Whether you are a first-timer or a seasoned European traveler, it is important to make adequate preparations before you leave. This will ensure that you have a worry-free vacation!
Please inform your bank of your trip before you leave. This way your bank debit card will work properly and your bank will not flag Italian expenditures as suspicious.
Back up important information: Copy or scan your travel documents – passport, travelers, identity and vaccination card and credit cards – front and back. Make two sets of copies.
Leave one at home or with family, and tuck the second discreetly in your suitcase. If your wallet is lost or stolen, you will have all the information and phone numbers you need.
Alternatively, you can scan your documents and send them to your own e-mail address. In case of a problem you can access them from any business center or cybercafe in the world.
Secure Your Home: Hold all newspapers, pay bills and consider what to do about the mail. You can ask your Post Office to hold it while you’re away, or get someone to look after your house. Put some lights and a radio or TV on a timer. If applicable, park a car in your driveway.
Rolling luggage: Easily the greatest travel invention since the airplane. If you don't have luggage on wheels yet, seriously consider buying a set.
Tag your suitcases: Write a name, address, phone and e-mail in your luggage, but DO NOT put your full home address on the identification. Use your work address or just your city and a phone number.
Wrap brightly colored electrical tape or ribbons around the handles of your checked luggage to make it easy to identify.
Emergency contact list: Include phone numbers for insurance, credit card issuers, and relatives or friends. Put the list somewhere easy to find, like your wallet or in your passport.
Medications: Remember, all medications and vitamins must be in their original containers when traveling overseas. You can ask your pharmacist to label small bottles with just enough medication for your trip – but take a few extra days, in case you are delayed coming back.
Carry your medications in your carry-on.
Address book: Buy a little address book or small notebook, and add the people you'll want to send postcards to. You can also add all your new friends as you travel. If you lose the book, it won't mean losing all your contacts. Or bring pre-written/printed address labels to use for sending cards back home.
Buy a phrase book: Even just a few words of the local language can help you enjoy your holiday more as well as endear you to locals. Listening to a beginners’ language tape before you go and taking a phrase book on the trip can make your trip easier and more interesting, too. If you have no time to study, you can always point at words in the book if you need to!
Check the Weather. While you’re packing, check the weather and forecast for your destination(s) (see our weather page). Of course, websites like are invaluable.
When in doubt, leave it out! You don’t need as much stuff as you think.
Make 3 piles: necessities, almost-necessities and luxury items. Take all the necessities, none of the almost necessities and one luxury item. It will be all you need. Consider packing old underwear, socks, T-shirts and so forth and just tossing them out along the way.
Bring an extra bag for souvenirs. It’s always handy to pack an empty duffel bag with you. You can fill it with souvenirs and even dirty laundry for the trip home.
One color scheme: When packing to travel, it's helpful to use one color scheme, like black or brown, and maybe just one accent color. It’s much easier to coordinate your wardrobe this way.
A long oblong scarf is a most versatile item. It can dress up a simple black dress, is useful as a head covering for visiting shrines and temples and being appropriately respectful, and in a pinch can be an evening wrap.
Preventing Wrinkles: Place individual items of clothing in dry cleaners’ plastic bags. Your clothes won’t wrinkle! It sounds too easy but it really works. If you’re using a hanging garment bag, prevent creasing of suits and garments on hangers by placing a small rolled-up towel on the inside, where the garments fold. This will prevent the horizontal crease caused by the fold.
Jewelry: An inexpensive felt square with your earrings fastened through the felt and then folded keeps them secure. If your wedding ring is valuable, consider buying an inexpensive one for the trip.
Save Space: To keep shoes and boots in shape, fill them with socks.
A dryer fabric softener sheet in your suitcase will keep your clothes smelling fresh while you travel. Slide a dry fabric softener sheet over your hair to calm down static-electric flyaway hair.
Beauty products that are good for 2 or more uses are great. Elizabeth Arden's 8-hour cream works as a facial moisturizer, lip balm, hair tamer, and sunburn soother all in one. Shampoo can double up as travel wash, and those chubby make up pencils from Clinique can multi-task for lipstick, eye color, and blush. Oil of Olay Daily Facials cleansing cloths are dry, and they remove makeup, cleanse, and moisturize without taking products.
Make-up tricks: Use a stick foundation instead of a liquid — it can double as a concealer and an eyeshadow base, and it won’t spill in your suitcase. Invest in a good lipstick palette with a variety of colors. The palettes are small, and give you a good variety of colors for all skin tones, and cut down on the number of bulky tubes.
Zip-lock bags – the heavier duty the better – are the best. Great for packing things that might leak, like shampoo, shaving cream and lotions, and handy again for dirty clothes, beach stuff and protecting papers and documents.
A retractable umbrella!
A box of baby wipes or gel hand cleaner.
Bring your own alarm clock. Wear a wristwatch with an alarm, or take a small travel clock. Especially useful are clocks that glow in the dark.
Foam earplugs are a must for any trip. You can purchase them at any pharmacy, usually in multiple packs.
Plug Adapter - an interface that attaches between the American two-pronged plug and a specific European socket. The result is that the American appliance will be connected to European 220v 50 cycle electrical power.
Power Converter (or transformer) - converts the European 220v to 110 volts so that American appliances will operate on European Current. Watch that the power rating (in watts) exceeds the rating of all appliances you expect to plug in at one time.
The American washcloth is not standard worldwide. Consider taking your own.
If you’ll be shopping for clothing, bring a tape measure and know your sizes. Take a list of the garment measurements for those you might shop for. European sizes are different – especially for children.
Smokers, consider a nicotine patch or nicotine gum for a long flight.
Always have a pen with you. You will need to fill in customs forms before landing.
Purses and briefcases are vulnerable in places like airports and train stations. Straps that cross your body are more secure. A number of companies make purses and bags designed with this in mind.
A money belt is a great idea for any traveler. It’s a way of carrying money and valuables on your body and hidden from view – perfect for airports and train stations. There are a number of types and styles available; any luggage or department store will carry them.
Do not pre-wrap gifts to be carried onboard aircraft.
While there are no clothing requirements for airport security, a little preparation will make the process go more smoothly. Anything with metal in it – belt buckles, jewelry, underwire bras, body piercings – will set off the alarm.
You will be required to take off your shoes.
There are a lot of rules right now, but they are clearly spelled out in this government website. It includes special sections on traveling with children or if you have a medical condition.
On long flights, especially in coach, take a few minutes to get up and walk the aisles, or do a few stretches and exercises in your seat.