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McAllister Apr 18th, 2007 09:21 AM

First trip to Europe...leaving tomorrow...any last minute advice?

Hey there Fodorite Friends...

Tomorrow is the big day - I am going to Europe for the first time! My husband and I will be travelling with my in-laws (meeting them in Paris) and are staying for five days in Paris (one day to Versailles and one afternoon we are going to Giverny)and then taking the train to Montreux for an afternoon and evening, then to Lucerne for two nights, and we end up in Zurich to stay the night near the airport.

I have been reading posts on this board for a couple months and have gleaned some great advice. My plan was to take everyone's advice and start packing at least a few days in advance. However, with the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech I have been preoccupied the past few days. Although I have all my clothes laid out, I am having problems narrowing them down! (My real problem is figuring out how many shirts to take...I have no problem washing things out in the hotel room but I don't want to have to worry about it everyday.) I do have two pairs of comfortable walking shoes that I have been wearing everywhere the past few weeks to get them broken in.

I realize I am rambling...but if anyone has any last minute advice about packing or travelling in general, I would greatly appreciate it! If not, at least I got the chance to vent a little. :)

Take care y'all...

jelane Apr 18th, 2007 09:27 AM

Have a wonderful trip, my advice is can work for days if you have to and a black sweater over your shirts, it is still sweater weather there and an umbrella....very important....good luck

jkdraper Apr 18th, 2007 09:44 AM

I have found that if I pack a variety of colors of t-shirts I can dress them up or down with scarves and jewelry and I have many options but they are lightweight and don't take up much space to pack. They can be hand washed in the bathroom sink and dry quickly because they are so light weight. I also never leave home without both a black and a cream colored sweater to throw over those t-shirts. Between those items I can mix and match in a variety of ways with khaki's, black slacks and jeans.
One good rule is to take out everything I want to take and then put about half of it back in the closet and pack the rest. You really can wear most shirts and slacks two times without washing unless something spills.
Have a wonderful trip. Lucky you, that first trip to Europe is always so exciting.

surfmom Apr 18th, 2007 09:53 AM

Take half as much clothes as planned and twice as much money!

It may have been said before, but it is very wise.

kerouac Apr 18th, 2007 09:54 AM

You will wear only one pair of shoes. The other pair will remain untouched. Leave it at home. That way, if you are tempted by any shoes that you see on your trip, you will not worry so much about carrying them.

In terms of attitude, of course the #1 rule is to remember that you are in a different place that plays by different rules. Do your best to never say or think in a negative way "that's not how we do it at home!"

missypie Apr 18th, 2007 09:56 AM

Your main goals should be to get on the plane on time tomorrow and to get on the plane on time on your return date. Everything else in between - whether you get lost, miss a few sites, or whatever - is all part of the adventure.

Are you bringing Febreeze? It really does work to freshen up clothes if you're trying to pack light. Also, do you have plastic clothes pins?

And you are all up on the one carry on bag limit that will probably be in place upon your return, the zip lock bag for liquids, etc., right?

nytraveler Apr 18th, 2007 10:03 AM

Don;t feel you have to see/do EVERYTHING. Take time out to relax and savor each of the areas you're in. Never be too busy just to sit and have a drink or gelato in a cafe.

wally34949 Apr 18th, 2007 10:08 AM

Use your debit card and credit card. If you take cash with you, you will need another suitcase. Our money isn't worth much.

kja Apr 18th, 2007 10:10 AM

I think you should take 2 pairs of shoes - I always alternate between two different pairs on consecutive days to reduce the risk of (or trouble caused by) blisters (which I tend to get, even with shoes that I've broken in).

Otherwise, as others said, take as little as possible! And do have fun!

kerouac Apr 18th, 2007 10:36 AM

This of course assumes that everybody has feet identical to kja.
No offense, but some of us wear the same shoes every day for weeks with absolutely no problem. Shoes that give blisters are shoes that don't fit.

amwosu Apr 18th, 2007 10:58 AM

Have you called your credit card companies to notify them of your international travel?

Make a copy of the cc number on the back of your card and put it in your luggage in case your purse is swiped or your cards are lifted. Make a copy of your passport and put it in your luggage as well.

Have a ball and please check in with us when you return. Its fun to hear others' first impressions of our favorite places.

JN Apr 18th, 2007 11:00 AM

Commit to "rolling with the punches" so to speak. Staying positive, and laughing at the little setbacks (e.g., missing a train, not finding a hotel or restaurant easily, encountering a rude staff person) will make your trip so much more enjoyable.

Use as much of your foreign language skills as you have. Even if it's Si Vous Plais (spelling) or Danke, it will help.

Enjoy every experience as a child does: as if you're seeing it for the first time. Which, come to think of it, you are. Just remind yourself how lucky you are to be able to travel to that beautiful continent.

amwosu Apr 18th, 2007 11:00 AM

clarification- make a copy of the telephone number on the back of your cc so you can freeze the card if it is swiped.

travelfan1 Apr 18th, 2007 11:14 AM

Take a deep breath, have a glass of wine, and are going to Europe! And if you're like the rest of us you'll be hooked and planning another trip on your flight home!! :D PS And try to sleep tonight...something I have never been able to do the night before I leave!

Kate_W Apr 18th, 2007 11:17 AM

I also recommend packing an extra pair of shoes. If it rains (and it often does in Paris, although not for the past 4-5 days), you want to be able to swap out of your soggy shoes into dry shoes.

SuzieCII Apr 18th, 2007 11:24 AM

Make sure you have your credit cards, ATM card (you've notified the companies) your e-ticket and your passport. THEN my advice is to let things just sorta happen - keep your eyes open...and fall in love all over again!
Notice I didn't even talk about is good.
Kerouac, girls need more than 1 pair of shoes...<GRIN>

Kate_W Apr 18th, 2007 11:27 AM

One other bit of packing advice. Don't pack any separates that don't work with at least two other things you're packing. In other words, don't pack a shirt that only works with one pair of trousers, or an outfit that requires a particular pair of shoes that don't work with anything else you're taking.

Two other recommendations:

(1) It sounds silly to say it, but pay attention to your stuff when you're on the move. It's very easy to get caught up in the commotion when you're checking in at the airport, navigating through a subway system, finding your hotel, etc. And that's when you accidentally leave something behind. Try to put valuable/essential objects in the same place each time (e.g. passport holder always goes in 2nd pocket of backpack, hotel room key is always in inside pocket of purse when out of the room and always on TV set when inside the room). My husband and I are scuba divers, and we've been taught to do a buddy check of each other's gear before we dive. Even though we're both seasoned (and very frequent) international travellers, we do "buddy checks" at key points during the trip (leaving the house, at the check-in desk, at security, getting off the plane, checking out of the hotel, etc). Actually, we call them "idiot checks" above sea level, but it's the same thing.

(2) Take some responsibility for finding your way around during your trip. It's very easy, especially on your first trip when you're travelling with your husband (and his parents) to let someone else do all the navigating. I feel as though I don't see (or remember) a place as well if I don't spend some of the time figuring out how to get from point A to point B and leading the way. It spreads the burden around. You don't want to be wrestling the others to take control of the map, but maybe there's a way to take turns.

McAllister Apr 18th, 2007 11:47 AM

I just got back to the computer and I am so appreciative of all these responses! I knew the Fodorites would help me out. :)

I am about to go back to weeding clothes out...y'all will be proud - I am taking a 21 inch roller (that will be checked) and a carry on tote. I refuse to be the person struggling with luggage at the train station!

I am also taking a small travel journal in order to record my impressions and what we do...for those interested, I will post a trip report when I get back!

Thanks again!

Shanti Apr 18th, 2007 11:57 AM

Before I left for Europe last April, I spent a lot of time reading posts here. There were a few quotes which I found so helpful that I cut & pasted them, printed them out, and carried with me during my trip. I didn't copy the posters' names, so I don't know who to thank, but I hope you find the following advice helpful - I did!

(It's a bit, long - sorry.)

I learned the hard way: Keep a positive attitude: Things aren't always going to go as planned and rolling with it makes the trip much more enjoyable for you and those around you. I mean, how bad could it be: you're in freaking glorious Europe for goodness sakes!

Plan,plan, plan and once you are there...let go!
I second Karlth's tip about the water. Drink as much of it as you can, and always carry a bottle with you.
Judge not lest ye be judged.

Enjoy every moment...If something goes with it and put it behind you. You paid big bucks for your trip and you can let mishaps ruin your vacation or you can keep a positive attitude an savour the rest of the journey.
Open your heart and mind to the wonderful diversity that can be found on this planet and in this life - find joy in your travels.
Be polite, humble, and respectful. You are entering someone else's world, not the other way round.
Remember that this is your VACATION! Enjoy it with a light heart and you will never regret it. Let yourself get angry by petty mishaps, and you'll never forgive yourself.

Make your flight there; make your flight home; whatever happens in between -- whether it was planned or not -- is all part of the adventure. RELAX!

If things go awry take a moment to breathe, collect your thoughts and know that if handled properly it'll make a great story. Don't let small things put a damper on your vacation.

When lost in a big city without a map, find a big hotel and ask directions. They're usually very helpful and will have maps handy.

Pack a lightweight duffle in your suitcase and fill it with dirty laundry to check on the plane when you go home. That frees up space in your carry-on for your purchases. Don't pack any valuables or new purchases in your checked luggage, if possible. I had my Paris flea market finds stolen from checked luggage.

"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it within us, or we find it not."
Take a moment to be grateful for the health, funds, schedule to be able to travel. So many don't have these same blessings!

missypie Apr 18th, 2007 12:00 PM

Always take the time to zip all the zippers on your purse or bag. Tell your MIL this as well. I know that guys can get impatient with a woman after she pays for something,zipping or snapping the wallet, putting it back into the purse, adjusting things, zipping up...but always take those extra few seconds and you'll be harder for pickpockets to get.

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