12 Tips for Trip Prep: A Smart Travel Checklist

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A little advanced planning can make a big difference for your trip. We hope these travel tips will help you enjoy a stress-free European vacation. Start early, and follow our simple smart travel checklist.
1.  Check your passport expiration date! All European countries require it be valid for at least 3 months beyond your scheduled return to the US. Some countries like Turkey require 6 month validity beyond your travel dates. Be sure your passport is valid and renew it early if you need to.
2.  Make a list of things to see and do on your trip. Take notes, look at maps and rail schedules, print driving directions, and develop a list of ideas. But keep your planning loose enough to accommodate spontaneity and weather.
3.  Make your reservations for popular museums and other sights ahead of time. Purchase opera and concert tickets before you leave home. Here are some helpful links:
 Vatican Museum / Sistine Chapel, Rome
 Alhambra, Granada Spain
4.  Practice driving a stick shift if you will rent a manual car but haven’t driven one in a while. (If you are heading to the countryside, find some gravel roads to practice on.)
5.  Train! Walk and exercise to build stamina so you are ready to climb your way through hilltowns and along Alpine hiking trails.
6.  Familiarize yourself with the local conversions. Understand the local currency and conversion rates. Brush up on the metric system so you can monitor your driving speed and are able to order sensible portions at the deli.
7.  Get your gadgets and tech tools ready. Clear memory on cameras, download the right apps and ebooks, and buy the local maps for your GPS unit. More importantly, if you have a new device, be sure you know how to use it before you leave home. You won’t want to miss that perfect shot because you are distracted, fumbling with settings on your new camera.
8.  Know where you are going. Print directions, rail schedules, reservations and other practical things, either to paper or to PDF so that you can access them offline.
9.  Contact your bank and credit card companies to tell them your travel plans. They will note the dates and destinations of your trip so your card. Otherwise, your first purchase abroad may be mistaken for fraud and trigger a freeze on the account. 
10.  Request a chip and pin credit card, as they are the standard in Europe for security reasons. Most merchants still accept cards without this embedded security chip, but it is best to have chip and pin so you can make purchases without any hassle.
11.  Ask your bank about its fees for foreign currency transactions. Many charge 3% on the amount you withdrawal from an ATM. Credit unions often charge a lower percentage on cash withdrawals and credit card purchases.
12.  Make photocopies of your passport, itinerary and credit cards. Leave a copy at home with a friend or family member or house sitter, and take another copy with you on your trip, tucked away in a suitcase, not with your passport and credit cards.

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