Number One – Failure to inform your ATM issuer and credit card companies about your international destination(s), country-by-country. With fraud and identity theft at an all time high around the globe, you will be unpleasantly surprised when after handing over the credit card or inserting your trusty ATM card in the machine, the nasty word DENIED pops up. It may not happen on your first transaction but I’ll bet a dozen doughnuts it happens on the second. Make that telephone call and inform them exactly what countries are on the itinerary. That way you’ll avoid the embarrassment and panic of hearing, “…so sorry, madame, your card has been denied…”
Number Two – Overpacking, need I say more? No, but I will. Like it or not, the world is a blue jean society. The perception of an “Ugly American” in sneakers and blue jeans is so not true. Walk the streets of Paris, Rome, London and you’ll see the locals in blue jeans, fancy Converse, hi-tops, “bowling shoes”, a scarf jauntily tied around necks but still casual. The great majority are locals are not Vogue material. And now the airlines are going to charge for a second bag. You absolutely do not need a second bag unless preparing to make a fashion statement or attend multiple functions. Think minimal mix-and-match clothes and check the weather on the Internet before you go.
Numbers Three, Four and Five below are a result of not doing a little homework pre-trip.
Number Three – Over-scheduling sightseeing. There’s only so much a person can see and absorb before the brain shuts down and/or boredom sets in. How many St. Sebastian’s filled with arrows can one person see in a day and remain interested? Make a sketchy plan before leaving home of must-sees with downtime, and vary them to maximize your time. One museum a day is my rule and some museums have free entrances on Sunday, certain nights of the week and days in a month. (The Louvre is free the first Sunday of every month.) It’s even possible to book ahead and buy your Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum tickets on line! That’s a big time saver. Check that out before the trip begins and take advantage. Leave lots of time to just walk around, do a little shopping, stop for a glass of wine, and immerse yourself in the experience.
Number Four – Attempting to visit too many countries in a short period of time. The temptation is thinking, “…I’m going so far and have to see as much as possible…” Instead repeat over and over again, “I will return.” And if you are with a group, pass on one of the included meals after a few days and go off on your own. Everyone needs a break from the 7a-9p routine of wake-up…breakfast…sightseeing…lunch…sightseeing…dinner…fall in bed, and repeat the next day.
Number Five – Take time to research a destination before you leave home to avoid disappointment. What is there to see? Do, etc.? A friend of mine just returned from a European river trip and was disappointed. Why? Because it rained! Have reasonable expectations and know before you go…
Number Six – If there is any sort of problem with the tour, hotel room, food, tell your guide/hotel manager/restauranteur immediately. Don’t wait and let it fester. The faster you voice a complaint, the faster it can be corrected. This is not being an “Ugly American” but a proactive traveler. After all, you paid for it.
Number Seven – Use your ATM card for local currency even though most banks tack on a service charge. There are bancomat’s in 99% of the airports, railway stations and up and down streets throughout the world. Absolutely do not, under any circumstances, change money at home for the currency of your destination. For example, the Euro is currently trading at 1.42 Euros to $1 U.S. In other words (because the Euro is confusing), it will cost you $1.42 U.S. to get 1 Euro. At almost all airport currency booths, it will cost $1.62 to get 1 Euro. Do the math…an additional 20 cents on each dollar. Additionally, do your very best not to come home with any leftover Euros (or other currencies) unless planning a return trip. You’ll be lucky to receive $1 U.S. back for every Euro, a loss of forty-two cents