> SlowTrav > Europe Trip Planning
Pauline Kenny and Lisa Byrne
This is my personal list of things to do before I leave for a trip. You
may think some of these items denote a neurotic traveler - but I like to call
it "cautious". :) Lisa Byrne from www.italyperfect.com has added her extra recommendations to this page.
Prepare Your Documents
- Make sure your passport is valid for 6 months past your return date
(many countries require this).
- Make two photocopies of all your credit cards and your driving license
and passport. Keep a copy at home. Take a copy with you and carry separate
from the originals.
- If you will be driving in Italy, get your IDP (International Driving
Permit). I am not sure how necessary this is in other European countries,
but in Italy it is required by law. Check with your Automobile Association for more information.
- Get all your booking documents organized for the trip. I make a file
folder with all my documents for each booking and keep them in the order
we will be needing them.
- Print out the information from your country on what to do if your passport
is lost or stolen:
- US State Department (Lost and Stolen U.S. Passports Abroad)
- UK Passport Service (Lost & Stolen Passports)
- Passport Canada (Lost or stolen passports and travel documents)
- Australian Government - Passports (Lost
or stolen passport)
- Check with your country's Transportation Authority to read the regulations
for carryon items. Many of these changed on August 10, 2006.
- United States - www.tsa.gov:
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
- United Kingdom - www.dft.gov.uk:
Department for Transport, airline security
- Canada - www.catsa-acsta.gc.ca: Canadian Air Transport
- Australia - www.smartraveller.gov.au: Australian Government Travel Advisory
Make a Very Detailed Itinerary
- I write a complete itinerary with all the addresses, directions and
contact numbers that I will need for every place I am going. I even include
contact information for people I am planning to meet on the trip. This way
you will always have all the important information you need in one place.
Be sure to carry this with you at all times (do not put in checked luggage,
see Lisa's point below).
- Give a copy of the itinerary to each person traveling with you and leave
an abbreviated copy for the person who will be looking after things for
you at home.
- Go to www.viamichelin.com or another trip planning website and print out driving directions for all
your main drives for the trip. Do this as backup even if you have a GPS.
Always have good driving maps with you.
>> Read Lisa's More Recommendations for Your Trip Itinerary (below) for extra tips.
Make Sure Your Money Works!
You do not need travelers checks. We stopped using travelers checks a few
years ago and now rely on ATM cards for cash on our trips.
- Contact the bank that issued your ATM cards and tell them you will be
- Be sure your ATM cards will work in Europe. Check with your bank to see if the ATM
card and PIN will work in Europe. (In the past people found than ATMs in
Europe could only be used with a 4 digit PIN that does not start with zero,
but according to people on the message board, this has changed.)
- Use each ATM card once before you leave to
be sure they are working and you have your PIN. We always travel with ATM
cards on three separate accounts (but two would probably do). ATM
machine keyboards in Europe do not have letters as well as numbers, so
if you use a alphabetic version of your PIN, be sure you know the number
- Contact your credit card companies to tell them you will be traveling.
- Order foreign currency from your bank so you don't arrive with no cash.
We always do this, just in case we can't find an ATM immediately. If we
have to pay in cash for your first vacation rental (damage deposit or final
payment), we get that cash while in the US and bring it with us, so we know
we will have it.
- We also travel with about $500 of US currency (in $100 bills) as emergency
>> Read more: Converting Money - Saving Money with
Dollars & Euro
Before You Leave - Reconfirm Everything!
A couple of weeks before you leave, reconfirm all your travel arrangements.
Usually these were made months before the trip, so it is comforting to have
an email from each place reconfirming your reservation.
- Call the airline to make sure your flights have not changed, to verify
your seating and request any special meals.
- Email, phone or fax all your hotels and vacation rentals to confirm
your dates. Remember that some businesses do not check their email every
day. If you do not get a reply in two business days, phone or fax them.
- Check your car rental agency to see if they are offering prices that
are lower now than when you booked (AutoEurope will reissue your booking
if the price is lower).
Lisa Byrne of www.italyperfect.com,
a vacation rental agency for Italy, sends along these tips.
We recommend the following pointers, in addition to Pauline's checklist
above, to help you ensure smooth travels. While some of the recommendations
may seem obvious, when traveling to a foreign country, struggling with time
zone, language, currency, and cultural differences, it's not surprising that
sometimes the simplest travel plans can go awry. Here are some tips that we've
documented as the result of actual, unfortunate, occurrences that have happened
to some of our guests. While these mishaps make for colorful anecdotes after
your vacation, at the time they happen, they aren't too amusing!
- Make sure you have the address of the property and who to call upon
arrival in your carry-on bag.
If this vital information is packed in your checked baggage, and your suitcase
is lost or delayed, you will not have the information you need to find your
way to the apartment or how to call the person who will meet you. In a Catch-22
type scenario, to file a claim for the lost bag, the airline will need your
local address and phone number in order to notify you when the suitcase
is located and ready to be delivered. If the address and phone number of
your vacation apartment is in your checked bag, this further complicates
the situation since they have no way to contact you.
- While this has been addressed before, we like to reiterate the importance
of ensuring that everyone in your party has a copy of the information that
indicates where you are staying and who to call upon arrival.
Sometimes people are traveling on different flights, with a plan of meeting
up at the airport at their destination city. Good intentions of airport
rendezvous don't always work out if flights are delayed. We have had guests
arrive, expecting to meet the rest of their party at the airport. The people
with the apartment information were stuck elsewhere in Europe for an extra
day due to an airline strike. You can imagine the stress these travelers
underwent during this delay.
- Once you are situated in your vacation property, note the address and
phone number of the owner or local contact and carry it in your pocket or
purse at all times.
This seems like such an obvious thing, but it's easy to overlook in the
excitement of arriving and getting settled in. We've had guests tell us
of those "uh oh" moments, when they hopped in a taxi to go back to the apartment
after a full day of sightseeing and realized they didn't remember the address
of where they were staying. Or the panic of getting separated. The most
serious incident was when guests lost their three children ... don't laugh!
The kids had no money, no phone number to call, and no address. Thanks to
their level-headed teen who navigated his way back on foot with two younger
siblings in tow and wandered the neighborhood until he recognized the apartment
building. I know if you're a parent with three kids, you are probably thinking
that there have been vacation moments when you would have happily lost your
whining kids. This incident was a scary reminder to ensure that everyone
knows where you are staying. This is particularly important when traveling
with teens that would like some independence. Make sure they have the street
address, phone number and some money for a taxi and a phone call. Also,
when sightseeing, set up a meeting point at a well-known monument in case
you are separated. Be very specific so that all of you aren't wandering
amongst throngs of people in a huge, crowded piazza or in a vast museum.
- Before you leave home, email yourself and all of your travel companions
a copy of your vital information such as rental property address, whom to
call, where to meet. Make sure this email is kept on your email server (don't
download it to your computer). One of our guests found herself locked out
of her apartment, so she went to a nearby Internet point, retrieved the
electronic copy of her apartment information from her email and made the
call to be let back in.
Fortunately, none of these problems proved to be disastrous. These travelers
came away wiser, but perhaps with a few more grey hairs.
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