Monday, May 12, 2014

Prepping for Europe

Yesterday I mentioned the trip, but I'm not sure I mentioned where we're going.  We're going to London for 3 days where we'll join Greg and Yolanda, then Vienna for 2 where we'll join Mom and Dad and get on the River Princess and sail on the Danube, Main and Rhine rivers through Austria, Germany and The Netherlands and then we'll be staying on a beautiful houseboat in Amsterdam for 4 nights before winging our way back home!!!  To us the best part is that we'll be vacationing with my parents and my brother and his wife!  A three week family vacation!

It's been so long since we've traveled out of the country that we both had to renew our passports.  Though I guess, technically it isn't how long it's been since we last traveled out of country, but rather, how long its been since we last renewed our passports.

Ken's was going to expire shortly after we got back, mine expired a few years ago.

Since current requirements say that our passport has to be valid for 6 months AFTER we return to the good old USofA that meant that we BOTH had to renew our passports.  Luckily I checked the expiration dates out a while ago and was able to leisurely get to the post office to get the forms, go to CVS to get our photos taken (side note - turns out we could have taken the photos ourselves rather than spend something like $16 each on the photos!!!  I had a memory of the photography store's weird camera that took two side by side photos at the same time for passports.  I thought we still had to use that.  But AFTER spending the money to get our photos taken I read the fine print and learned I could have taken them myself.  And that was reinforced when we got our passports back with the second photo returned to us!  Argh!)....where was I? 

Oh yeah, I had plenty of time to fill out the application (another side note - did you know government forms have information telling you how long the average person would take to fill it out?!  Must have had some law that required a study to figure that out...and then they list the time on the form so if you're faster, you wonder what you missed, and if you're slower you wonder who they timed to get the timings!)...I digress....again....I mailed the applications, along with $110 EACH and checked the website which said to expect them back in 9 weeks.  (Seemed appropriate for government work!)  This was just before the shut down, mind you. 

They were in our mailbox within two weeks.  And in a separate envelope were the old ones, now with a hole punched through them.

The new passports have the chip in them.  Supposed to help stop counterfeiters, I think, and help them scan the passports at customs.  But it also means that I now 'had' to get a RFID safe wallet/purse to keep them in so someone can't scan them and get our identity information!  And I've also gotten a new "Chip and PIN" credit card which has the same issue.  It's one of those damned if I do and damned if I don't things.  If I want to have a card that I can use anywhere in Europe I needed a Chip and PIN card.  But if I have a Chip and PIN card then I need to keep it in an RFID safe wallet purse!  Argh again!

So to do this I purchased a Pacsafe Cross-body-bag that has built in RFID blocking as well as anti-slash 'stuff' - not that I expect to need to protect myself from knife wielding purse snatchers where we're going, but you'd never know it has that kind of technology built into it by looking at it, so why not?

Now I have my new passport and a new credit card.  Both with a chip embedded in them.  Both requiring shielding.  Isn't technology grand?!

Oh, and if you're interested in following my Mom, she has been posting about the trip on her Travel Blog, too.  They're on the Uniworld portion of their trip and we meet up with them in 2 weeks exactly!  In Vienna.  Where we get to see a performance of the Lipizzaners at the Spanish Riding School!  From the front row, IN the arena.  Wow!

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