Tips for Travel

Prepare for your trip by learning as much as you can about your destination before you go. The more you know, the better able you will be to immerse yourself in the culture when you arrive. Learn about the people and their traditions. Experience their music and cuisine. Read novels and watch movies set in your destination.

Prepare for your trip by considering practical matters:

When is the best time to go to Europe?

Any time is a great time somewhere in Europe. If you intend to really experience Europe as Europeans do, you need to be there when Europe is most itself. That could be mid-winter in Scandinavia when the days are very short and snow drifts in the streets. That could be during the month before Christmas when Central European cities celebrate with wonderful Christmas markets. It could be in September when the Oktoberfest occurs in Munich and everyone has a great time party-ing. But, you might want to pick a season that offers the best prices or the finest weather. In that case, see When is the "best" time to go?

Is your passport current? Every country in Europe requires visitors to possess a valid passport. Generally, most countries require that the passport have at least six months left on it after the date you expect to depart from the country. That's because they don't want you to be stranded without a valid passport which could happen if your passport expires before you leave. Some countries require your passport have a year left before expiration. Check with your travel agent to find out.

Do you need a visa? Probably not unless you are going to Egypt (which is in Africa rather than Europe but may be a stop on a Mediterranean cruise or a multi-country tour). Check with your travel agent to find out.

Plan to be safe - With a bit of forethought and awareness during your trip, you can increase your safety and have a much more hassle-free trip.

Avoid jet-lag - It can be done; let me tell you how.

Money matters - For almost everyone going to Europe, using your ATM card is the best (and least expensive) way to obtain Euros, British Pounds, and other European currency. Prepare by checking with your bank to make sure your ATM card will work in Europe. If your PIN is not four digits, change it so that it is only four digits as that is the standard at ATMs throughout Europe (and most of the rest of the world).

Do you need an International drivers licence? Check with your rental car company. The purpose of an International drivers license is to translate what is on your US drivers license in places where the Roman alphabet is not used or where English is not widely understood. In Western Europe neither of those factors are issues. But some rental car companies may insist you have an international drivers license. If that is the case, go to AAA and get one.

See your doctor - Wherever you travel, you want to make sure your health is optimal to allow you to enjoy your trip to the fullest. There are some special reasons to visit your doctor, such as if you have an orthopedic implant.

Pack light! - Your goal should be to have only a carry-on bag and no checked luggage. Even on a cruise you don't need to haul all your possessions with you. No one ever returns from a trip saying, "I wish I'd have taken more clothing." Rather, the opposite is true. If you think you might need something, leave it home. Take only those items that you know you will need and be miserable without. If it turns out you really do need something, use that as an excuse to buy it while on your trip. That way, you will have a wonderful souvenir when you return home. And you will get a chance to shop like a European. But most of all, you will save your back, you will have fewer bags to watch out for during your trip, you will be able to go sightseeing while lugging your bag with you (there are very few luggage storage facilities any more).

Send an email to Carole to request a packing list to help you to pack light.

Be ready to go through airport security - You can reduce the aggravation of going through the security checkpoint at the airport by paying attention to what you pack (nothing that could be used by a weapon if you had sufficient imagination) and how you pack (make it easy for your bag to be inspected by putting your belongings into clear plastic bags or packing cubes). Make sure your shoes are easy to remove and that you are wearing socks without holes. Carry your boarding pass and passport in a readily accessible, secure place. A pouch that hangs from your neck works very well. A small "fanny pack" worn in front is a good alternative. At the very least, wear a jacket or sweater with pockets so that you can easily reach your boarding pass and passport when necessary. Being prepared will speed up the process of going through security so you will have less chance of missing your plane, will have time to relax before the flight, and will generally start the trip off right.

Hand Lotion - countless thousands of travelers are delayed at U.S. airports every year by the most unlikely of culprits: hand lotion. Some hand lotions contain glycerides, which trip alarms on one kind of explosive detection machine that is widely used to screen checked luggage at U.S. commercial airports including Los Angeles International Airport. Federal security authorities are aware of the hand lotion issue, said Suzanne Luber, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration. "It does delay the process," Luber said. But the TSA has not asked people to refrain from moisturizing before packing or handling their bags because not all luggage goes through the machines that react to the glycerides, she said.

Decide for yourself if you want to risk delays passing through airport security by using hand lotions containing glycerides.

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