your own, telephone calls, taxis, tips, and anything else you may purchase. For example, taxi trips cost between $5 and $35. Bottled water, beer, or soda is available at cost at meals. All meals you eat outside the itinerary are on your own.
Ukraine: We suggest bringing about $300 US dollars and a credit card. There are currency exchanges all over the city of Odessa and near our hotel. Currency exchanges only accept denominations larger than a $20 bill, so it is not necessary to bring smaller bills. When you exchange money in the Ukraine, you will be given a document as a record of your transactions. Be sure to keep these documents, as you may be asked to present them when leaving the country. While in Odessa, you may use your credit card at reputable businesses but keep in mind that security is always an issue in Ukraine. Also, pick pocketing can be a concern in Odessa; please keep your valuables and money safe! Never show all of your cash at once, if people see that you have a large amount of money, it is possible that they will attempt to scam you.
Germany: You can use your credit card and/or pay in cash with Euros. Credit & debit cards must have a chip in them to work in Europe; they will not accept your card without a chip. MasterCard and Visa are most widely accepted; Discover is almost unknown. We recommend having both cash and a credit card; some places do not accept credit cards (some restaurants, small shops, some taxis, etc.). The best way to get cash Euros is to use your bank debit/ATM card upon arrival in Europe to get cash from an ATM. You can also get Euros in advance from your bank but you will likely pay a higher exchange rate. Be sure to speak with your bank regarding any fees and ATM withdrawal limits while in Europe. All airports and train stations will have currency exchange booths, this is the most expensive way to get cash Euros and we do not recommend using them unless you have no other option. Keep in mind that most banks in Europe will not exchange your USD for Euros unless you have an account.
IMPORTANT: Let your bank and credit card companies know in advance that you will be traveling in Europe so they do not block any foreign transactions. Helpful Tip: Create a record of their credit cards. Make a list of the telephone number contacts to these companies should you lose your credit cards and it becomes necessary to cancel them. Verify that you will be able to call the company from Europe should anything happen. Make two copies. Bring one along and leave one with someone at home that you will be able to contact. That way, if you are not able to call the company from Europe, your contact in the United States will be able to do it for you.
- Travel Documents
A emailed scan or mailed copy of your passport is required to be submitted by March 1.
It is our recommendation that you keep your passport with you at all times. While in Germany, you may choose to leave it in your room in the safe. In Ukraine, you are required to have your passport with you at all times and if you are asked to present it to the authorities, please follow their instructions.
It is a good idea to apply for your passport at least three months before you plan to travel. Passport applications are available at your local post office or local clerk of court office. Bring along photocopies of your passport and keep them in a separate place. In case you misplace or lose your original, the photocopies will make it easier for the American consul to assist in your return to the USA. Your passport must be valid for 90 days after the end of the tour.
A visa is not required for U.S. citizens if traveling to Germany & Ukraine.
Travel Document Photocopies
Remember to make two photocopies of your passport, your airline tickets and itinerary, and other important documents that you take with you on the tour. Leave one copy at home with someone you will be able to contact, and take the other copy along on the tour. Keep the photocopies in a safe place, such as in your luggage, separate from the originals.
Please make use of some type of money-belt or hidden purse; various types are available at department store luggage departments. Keep your passport with you at all times. Do not keep important documents in external purses.
Do not bring expensive jewelry or unnecessary valuables along. Only bring necessary credit cards and identification. Leave those "nice to have, but not really necessary" items in your wallet at home. Those membership cards, hunting licenses and library cards will be there when you return home.
- Luggage & Clothing
If you have any baggage that does not fit the below restrictions for our Austrian Airlines flight from Germany to Odessa and back, you will be responsible for any cost associated with your excess baggage.
Carry-on baggage: You are allowed one carry-on bag that must not exceed the dimensions 21.5 x 15.75 x 9 inches (55 x 40 x 23 cm) and the weight of 17.5 lbs (8 kg). It must be stowed in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. At the airport, the dimensions and the weight will be checked at the boarding gate. Carry-on baggage which is too big or too heavy must be checked in.
Checked Baggage: You are allowed one checked bag weighing no more than 50 lbs (23 kg) with dimensions less than 62 inches (158cm) (total width + height + depth).
Personal Item: You may take one personal item with a maximum size of 15.75 x 11.8 x 3.9 inches (40 x 30 x 10 cm) into the passenger cabin. For example a lady's handbag or a laptop bag or a shoulder-strapped bag.
For full baggage information, please see the Austrian Airlines website. Our fare is Economy Classic.
Tour members are responsible for their own luggage throughout the entire trip. This includes getting it to and from your hotel room and in and out of airport security and baggage claims. Maximum luggage allowed per tour member is (1) checked bag, (1) carry-on bag, and (1) personal item. Tour members are responsible to verify the luggage requirements of their international flights. We also recommend putting your name, address and telephone numbers inside and outside of each piece of luggage. Use covered tags to avoid casual observation of your identity or nationality and if possible, lock your luggage.
Clothing Tips: Mornings can be cool, followed by warm and humid temperatures in the afternoon. A heavy coat is not necessary, a sweatshirt or windbreaker will do. For the afternoons, bring shorts, light shirts, and cover-ups to protect your skin from the sun. Some sort of head cover or hat, and the use of sunscreen are recommended as direct sunlight is often very intense during the time of our trip. Sunglasses are also recommended. Since we will be doing a lot of walking, sturdy walking shoes are a necessity. You may wish to bring one or two business casual outfits for evening events or suppers. Remember that rain is always a possibility as well, so be prepared however you think is appropriate for that. Try to travel light. Remember, if you feel you are packing too many clothes, you probably are!
- Medicines & Water
Be sure to bring an adequate supply of any prescription medications you will be taking. It is also suggested that you bring an adequate supply of any non-prescription medications you may need such as aspirin, ibuprofen, antacids, liquid or solid, Imodium AD, and a gentle laxative.
Bottled water can be purchased at nearby grocery stores at all of our hotel locations. We also recommend bringing a reusable water bottle that you can use for personal consumption.
- Electrical Connections
In order to plug in electronic devices, you will need a European power adapter. You can purchase one on Amazon or at most department stores before your trip ($10-25 US Dollars). This is the one that I personally use, it comes in a pack of 3 so you can keep all your devices plugged in.
Electrical power in Europe is different than we have in the USA. Power in the Europe is provided at 240V/50hz. Power in the USA is provided at 120V/60hz. Most appliances manufactured today have switches that allow the use of either type of power. Most mobile phones, camcorders, laptop PCs, hairdryers, electric shavers, and hair curlers are equipped to accept both 120V/50hz, and 240V/60hz. A power converter is essential if your appliance is not built to accept both types of power.
- Nice-to-have Items
Bring extra camera batteries. Due to the possibility of rain, an umbrella would be a good idea. A bag or pack with a shoulder strap to carry items during the day is also a good idea. It can become tiresome carrying cameras, jackets, sweaters, water bottles, and other items. Fanny packs large enough to carry several small items have been found to be quite useful.
Journaling about your adventure is something you will want to do. Bring a small notebook to record your daily activities. Despite your best intentions, remembering what happened, where it happened and when can all become a blur. Some tour members have used small portable tape recorders that fit in a shirt pocket. Make notes often during the day. You will appreciate those notes when you are back home trying to remember the name of that church or what village that cemetery you visited was in.
- Personal Hygiene & European Bathrooms
Our hotels typically provide basic soap, shampoo, and conditioner in each guestroom, however depending on your personal choice, you might want to bring your own. Toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, deodorants, etc., are all available for purchase nearby our hotels, but they may not be up to standards you are accustomed to.
Bathrooms, especially in Ukraine, may not be up to your expectations. Often while traveling to remote villages or on a city tour, there will be limited opportunities to use a bathroom facility. When in the villages in Ukraine, if there is an immediate need to use the bathroom, you may need to use the bushes. If their is a bathroom available, it may cost money, may not be very clean, and likely will have a squat toilet (which looks like a hole in the ground). We recommend bringing a roll of toilet paper from the hotel during your village visit days.
For more European bathroom tips, I recommend reading this article by Rick Steves.
- Health & Walking
Health: Foreign travel can provide special challenges and stresses. Medical care may not be available and/or of a quality comparable to what is available in the United States. You must be aware of your personal medical needs and have adequate medical insurance coverage.
Walking: There will be considerable amounts of walking most days during the tour. It is important that you are aware of this and are prepared to stick with the group as we navigate cities, villages, etc.