Read these tips for a more enjoyable vacation!

Number 1 Tip: Bring your passport, state-issued driver's licence, and some local currency (if possible).

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Modern technology has made getting cash in European countries very easy. In most cases, you can simply withdraw local cash at an ATM using your bank or credit card. Failing that, most hotels and local banks provide currency exchanges for converting dollars or traveler's checks. Exchange rates vary so shop around.   Visa and MasterCard are commonly accepted by European establishments, although not necessarily both. American Express can sometimes be refused though, due to its higher fees. Calling cards, such as those issued by your long-distance provider, can be very helpful.   Handling European money should not be difficult for Americans. The Euro may oscillate between 1.25 and 1.45 with respect to the dollar and the currency comes in familiar denominations. Note that the Europeans use the coin more heavily than we do, so don't just throw your change on the dresser when you get back to the hotel. Pretty soon you'll have a small fortune there! You'll find the U.K. is stubbornly holding on to its pound. The pound tends to be worth around twice as much as the dollar, so be prepared for some sticker shocks until your mind gets used to the translation.   For the latest exchange rates, visit the The Universal Currency Converter Web site at   If you intend to use your ATM card while abroad, inform your bank first. When it sees transactions coming in from out-of-country, it might suspend your service thinking your card has been stolen.
If you plan to bring any North American appliances with you, you must consider two issues: plugs and voltage.   Your appliance's traditional straight rectangular plugs will do fine in North and South America, the Caribbean, and Japan. In Europe, however, the plugs change! Fortunately, there are numerous adapters on the market that add the correct connector types to the end of your appliance's plugs. These are commonly available in travel and airport shops for less than $50.   Just obtaining the correct plug adapter might not be enough, however. Know that Europe also uses a different voltage than the U.S., 220/240 AC instead 110/120 AC. Needless to say, an appliance made for 110 volts won't like it at all if you plug it into a 220 volt wall outlet. To avoid turning your hair dryer into a puddle of melted plastic, check to see what voltage it can handle. This information should be engraved somewhere on the unit. If it only handles 110/120 AC, you'll need to pick up a wattage converter.. Be sure that the converter you buy has the appropriate settings to support your devices' wattage requirements.   The external power supplies that come with such electronic devices as laptop computers and camcorders often handle both voltages, and so only require a plug adapter. To be sure, read the power adapter's label. Always err on the side of caution.
Many Americans use the metric system regularly, and so feel comfortable with it. If you're not one of those Americans, don't fret too much. The main things to remember are these: A meter is about a yard long (1.09). One and one-half kilometers is about a mile (1.6). A kilogram is about 2 pounds (2.2). When it is 35 degrees Celsius, it is really hot (96 degress F)! For more information, visit: World Wide Metric Celsius Fahrenheit 0 32 5 41 10 50 15 59 20 68 25 77 30 86 35 96
You must bring a valid passport when visiting Europe. Once in Europe, you can usually check it safely into a hotel safe and forget about it until your return trip home: One less target for pickpockets. (A photocopy of your passport can be used when exchanging money.)   An exception applies when you travel between countries. Thanks to the European Union (EU), European citizens may now travel unchecked between several countries. We Americans still need our passports, however. So, for example, if you stay in Costa del Sol, Spain, but decide to visit nearby Gibraltar (a British territory), be sure to carry your passport with you!   If you have decided to rent a car, be sure to bring your passport and state-issued driver's license. This is valid in Europe. You do not need an additional "international" driver's license. You might need to be able to drive a "stick," however, as most European cars have manual transmissions only.   If possible, get a little local currency before you board the plane, say 20 Euros or 10 pounds (about $20). That way, you'll be able to buy a treat at the airport, or make a phone call, or tip a porter. Once checked into your hotel, you can easily exchange greater amounts of dollars for local currency.
With the implementation of tougher security rules, this has become a more complicated issue. You should check with your specific airlines regarding what may and may not be carried onboard an aircraft. In general, if an item could be considered remotely dangerous (even fingernail clippers), it needs to be checked in. If you will need to get at an item during the flight, it must go in carry-on luggage. This is especially true of medication. Don't check your prescriptions, because you won't see them again for hours. Also don't check camera film or videotape. The behind-the-scenes luggage scanners will ruin it, while the x-ray machines at the boarding area checkpoint will not. If you lock your checked baggage, be sure to have the keys handy. You might be asked to open it during a random check. For more information, please visit the following airlines Web sites: For Delta go to: For Iberia go to: For TAP Air Portugal go to:
The question of dress fashion is, of course, up to you! It might be worth noting, however, that Europeans are generally a bit more formal than we are here in the States. For example, it is customary to dress up a little for dinner. You'll be most comfortable showing up in semi-casual attire, such as slacks and a collared shirt or blouse. Show up in shorts, a T-shirt, and sandals, and you'll feel awkward.   The question of dress sensibility is up to both weather and location. Don't underestimate the latter. For example, if you visit Costa del Sol with its average of 320 sunny days per year, you can expect temperatures around 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. If you decide to leave the coast and tour lovely southern Spain, however, know that 92 percent of the area is mountains in which temperatures can drop by 20 degrees or more depending on altitude!   To be on the safe side, bring at least one sweater whenever you travel, just in case. An umbrella or light rain jacket can be helpful on occasion as well. If you plan to participate in our popular tours, bring comfortable walking shoes.   If you like to golf, bring golf shoes. For the current weather and forecast in your destination city, visit The Weather Channel Web site