With the summer travel season swinging into high gear, it’s a good time to take a look at some basic travel tips to make European travel easier. Our son just returned from his annual adventure to the South of France and reported back to us on some issues he, even as a travel expert, encountered. Here are my five key travel tips to make any trip to Europe easier:
Get a chip card Chip cards are regular credit cards with a small microchip. They offer an extra layer of security and will be introduced in the U.S. sometime in the future, but are required for many transactions in Europe. Our son related how he was unable to use his U.S. credit cards in the automated ticket machines in train stations, necessitating a long wait to buy them from the ticket counter. Simply contact your credit card issuer in advance of a trip and request a chip card. Most larger banks and card providers offer them.
Get a data plan for your mobile phone and devices By planning in advance, it’s possible to add global data and calling options to most mobile plans. In some cases, it may be best to replace the SIM card with a locally bought card, which allows for cheap outgoing calls, but then makes it impossible to reach your original local number. Some providers, like T-Mobile, offer plans with unlimited global data and low-priced or free texting and calls, while others like AT&T offer bundled packages with specific data limits.
Use WiFi calling Services like Skype, Facetime and other apps allows calls over a WiFi connection with no mobile call or roaming charges. With WiFi in many hotel rooms, it’s possible to make free calls. Some phones and mobile providers, like T-Mobile, have proprietary apps that make the service seamless to use, as long as there’s a strong WiFi signal with good bandwidth.
Use an ATM to withdraw cash With fees normally lower than a walk-up money exchange, ATMs are easy to use in foreign countries. Chip cards are not needed for ATM withdrawals but some security measures should be taken in advance. Set a specific account for foreign withdrawals and never use an account with an large balance. This limits any potential losses due to fraud. Alert your bank in advance of your travel plans as many will see a foreign ATM withdrawal attempt as a security breach and may deny the transaction and / or block the card.
Buy an external or extended mobile phone battery With advances in mobile technology exceeding advances in mobile technology battery life, the latest smartphones from Apple, Samsung and most manufacturers can draw a lot of power under heavy vacation use. Small external USB extended batteries cost around $30 and can charge a phone to full capacity in about two hours.
Follow senior travel expert Ted Sherman on Twitter – @travel4seniors and on his blog, travel4seniors.
More from this contributor:
Barcelona, Spain: Where Catalonian Culture Flourishes
A Visit to Sarajevo: 100th Anniversary of the Start of WWI
A Visit to Nice, France