An extended tour of Europe can be the fulfillment of a lifetime dream. If you're not prepared though, that dream can turn into a nightmare of misunderstandings and discomfort that might not completely ruin your trip but will leave a bad taste in your mouth. Follow these three tips and you're on your way to a successful sojourn.
Plan How You'll Get Around
Europe has an extensive railway system that can make travelling to most destinations a breeze. If you want to get off the beaten path, however, or you've always dreamed of driving on the Autobahn, you'll need to rent a car. All of continental Europe drives on the right side of the road like the US so that's not an issue. Keep in mind that cheap car insurance, in fact, almost no car insurance, will cover your driving in Europe. Oddly enough, it's usually your credit card company that will cover you. Give them a call to find out details and to determine if you'll need more coverage than they provide.
You can still get around with taxis and ridesharing services in many places without your own car. Europe has an extensive ferry service, so travel between England and Ireland, or Denmark and Sweden is quick and easy. Whatever you decide, look at options before you leave home. There are often discounts available that you can only access outside of Europe.
Talk to Your Financial Institutions
While you're calling your credit card about rental car coverage there are some other things to discuss with them. First, let them know the dates you'll be travelling. You'll need to do this with your bank as well if you plan on using your debit card. Financial institutions flag suspicious transactions. If your card is suddenly used in France and you haven't given them a heads-up, they will suspend all transactions until they can speak with you.
Ask your credit card company about transactions fees for converting foreign currency charges to dollars. The best cards won't charge this fee at all, and many cards tie into bonus mile programs from different airlines. If the card you have doesn't offer these benefits, shop around well before your planned trip and you may be on your way to a second vacation. Also, ask about perks like concierge service.
Another call to make that affects your finances is to your cell service. Mostly gone are the days you had to buy a separate cell to work in Europe, but just because your phone works doesn't mean that's all you need. If you don't update your plan to cover your calls and texts in Europe you can come home to thousands of dollars in charges. Most carriers will allow you to change plans temporarily but you need to call when you get home too, to change it back.
Plan but Don't Over Plan
An important planning step is checking for visa requirements. If you plan on visiting Russia or Turkey you'll need a tourist visa. You'll also want to register with the US embassy in each country you'll be visiting. If there's a natural disaster they'll be able to help you and if your passport is lost or stolen they'll be the ones to get it replaced. Remember to keep a photocopy of your passport with someone at home and a picture on your phone so that if it is stolen, it's easy to verify your information.
On the other hand, don't over plan what you'll actually do while you're there. You shouldn't need a vacation from your vacation when you get home. Consider that the first day or two you'll likely have some jetlag so plan light activities those days with plenty of opportunities to rest. Leave time to visit places recommended by locals in addition to your planned activities to see famous sites.
Plan as much as you can beforehand but be flexible while you're traveling. Oh, and don't forget that travel electrical outlet converter.