Tip 1: Do Not Check a Bag on the Way to Your Destination
As tempting as it may be, resist the urge to check a bag when you are traveling abroad. The unspoken nickname for Air France is “Air Chance” for a reason – you are taking a chance with your luggage arriving on time. Also, a bag bigger than what you can carry on to a plane is going to weigh you down, literally. If you utilize any of the trains or public transportation you are going to desperately wish you brought something smaller and easier to cart around. Pack as lightly as possible with versatile clothing. A good pair of walking shoes is a must.
Pro Tip: More room in your suitcase means you can check a bag on the way back (because who cares if your bag is 12 hours delayed when you get home) with all your European goodies – like wine, cheese, and chocolate.
Tip 2: Conduct Your Tech Research Ahead of Time
Will you need international coverage for your phone or tablet? This is something you want to take care of prior to takeoff because you can often add an international plan for a month at very affordable prices. International coverage starts at $30. Nerd Wallet has excellent comparison charts for your carrier and prepaid plans – click here for their article. If you wait and don’t add the plans beforehand, you can expect (in some cases) to pay upwards of $1,000 dollars in roaming charges. You will also want to make sure you have the appropriate adapter for all your devices. These universal adapters come highly recommended.
Tip 3: Make Sure You Have Appropriate Coverage for a Rental Car
European rental agencies will generally permit a driver over the age of 21 to rent a car (some charge an additional fee per day for drivers under 24). Fellow car nuts will rejoice at the opportunity to drive European cars and models not available in the US. Make sure to check your car has air conditioning (a necessity in the summer), liability insurance, and the type of transmission you can drive. Manual transmission is the default in Europe, so if you only feel comfortable driving an automatic you’ll likely pay a little more. You’ll also want to invest the extra few dollars a day for liability insurance as most American car insurance companies don’t cover your driving in Europe.
Pro Tip: Even if you won’t need the car for a full seven days it is sometimes cheaper to rent a car for a week instead of 5 days. You can then return the car “early.”
Pro Tip 2: Check to see if your credit card provides international car rental insurance coverage. Some cards limit the coverage to 14 or 30 day rentals.
Tip 4: Exchange Currency in Your Hometown or Destination City
Never withdraw currency at the ATM at the airport because it will be 10-20% more expensive with inflated exchanges rates and terminal fees. Instead you can either find a partner bank in your destination city (for example Bank of America partners with Deutsche Bank) and withdraw there. You can also go to a bank in your hometown and exchange cash prior to traveling.
Tip 5: No Tipping
Do not feel the pressure to tip like the United States – tips are not an essential part of a server’s compensation in Europe. Round up a Euro or two, but you shouldn’t be obligated to give the typical 20%, unless of course your serve does something out of this world for you. Europeans don’t expect it.