Covering the Essentials

Published: June 18th 2019
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Two for the Road

We’ve been planning for months now. It is daunting to try to anticipate our needs while on the road and in dozens of different countries. Aside from the itinerary, where we’ll stay and how to get there, we must consider medications, banking, communication and (for me) preserving our experiences.

Here’s what we’ve come up with so far:

Medications– like most people over the age of 60, we take maintenance medications to maintain blood pressure, cholesterol levels and other personal circumstances. Insurance restrictions limit prescriptions to three months only. We’ve discovered three options to obtain medications while on the road. My doctor wrote multiple prescriptions valid at pharmacies overseas. While we talked he said I could simply communicate with him via our medical plan’s email portal. He could FAX a prescription to any pharmacy I identify, all I need is wi-fi access and the pharmacy number. Our pharmacist suggested simply asking for a one-year prescription, bypassing the insurance and using to access discount coupons that significantly reduce the cost.

Banking – We did two things that we hope will reduce our stress and allow access to our liquid accounts. Charles Schwab issues a debit card, usable anywhere, that imposes no fees. We have placed an amount of money sufficient to supplement our main account that automatically pays our permanent bills. Fortunately, we have been able to see our mortgage and utility costs covered during our absence so we can have a neutral monthly cost, which we will apply to our rental costs. We upgraded our credit card (at a minimal fee) to receive more points on travel expenditures, access to airport lounges (definitely worth it), car rental accident coverage, and concierge services.

Communication – Over the years, I’ve tried several approaches to mobile phone coverage. None have been especially effective. On our last tour, 6 weeks in length, we used our data coverage for maps and driving guidance. We’ve rarely had success paying the rental agency for their devices. Once, in France, we accessed our built-in maps function, and for two days got all our directions in French. On another occasion, the previous driver turned off the voice function and we were forced to use only the visual aid to make our way. We trust Siri.

Our phones can use wi-fi for verbal communication without significant cost. If we ever need to make an important call, we’ve decided it is cost effective to just pay the fees from our provider rather than pay fees to cover calls we may never make. The other option is to purchase a sim card upon arrival. The negative is that you receive a new number you must use to notify friends and family, and you will have to set up a mail box for messages. There is, of course, always texting.

Photos – I have a lot of camera gear. I’ve had to decide on what equipment I want, and how much I will carry. I mentioned this to a friend who simply asked, “Don’t you have a phone?” Well yes, I do, but I want to exercise control over my options and produce photos instead of snapshots. So, I will carry my DSLR Canon 5D with a 24-105 lens, a lightweight mirrorless Canon M3 with two lenses: 18-55mm and 70-200mm. The last is my waterproof, durable Olympus Tough. I’ve loaded them with 128 mg SD cards. That should be sufficient.

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