Gwenda Ward asked many good questions about travel..here are my responses. (Note, I wrote this long ago, and with the world now open, this seems like a good time to post it.) And if anyone else has questions or better suggestions, please pose them in the comments section at the end of this post.
Q1: Are you using GPS to find your destinations? A: Yes, I use Google Maps. You can choose your method of travel: car (or ride share/taxi), walking, public transport, walking or biking. Depending on the distance and whether or not I have a car or bike, or access to public transit, I map out my route. If it seems too long or complicated I may choose a different destination.
Q2: Do you plan out everything before setting out or do you leave meander time? A: I plan on how to get where I want to go but especially if walking or biking I stop frequently to take photos or to walk into a store and look around. If I am going to a tennis tournament match though, I plan the route and sometimes practice the route the day before my match, no meandering! Also, if you are going for a tournament, women players need to know which tournaments are likely to have one’s age division. For example, an ITF 200 in Estonia is unlikely to have players over about 50…an ITF 1000 normally has all divisions if in Europe.
Q3: Do you know the languages or do you have a translator to communicate with the locals? A: I speak a little French and Spanish. However English is pretty much universally spoken in Western Europe. In South America I do use my Spanish as fewer people there speak English (note correction). But when in doubt ask a younger person. They all learn English in school. I also use google translate, especially to read labels. It will translate a page using the camera app on your phone. I do get scolded (mostly by clerks) for not understanding (e.g. in Essen at one store we had to use a cart; in another the cart had to be returned before bagging…the clerks were not happy about less than immediate compliance), but in those cases sign language and body language are pretty understandable.
Q4: Do you exchange currency prior to leaving the country or do you primarily use ATMs. A: I use ATMs. I have an ATM card that does not have any fees attached by my bank and my bank reimburses for fees other banks charge. It has a good exchange rate. Also, most countries accept credit cards, particularly Mastercard and Visa…just make sure your credit card doesn’t carry foreign transaction fees! And do request the charges be made in the local currency…your credit card will give you a better currency rate than any retailer.
Q5: Do you ever get food poisoning or are you extra careful? A: I have been lucky. When in China though I triple washed all the apples I bought. I have had some food poisoning in Turkey where buffet is the only option though. I do like to try local specialties, I don’t think I am extra careful. I cook or eat in a lot. I spend more time in grocery stores than in restaurants. Grocery stores are a must visit in every country!
Q6: Do you reserve housing beforehand or does someone set you up and you just let them know you have arrived? A: I normally reserve housing in advance, and normally don’t book nonrefundable housing, though I do book Airbnb more than I used to. I will wait till just before I leave sometimes to reserve airport hotels. I use booking.com a lot, airbnb, and various hotel sites depending on the country, and sometimes use my credit card points.
In my most recent trip though, with my cousins, we did no pre-trip planning other than airline and car rentals. And it turned out great.. because it was the off season.
Q7: Do. you ever have phone issues: A: Phoning home is a lot easier than it was when I first started playing and traveling internationally. I do not have a US phone plan which has free international data, but T-Mobile and Google Fi do. I buy a SIM card when I arrive and I have an unlocked phone I bought for use in international travel. I just go to a phone store, eg Vodafone or Orange, and buy a SIM card and have it activated. Normally it’s about 20 euros. It was a bit more complicated in Chile than in Spain. I also use WhatsApp for messaging and FB messenger plus iMessage (though that only works on Apple products). I use my US phone when in wifi range and for wifi assist calling. Update: newer phones have “esims” which can be purchased online. They tend to be a bit more expensive but prices should go down as they become more universal…the newest iPhones for example have only esims (in the USA…in Europe they still are sold with an option for a physical sim).
Q8: How do you get laundry done on the road: A: a: Rent a place which has a washing machine in the apartment or at least in the hotel (most nowadays use an app to turn on the machine and pay for it). b: Take it to a laundromat (look on google maps for the nearest ones) or c: Buy some laundry soap (or even use shampoo or body wash in a pinch) and wash it in a sink.
A few other tips:
If you get lost or don’t understand something, ask. People like to help. Someone will speak English.
Half the fun of a trip is anticipation. Do some homework on your destination. If you want to see the Sagrada Familia, find out if tickets in advance are necessary (hint…they are) and what time of day it’s best to go (early or late when the sun is at an angle).
Make a list of what you need to pack well in advance, and make sure your passport has 6 months left on it from the return date of your trip!
Final advice: if you can travel…somewhere.. different state, or a different country. It is not always easy or comfortable, but it changes one’s perspective. Having a tournament as a destination is great, since there will be a built in community based on a common interest. Then build an adventure from that start.