September 12th - 16th Visit
The Plan | Pre-trip | Getting There | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

Aug 13th, 2018: Trip Booked!

Portland State University provided a program for HS students to write software for an self-driving car. All the students wound up getting invited to attend the AutoSens show in Belgium, including my son Kevin. We decided to go together and visit Medjugorje before the show.

Our dates were relatively fixed. We didn't have much time to book (the trip was about 1 month away when we decided to go). And we had to arrange air from Split to Brussels to attend the show.  We found airfare from PDX -> Split, Croatia -> Brussels, Belgium -> PDX for $977 per person.  If we had planned this a month earlier, we might have gotten an even lower price, but we were satisfied (the reset of his class is paying a couple hundred more to go just to Belgium).

We booked a hotel for Medjugorje for about $110 for the 4 nights we will be in Medjugorje (Hotel Mica).

And we booked a rental car from the Split airport so we can drive to Medjugorje. Budget for $99 for the entire trip.

There may be some hidden fees / taxes... I'll find out and post updates.


Sep 3rd, 2018: Paperwork

Passport

We have valid passports, so we didn't have to worry about that. However, since Kevin is a minor and both parents will not be traveling with him, we need to get a notarized Parental Consent Form.

International Driving Permit

Since I will be driving, I also made sure that I still had my International Driving Permit -- this takes a few minutes to get from our closest AAA office for about $20.

Notify Credit Card Companies Of Travel

Credit card companies will deny charges they think are fraud. If they don't know you are traveling, charges far away from your home look suspicious. Credit card companies have online forms to report travel dates & locations (or you can call them). This can save you a lot of trouble later!

Credit Card Fees & Insurance

Next I checked my credit card fees and insurance benefits (you can call the 800 number on the back, or google it). There are many credit cards, your situation will vary. To serve as an example, here is some information on the 5 cards I checked:
  • American Express Blue Cash
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited
  • Citi Double Cash
  • Citi Costco
  • First Tech Platinum
Of these Double Cash & Chase Freedom charge a hefty 3% foreign transaction fee on all purchases. Amex Blue Cash charges slightly less: 2.75%. The remaining 2 have NO FEE: Citi Costco MC and First Tech Platinum. First Tech also had no fee for cash advances (although I've never done that -- but good to know).  All 5 cards had some level of Insurance, although it varied substantially. The Costco card had the best overall insurance (trip protection, auto, purchases). I plan to use my Costco card most of the time, First Tech as a backup, and the others in an emergency.


Sep 4th, 2018: Packing List

When we visited last Spring, I didn't realize we should have radios. I also wanted to look for phone sim cards (although I didn't feel compelled to use my phone in Medjugorje). Otherwise, my packing list is the usual stuff:
  • Radio (94.3 FM for English Translations) + headphones
  • Pre-paid Phone Sim Card (Vipme - Croatia only, at airport; BH Telecom, Bosnia & Herzegovina only, Mostar or Čapljina)
  • Power adapters (220 -> 110)
  • Clothes (4-5 shirts, 3-pair pants, 2-3 pair of shorts, socks, rain jacket, belt, hat, etc)
  • 2 pair shoes (1 for hiking)
  • Toiletries (toothbrush, shaver, toothpaste, deodorant, etc) -- be sure it is travel size
  • Glasses
  • Laptop / Camera / Headphones (great for the plane!)
  • Chargers
  • Medications
  • Health Insurance Cards
  • Need more ideas?
My recommendation: don't over pack!  You won't need much on this trip. If you can fit everything into 1 carry-on, you will save time and money (many airlines now charge big fees for checked bags). You can always do laundry while you travel, it's easier than dealing w/ 2 bags.


Sep 5th, 2018: Novena

Novena

Kevin, my wife, and I completed our 3rd day of a Medjugorje Novena. It can be found here, or if you'd prefer you can print the Novena instructions & prayers.


Sep 7th, 2018: Exchange Rates

A quick Google Search shows:
  • 1 Croatian Kuna (HRK) is about $0.16 USD, or $1 USD is about 6.5 HRK
  • 1 Bosnia-Herzegovina Mark (BAM / KM) is about $0.63 USD, or $1 USD is about 1.6 KM
  • € 1 Euro is about $1.16 USD, or $1 USD is about €0.86 EUR
When I travel, I prefer to withdraw some cash from an ATM once I arrive. This is almost always less expensive than exchanging money. Also, I recommend NOT accepting the "guaranteed exchange rate" from ATM's -- it's almost always much more expensive.

Some restaurants and many souvenir vendors do take credit cards -- so it's good to have some cash.  Hotels will take credit cards, I believe taxis will also. 


Sep 8th, 2018: Weather, apps, and more...

Weather

Only a few days left, so I was able to look at weather.com's 10-day forecast:

September 12-16, 2018 Weather

Phone Apps

I highly recommend downloading the phone app for each airline. For this trip, that was several: Eurowings, WOW air, Norwegian Air, United, and Deutsche Bahn.  Alternatively, you can wait in the check-in line at the airport(s), or check-in online from a computer and print your boarding pass.

Some other useful apps:
  • MyTaxi
  • Skype (or similar)
  • Google Translate
  • Google Maps (hint: use download offline map feature)
If you don't have a smart phone -- not a big deal, these just help save some time.

Flights / hotels / car

Double check dates, locations, etc. Make sure you have all the confirmation #'s, phone #'s to call in case there are travel problems, and policy details.