There are a few bits and bobs that you’ll want to do and/or buy before you leave the UK, so you’re ready for your holiday. There’s obviously the Disney research, planning your days, booking your meals kind of planning, but here I’m going to cover some of the things that are more specific to visiting Walt Disney World from a whole other country.
Different providers work in different ways, but it’s usually best giving your provider a call before you go to make sure your phone has international roaming activated – assuming you want to use it there. There is a charge for both calling and receiving calls from overseas and they will also let you know these costs as they will be significantly higher than your usual call costs and will not come out of your regular minutes, if you’re on a contract.
Here are some tips:
- If you’re from the UK it’s free to receive texts, whereas you’ll be charged to receive calls, so where possible, get people to text you from home, rather than ring you
- Ask your provider if they do an international calls bundle. Most don’t advertise them (they’d rather you rack up the costs) but all the major networks let you pay for a bundle that lowers the cost of the calls you make. If you’ll be making a few, it’s worth getting – just remember to cancel it when you get back, if it’s a monthly bundle.
- Data roaming is the ability to use the web (like we do on 3G in the UK). It can get really expensive abroad – people have been known to rack up £100s without realising it. In particular you want to avoid watching video and YouTube etc as that will eat up your money. Within the EU, there are automatic limits so that you can’t spend too much without realising it, but these don’t apply when you’re visiting the USA. The best way to handle it is to simply switch off your data roaming capability on your phone – and to do it before you leave the UK. However, if you can’t live without it then you’ll want to look into what your provider offers in terms of data roaming bundles, which you buy ahead of time. These will still be expensive, but will work out cheaper than frequent use ad-hoc. Again, not all providers advertise them but do make sure you ask as most have them.
If you get free Wi-Fi at your hotel (and Disney have very recently started offering this in most of their hotels) then you’re best to make the most of that – either on a smart phone or laptop, and use a much cheaper service such as skype to make your calls. We used free Wi-Fi and skype last year and it saved us nearly £80 ($130). Depending on the amount of calls you’ll be making, it might also work out cheaper to pay for your internet, if it is not offered free, for the same reason, although it can be expensive so you’d need to work it out against your own international call costs on your mobile. But make sure it is wi-fi and not wired – so you don’t have to take a laptop which you can plug in or a wireless router with you! In addition if you’re trying to catch your family between them coming home from work and going to bed, that will probably be between 1pm and 5-7pm in Orlando – when we’re at the parks and not in our room. So internet at the hotel doesn’t work for everyone – you don’t want to have to plan your days around phoning home! And of course, neither of these options will help you if you’re trying to phone each other within the parks, if your party splits up. That being said, Magic Kingdom has just started to offer free WiFi, with the other parks to follow soon – although reports are that it is a little sketchy.
If you’re planning on making many calls and texts (as opposed to data roaming) it may instead be worthwhile purchasing a very cheap local pay-as-you-go mobile, which comes loaded with pre-pay minutes. You can also buy a global sim ahead of time, and switch to that number. If you’re on holiday though, you’re unlikely to be making so many calls for these options to be worthwhile.
I covered this in my previous post, but I thought I’d mention it again very briefly. Essentially, planning ahead to get the best credit cards available will save you money, as will making sure you buy currency at the best rates, in the UK, in advance.
Get good travel insurance
This is true of any travel abroad, but particularly so of a trip to the USA. In the UK we’re so used to free medical care it’s easy to forget that it doesn’t exist in other countries and that (in the USA) we wouldn’t be eligible for it anyway. Travel insurance is particularly important for any trip to the States as not only is medical care particularly expensive over there, we are also not covered by the European Health Insurance Card, as we would be in Europe.
Complete your ESTA
This is the electronic application form you need to complete to gain entry into the States under the Visa Waiver Program – which you need to do prior to your arrival at the airport. It will last for two years (or until your passport expires if sooner), and there is a small fee, per person.
We use a totally different type of electrical plug compared to the States. While you can buy adaptors at the airport, and I’m sure, also in the hotels, it will work out far cheaper if you buy them in advance. We have four and it’s not really enough. These days we just have too much that needs charging regularly – on top of regular use. Regular use might be for things like electric toothbrushes, straighteners, etc. But lots of things also need charging – and usually all at the same time – our camera, his i-pod, his i-pad, my phone, my kindle etc. Be aware though that the US plugs are a lower voltage and while the adaptors covert our products to fit in their sockets, they do not covert the voltage. Meaning that charging takes longer and many electricals don’t work as well. For instance, I no longer take my own hair dryer, as while I much prefer to use my own, the heat it produces in the US is pathetic.
- Make sure your passport is in date – it needs to have 6 months left before expiry
- Make sure you have enough medication to last for your trip plus extra in case you’re delayed. If you have any medication that is prohibited, but needs to be taken in your hand luggage, such as needles or liquid over 100ml, you’ll also need a note from your GP.
- Make copies of your passport and travel insurance and give to a family member or friend, in case you lose them abroad.
- If you look below the age of about 30, you might also want to take some additional form of ID with you if you want to have an alcoholic drink, but don’t want to take your passport around with you. We carry our driving licences with us as they fit in our wallets and it means I can keep the passports in the safe.