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Jet Lag

According to Merriam Websters Collegiate Dictionary, jet lag is defined as a condition that is characterized by various psychological and physiological effects as fatigue and irritability and occurs following long flight through several time zones and probably results from disruption of circadian rhythms in the human body. The effects of jet lag differ according to whether you're flying westward with the sun, or eastward, against it. Traveling to the east, you will sleep later in the morning and are able to stay up later at night. It will be the opposite traveling to the west.

The following are tactics suggested by Alumni Holidays International, which will help minimize the physical effects of jet lag:

Before You Leave Home

  • For a few days preceding the flight, try going to bed earlier at night and getting up earlier in the morning to get a jumpstart on acclimating to the time zone of your destination.
  • Don't eat in large quantities and avoid fatty foods.
  • Cut down on your intake of alcohol, coffee and tea, all of which tend to dehydrate the body.
  • Engage in a bit of exercise to stimulate your circulation.
  • Keep your skin well moistened with body lotion.

On the Airplane

  • Wear loose, comfortable, layered clothing that you can sleep in.
  • Get a pillow and blanket as you board the aircraft.
  • Drink lots of water to prevent dehydration.
  • Avoid eating red meat, fatty sauces and creams, alcohol and caffeinated beverages.
  • Eat low-fat foods, a lot of fruit and vegetables in order to keep your metabolic rate at a high level.
  • Take your shoes off, put a pair of warm socks in and try to elevate your feet, resting them on your carry-on bag.
  • Put on your headset and select a soothing music channel on the audio program.
  • Try to get to sleep as soon as possible after meal service and for as long as possible.

Upon Arrival

  • Try to adapt to the new time zone and the routine of the day.
  • Avoid the urge to take a nap. If you must lie down, do so for only 30 minutes. If you sleep longer than 30 minutes, you will get a sluggish feeling that will be even harder to overcome.
  • Go outdoors in the sunshine or fresh air as soon as possible.
  • Take a short walk or engage in some exercise.
  • Try to stay up until a normal bedtime for you new time zone.

The Next Day

  • Get up at a normal waking time for your new time zone.
  • Don't skip breakfast and include coffee and/or tea.
  • If you need a nap in the afternoon, again, take only 30 minutes.

Electric Current

The standard electric current in Europe is 220 volts. North American appliances such as razors and hair dryers are made to operate on 110 volts and will burn out if a converter is not used. An electrical current converter and a complete set of plug adapters to accommodate the various worldwide wall outlet types should be purchased prior to departure from North America. Be sure that the converter you obtain is capable of handling the highest power draw of your appliances, normally at least 1200 watts. Many large department stores and luggage shops sell converter and plug adapters. The ideal and recommended appliance is one of travel size that has a dual voltage setting, meaning it can be switched from using 110 volt to 220 volt current, thereby alleviating the necessity of a currency converter. Note that items such as dual voltage hair dryers will run at a slower cycle when in use for 220 volts and you will still need an adapter plug attachment to use the appliance in the local outlets. Beware that if you use a 110 volt appliance with only a foreign plug adapter, the appliance will burn out, rendering it useless.

* Information provided by Alumni Holidays International

Avoid Ruined Film at Airport Security Checkpoints

The International Imaging Industry Association, the trade association of makers of film, advises travelers to pack film and single-use cameras in clear plastic, or mesh bags and to stow them in carry-on luggage when traveling by air, rail and sea. Travelers are also advised to never pack unprocessed film in checked baggage. Processed film, of course, is safe in any scanners. X-ray scanning of carry-on luggage in the United States will not cause damage to unprocessed film rated at speeds below ISO 1000. However, as a result of heightened security, some passengers may be randomly selected to submit their carry-on items to a separate high-intensity scan. In these instances, to eliminate damage to unprocessed film and single-use cameras, passengers are advised to request hand inspections when passing through security checkpoints employing high-intensity x-ray scanners, per FAA regulations. Packing photographic film and single-use cameras in clear plastic or mesh bags will help the efficiency of the inspection process. These high-intensity x-ray scanners are used on all checked baggage and result in damaging streaks and unwanted fogging of all speeds of film. Higher speeds of film showed greater damage than films with slower speeds. Under no circumstances should unexposed or unprocessed film or single-use cameras be packed in checked baggage. Unloaded film cameras and digital cameras do not need to be hand inspected and may be packed in checked baggage. Travelers are advised to be wary of all scanners at airports outside the United States. When traveling internationally, I3A suggests travelers request hand inspection of film and single-use cameras.

Value-Added Tax

Value Added Tax (VAT) is a general consumption tax assessed on the value added to goods and services. With a little paperwork, non-residents can obtain a tax refund for purchases of more than 175 Euros or approximately $155, in a single store during a single visit. Refunds usually amount to up to 16.38% of the purchase price. (Stores are not required to give a VAT refund, so check before making your purchase.) Three things are needed to get a refund: the article purchased, the purchase receipt and a refund form which must be picked up at the place of purchase. Only unused items are eligible for a refund. The standard way to get a refund is to present your items to the VAT refund officer on departure at the airport, who will give you a final form to be mailed in for refund. For your own convenience, see the VAT officer before checking your bags and have your purchases in an easy to reach place. Some larger stores have a streamlined process; they handle most of the paperwork and then mail the refund to you, sometimes minus a fee. Private VAT refund services, located at the airport, will give you an immediate refund minus a fee, which is usually a percentage of the refund.

* Information provided by Alumni Holidays International

U.S. Customs Regulations

Customs for returning U.S. residents

The U.S. Customs Office allows every person to bring home up to $800 worth of goods (retail value) without paying customs if:

  • articles are for personal use or they are gifts;
  • articles accompany you;
  • you are returning from an overseas stay of at least 48 hours;
  • the items are not prohibited or restricted;
  • you have not claimed the exemption or any part of it within the 30 days preceding your departure from the U.S.

You may include in this duty-free exemption:

  • 200 cigarette or 100 cigars
  • one liter of liquor, wine or beer, providing you are at least 21 years of age.

Keep in mind that tobacco and alcohol purchases that exceed the above amounts are subject to customs duty, even if their value is not above $800.

You may also mail gift purchases back to the U.S. over and above your $800 allowance. However, not more than $100 worth of merchandise may arrive at the shipping address at any one time. Otherwise, the person receiving the merchandise will be required to pay the applicable customs duty prior to receiving the packages. Please note: according to federal law, alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and perfume containing alcohol that are worth more than the retail price of $5 may not be included in the gift exemption.

Antiques that are at least 100 years old and fine art may enter duty-free, even if their worth is over the $400 allowance.

Note: In order to avoid being (re) assessed duty on foreign-made articles (cameras, recorders, watches, binoculars, jewelry, etc.) purchased in the country or purchased on previous trips abroad, you should be prepared to show proof of previous ownership. It is suggested that you carry the original receipt or register this type of merchandise with the local U.S. Customs Office before the day of your departure.

* Information provided by Alumni Holidays International

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