It's critical that you're prepared for the adventure of a lifetime. Here are some helpful tips to get you started.
Travel light, especially if you are visiting several cities! Take one SMALL carry-on bag and one medium-sized piece of baggage (wheels are essential) to be checked. We recommend that you bring only the necessities. Once you have packed your bags, pick them up and carry them for a few yards then ask yourself if you are prepared to spend the next week or so doing the same. If not, then you have over-packed! (Even if porterage is included on your trip, porters are not always available). Do not lock your suitcase before a flight. Security agents may need to look inside, and may break your lock in order to do so.
Be prepared for any kind of weather. Always pack a sweater, sweatshirt or other light, long-sleeved outerwear in case of cool evenings or cloudy days when you are traveling in the summer. When traveling in cool seasons, be prepared for cooler or warmer-than-usual weather.
Winter travelers to Europe should pack a warm coat, gloves, hat, and warm, waterproof footwear.
Layers are the tops! Take a couple of close-fitting tank tops to wear under your shirts/tops, if you get a bit chilly. They will take up hardly any room in your suitcase but that extra layer will keep you cosy. Even on warm days, nights can be cold, and it's always cooler on oceans or rivers.
Always wear a pair of broken-in, comfortable walking shoes or sneakers during the tour and on the airplane. Pack one pair of dress shoes for special occasions. Never take new shoes on tour.
On the airplane, wear loose, comfortable clothing; get up and walk around once every hour, and drink as much non-alcoholic and non-diuretic fluid as possible. Water is the best thing to drink. The air in planes is very dry, and you need to keep yourself hydrated. Don't take off your shoes since your feet will swell and you may have trouble putting them back on! Beware of deep vein thrombosis, which can be a danger on long flights, even for relatively young, fit passengers.
Expect delays! Today's skies are more crowded than ever, and experienced travelers are well aware of the likelihood of travel delays. It's probably not the airline's fault. Look upon delays as another part of the adventure as well as an opportunity to shop, read, write, or people-watch!
Bring some books, one or more that you've just been dying to read. These could be ideal for passing the time during flights, airport delays or long coach or train rides.
Pack a camera in your carry-on bag, together with plenty of film. Film costs more overseas!
Your small carry-on bag should include: one full change of clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste, necessary toiletries, contact lens kit, medicines, all of your valuables (jewelry, camera, personal stereo, travel documents), books and other items to occupy you on the plane. Why? Because if your checked-in baggage goes astray between flight connections, it may not be found until a day or two later.
Carry all money directly on your person, not in your luggage. If necessary, your money should be packed in your carry-on bag never in your checked baggage!!!
Bring a small amount ($30-$50) of foreign currency of the arrival country with you. It will be handy for buying newspapers or essentials like subway tickets when you arrive. Use Cash Passport cards as your primary source of cash. Our web site (www.passports.com) has more information.
Bring any prescription medications that you may need. Also, bring any over-the-counter medications you are accustomed to using; e.g. aspirin, air sickness medicine, etc. Most foreign pharmacies do not carry brands sold in the United States, and many medications are available only by prescription. Make sure all medecines are in their original packaging.
Wear a watch and pack a travel alarm clock. Re-set them while en route. Do not constantly remind yourself of the time back home; otherwise your jet-lag will last longer!
Don't underestimate the effects of jet lag. Seasoned travelers take jet-lag seriously and swear by their own "cure". Some recommend taking vitamin C or an over-the-counter sleep aid such as Tylenol PM or melatonin. We advise consulting your physician before using any medication you are not familiar with. Don't sleep until your normal bedtime on arrival day. If you absolutely have to take a nap, make it a short one (not more than an hour). The most frequent symptom of jet lag is waking up in the middle of the night (your body clock thinks it is 9.00 am!) and not being able to go back to sleep. If this occurs the first night, you should take appropriate action to make sure you get a good night's sleep the following night. The effects of jet lag can last several days. It goes without saying that those under 21 years of age should not take any medication without parental approval. Jet lag can make your brain very fuzzy, so be warned!
Know that electrical current in European countries is 220 volts as opposed to 110 volts in the USA. If you absolutely have to pack a hair dryer or other electrical appliance, be sure to purchase a voltage converter. Some hotels may be able to lend you one, but don't count on it! Not using a converter will render your appliance unusable and may blow the hotel's fuses. We recommend purchasing a dual voltage (110-220 volts) appliance or simply investing in a hair dryer once you arrive at your destination. This purchase will probably cost little more than buying a converter!
Remember to look both ways twice before crossing the street if you're traveling in a country where vehicles are driven on the opposite side of the road (The British Isles, Australia, some Caribbean and some Greek islands).
Be prepared to use public transportation in cities and to purchase your own tickets. Transfers to restaurants or museums, for example, are not included in the tour unless specified. If subway or bus tickets are included in the tour cost, you will be notified. Otherwise, it will be your responsibility to purchase them; the cost is usually minimal.
Be prepared to walk huge distances! It's the only way to get around in historic cities. If you are not used to walking, and most Americans are not, get your feet used to it by walking for one half hour a day two weeks prior to departure. Otherwise, your feet will suffer once overseas.
Bear in mind that a sunburn can ruin your vacation! Apply and re-apply sunscreen at regular intervals. Soaring temperatures and low humidity can be deceiving!
Be mindful of local customs and behave accordingly: "When in Rome...."
Dress conservatively. Shorts and tank tops should not be too revealing, and even then they are not always acceptable (be careful about how you dress if you intend to visit the Vatican or any religious site). High heels and dress shoes can be inappropriate as well as uncomfortable.
Check with your courier for the availability of drinking water. If necessary, drink bottled water and order beverages without ice. Most western European countries' water supplies are chlorinated and therefore safe to drink.
Eat as much healthy food and drink as much water or similar fluid as possible during the flight and the tour itself. Your body needs as much help as possible in order to withstand the strain of jet lag, long action-packed days, strange surroundings and different climates.
Bring a foreign language dictionary and phrase book! You never know when you might need it. Never assume that everyone speaks English. Say "Excuse me, do you speak English?" before launching into any conversation.
Set money aside for your portion of the tip for the courier and the coach driver as well as for spending on the return trip home.