Detroit trip – more questions

I think I’ve got tipping sorted…..

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I’m going to sound like a complete noob here, but what the heck. Maybe some of you Euro types that travel to the US can help me out here.

Computer….

I’m bringing my laptop along for the trip. Here in Australia we run about twice the voltage in our electrical system as what they do in the US. I’m going to get a plug adapter so that I can plug it in, but will it run OK on the low voltage they have there? Is there anything else I need to do?

Phone…

I was planning on bringing my handset over. My phone is provided by my employer and the SIM card won’t work overseas. I’ve never actually bought a phone of my own, believe it or not. So will I be able to buy a prepaid SIM card there and have a number for the time I’m there?

Baggage….

I’m trying to figure out how I can make the trip using carry-on luggage only. One carry-on bag and my camera pack. It’ll save a bundle of time and make moving around a heck of a lot easier. It’s only 5 days in the US, so I figure one spare pair of pants, a few shorts and my underwear should do it. I can buy toiletries there.

What do you think?

Any other travel tips from frequent US travellers would be more than welcome!

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11 Comments

  1. Computer – A simple adaptor won’t work unless your laptop says 110V/220V on it (meaning it will run on both). I don’t think they make laptops like that. You’d need an adaptor and probably some special transformer brick…but I’m not the expert here. My German roommate from last semester had his laptop from Germany, I assume he had an adaptor somewhere down there.

    As for the phone, um…prepaid SIM card? I’ve seen those but I know nothing about them. They exist, apparently. Some convenience stores sell prepaid phones for like $30, you could just get one of those to use for the week. Either way, you end up with a phone with a limited number of minutes, because I’m pretty sure prepaid SIM cards come with like 2 hours of talk time or so.

    Baggage…I mean, if you can fit a week’s worth of clothes in a carryon bag, more power to you. It would certainly make things a lot easier. Check the airline’s website to see how big carryons can be and then start stuffing.

    Put your normal shoes in your bag and wear slipons to the airport, it’ll make the shoe-scanning a lot easier.

  2. My laptop works fine on 110V and 220V and I would say that most modern laptops could do that. But check the AC adapter.
    It should say something like 100-240 V 50/60 Hz. In that case there are no problems.

  3. Many gas stations sell pre-paid cell phones. Or you can purchase them at the local Wal-Mart. Mine allows me to add minutes via credit card whenever needed.

    Don’t worry about extra clothing. Most midwesterners smell like White Castle hamburgers and wouldn’t know the difference. But if needed, I imagine the local Goodwill store would provide a decent wardrobe for low cost.

  4. PC – you will be fine with just a plug adapter as long as your power brick says something like INPUT: 100-240 VAC or 110-220 VAC AND 50/60 Hz. Most modern laptops come with such power supplies, so I can’t imagine you will have a problem here…but do verify this!

    Phone: my recommendation is to bring your GSM phone but buy a pre-paid SIM card (see the cards at: http://www.telestial.com/sim_bridge.php?COUNTRY_ID=US). I have done this traveling to northern Europe with no problems. Make sure your phone has the USA GSM frequencies– 850 and 1900 MHz– or else you will not have a good experience. A “quad band” phone should have these two plus 900 and 1800 MHz. A “tri band” phone may have one of the USA frequencies but not both. Caveat emptor! If you cannot get your hands on a quad-band phone, you might want to go with a USA prepaid phone as the others recommended, BUT do not expect to be able to call back to Oz at all, or at a reasonable price.

    Packing light – I applaud your spirit! 3-4 days on the road is about my limit for carry-on, but you are on the right track concerning ditching the toiletries and buying them upon arrival. If you run short of clothes, you should be able to find or take a taxi to a nearby Wal-Mart, Target, or one of the ubiquitous shopping malls in the USA!

    Can’t wait to see your posts from the trip!

    Cheers!

    David
    9-5 + 9-7x = 18-5-7x?

  5. Electricity: I haven’t for years seen a computer or camera that can”t handle both electrical standards. You will need plug adapters — I’d recommend two. Get them at an Australian travel/luggage store — do not wait to get to the U.S. or you won’t find them.

    Phone: The U.S. uses 850 MHz and 1900 MHz for GSM phones; the rest off earth seems to use 900 MHz and 1800 MHz. Make sure that your phone can use one of the U.S. frequencies or don’t bother bringing the handset. Others have already addressed the SIM issue.

    Luggage: Check with your carrier for trans-pacific baggage rules. I know that Air New Zealand won’t let you carry a “bag” and a “personal item” on board, just a personal item. You can bring toiletries, as long as no bottle contains more than 100ml and as long as all liquids can fit in a single 1 liter clear zip-top bag. Shorts??? For Detroit in January? I’d consider using that space for another pair of long pants.

  6. Definitely wear sandals/flip-flops and relaxed clothing to the airport… I’m not sure how it will be coming to the US but, once here, you’ll have quite the security check.

    Also, any things like laptops and cameras, make sure that they can easily be pulled out of their bags as they will have to get x-ray separately from the bag.

    Enjoy the flight, Swade!

  7. Long pants, closed-toe shoes, and a real winter coat are an absolute necessity for January in Detroit.

  8. As I have been to the USA several times from Australia, and have taken my Mac Powerbook, Camera, and local mobile… I concur re the above statements.

    Your laptop power adaptor will work fine over there if it lists 110V-240V… just grab two plug adaptors (one for computer and other for charging camera/mobile) and you are laughing like a fat spider!

    Our mobiles will work in the USA if you just ask your provider to put it on global roaming. You should be able to use your work phone over there? Also check Telstra website as they list most compatible phones that WILL work if taken to the USA.

    I recommend taking a suitcase or bag to check in – as others have said, Detroit will be fuggin chilly in January! The security systems over there aint that bad – and I have travelled through most of the major hubs there – LAX, Chicago, NYC (JFK) to name a few… and havent had a problem loosing bags, or with security.

    email me if you need any more tips Swadey!

    happy new year buddy!

    sab

  9. Here’s the traveler info link for the U.S. government agency who will be screening (rummaging through) your stuff on departure from Detroit:

    http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/index.shtm

    Don’t dress down too far in the airport. You never know who you might bump into at the airport before and after a major industry event. The death-metal rock music tshirt, torn cargo shorts, and stanky flip-flops may leave an impression you don’t want to leave. 🙂

    You’ll also want socks on going through the security lines. All those flip-flop wearers are leaving nasties on the floors. 😉 If the foot diseases don’t get you, the road salt on the floor will. Kinda’ burns on bare skin. PLUS, it’s fuggin’ cold in Detroit in January. I hit the NAIAS in 2002. I doubt the temp made it above 30F that week.

  10. (just watching hidden cam footage on the news of hotel room glasses being “windexed” and dried with cleaning rag, made my stomach turn. hopefully, you’ll have disposable plastic drinking cups, “sealed for your protection,” in the hotel room.)

    luck.

  11. Hello Swade – FYI there are some new restrictions on traveling with spare Lithium batteries – US DOT (basically you can’t carry loose batteries in a checked bag and the contacts for any extra batteries in your carry-on can’t be exposed)

    Looking at the weather forecast, the high temperatures in Detroit will be in the single digits°C with winds around 10mph and rainy – that wind chill will make it feel about 5°C colder. IMO it would be better to take too many layers of warm clothes than freeze.