Preparing for your trip: Health Information

When you travel abroad you more than likely will want to know what type of vaccinations are recommended for your visiting country.

My family and I have obtained a WHO (World Health Organization) Vaccination card to keep track of all of our vaccinations.  Knowing what vaccinations are needed where you are traveling is important. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a great website for this needed information.

 Recently we were going to travel to Egypt but because of the political unrest we put this trip on hold. But before our trip I had scheduled our family to have Hep A shots.  The above map shows the areas where you are at risk. The dark brown being High risk. My Dad contracted Hep A when I was a child and was out of work for 10 weeks, no fun, especially if it can be prevented with a vaccination.

The above map shows the Risk areas for TBE (or FSME in Europe) which is a serious life threatening disease but can be prevented with a vaccination.   Lyme disease (Borreliosis), another tick borne illness, does not have a vaccination. I contracted this in 2008 not knowing the signs. In most people a bulls-eye like rash develops. If medical help is sought soon after then high doses of antibiotics can be prescribed to help fight the disease.

Don’t get lost….

Want to avoid getting lost abroad? We’ve found the best way to navigate through unfamiliar countries is to pre-cache maps onto our phones.  We have 2 different map apps we use, MotionX-GPS (iphone) and Locus Free  (Android).  Before leaving on holiday we pre-load the maps. We use way points to locate our hotel, restaurants, parking, museums, etc.  Make sure you zoom in so you can see street names and pre-cache all the areas you think you will be in. MotionX GPS has a good tutorial on how to do this.

The best part about this is you can use your map when you have no cell service.  International data roaming can be very expensive and wi-fi coverage can be spotty.  Our phone GPS has saved us more than once on trips abroad.  We were able to locate an international Hospital in Spain, thanks to our pre-cached maps, what a life saver.

Holiday Homes & Hotels

A great find in Vernazza

Where you stay on a holiday really can make a difference.  Whether it be a hotel, 5 star Resort, in the city or in the country, do your research.  Before committing to any I always check the reviews on trip advisor or the site itself.

Most of the time we find our family in holiday homes. My favorite sites in Europe are HomeAway, VRBO, and Venere.    Many travel books claim you can get a better deal just showing up and asking around.   This may be the way for single travelers but when you are looking for a triple or quad, you won’t have much luck.   We learned this the hard way.  We rolled in late to France, on our way to Spain and thought we’d just pick a place. Long story short, we ended up at a Formule1 hotel. (only hotel with a baby cot) Worst.Hotel.Ever.   The only time we have had luck with this scenario was off season in the Cinque Terre a few years back. A last minute trip, we ended up in a bar asking the locals and found a great place and have since returned.  I would only recommend no reservations if it’s last minute or in the off season, other than that try to plan ahead.

As far as holiday homes, we find these the most relaxing and best priced type of accommodation.   Some people enjoy the services hotels offer but if you find yourself more of an independent traveler, I’d recommend renting a holiday home over a hotel.

Some of my top picks for homes we have stayed in:
In the city center :
London
Berlin
Paris
Prague

Outside city center, car is nice to have:
Amsterdam
Tuscany 
Portugal
Costa del Sol

Traveling with Pets

If we are not flying somewhere we take our dog with us. This ads a new dynamic to traveling.  Thankfully Europe is pretty pet friendly, sadly sometimes more than kid friendly.  When traveling in the EU and Switzerland your dog must have a European Microchip.
You also need to have a Pet Passport for your dog.  Our dog, is the only one of us who has a Swiss Passport, lucky dog.  You can read more about moving to Switzerland with your pet here, or Europe.
Planning on hiking the Swiss Alps with your dog? You may want to consider, paw shoes, sounds funny but our poor dog tore up her paws running down the mountain and had to be carried down.

It’s hard to travel spontaneously when your party consists of 2 adults, 3 kids and 1 dog. For this reason, we usually have our place booked. A lot of hotels and holiday homes are pet friendly, you just have to ask.

Dogs usually require a train ticket. Switzerland allows dogs to travel on the train with you but you need to buy a 1/2 price ticket. If the dog can sit on your lap you don’t have to pay.  Italy allows dogs on the trains but they have to be muzzled, pictured left. Poor dog had to be muzzled to ride the boat in Italy.  This goes for all public transportation and usually the norm in Europe.
Dog, a Man’s (and kids) Best friend. Traveling with a dog can be a lot of fun. Most people see you as locals and it makes for fun conversations. Europe is very dog friendly and we have even had our dog served before us at a restaurant in France.