Although this is a HUGE category, here are some basic tips for making your travel a little easier! Remember, there is “never an always” when it comes to technology, so do what works best for you! Individual phones and devices can vary.
Most carriers have both an International Data (global data) roaming plan and an international calling plan. You can call your carrier and add a plan, which gives you a discounted calling rate and a limited amount of Global Data. These can end up being VERY expensive because it is easy to exceed your plan. Do your homework if you choose to do this. When I traveled at the end of last year, I was VERY surprised by the improvement of Wi-Fi. All of the airports had free Wi-Fi and all restaurants, cafés, etc. did as well I am with Verizon and they have a TRAVEL PASS plan, I signed up for that, it’s $10 for a 24-hour period and I only used it on 2 days that I needed to be connected while driving. The rest of the time, I had my phone in Airplane mode with the Wi-Fi on and my total cost for connectivity was $20 for a 3-week trip; That is unheard of for me!!
SUMMARY: If you are with Verizon, opt for the “Travel Pass” International Data Plan and connect to wifi as often as possible. (Other carriers probably have similar plans)
NOTE: You will want to put your phone in Airplane mode and then turn the wifi on so you aren’t using cellular data. Confirm this with your phone company based on your specific phone.
Which leads me to …
Best Communication Apps:
Since the goal is to be connected to wifi as much as possible there are a few methods of communication that I recommend (there are plenty).
Facetime is the first. If you have an iPhone, you have probably used this before. What you may not know, is that there is an option in Facetime to just us the Audio and not the Video. Unless you need/want to SEE the person you are speaking to, this is a great option. FaceTime Audio is one of those features on the iPhone that many people overlook. This is a shame since it’s a great alternative to cellular phone calls, often has better sound and doesn’t use nearly as much data as people think it does.
WhatsApp is the second method that I recommend. It is very commonly used all over Europe and even businesses and hotels will communicate with you using it. If you travel with me, I use it almost exclusively. You can create groups with is so this is how I will communicate with everyone once we arrive! Download it on your phone and practice with it before you go, make sure your loved ones/biz people have it downloaded as well. You can also make phone calls and video calls with it just like you can with Facetime.
It’s all about the MONEY $$:
Ok! Now for the delicate topic of how to pay for things. Remember, these are merely suggestions. Do what you feel most comfortable doing! I have found that it is best not to exchange a lot of money before you go overseas, the last thing you want to do is overpay for currency exchange or have large sums of cash on your person. You will probably want/need a little Euro on hand when you get to Europe so bringing 100 Euro or so is perfect (this will depend on your plans upon arrival), you may have to notify your bank in advance, they usually don’t have Euro laying around.
The next thing to do is get an ATM Card. You will want to check with your bank and find out what the fees are, and if the card with work overseas. You should notify them of where you are traveling and the dates. You may find a bank that has no ATM charges, this way, you can hit the ATM machine upon your arrival and have some cash on hand; also be aware of the exchange rate! If you take out 20 Euro, that is MORE than $20 and you don’t want to overdraw your bank account. The ATM fee is also per transaction so keep that in mind when withdrawing money. In the past, I have actually brought along 2 cards to 2 different accounts just to be safe, in case one doesn’t work for some reason.
Credit cards are the same story, they will work almost anywhere but make sure you notify your bank and also try to search for a bank that doesn’t charge you international fees. Capital One is one of those and there are many others. Again, remember you will have to notify the bank of your travel plans or you will likely trigger a fraud alert on your card rendering it unusable. This can often be done online but I prefer to speak to someone on the phone.
Side note: There is an app that is called OANDA that is a currency converter. I have that on my phone at all times so I can easily figure out prices.
What to Pack:
- CLOTHING: Traveling in Europe usually entails a lot of stairs, cobblestone streets etc. and YOU and you alone, will be responsible for lugging your bag. If you over-pack, you will hate life. Comfortable shoes and clothing are a must but you want to be presentable! A Simple scarf can jazz up any outfit. If you plan to visit any museums or churches while you are there (and you probably will) they do not allow you to be in shorts, shorter dresses or have your shoulders exposed. Bring a lightweight longer skirt and something to wrap around your shoulders. I usually bring a few Pareos or sarongs…you can use them as scarves if it gets chilly, wrap them around your waist. They can also double as a beach towel should you get so lucky!
- Bring a change of clothes ON THE PLANE with you. I would also suggest any medication, toothbrush, deodorant, contact solution, etc.…enough to get you through a day should your bags decide to take a detour…and trust me, it happens. Keep your passport and your medication on your person! If you pack it in your carry on, there is a possibility that you may have to hand over your small roller bag on some flights, this could leave you in a HUGE pinch.
ALL- The washcloth is apparently an American invention. If you use them, bring some. I always bring a couple and then just toss them before I come home. We usually have access to a local laundry and you can find almost anything you will need at a local market or Pharmacy if you forget something.
Other Helpful Reading:
Here is a blog post our friend The Inspired Tourist wrote about 5 Must-Have things for Europe, it also contains information about Travel Converters and Adapters:
Here is another Blog Post about Phone Apps for Stress-Free Travel