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Things you wish you knew/did before you traveled to Europe

Things you wish you knew/did before you traveled to Europe

Old Apr 6th, 2011, 07:38 AM
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Good one, R_Larsen. Or as a friend used to say to me, "the way to pack is to pack everything you think you might need. Then take out half the stuff and double your money."
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Old Apr 6th, 2011, 04:01 PM
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This won't apply to you since you only mention you and your husband, but I'll post this anyway so others that read this thread might benefit.

If you travel with a minor child and you are the only parent on the trip, you should carry a notarized letter from the other parent or guardian stating that you have permission to travel with the child outside of the country. This might seem a little overboard, but some countries are very leery of potential kidnapping situations.
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Old Apr 6th, 2011, 05:14 PM
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Rome is so amazing with so much to see that I wore myself out on my first trip. I thought I could walk everywhere but I shoulda taken a bus or used the metro more. Which I did on my second trip (and will again next year!)

Maybe someone already mentioned it, but I scanned copies of all my pertinent paperwork to my yahoo email account so no matter where I was, I could quickly access all my info.

And if you shop and pick up a lot of things like I did - just bite the bullet and ship it home. Don't drag it around.
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Old Apr 7th, 2011, 03:31 PM
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Oh...one more thing! Forget what your mother told you about always wearing nice underwear. Bring old underwear and throw it away after you wear it.
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Old Apr 8th, 2011, 05:56 AM
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You will need a plug adapter but probably won't need a converter. Most chargers -- for cell phones, camera batteries, etc. -- work on a range of 110 - 220 volts, so no need for a converter. Look at the very small print on your charger.

The only problem might be a blow dryer, but you can buy those with dual voltages. My US blow dryer doesn't get quite as hot in Europe. The solution to this is to buy a blow dryer in Europe.
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Old Apr 8th, 2011, 06:34 AM
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My head is spinning from so many tips!
I've travelled a lot in Europe (not coming from the States though). The tips on emailing yourself documents and anything else that will help you duplicate essential information is important. Everything else is useful but remember that unless you are planning on travelling to a very remote or backward area (and you're not! These are popular tourist areas), you can find a solution for everything. Maybe you won't find the products etc... that you are used to but everything can be found in shops etc... if you didn't forgot something.
Bring items of clothing etc... that you always use and are comfortable with. A plastic poncho may be practical but would you go to the mall with it in your own city? A collapsible umbrella works just as well!
We're a "take everything but the kitchen sink" kind of people. You are either a light packer or not. So if you take too much, don't sweat it! Just enjoy!
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Old Apr 8th, 2011, 07:23 AM
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Okay everyone. Some of you would be proud of me and my husband. We shortened our packing list SO MUCH! We are now taking 1 carry on and 1 wheeled duffle. I have always packed too much and now I feel confident that I just don't need to. We have just what we need and will buy any 'in case of' items that may come up. We are still taking some Pepto and Dramamine, but I need that on any trip anyways.

We are going to do a trial packing of the bags this weekend... I let you know how it goes!

Thanks all!
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Old Apr 8th, 2011, 08:20 AM
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@europe2011: Have a great time, and let us know how it all turns out!!
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Old Apr 8th, 2011, 08:26 AM
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We do have shops in Europe, you know.
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Old Apr 8th, 2011, 06:10 PM
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take some extra plastic bags.. zip lock or larger they always come in handy and take up no room at all

i no longer take a hair dryer.. all the hotels have them even if they are not top of the line

you can always ask for an iron and a board if you need one, and if the mattress is soft you can get a bed board in most hotels.
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Old Apr 9th, 2011, 06:24 AM
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I second the no hair dryer recommendation!
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Old Apr 9th, 2011, 11:39 AM
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Me too. I did make sure all of of places have them since I use one everyday at home.
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Old Apr 9th, 2011, 03:38 PM
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Things I wish I knew before...

Free toilets means vacant! I thought they were locked.

Travel bags are the best....they are large zip locks for sweaters, skirts, etc. I use them for everything (and you can fit more clothes in your suitcase after you let the air out of these bags.)

A watch with a light when you push in on it so you can tell the time in the dark.

Code word to your spouse that absolutely means "Urgent! You're about to get pick pocketed" Used it twice in Rome. Our word was "COCA COLA".

There's a great restaurant in Dubrovnick over looking the water, high on the hill. I don't remember the food, but it was one of the best views we ever had.

You can never plan enough! That's half the fun.

I enjoyed all the messages (I use antibactrial solution every day at my desk. Won't leave home without it.) Loved the comment about "Nobel Prize".
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Old Jun 18th, 2011, 09:45 PM
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Things I wish I had known:
-Most folks can drink the water without issue in the majority of Europe.
-Go to the grocery store or equivalent. It’s interesting to see how familiar food is packaged, but it is also an INEXPENSIVE place to get souvenirs. I have paid 10X as much for the same little bottles of liquor or candies at tourist shops & even duty-free than what I picked up at the grocer.
-Most taxis are legit, but some will try to rip you off or worse. Negotiate prices upfront & try to get one from a hotel or use a cab recommended by a local.
-If riding the local train/subway-type service, investigate the cost of a pass. You might get out a little cheaper to buy individual tickets, but it is a lot less convenient in my opinion. Plus, I get turned around frequently and make sudden decisions to get off the line so it likely saves me money.
-Try the stairs on occasion. You’ll get a different perspective than 98% of the other travelers.
-Mail stuff home – it isn’t that hard & beats lugging it around. I’ve done this in numerous countries without issue. Except for…
-I will NOT ask the concierge/desk to mail my postcards. A couple of “Sure, I’ll be glad to affix postage & mail that for you” from even the best hotels, but they never reached the recipients taught me that – especially when cards I mailed using the street boxes to same addresses from the same cities made it.
-Not in the mood for a group, ask the hotel about a "taxi tour". I've asked for English speaking taxis all over Europe and have seen places I would have missed and bought stunning art from artists I would have never seen otherwise. Yes, it cost more but it is well worth the investment.
-ENJOY your trip. Europe developed over centuries. Days, even months, aren’t going to allow you to see it all. Figure out what is important to you & roll with the rest.

My travel essentials:
•Packing tape wrapped around my pencil & a small notepad.
•Large padded envelop with cardboard insert & cardboard tube (I collect art & need to ship/transport it safely).
•Camera & lots of memory.
•XXL baggie – protects clothes/items, plus you never know when your bag is going to have a zipper mishap.
•2-sets of adapters (NOT the kind that are 4-in-1). Stayed in a few hotels that had the plug recessed excessively deep in the wall & only way to use was to "stack" the adapter from each set into each other so the device could be charged.
•Passport & copy (if traveling w/ someone, each has a copy)
•Copy of itineraries/lodging. I don’t like this practice, but it does come in handy & customs sometimes wants to confirm you have lodging & a plan to get out of their country eventually.
•Others have said it, but bring at least two cards – My credit union will stop my card at some point as it has happened EVERY trip but one (it doesn’t matter how many times I tell them I’m traveling). Rathering than stressing, I break out the other card until I can straighten it out.
•Minimal clothes & comfortable shoes – Pack & then take out at least half. Roller bag must close easily and not be expanded when I leave my house. If I can’t manage to lift it or carry it up flights of stairs, then I don’t need to take whatever is inside.
. .o I take clothes that I can donate if I accumulate too much stuff on my journey. I usually visit several places when I travel and love to buy souvenirs, plus goodies for me, so my bag comes home much fuller than when I left.
•Collapsible backpack. I have one from Eddie Bauer that I toss in my bag w/ my “plane stuff” in it. Flight complete then move that stuff in my carry-on if still needed & collapse bag till need as a Day Pack for the market. Too many souvenirs, no problem…I have a bag for that!
•Firm believer of taking a cell phone for each person (& make sure everyone has the other #s!). There are situations where Skype doesn't quite replace a phone. Mobal.com has inexpensive phones & plans (had 3 of these till our carrier went global last winter). If you take your Smartphone, call your provider & make sure the phone, not just the plan, is set up correctly before leaving.
. .o If not a cell phone, then have a plan for what to do should you get separated from your companions…You get on the tube/Metro/RER/elevator but the door closes before your BFF can, what now? (get off at next stop, meet at final destination, hope for the best??). Also, make sure there is always a meeting place at each new location in case of separation.

Travel Habits:
•I email copies of all credit cards/license/passports to myself. It is also serves as a “check-off” when I get home to make sure they all made it back. (Leave copies with a trusted friend at home also).
•When I plan to retrace my steps, I take photos along the way…major intersections & turns. It helps when all the amazing sites start running together.
•While I like to travel quickly & cover a lot of terrain, I make sure to allow time to enjoy the people & their country.
•I try to remember that things are going to be different than at home...that’s why I left…so don’t complain when it isn’t the same.
•I keep a tote in my house that I devote to travel accessories. Find a cheap pair of slip-ons for the plane or travel sizes of your favorite cosmetics, toss it in for the next trip.
•Smile & carry a map. Even when you don’t share the language, pointing to a destination on a map makes it much easier…just don’t do it at the top/bottom of stairs, middle of sidewalk, etc.

And finally, while I don’t bring antibacterial wipes, I find that when given a hot towel on the plane before a meal, I prefer to wipe off the tray table…My food will be setting there!! (I know these aren’t routinely cleaned on most airlines, regardless of cabin). My kitchen table is cleaned before we eat, why not a space that I’m going to be confined to for the bulk of a day.
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Old Jun 19th, 2011, 07:56 AM
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cupofjo...good stuff and I thought I was pretty thorough and organized! love the separation plan...it happens and we haven't planned for it in the past
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Old Jun 19th, 2011, 08:52 AM
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Good suggestion about buying your souvenirs at grocery stores. best deals!
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Old Jun 19th, 2011, 10:11 AM
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Maybe someone else mentioned it, but: plastic shopping bags, large and many of them, to collect dirty clothes.
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Old Jun 26th, 2011, 07:37 AM
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cupofjo, what a brilliant idea of taking photos so you know how to get back! Although I seldom get lost, it's a fantastic tip for people who are directionally challenged!
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Old Jun 27th, 2011, 10:56 AM
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"Just chiming in as someone who doesn't really do the anti-bacterial thing - if a seatmate on a plane wiped down everything in sight with anti-bacterial wipes, it would not bother me in the least. I just can't see how that would be annoying."

Well, wait until Ms. Germophobe wants to wipe down YOUR tray and armrests etc. When I said no she claimed I was endangering her life LOL! (This seemed to really entertain the guy behind us, he "fake coughed" all the way from Atlanta to Orlando which had her rather hysterical)

Also, it is NEVER approrpriate so use a "germ" spray on a plane either at the seat or in the lavatory.

As for what to take.... I always remember the following advice.

Take half as many clothes as you think you need and twice as much money!
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Old Jun 27th, 2011, 12:25 PM
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Remember that if anything goes wrong it'll probably make a good story later.

Like the time we didn't take along the hotel's card with address in Sevilla. I'll never forget watching my friend approching a middle aged couple and showing them the key to the hotel and asking in pretty bad Spanish if they knew where it was.

The woman grabbed her husband's arm and pulled him abruptly away from my friend. We could only figure the woman must have thought my friend (over 40 at the time) was propositioning the old fellow. We still giggle about her shameless ways.
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