Sorry, this one might be a bit of a slog, but these are the details that can keep you up at night if you don’t take care of them.
Packing and luggage
- Any hotel worth its salt will store your luggage before you check in, and after you check out. No need to picture yourself dragging your suitcase around your first day’s walkabout. Airbnb hosts will have also anticipated this question and will have good recommendations or solutions too.
- As I mentioned in Step 1, British and European cities usually have some sort of luggage storage, so research options for your specific cities. London’s King Cross has a Left Baggage service right near their silly but fun photo-op, Platform 9¾. Amsterdam Centraal has luggage lockers. And sometimes the best solution can also be a bit unexpected: Ned Kelly’s in Dublin is a 24-hour sports club and casino that also cheerfully handles bag storage for reasonable prices. It’s right next to a popular O’Connell Street stop for coaches going to and from Dublin Airport.
- Check the climate and weather overview before you pack. Layers are always the answer in Europe. Pack something cooler than you think you’ll need, as well as something warmer. Something waterproof for misty, drizzly days. And a swimsuit, just in case you come across a beach, pool, hot springs or spa. Remember you can always buy something if you need it.
- Consider travelling light with a carry-on suitcase. It can be done. And you’ll thank me when you’re sprinting through an airport someday.
- Rehearse what you’re going to pack. Try it all on, choose stuff that doesn’t wrinkle. Ladies, jersey material is your friend. There are many resources online for packing tips, techniques and wardrobe planning. How to wear all of your holiday suitcase is a recent fave.
- Dig into the specific etiquette of your destination. For example, you need to be garbed respectfully in religious buildings like the Vatican. More specifics, especially outside of Europe, in this fab post: How to Dress for Conservative Countries: Modest Clothing Essentials.
- Find out the baggage guidelines for each flight you are taking. Your trans-Atlantic flight will probably be more lenient than your wee hop between European countries, so keep that in mind when deciding whether to fly or take trains within Europe. No point bringing a huge bag overseas only to have a low-cost European airline charge you a tidy sum to check it.
- If you aren’t checking any luggage for your flights, remember to look into all your airline and airport rules for carry-on bag dimensions, maximum volumes for liquids and the size of the clear ziploc bag they need to be kept in.
- Xe.com for currency conversions.
- Euro (EUR) €: This one should be straightforward, but isn’t. Most EU countries, including the Republic of Ireland, use the Euro. However not all of them do, and some countries that aren’t in the EU do use it. Have a look at this detailed map from 2016 but it’s probably not a bad idea to check each country you’re visiting to confirm.
- British Pound Sterling (GBP) £: in the UK, including Scotland. Here’s where it gets a bit confusing. Scottish banks print their own notes of GBP, but it is still the same currency. I haven’t had any problems using them here in The North (of England), but I’ve heard anecdotes of English establishments further south that don’t recognise them or try to not accept them. So when Robert the Bruce shows up on your £20 note, keep this in mind:
- Have a 4-digit pin for your bank card. If yours somehow still has six digits, you’ll have to update your pin.
- Find out if you need to advise your bank and credit card company that you’re travelling, and be prepared to give them specific dates and cities.
- Rather than stuffing your wallet with a dangerous wad of euros and pounds before you leave, consider getting a modest amount of cash for the first few days and then using ATMs and credit cards as needed. Or, if overseas ATM and credit card fees have you spooked, at very least consider what one of my friends calls a ‘geek wallet’ for safely storing the bulk of it, or take advantage of your hotel room’s safe.
- Don’t spend the whole time worrying about pickpockets and thieves, but at the same time, keep alert and aware of your surroundings. When I worked in a downtown Toronto office near one of the most touristy bits, I was gobsmacked every time I went out for lunch by how casually visitors treated their money and property. People with fancy DSLR cameras slung over their shoulders. Men with fat wallets stuck in their back pockets, women with open handbags nearly dragging on the ground, wallets in full sight. Almost lost my mind at a Starbucks once while watching someone pay for a latte from a dripping bundle of bills, loose in a trouser pocket. All good ways to become a target.
- I’ve only been approached once in Paris by someone operating the ‘Ring Scam’ and I simply ignored him and walked away, but Rick Steves has rounded up the most common Tourist Scams and Rip-Offs.
- Please use your best judgement, keep your wits about you, and don’t give into fear and panic.
- We’ve used this particular travel adapter set by Kikkerland for years, but you can get good ones virtually anywhere.
- Probably best to purchase them in your own country though, as one of my Canadian visitors wasn’t able to find a North America-Europe adapter in the UK. There were all sorts for UK-North America, UK-Europe, and North America-UK, but he had to wait until he arrived in France to get what he needed.
- And I found this out right before a trip to Dublin – although the Republic of Ireland is in the EU and uses the Euro, their plug type is the same as the UK.
- Plug, socket & voltage by country
- See if your workplace benefits include emergency medical coverage abroad, or consider buying short term travel medical insurance.
- If you have severe food allergies, do what a friend of mine did – he had his list of food allergies translated and printed onto a card that he then had laminated, and simply handed it to everyone he ordered food from.
- I memorize ‘I can’t eat eggs’ in the language of where I’m going. Ik kan geen eieren eten. Je ne peux pas manger d’oeufs. Non posso mangiare le uova. Nem tudok tojást enni. Ich kann keine eier essen. Jag kan inte äta ägg.
Admin (see? I told you this was boring)
- Create a folder in your email for everything to do with your trip: hotel reservations, museum tickets, train tickets, boarding passes.
- Find out when you can check in to your flights, and whether you need to print out boarding passes or if it’s enough to have an electronic version on your phone.
- Having trouble determining the correct international dialling code prefix? Visit Country Calling Codes and simply choose your ‘from’ and ‘to’ countries from the dropdown menus and click submit. I’ve got this one bookmarked for emergencies.
- Make a packing checklist. Sounds dumb, but make sure you have your wallet, passport, keys and phone, and anything else unique and difficult to replace – glasses, contact lenses, custom mouthguard, medical prescriptions…
- Make a photocopy of your passport and pack it in a different bag from the one containing your actual passport.
- Tripit.com is a great website and app for keeping track of your entire itinerary. Might seem a bit tedious at first, but it’s worth it to have everything available at a glance. And maybe this is just me, but I get a frisson of delight when I see my finalized itinerary come to life.
- Make note of whether or not the hotel(s) you’ve booked include breakfast in their price. With a multi-city tour it can be easy to forget.
- Find out if your overseas flights include meals or not.
- Buy tickets to museums and galleries in advance – sail past the lineup of people buying tickets for a boost of smug satisfaction. And for next-level brilliance, find and ‘star’ restaurants a few blocks away from sites so you’re not stuck in the overpriced onsite cafeteria or tourist traps mere metres from the exit.
- Consider buying tickets for popular day trip tours in advance as well.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch
- Arrange for housesitters or kennel time for your furry friends.
- Put some of your lights on timers if nobody will be home.
- Can a neighbor or friend grab your mail, water your plants, take out your recycling bin?
- Clear your fridge, cupboards and bins of anything that might go off, and consequently begin to smell terrible, before you leave.
Previous posts in this series
My guide to boss travel: Introduction
My guide to boss travel: Step 1 – Deciding where to go, and when
My guide to boss travel: Step 2 – Who’s joining you?
My guide to boss travel: Step 3 – Time to dream
Upcoming posts in this series – published on Fridays
My guide to boss travel: Step 5 – In transit
My guide to boss travel: Step 6 – Your trip, your way