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Overseas Travel

My 19-year-old daughter will be traveling overseas in March. Other than Mexico, this is her first out-of-the-country trip. I have limited out of the country travel experience and instead of instilling my fears of “what could happen” I want to offer her my support and well wishes.

Although she is in the military, this trip to Italy is for pleasure. She is fortunate in not having to worry about lodging as she will be staying with a friend. Her friend is also Air Force and lives off base.

Tidbits of advice I have so far is to make copies of passport and leave one at home or when using check card or credit card may get you at an acceptable rate but you may be imposed with fees.

Recommend travelers checks? What about using her current cell phone or ditch it for a pay as you go phone once she gets over there? Any advice appreciated!

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22 Comment(s)

  1. Use your ATM card to get cash, you usually get the best rate that way. I also check which of my three credit cards have the lowest fees and use credit cards. No one uses travelers checks anymore.

    Italy — esp. Rome, use a money belt. Big problem re picking pockets in Rome.

    I have a friend who uses as pay as you go cell phone when she goes to Europe. We used my laptop at internet cafes and that was fine connecting with people.

    Read up on tipping practices in Italy so you don’t over tip!

    Claire | Feb 8, 2012 | New Comment
  2. Make sure your own passport is up to date. If something bad did happen you would be able to travel immediately.

    TimK | Feb 8, 2012 | New Comment
  3. My bank waives fees on travellers checks, so I brought just enough to keep me afloat if I lost access to plastic. I would swear I ran into a few ATMs that balked at my old school magnetic strip — they wanted RFID.

    I emailed myself a copy of my passport.

    db

    rhetoricguy@gmail.com | Feb 8, 2012 | New Comment
  4. A Minnesotan accent will easily fool Europeans into thinking you’re Canadian if they want to lecture you about the USA.

    Nathaniel | Feb 9, 2012 | New Comment
  5. Pick up some Euro’s at one of the currency kiosk’s at the airport before she gets there. Only use ATM’s at banks and make sure she is always with someone to “look out” as to not get rolled when leaving. Unfortunately the credit card fees are just a part of traveling international.

    I had great luck with buying a cheap phone with a couple hundred minutes and just used that. If I needed to I just sucked up the cost of using my own phone. Turn off the constant update mode on the phone, those charges are huge.

    I traveled to Cape Town South Africa and advised my bank that they would be seeing charges from there. Sucks getting overseas and not being able to get cash or use the card.

    Don’t screw around in the lines at customs, the agents are never in the mood for any crap. Have passport ready and any other documentation.

    Never use your credit card to pay for a taxi, get a quote from the driver.

    Common sense and good judgement are key. Be indiscreet, don’t make a scene. Have fun…

    ivandog907 | Feb 9, 2012 | New Comment
  6. Mr Emmadogs and I were in Venice and Florence a year ago. My advice for your daughter: bring telephone numbers for credit cards and keep them someplace other than wallet, so she can call ASAP if cards are stolen; use only bank ATMs; and pay-as-you-go cell phone is the best bet. Every place we visited took credit cards, but cash was needed for the museums.

    When we got back, we found out that our credit card numbers had somehow been used for fraudulent purchases, in places we had not traveled to, e.g. Croatia. So double check that.

    She should expect that tips are included in bills. Boy, did we make a waiter’s day our first meal in Venice; I didn’t realize that a 20% tip was extraordinarily huge. Our happy waiter brought us drinks with the tip, so it turned out to be great fun.

    Venice and Florence seemed really safe to us.

    Lastly, almost everyone seemed to appreciate that we tried to use our limited Italian, and almost everyone spoke English too.

    Have fun!

    emmadogs | Feb 9, 2012 | New Comment
  7. Oh and Ivandog is correct--she should call her credit card companies and advise them she will be using her cards in Italy.

    emmadogs | Feb 9, 2012 | New Comment
  8. Great tips so far! ATM and Credit Cards are the only way to go for European travel, but you have to make some preparations first. Make sure you call your bank and specify that you need to use your ATM card in xyz countries between certain dates. Make sure to include cities where she may have a layover and get stuck (i.e., Amsterdam, London) and surrounding countries that she may choose to travel to on a whim.

    Make sure to have PIN numbers for all your credit cards — some areas on Europe require a PIN be entered to use the card for any purchase (crazy, huh?). You can really get screwed if you don’t have the PIN because the CC company cannot give a PIN number over the phone-- they have to be snail mailed to the billing address. This seems goofy, but has stranded us in Europe for a few days last year before we could get additional cash transferred into our bank account since our credit cards were useless without the PIN.

    Other Euro travel tips. Yes-- pretending to be Canadian can be easier, but we need more good ambassadors to represent our country. Most tensions have receded and people tend to sympathize with humble, polite Americans who try to speak the local language and respect local customs.

    Wear nice clothes in neutral colors, nothing trashy. Italian men can be a little too forward and they don’t need any reason to think you’re an easy target. Check the internet for Italian street fashion and mimic what you find. If you plan on visiting cathedrals, plan on long pants and sleeved shirts or a sweater. No white tennis shoes. If sports shoes must be worn, choose brightly colored euro shoes like puma, adidas, rocket dog. Bring scarves and sunglasses. If jeans must be worn, skinny black jeans are still a mainstay over there. If you must bring jewelry, only bring cheap/costume jewelry. If you can avoid a roller suitcase and fit everything in a backpack, you’ll be much more flexible-- rolling suitcases down cobble streets is really difficult and obnoxious. These are just personal preferences, but it’s so much more comfortable to travel in a manner where you don’t stick out like an “American Tourist.”

    Good luck!

    jen | Feb 9, 2012 | New Comment
  9. Jen is spot on. Blend in. And “forward” is way too polite a term for the way Italian men treat attractive young women -- or even not-so-young or attractive.

    Some people have the “card” changed out in their cell phone and that also works. A money belt is also good idea. Travelers Cheques = unnecessary hassle.

    Carla | Feb 9, 2012 | New Comment
  10. I’d forgotten about the “forward” Italian men when I was there the first time when I was 22 — your daughter might want to wear a wedding ring. I also found old Italian ladies to be most helpful when I was being harassed by Italian men. Much more helpful than the carbanieri that is for sure.

    I have used universal calling cards when I am in Europe, but it’s harder and harder to find pay phones…

    Claire | Feb 9, 2012 | New Comment
  11. Watch this movie and do everything Liam Neeson does… if it comes to that.

    Derek Montgomery | Feb 9, 2012 | New Comment
  12. It should be noted that the movie Taken isn’t very good, but the part featured in the trailer — where Liam Neeson talks about his set of skills — yeah, that is awesome. So, in short, once you’ve seen the trailer you’ve seen all you need to see of the movie. And if things go wrong overseas, channel Liam.

    Paul Lundgren | Feb 9, 2012 | New Comment
  13. Do not online bank at cyber cafés / public terminals.

    adam | Feb 9, 2012 | New Comment
  14. Oh your daughter is so lucky to be able to be visiting Europe, especially Italy. Next to Australia, Italy is a personal favorite. Sans the travelers checks. They were good in the 1950s, but now plastic is better. Copy the back and front of the card(s) so she has all the information in case they are stolen. Upgrade her cell phone to international calling plan. You pay for it, but all she will have to do is pick up the phone and call/text/send/post pics to share with you the lovely time she is having. Speaking of you, mom, I hope you are going to go and meet her over there. This may be your only chance, and your experiences you will never forget, and so will she.

    topofthehillman | Feb 9, 2012 | New Comment
  15. PS mom. If you know anyone who has traveled there and has left over money, even $20, it is a good idea to land in a country with the country’s currency. It’s a good way to get you to the place you are staying or a bank and exchange U.S. money. Don’t exchange cash at the airport. They have surcharges. Even $5 would get her a bottle of water after a dehydrating plane trip.

    topofthehillman | Feb 9, 2012 | New Comment
  16. Your daughter is likely safer in Italy than she is in most American cities.

    If her friend is also a woman and they are planning on traveling around Italy without a guy, I’d recommend staying out of Sicily entirely. The sexual harassment of young American women was a nightmare when I was there. Seems like it gets worse the farther south you go.

    bluenewt | Feb 9, 2012 | New Comment
  17. Harassment of women is a small problem in cities like Florence and Bologna but it does escalate as one travels farther south. Still, I’ve seen much more aggressive treatment of women in Spain and Turkey. If she’s polite and moves on it’s typically harmless.

    Call your cellphone company to see what kind of deals they offer for short-term international trips. We were offered a great deal allowing us to use email, apps (like Facebook) and internet on our smart phones. Calls were an additional fee, but not ridiculous. It was so much easier than getting a track phone plus it gave us the option of posting pictures and staying in touch with a broad group of people/friends.

    Big cities always pose safety issues with muggings, etc. But I felt completely safe in Rome, even later at night. Naples is a little trickier but not as scary as some people make it out to be (except the cab rides; those are scary). Using common sense and courtesy is always helpful. As topofthehillman said, I hope you are going to meet her there.

    alii | Feb 9, 2012 | New Comment
  18. My head is swirling with all the information! Great tips! Thank You!

    My first thought when my daughter told me she was going to Italy was our conversation after watching Taken together — a couple years ago but even at that age she was self assured and convincing of how that would never happen to her!

    Unfortunately, I will not be traveling with her at this time — one part I left out was she is traveling to see a young man that she was introduced to through friends. It will be the first time seeing him in person! Of course they have Facebook’d, texted and Skyped for months! So as you can tell my actual post should have read “You’re Letting Your Daughter Do What?”

    Again, thank you for the tips of travel. I’m excited for her and she will have a wonderful time!

    heysme | Feb 9, 2012 | New Comment
  19. It’s nearly impossible these days to use a credit card in Europe that doesn’t have the “chip” on top. With these, you use a pin. Unfortunately U.S. credit card companies are waaay behind on this. As of now, I know of only one credit card company that will provide you with a chipped card and that is for a hefty fee.

    Our “old” magnetic cards will still work in ATMs with a pin to get cash, but don’t expect to use them at restaurants, museums, stores, etc.

    For cash, all I can say is ATM, ATM, ATM. The best bet is to use your bank debit Mastercard/Visa at an ATM. This gives you the best exchange rate and (in my experience traveling to Europe over the past 20 years) results only in pretty minor fees from your bank back home. Of course, let your bank know you’re going or you won’t get very far.

    Currency exchange booths always charge a commission, and this is always highest at the airport. It’s no coincidence that currency exchange companies park out at baggage claims. Walk through customs and use the ATM in the terminal. Any reputable ATM will be boldly labeled with a bank’s signage.

    Buy a cheap cell phone with a local sim card that you can re-load with minutes. Re-load stations/vendors of new cards are everywhere. It’s much cheaper than buying the international plan from our U.S. cell phone providers. Another great option is to use Skype (talk only) or Google talk on your smartphone. Wireless required, however, unless you buy data from home.

    I second the opinion about roller suitcases. Even though they’re a dream in airports and train stations they can be a pain on rough sidewalks.

    I suppose her friend will know more tips since she/he’s living there off-base.

    ginger | Feb 9, 2012 | New Comment
  20. I travel internationally for my job. I’ve been to over 40 countries and have been doing this for fifteen years.

    So, first, do not get traveler’s checks. The most accepted currency is US dollars or Euros, so take enough to get you by in a pinch. Also, you can use debit or credit cards at ATMs in most countries and it’s cheaper than exchanging dollars for local currency. But, let your debit/credit card company know you are traveling so they don’t shut down your card for international use.

    Italy should not be a problem at all with respect to using ATMs, even without notifying the debit/credit card company. But do so just in case.

    Bret | Feb 9, 2012 | New Comment
  21. Fun. My sis and her family lived at Aviano AFB and I visited them while they were there. The base is basically just like a little USA only with a lot more pregnant women and small children than you would see normally.

    I study in Europe right now and I agree with most of the comments up above. As for the phone, if she is staying for awhile and will be calling local numbers (ex. her new boyfriend) she can use her phone (unless it is an Apple product), just get it unlocked before she leaves and then when she gets to Italy she will easily be able to buy a sim card with a pay as you go voice/text/data package. People commonly carry multiple sim cards here and it is not like the US where you have to buy a phone to get a card. Just an idea, might not make sense if she will only be there a week and can just add an international plan to her phone.

    Another suggestion-if she has time flights are so so so cheap to many other destinations…check out easyjet.com or ryanair.com. For example,she could fly to Madrid for a weekend for around $25 round trip durning certain times.

    Enjoy!

    etspring | Feb 10, 2012 | New Comment
  22. I am feeling a little sad that that Italian men were not too forward with me when I was there in 2009.

    FranceneStarr | Feb 11, 2012 | New Comment

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