Share your travel tips...
• Mine would be to wear your favorite hunting boots on the plane, this will reduce the weight of your luggage and ensure that your most important piece of hunting gear will arrive at your destination with you.
What's your travel tips?
A very interesting post you initiated !
• A great idea is to write down valuable information and scan your most important documents or, such as passport, visa(s), identification card, airline ticket(s), itinerary, credit and/or debit card(s), numbers from your traveler’s cheques, travel insurance contacts, medical insurance contacts, medical evacuation insurance contacts, prescriptions, proof of firearm(s) and/or bow ownership and customs forms and permits and send them to your email address so that you it can be accessed remotely so you would have the ability to retrieve these documents as long as you have access to a computer and internet connection.
Overseas many financial institutions are on the CIRRUS system which means to be able to use your credit/debit cards, not just at an ATM but for ALL purchases, in many cases you will be required to have a pin number.
• Call your bank or credit card company to get a PIN number issued for your card(s) before you leave. Make sure your PIN number is only four digits in length as some international credit card machines and ATMs can only handle four digit PIN numbers, also some do not recognize the "0" as a number.
Travel tips - where to begin? A couple to start with:
• Always carry plenty of small bills on any kind of trip where airports, hotels, tipping are involved. Take lots of $1 bills plus $5 & $10's as you can spend the leftover cash later but sometimes it's hard to get a hold of when you are on the go.
• If at all possible, pack your valuables such as cameras, optics - binos, range finder, etc., cell phones & sat phones in your carry on luggage. You can most always borrow a firearm if you have lost or delayed luggage but to be without your other equipment can be a bad start to what should be a good safari.
• Make sure that your passport will be valid for at least six months after your intended date of departure from your safari destination, as most African countries require, otherwise you will need an extension or new passport.
• Also, you should have at least three fully blank pages left in your passport for your entry visa(s) and stamps, as they can take up several pages. If additional pages are needed you can easily have pages added to your passport.
Here is good way to end the practice of traveling with lots of cash or traveler's cheques to pay the end of the hunt costs, usually mainly comprising of trophy fees.
If you do not want to carry so much in cash or traveler’s cheques and ONLY if you are confident in your outfitter/PH/agent, you may consider making arrangements to send a bank wire transfer of an agreed upon amount a few weeks prior to your safari to cover a good portion of your estimated trophy fees. It is a common practice, so you should check with your outfitter/PH/agent as it may save you the hassle of carrying so much money. Before instructing your bank to wire the funds, make sure there is ample time for the funds to get to your outfitter/PH/agent before you arrive for your hunting safari.
Some agents will even put your money in an escrow account and release the funds to pay the end of the hunt costs to the hunting outfitter once you have signed off on the invoice at the end of your hunt. This practice is usually done between reputable agents and outfitters who have a long standing relationships.
PLAN on the airlines losing or delaying your checked baggage. It happens all the time. So take with you in your carry-on anything that is critical for your trip.
Medications -some are hard to find outside the USA.
Video cam (airline won't insure the camera equipment in lost baggage)
Passports, Visas, hunting and gun permits
Optics - Binos
Batteries - New USA Federal airline regs require that Lithium batteries need to be in carry-on and NOT in checked baggage. On my last trip, TSA required me to remove all my Lithium batteries from my checked bags and put them in my carry-on.
Some will take a laptop computer in their carry-on and others will pack in in baggage. If packing a laptop in your baggage, make a complete backup and take it in a small portable external hard drive in the carry-on. Can always buy another small laptop later, but you need your data. (Also leave a backup at home)
Notify your Bank, that has your credit cards, in advance of your travel itinerary as to where and when you will be outside the country.
Otherwise they have "fraud control" that will put a hold on your card when you start to use it abroad. It can be cleared by calling them, but time zones and ability to make calls can be difficult.
Also it is an inconvenience when you are trying to buy your meal or other purchases and the card comes up with a hold on it.
Take more than one credit card as some places will take one type of card but not another. I have had places not take Amex, but take only MasterCard. Others that won't take MasterCard and only take Visa, etc....
Some places will give you a really good discount if using a certain type of credit card... Thrifty car rental in JNB gave me a 10% discount by using my Amex card.
Airlines now are only allowing 50 pounds per bag without incurring additional cost for overweight.
So time to get rid of the heavy luggage bags and get some really lightweight roller duffle bags. Some luggage cases are over 20 pounds before you start to put anything into them!
Put a bright identifying tag on your bag. Maybe even a surveyors ribbon to make your bag stick out in the crowd to find it in baggage claim. I have caught and had to stop other people taking my bag out of JNB as it is a common black suitcase and they thought it was theirs. Most people don't even check the names on the luggage and just take the one that looks like theirs.
Also a bright and different ID tag will help when the airline loses or delays your bag.
Talk with your outfitter in advance as to how to pay for the balance of your trip when you are leaving camp.
Some outfitters will take travelers cheques, but some will want to charge you a banking fee of up to 10% to 15% if you use travelers cheques.
Probably better to make an escrow arrangement with your outfitter or booking agent to have the balance wired at the end of the safari.
Watch your US dollars and what issue they are. Had a lot of problems last year in Tanzania when the hotels, banks and outfitter would not accept the older printed US dollar bills and only would take the bills with the large President heads. So if you are getting cash to take with you, make sure it is the newer version of currency.
Also, what is the security for your cash and valuables in camp?
Most hunting camps don't have good security for a lot of cash in the safari tents. And theft is commonplace anywhere you travel.
I prefer to put the cash on deposit with the outfitter as they can put it in a safe or take responsibility for it when you arrive.
Some outfitters have a safe in camp. Can put your cash in an envelope, seal it and sign across the seal.
Safer than worrying about your cash and valuables while you are out hunting.
• If you do choose to use traveler’s cheques, it is essential that both of your signatures match on the traveler’s cheques and a special effort should be made while signing numerous cheques at one time to keep your signature consistent, whether it is when you sign them at the bank or when you sign them to make payment. Outfitters can encountered problems cashing traveler’s cheques because of inconsistencies with signatures on them mainly due to the fact that after signing your name a multitude of times handwriting tends to get sloppy.
• Make a list of your traveler’s cheque numbers and carry it separately from the cheque's or leave the list at home with someone you can reach if needed.
• Ask your hunting outfitter to confirm your return flights 72 hours prior to your departure, it is especially important for flights originating in Africa to be confirmed.
• Very important to place your name and contact details (home & destination information) inside every piece of luggage in addition to the luggage ID tag placed on the outside of your bags. If your airline bag tag and your luggage ID tag get separated from your luggage this might be the only way that the airline can identify this as your bag.
We had a firearm case that lost both the airline & ID tag on the flight from Windhoek to Jo-burg last year and luckily we intercepted and identified it in the SAPS office in Jo-burg - it could have turned out really bad!
• As a back up, have your PH take with his camera several nice photos of all of your trophies with you.
• If possible, place a few tightly fastened tie wraps on your checked baggage (including firearm or bow case) in addition to your TSA locks, it will prevent or deter those pretty organised and perhaps working in concert thieves at the airports (especially Johannesburg) from breaking into your checked luggage.
Not only that but you will also be able to know prior to leaving the airport, if any of your checked luggage was opened during your travel thus giving you the opportunity to check the content prior to leaving the airport. Without such indicator, most likely you would only know if someone opened your bag upon arrival at your destination, away from the airport, when you began unpacking your bags. Maybe too late to make a claim with the airline or notify police of theft of your property.
Some TSA locks have an indicator on them to let you know just by looking at your luggage lock if your bags have been searched by a TSA agent or violated by an unknown person, certainly a great feature however even with such lock I would recommend using tie wraps for the added benefits.
TSA SearchAlert luggage lock
• Take with you in your carry-on luggage a couple of extra locks and a few tie wraps if need be for any of your luggage. Sometimes while checking in or just prior to boarding an airline clerk will order you to checkin or put your carry-on in the cargo area while all along you were expecting to bring it with you on board. Not having a chance to secure your carry-on luggage with the extra locks and ties before they carry it away may make all of the difference as to what you find upon arrival at your destination.
• Should you be traveling as a couple, it is a good idea to take two smaller bags rather than one large piece of luggage and to split your belongings evenly, including ammo, between the two bags in case of delayed or lost luggage and to distribute the weight of the ammunition so as not to go over weight.
• Double tag your checked luggage with ID tags. Conveyor belts and baggage handlers rip them off easily. This one saved me.
• If you have a hard-side gun case (Do-All, Kalispel, Vanguard HD, etc.) consider making a "permanent" name tag. Get a 4 x 8" piece of 1/8" thick aluminum from a sheet metal shop (most will do this for you cheaply as they pull it from the scrap bin) and have a trophy shop engrave it with your name and address. Attach to the side of the gun case with 3/16" pop rivets. It's virtually impossible to pull off without tools. (Mine have survived many flights and brutal baggage handlers.)
Our group had three bags not make it from Jo'Berg to Polokwane. Two of the guys were using the same ammo as others so they borrowed ammo. The third had to use a back up gun someone had brought for the first 3 days of the hunt.
Also, the domestic flights within RSA will nail you with exorbitant excess baggage fees for TOTAL weight of all checked luggage over 20 Kg. Contrary to their website, this included gun cases. The fine print had no hint of this and a call to the airline beforehand gave us two answers much more favorable than what actually happened.
Lastly, do not underestimate what baggage handlers might do to your luggage and gun cases. Luckily my incident happened on the way back, but they somehow managed to throw my gun case from a height sufficiently high enough to cause my gun to slide within the hard case and go through not only the interior padding, but also drive through the outside shell of the case. The barrel was sticking 2-3 inches out the side of the case. Had a range finder or anything else been between the barrel and the side of the case, it would have been destroyed.
• Hunters traveling with firearms should always make sure that their weapons have been cleared through TSA at the airport each time they check them through on a flight - verify everything is OK before proceeding through to the security checkpoint and your departure gate. This is especially important when coming back into the U.S. After you have cleared customs and when rechecking your baggage for your connecting flight, be sure to notify the screening agent that you have firearms and make sure they have passed through the screening process before leaving the area and proceeding to your gate.