Travel Tips

Packing/Luggage:

*When at all possible, FLY DIRECT - less chance of your luggage getting lost and of course a lot faster.

*When possible, CARRY ON.  You will get through the airport quickly and not risk losing your bags.

*If checking bags, ALWAYS bring a spare change of clothes (or two) in your carry-on in case your luggage gets lost. 

*Be sure your luggage has your name on the outside, and also on the INSIDE.  That way if the tag is lost, the airline will still know who it belongs to.

*Bring all valuables (jewelry, MEDICINE, etc.) in your carry on.  Iif your luggage gets lost you will be in trouble if you don't have your prescription!

*Bring copies of prescriptions for refills if lost and copy of eyeglass prescription for replacement.

*Pack lightly!!!! To avoid over packing, check with your accommodation to see if they have a hairdryer, iron, shampoo, soap, etc.

*If you have allergies/sinus problems, don't forget medicine/spray for the plane since the air pressure when descending can be very painful.

*Check the weather forecast of the country to which you are traveling on weather.com prior to leaving. Also, bring a light jacket/poncho and a small umbrella.

*Make sure to bring complete addresses and phone numbers of the place(s) you are staying so in case your luggage gets lost you can provide the driver who is delivering your luggage to you with the correct information.
 

Bring your passport - and make sure it hasn't expired. Also, make a copy or two of your passport and airline tickets and keep in a separate place.
 

Always bring your ATM card with you. You will be charged a transaction fee by your bank each time you withdraw cash from an ATM machine, but this is your best bet. Just remember to withdraw a few larger amounts as opposed to daily, smaller amounts to avoid numerous bank charges. Most banks charge $1.50 - $5.00 per transaction. Also, depending on the kind of ATM card you have, you may be able to use it in restaurants/stores if that place of business accepts Visa/MC. It will automatically come out of your checking account. In this case, you won't be charged the bank's normal transaction fee... Warning - many small villages and remote areas do not have ATM machines, so plan accordingly. Never go to the exchange store fronts on the street - you will be charged a hefty fee.
*Very Important
: Call your bank to tell them you are going abroad so you will be able to use your ATM card and also bring the name and phone number (the direct line) of your banker just in case you need funds made available while abroad.

Credit cards are another good option since you will get that current day's exchange rate when you receive your bill upon your return home. Credit cards are widely accepted at hotels, restaurants and shops. It is a good idea to bring two different types (Visa or MasterCard and American Express) in case one is not accepted. Most credit card companies charge an additional international transaction fee for using credit cards abroad, usually between 2-3%! Check with your credit card company prior to your departure.
*Very Important
: Remember to call your credit card companies before you leave for Europe (usually the fraud department) to make them aware that there will be charges on your card from a different country so they won't put a hold on your card. Also, bring their international phone number with you so if you need to call them you will have it ready. (800 numbers don't work!).
 

I do not advise bringing traveler's checks. I have found that many restaurants and stores do not accept them because of currency fluctuation but you can exchange them at hotel front desks and banks.

In Italy, you can also change money in the Italian Post Office. They often have better exchange rates and are open Saturday mornings.
 

Driving/Rental Car:

*Make sure to confirm rental car reservation prior to your departure. There is nothing worse than getting to the counter after a long journey and finding they don't have a car for you!

*Don't forget your driver's license - check with your insurance company to see if you are covered for collision while traveling abroad. In many cases you will be and the extra, very expensive coverage that the car rental companies try to talk you into are unnecessary.

*Most foreign countries have a lower tolerance for drunk driving so use your discretion when drinking and driving.

*Rent diesel/manual when possible since diesel fuel is more economical as is renting a manual transmission.

*Bring a regional and country map of where you will be visiting (i.e. Tuscany and Italy).  And you wonÕt be sorry if you bring an inexpensive compass that will stick to the windshield (available at Walgreens or CVS for under $5)

Make sure you bring an extra pair of sunglasses.

Bring more filmand batteries than you think you will need since film is usually more expensive overseas. Always check the expiration of any film bought overseas.

Always bring comfortable, "already-broken in" footwear. Don't make the mistake of bringing brand new shoes! Ladies - never bring high heels - they will certainly get stuck in the cobblestones in the small villages. And you can always leave them when your tour is over.

Always pack a swimsuit - even if it's winter, you'll never know if there might be a heated pool or Jacuzzi!

For those die hard shoppers, always bring an extra, collapsible suitcase for those precious purchases!

AND if you wish to purchase art/home decor while away, always bring the measurements of that area of your home (i.e. table measurements for tablecloths, bed measurements for linens, etc.) to make sure it will fit.

Don't forget your laptop hardware, chargers (for cell phone, digital camera, etc.) and a CONVERTOR set (hairdryer, electric shaver, etc.).
Calling home: If you don't have a cell phone, remember to bring your home telephone company's Access Codes to be sure you get the best rate in calling home. (Each country has a different access code - call your phone company).

If you want to check your email while away and don't have a laptop or blackberry, remember to bring your email access website information (i.e. www.mail2web.com - you will need your username and password). I always bring my Blackberry to Europe since the service provider has international access.

Bring your address book - you may want to send postcards!

Laundry services are very expensive overseas so if you want to pack lightly, bring some Woolite to rinse out clothes in the sink.

Tipping:

In general, tips and gratuities are included in the package, unless otherwise noted.  In many countries tips are not expected and received with much appreciation and broad smiles!  An extra tip for outstanding service is appreciated by tour guides and bus drivers. 

Small tips to hotel staff are appreciated: $1- $2 per day for chambermaids, a few dollars for bellhops and room serivce, doormen calling a cab, $1-$2.  Taxis are happy with 5%-10%.

Cell Phone – Call in Europe:

Before Call in Europe, travelers had few choices in maintaining their cell phone service while abroad. They could use their own GSM-compatible phone (if they had one), and their U.S.-based plan, and pay exorbitant international roaming fees and surcharges. They could rent a GSM phone and pay the extremely high rental rates and expensive per-minute calling charges. Or, they could buy a costly prepaid phone card and deal with complex instructions, restrictions and time limitations.
 
Now, Call in Europe makes it easy and affordable for travelers to Europe to enjoy their trip, stay connected and pay the same low rates for cell service as Europeans do.

www.callineurope.com