Introduction: How to Prepare for a Trip to Europe

Step 1: Passport (4 Months Before Your Trip)

Before planning a trip outside the United States, it is crucial to check the status of your passport. Every U.S. passport expires ten years from the date issued (for adults). If your passport is expired, or if you do not have a passport, you must register for one at least four months before your trip. This precaution ensures you receive your passport on time.

Attention: For safety reasons, it is important to stash a photocopy of all important travel documents at home.

More information can be found at the link below.

Step 2: Purchase Plane Tickets (3 1/2 - 4 Months Before Your Trip)

After choosing a destination, the next step is to purchase a flight to the nearest major airport from your destination. 

WARNING: Prices are variable depending on location, time of purchase, and other factors beyond the typical person’s control.

According to the New York Times, it is best to score a cheap flight approximately 21 to 22 weeks in advance. Examples of ways to purchase a ticket are:
- Booking through a travel agent
- Purchasing tickets online from an Internet-based travel website (e.g. Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, etc.)
- Ordering directly through an airline (e.g. United, British Airways, Lufthansa, etc.)

It is important NOT to purchase fares last minute. Fares are double what they were listed as a month prior, if purchased a week before the flight.

Step 3: Arrange Accommodations (3 Months Before Your Trip)

After taking care of all necessary paperwork, selecting a destination, and purchasing a ticket, the next step is to decide where you will sleep over the duration of your stay. The quality and safety of a place to stay can drastically alter your travel experience.

Please note, accommodations may already be predetermined for some readers, but this is an important task.

Research - The best way to ensure a positive experience is to research. Guidebooks, hotel websites, and Internet-based travel websites that include traveler reviews are great tools to landing a great hotel.

Location – It is best to pick a hotel that is near areas of interest and in a safer neighborhood. Traveler reviews are helpful in aiding you in finding a good location.

Timing- Purchasing lodging arrangements, like flights, is best done sooner than later.

Step 4: Purchase Key Items (2 Months Before Your Trip)

A couple of months before your trip, it is best to make sure you have some items that will give your trip a chance of being “hassle-free.”

Proper luggage is must for any long distance trip. Confirm you are complying with rules for the airline on checked luggage and carry-on items. Depending on your airline, carry-on items may include:
-Smaller suitcase passing dimensions required by airport security
-Garment bags
-Computer bags

Quantities of bags and particular carry-on items depend on each airline. Be sure to clarify with  your airline to confirm what luggage can be brought with you.
There are always new rules in airport security that prohibit particular items and quantities of - other items, including liquids.

A European power outlet adapter is a necessity for all American visitors to Europe. Be sure to purchase one from any electronics or department store before your trip.

Consider signing up for an international phone plan with your wireless provider. Communication in an unfamiliar place prevents a lot of unnecessary stress on a trip.

Step 5: Prepare Yourself for Travel (1 1/2 - 2 Months Before Your Trip)

Before packing any of your belongings, it is best to take care of the most important thing going on the trip, you!

-Be sure to call your bank and/or credit card company notifying them of your travel plans so your debit/credit cards will work while abroad. Also, ask about international use fees!
-Convert some U.S. dollars into Euros. The amount of money is dependent on you, but 200-300 Euros should suffice over your commute.
-Find out the location and phone number of the local American Embassy (just in case).
-Learn some phrases in the native language(s), and purchase a translation book if you would like.
-Hydrate with plenty of water to help prevent jet lag.

Step 6: Pack (1 Month Before Your Trip)

Finally, it is time to pack. Packing a month before helps in giving you enough time to make sure you are not forgetting any other items. A helpful tip is to write down everything you have packed, or make a checklist.

Important items to pack:
- Passport or Visa
- Wallet
- Driver’s License
- Credit/debit card (leave all other cards at home)
- Both American and European currency
- Car and house keys (leave all others at home)
- Clothes (dress for the season, check online for weather)
- European power outlet
- Phone Charger
- Toiletries (in appropriate sized containers)

Step 7: Research Places to Visit (1 Month Before Your Trip)

Great resources of researching points of interest can be found from such sources as:
-Your local library
-Travel review websites
-Tourist guidebooks

Step 8: Transportation Planning (3 Weeks - 1 Month Before Your Trip)

Based on the location of your hotel, points of interest, and airport, it is best to look into different modes of transportation available at your disposal. Some great ways of getting around may include:

Look into the public transportation websites of cities you plan on visiting to see fares of transportation that suits you and your needs over the duration of your trip. 

Step 9: Prepare Your Home for Travel (1 Day - 2 Weeks Before Your Trip)

Before departing on your fun adventure, it is important to make sure your home is in the same condition it was when you left it. Examples of different tasks to be completed to keep your costs down, home secure, and quality of living unaffected are: 

-Contact your local post office and put your mail and newspapers on hold over the duration of your trip. This prevents hinting strangers that you aren't home.
-Turn down the thermostat to approximately 10 degrees lower than normal. WARNING: Do NOT turn off your heat in the winter to prevent pipes from freezing.
-Turn off computers and other home appliances unused over the duration of your trip.
-Throw out foods that will spoil while you are gone for several days
-Make arrangements for watering plants and taking care of pets

Step 10: Arrive Early for Your Flight (2-3 Hours Before Your Trip)

Everything should be prepared for your trip! Please be sure to arrive 2-3 hours before your flight departs.
Be aware of customs and security while making your way through the airport. 

Have a fun and safe trip!