Monday, April 11, 2022

Packing: Taking Enough, But Not Too Much!

This is the 4th or 5th trip I have taken to the UK, and over the years I have learned what I need to take and what I can leave at home.  First, it is important to know that I have learned that I can handle only one carry-on suitcase and a laptop carrier of some sort.  I am going to have to lug my own luggage on the train to London from Heathrow and also on the trains that I plan to take to Edinburgh from London, and then to York.  While I am renting a car for the middle of my trip, I will be leaving it north of London and taking the train there and then to Heathrow a couple of days later. 

Basically, as I get older, it gets a lot harder to handle luggage.  The last trip I took for six weeks in 2018, I bought a larger suitcase and had a lot of trouble managing it and even lifting it onto a bed to open it. 

So, let’s start with the non-clothing stuff I have already put aside into a small duffel bag.  Most of this stuff will have to go into my carry-on size suitcase that I will check as baggage on the plane, but some will have to go in the even smaller laptop bag that will go on the plane with me.   

Here is my list of non-clothing stuff:

  • Laptop, charger, and mouse.  Laptop will go in foam sleeve to protect it. 
  • My cell phone.  I will switch out the SIM card for a UK version at a Carphone Warehouse store as soon as I get to London.  This will give me a UK phone number and limited UK phone calls, unlimited text, and substantial data, depending on which plan I purchase.  Last time I paid about $20 for all of this. 
  • Cords to all electronics and camera battery charger.  Don’t need a converter but will take UK plug I can use for computer. 
  • My camera, a supply of rechargeable batteries, and a specialized charger for those batteries.   
  • Six, filled weekly pill containers and the documents from the pharmacy showing that these are prescriptions drugs I need every day.  (Four weekly pill containers are very old so will be tossed as I use them.)
  • Small supplies of pills I take every day, such as Aleve and some cold medicine in sealed capsules. 
  • A supply of face masks to protect myself against COVID.
  • Four COVID test kits and a thermometer.
  • Hand cream and glasses cleaner in packets.  
  • Two washcloths, which are not supplied in most UK hotels.
  • A couple of small bars of soap because I do not like the liquid stuff supplied by many hotels.  
  •  Very small sewing kit, fingernail scissors, and nail file.
  • Laundry washing sheets for washing clothing in hotel sinks. These are dissolvable and contain soap for washing things in sinks, or even washing machines.  There are no laundromats in UK hotels. You can get laundry done sometimes, but it might be very expensive, like $15 for one load of clothing that get folded, not ironed.
  • Plastic hooks for hanging laundry on shower rods or closet rods to dry.
  • Large supply of two sizes of ziplock bags.  I plan to buy a small cooler and will need these to store food in.  I plan to buy cheese, crackers, cookies, and fruit for lunches and snacks. 
  • Paring knife to cut up cheese and fruit with so I do not have to gnaw at a plastic wrapped chunk of cheese, as I had to do once! 
  • Stack of paper bathroom cups.  Will not use hotel glasses, and paper cups hard to find last trip. (Complained at Sainbury's once because all they had was plastic, while the country was forbidding plastic straws in fast food places!) 
  • Very small pad of paper and a pen.

I will be using many of these things up or throwing them away before I head home.  This will give me room for a couple of shirts and a sweatshirt, plus some booklets.  For example, I will not bring home the washcloths, paper cups, plastic bags, COVID test kits, or extra hand cream.  I will send any souvenirs home via UPS before I go to London at the end of my trip. 

With all of this, I will not have much room for clothing, but I really don’t need much.  Here are the essentials I have learned I need:

  • A good, LL Bean rain jacket.
  • A thin, lightweight cotton hoodie.
  • An old, thicker sweatshirt or hoodie that I can toss at the end of my trip, or whenever I replace it with one I buy there.
  • A nightgown and four pairs of underwear.
  • Two pairs of long pants—not too heavy.  
  • Two pairs of Capri-length pants.
  • One pair of shorts. Might take a second stretchy and comfortable pair for evenings in hotels.
  • Three or four t-shirts.  (I plan to buy a couple of these in the UK, so don’t want to start out with too many of these.) 

If I need anything more, I can buy it there.  I am NOT taking huge bottles of shampoo or hair rinse or even large packets of wipes because I know there are Boots stores everywhere! (Boots is a pharmacy and beauty products chain that even has snacks, drinks, and packaged salads and sandwiches.  If you don't know where to find something, try Boots.)

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Planning a Big Trip! How I End Up Where I End Up and All That.

I spend a lot more time planning a trip than actually taking it.  It would be a LOT easier to just sign up for a tour of some sort, but I am not the sort of a person who is willing to just go along with a group.  A tour might be appropriate for the first time a person who has not been somewhere before, but I have been to the UK several times in the past 20 years, so have specific places I want to visit and other places I don't care about.  I also like to rent a car so I can visit the little villages and other out-of-the-way places, and I like to pick and choose the times I get up in the morning and eat what and when I choose.  

Planning a trip myself is a lot of work, but for me it is worth it. 

Now, most of the time, all this planning is fun, but for some reason, planning for this trip has been agony.  Mostly, that is because I had more "wants" than I had time.  I knew from my last long trip to England and Scotland in 2018 that I got really tired towards the end of the six weeks I was away, so I cut this one to slightly under that--37 days to be exact.  I started my plans out by buying airline tickets way back last October.  That committed me to making plans to fill in the time frame I had chosen--no turning back now! 

My main purpose of this trip was to spend more time investigating the small town in North Yorkshire where my 2nd-great-grandparents were married.  (These were my maternal grandmother's grandparents who had emigrated to Canada in about 1845.)  I had visited Danby in 2018, but I had only a couple of days there, and at that time about all that I knew was the name of the town.  Over the last four years, I have been able to find more generations from that town all the way back to 1600!  It appears that I must be related to about half the town back then, so another goal was to verify some facts and take photos of as many of the gravestones in the church as I could. 

Other than that, I wanted to visit the Isle of Skye and possibly spend more time in the mountains in Scotland.  I also thought about visiting Argyle where the other side of my maternal grandparent's family came from and even Northern Ireland where my paternal relatives came from.  Unfortunately, I came to a dead end on some of these people so was not sure where exactly in those areas I would go.  And in one place, I found out that not only the churches and graveyards had been destroyed, but records also mostly did not exist.  The problem was that I could spend a lot of time looking over there, but be looking in the wrong places.

Finally, I decided to skip trying to do more on-the-spot research in iffy places and stick to what I was more certain of.  Also, I figured trying to fit in Northern Ireland would take too much time and be too exhausting for this trip.  Maybe another time??  

So, my final decision was to spend time in London and Edinburgh, places I have been to before but really enjoy, and then spend a week taking photos and verifying information in Danby.  The rest of the trip would be spending a few days at the Isle of Skye and returning to the islands of Orkney, where I have not been since 2008.  Also, I am planning on spending time in York, which I missed last time, and also a couple of days in Chipping Norton in the Cotswolds, plus a few other things on the way.  

So, as of today, I have made all of my hotel reservations.  One difficulty is that costs of hotel rooms have increased in the past four years.  I think this is mostly due to COVID, and partly just due to inflation in the last year or so.  Plus, I think I have gotten fussier as I have gotten a few years older.  I literally have spend hours choosing the exact perfect hotel for each place!  At one point, I said the heck with it and just chose one!

More later on how I like to travel and what I have learned I need to take with me on this long trip.