Traveling to Europe Pre-Trip Tips

Planning a trip to Europe can be fun and exciting. It can also be a headache. Avoid the headaches by planning well in advance of your trip. But, even with the best planning, some surprises will arise – as they always do. Here are eight pre-trip tips that can help with planning your successful exploration.

“My Apology, Sir, But Your Card Was Declined”
No one wants the embarrassment or headache of having his or her credit card declined while traveling in Europe. If you use a credit or debit card in Europe the transaction might register as a ‘possible fraudulent event’ and the transaction will be declined – leaving you in a tight spot. Prior to your trip inform your credit/debit card company that you will be traveling overseas. Inform them of what countries you will be traveling to and a timeframe. They will update your account so if a transaction ‘flag’ appears they can see that you are traveling and approve the transaction.

“Dude, Where’s My Card?”
In the event your credit card is stolen or lost how will you contact the bank or card company? As a backup measure have the customer service phone numbers recorded in a separate location. I also write the last four digits (not all of the numbers, just the last four numbers) of the card along with the phone numbers to help identify my account.

“By the Way, There Are Currency Exchange Rate Fees.”
No one likes seeing unexpected fees on their monthly credit/debit card statement. Prior to your trip contact your credit card/debit card company and inquire about the currency exchange rate fees. The fees can run about 3% of the total transaction. Ouch! Knowing this amount will help with planning how you use your money on your trip.

“You’ve Got Mail.”
Having a friend or family member collect your mail can be the best peace of mind while you are traveling. If this is not an option, submit a request with the Post Office to hold your mail prior to your trip. This can be done online and they can hold your mail for up to 30 days. At the time of this writing only a physical address, not a PO Box, can be requested online. A PO Box request must be made in person at the local post office. Do this several weeks before your trip just so it is out of the way.

“It Will Take At Least A Week To Exchange Your Money.”
This is an actual quote from my bank. Even if your bank is located in the middle of an economic powerhouse, like Silicon Valley, do not assume your bank can easily obtain the Euros or the currency you need in a weeks time. Exchange any money you need several weeks prior to your trip so your bank has the time to process the request. Interesting though, my bank charges a hefty fee, which happens to be roughly the same fee the money exchange station at the airport charges.

“Hello, Taxi Company. My Ride Did Not Show Up And I Am Late for The Airport.”
Most taxi services are professional, but some are not. I have been stuck waiting for taxis that never arrive, or are horribly late. When departing for the airport a shuttle or private car might be the better deal. Shuttles are inexpensive and work well for departing flights, just allow time in your itinerary to make several other stops along the route to pick up other travelers. Private cars are expensive if one person is traveling, but if you have several family members a private car can be the same or about 20% more than a shuttle. The advantage of a is that a private car goes directly to the airport saving time, and the drivers usually treat their riders like human beings rather than a piece of livestock. For trips from the airport, I am personally not fond of shuttles, a taxi or private car might work better. After a long trip of being on an airplane, not eating right or sleeping well I just want to get home. The last thing I want to do is to prolong a 12+ hour flight by sitting for another hour in a cramped and bumpy van, at rush hour, where I am the final stop, only to save a few dollars. Several weeks prior to your trip ask a friend if they can pick you up or drop you off at the airport. If not, look at the taxi, shuttle, private-car options. The key is to plan your ride several weeks out.

“Hi, I Just Wanted to Visit/Phone/Email/Skype/Text and Wish You a Happy Trip.”
It is always good to hear from and see family and friends, but several hours before your trip as your packing and dealing with loose ends is not a great time. This might sound unsavory but, it is OK to tell folks that you are leaving a day earlier than you actually are. Be careful what you post on social media sights too, and make yourself invisible on Skype and other online services. You don’t want to be slammed by well-wishers as you are packing and tying up loose ends. While best wishes are appreciated, the day before a trip is your private time to deal with little things so they do not become big problems and ruin your trip.

“Here Is The Bill for Your Room, Sir.”
Being billed again for something you paid for will wreck a budget. Just because something, like a hotel, is booked and paid for online does not mean you won’t get billed again. Prior to your trip print a receipt showing that a bill was paid for in advance. Then on your trip, look at the hotel receipt and confirm you were not double billed.

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