On the heels of a recent trip to Europe, I had the chance to test out some new products and have also updated the Bobby’s Best Travel Section. Here are some tips based on my own experience in Europe:
Bring a GPS System (if you will be driving a lot)
We purchased the Garmin Nuvi 670 which is a widescreen model that comes loaded with European maps and it was a lifesaver. It is essentially the same model as the less expensive Nuvi 650; however, it includes European maps which can often cost several hundred dollars more. Honestly it’s hard enough to drive a golf cart sized stick shift diesel around Europe without having to try to read a map at the same time. The Nuvi 670 was very accurate and was also helpful for locating gas stations and parking lots, the latter of which was key for tourist towns and major cities. A portable GPS is a great investment for travel and it’s something you can enjoy when you return home or travel domestically as well.
Scan Important Docs
Scan all of your important documents (i.e., passport, travelers checks, medical information, etc.) . Then e-mail a copy to a friend or relative, or relative and then copy your own e-mail account to a USB Keychain Drive and bring it with you. This way, if anything is lost, you can retrieve the file either locally from your keychain or from your e-mail account at an Internet café. For the copy you leave at home, you can also include your credit cards, but don’t carry this information with you on the keychain.
Call Home with Skype
If you are traveling with your laptop and will have internet access, put money in your Skype account before you leave. You can also buy an inexpensive headset to use with your pc. While there are many options now for purchasing mobile phones that will work overseas, roaming rates are still very expensive, often averaging 50 cents a minute. With Skype you can make calls to the US for less than two cents a minute.
Check Your Luggage (unless you absolutely have to)
The airlines just can’t seem to reliably put bags on planes these days and starting off your vacation without your clothes is a real bummer. Also, if you think that the airlines will reimburse a shopping spree to replace your items so that you can begin your trip, you will be very surprised by their draconian reimbursement policies. Do what you can to fit your luggage into a 22-inch carry on, being mindful that international weight and carry-on restrictions are often more stringent that domestic. Two great choices for luggage are the Travelpro Crew 6 22” Series and the Eagle Creek Tarmac ES 22 bag.
Bother with Travelers Checks
If you are going to a major city, ATM’s are the easiest and cheapest way to get money. Travelers checks just aren’t what they used to be and you will probably get a worse exchange rate. Carrying a few as a precaution is fine, but on the last three trips I brought them on, I never used one of them.