In addition to my own Europe planning research, my co-worker Angela bought me Rick Steves Planning Europe book, which was an amazing read. He is so on point with everything! THANKS AGAIN ANGELA!!
Rick says “Quite a few things are worth arranging while you’re still at home — lining up these details before you travel is a big part of having a smooth trip!”
Check your passport expiration; you may be denied entry into certain European countries if your passport is due to expire within three months of your ticketed date of return. Get it renewed if you’ll be cutting it close. Take good care of your passport: Keep it in your money belt, and if you’re asked to show it, put it back in your money belt right away.
Make reservations well in advance, especially during peak season, for accommodations, popular restaurants, major sights, and local guides. If you have read my previous post, you will know, I traveled during shoulder season so I did not make reservations in advance.
Call your debit- and credit-card companies to let them know the countries you’ll be visiting, to ask about fees, and more. Get your bank’s emergency phone number in the US (but not its 800 number) to call collect if you have a problem. If you don’t know your credit card’s PIN code, ask your bank to mail it to you.
Do your homework if you want to buy travel insurance. Check whether your existing insurance (health, homeowner’s, or renter’s) covers you and your possessions overseas. Flight Insurance, Trip-Cancellation or Interruption Insurance, Medical Insurance, Evacuation Insurance, Baggage Insurance,
If you’re bringing the kids, make sure you have the right paperwork, including a passport for each, a letter of consent if only one parent is traveling, and documentation for adopted children.
Make copies of important travel documents as a backup in case you lose the originals.
Students should get an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) for discounts throughout Europe. Hostelers who’ll be staying at least six nights in official HI hostels should get a membership card.
If you’re planning to buy a rail pass, you’ll need to get it before you leave the US. Rail pass or no, it can also be smart to reserve seats on certain trains before you leave. Also know that reservation cost are not included in the rail pass.
If you need to bridge several long-distance destinations on your trip, look into cheap flights within Europe. For the best fares, book these as far in advance as possible.
If you’ll be renting a car, you’ll need a valid driver’s license. An International Driving Permit is technically required in Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and Spain.
If you plan to use your US mobile phone or smartphone in Europe, contact your provider to enable international calling or to “unlock” your phone. Consider signing up for an international calling, text, and/or data plan, and be sure to confirm voice- and data-roaming fees. I utilized unlocking my phone and purchasing pre-paid starting at €10 sim cards for each country. I also dropped my US phone plan down to the most simplest they had. For me it was $30 a month. I only did this to keep my number and allow my neice to have a phone. Otherwise, I would have just cancelled my entire plan. This would only make sense if you are traveling for an extended period of time, like me.
Get a proper guidebook.
Download any apps you might want to use on the road, such as translators, maps, and transit schedules. Check out Rick Steves Audio Europe for free, downloadable audio tours of Europe’s major sights and hours of travel interviews.
Take care of any medical needs. Visit your doctor to get a checkup, and see your dentist if you have any work that needs to be done. If you use prescription drugs, stock up before your trip. Pack along the prescription, plus one for contact lens or glasses if you wear them.
Attend to your household needs. Cancel your newspapers, hold your mail delivery, and prepay your bills.
Give a copy of your itinerary to family or friends. This will help them feel a little more sane about your travels, especially if your traveling alone as I am.
Make a list of valuables that you’re bringing (such as electronics). Include serial numbers, makes, and models, and take photos of your items to serve as a record for the police and your insurance company should anything be stolen.
Because airline carry-on restrictions are always changing, visit the Transportation Security Administration’s website for a list of what you can bring on the plane, and for the latest security measures (including screening of electronic devices, which you may be asked to power up).