Always bring your ATM card with you. You will be charged a transaction fee by your bank each time you withdraw cash from an ATM machine, but this is your best bet. Just remember to withdraw a few larger amounts as opposed to daily, smaller amounts to avoid numerous bank charges. Most banks charge $1.50 – $5.00 per transaction. Also, depending on the kind of ATM card you have, you may be able to use it in restaurants/stores if the place of business accepts Visa or Mastercard.
When used as a credit card, it will automatically come out of your checking account. In this case, you won’t be charged the bank’s normal transaction fee. You must remember that many small villages do not have ATM machines, so plan accordingly. Never go to the exchange store fronts on the street or you will be charged a hefty fee. Also, you should bring the name and phone number (the direct line) of your banker just in case you need funds made available while abroad.
Credit cards are another good option since you will get that current day’s exchange rate when you receive your bill upon your return home. Credit cards are widely accepted at hotels, restaurants and shops. It is a good idea to bring two different types (Visa or MasterCard and American Express) in case one is not accepted. Keep in mind that most credit card companies charge an additional fee for using credit cards internationally which is usually between 2-3% so check with your credit card company prior to your departure.
Bring more film than you think you will need since film is usually more expensive overseas. Always check the expiration of any film bought overseas.
Bring your passport and make sure it hasn’t expired. Before departure, make a copy of your passport and airline tickets and keep in a separate place. In Italy, you can also change money in the Italian Post Office. They often have better exchange rates and are open Saturday mornings.
I do not advise bringing traveler’s checks. I have found that many restaurants and stores do not accept them because of currency fluctuation but you can exchange them at hotel front desks and banks.
Always bring comfortable, “already-broken in” footwear. Don’t make the mistake of bringing brand new shoes! Never bring high heels – they will certainly get stuck in the cobblestones in the small villages. Remember, many of these European villages are very hilly with rocky textures.Before I pack, I make a habit of checking the weather forecast of the country to which I will be traveling. Also, I bring a light jacket and a small umbrella.
For those die hard shoppers, always bring an extra, collapsible suitcase for those precious purchases. You don’t want to break your new possessions by placing smashing them into your packed suitcase.Expanding on the previous note, if you wish to purchase art/home decor while away, always bring the measurements of that area of your home (i.e. table measurements for tablecloths, bed measurements for linens, etc.)
Don’t forget your laptop hardware, chargers (for cell phone, digital camera, etc.) and converters (hairdryer, electric shaver, etc.).
If you don’t have a cell phone, remember to bring your home telephone company’s Access Codes to be sure you get the best rate in calling home. (Each country has a different access code so call your phone company).
If you want to check your email while away and don’t have a laptop, remember to bring your email access website information (i.e. www.mail2web.com – you will need your username and password). I always bring my Blackberry to Europe since the service provider has international access. Also, bring your address book – you may want to send postcards!
Laundry services are very expensive overseas so if you want to pack lightly, bring some Woolite to rinse out clothes in the sink. Also, make sure you bring an extra pair of sunglasses.To avoid over packing, check with your hotel to see if they have a hairdryer and an iron/ironing board.Always pack a swimsuit – even if it’s winter, you’ll never know if there might be a heated pool or Jacuzzi!
Use village names as landmarks as opposed to route numbers. By taking these precautions and preparations, you can spend your international vacation enjoying yourself and the surroundings without worrying about the little things.