In a rather short time, I will be making my first trip to Europe in over 20 years. Those of you who have been following this blog know that I do travel; but this is the first time in a long time that I have left the country. There’s so many things I have to pay attention to now.
Getting cash: Given how widely used ATMs are these days, I shouldn’t need to worry about currency exchanges. But where are the ones with the best exchange rates and fees? Will my bank card even work there? How much should I withdraw? Too much, and I’m left with a wad of foreign cash that I’ll have to exchange on my departure; too little, and I’m making several trips to the ATM, paying fees every time. And how much money do I need to have in my checking account to make sure I don’t overdraw?
Credit cards: And of course, I’ll have to call my credit card people to let them know I’m going abroad. Don’t want the cards being frozen due to “suspected” fraud, or two hundred “fraud alert” phone messages when I get back.
Getting to the airport: My flight leaves at a time that means that I should leave home around 5 pm, and I return at around the same time. Given that it’s not at all likely that I’ll get a friend to give up a work day to give me a ride, do I drive to the airport and use long-term parking, or take a car service? Which is safer? Which is less expensive?
Packing: Of course I’ll check the weather at my destination before I leave (and pack a small umbrella anyway), but what do I bring in my carry-on bag? I’m not one of those people who crams everything into a bulky carry-on, and I’ll be staying long enough so I’ll need a full-sized suitcase anyway for all the underwear. But how much stuff do I need to have with me during the flight? A single change of underwear and some basic toiletries, sure. The chargers for my personal electronics? Snacks? My shaving kit? Any aspirin or other basic painkillers?
I’ve also got to keep in mind that although it’s commonly used at my destination, English isn’t the native language. What basic phrases should I learn? Is it worse to ignore their native tongue or make the effort to speak it but do it badly? How different are the customs, even in a tourist-friendly city? Will I be able to figure out a menu without help? Or a toilet?
It will be so great when I’m actually on my way. Won’t be able to worry about any of this anymore.