Bring your passport - and make sure it has at least 6 months validity before the expiration date. Also, make a copy or two of your passport and airline tickets and keep in a separate place.
*When at all possible, FLY DIRECT and take a carry on only so there is no chance of your luggage getting lost.
*To avoid having your luggage getting lost check out this helpful link: http://www.cheapflights.com/news/how-to-avoid-losing-your-luggage/
*If checking bags, ALWAYS bring a spare change of clothes (or two) in your carry-on in case your luggage gets lost.
*Bring all valuables (jewelry, MEDICINE, important paperwork, etc.) in your carry on - if your luggage gets lost you will be in trouble if you don't have your prescription!
*Make a list of everything you have packed so in case your luggage does get lost and you need to provide a value to the airline, you will have an accurate idea of what you are owed
*Pack lightly!!!! To avoid over packing, check to see if the accommodation has a hairdryer, iron, shampoo, soap, etc. Ladies, do you really need 8 pairs of shoes???
*Speaking of shoes, always bring comfortable, "already-broken in" footwear. Don't make the mistake of bringing brand new shoes! Ladies - never bring high heels - they will certainly get stuck in the cobblestones in the small villages. Remember, many of these European villages are very hilly with rocky textures
*Laundry services are very expensive overseas so if you want to pack lightly, bring some Woolite to rinse out clothes in the sink.
*If you have allergies/sinus problems, don't forget medicine/spray for the plane since the air pressure when descending can be very painful.
*Check the weather forecast of the country to which you are traveling on weather.com prior to leaving. Also, bring a light jacket and a small umbrella.
*Bring sunscreen, a sunhat and an insect repellent to protect yourself against insect-borne diseases (i.e. Zika Virus, Tickborne Encephalitis).
*Avoid wearing open toed shoes on the plane, but if you do make sure to bring a pair of socks.
*Make sure you bring an extra pair of sunglasses.
*Bring more film/memory cards than you think you will need since both are usually more expensive overseas. Always check the expiration of any film bought overseas.
*Don't forget your laptop hardware, chargers (for cell phone, digital camera, etc.) and a CONVERTOR set (hairdryer, electric shaver, etc.).
*If you want to check your email while away and don't have a laptop or smartphone, remember to bring your email access website information (i.e. www.mail2web.com - you will need your username and password). Check to see if your your phone service provider offers international access.
*Always pack a swimsuit - even if it's winter, you'll never know if there might be a heated pool or Jacuzzi!
*For those die hard shoppers, always bring an extra, collapsible suitcase for those precious purchases!
*Expanding on the previous note, if you wish to purchase art/home decor while away, always bring the measurements of that area of your home (i.e. table measurements for tablecloths, bed measurements for linens, etc.)
*Bring your address book - you may want to send postcards!
**Make sure to bring complete addresses and phone numbers of the place(s) you are staying so in case your luggage gets lost you can provide the driver who is delivering your luggage to you with the correct information.
Always bring your ATM card with you. You will be charged a transaction fee by your bank each time you withdraw cash from an ATM machine, but this is your best bet. Just remember to withdraw a few larger amounts as opposed to daily, smaller amounts to avoid numerous bank charges. Most banks charge $1.50 - $5.00 per transaction. Also, depending on the kind of ATM card you have, you may be able to use it in restaurants/stores if that place of business accepts Visa/MC. It will automatically come out of your checking account. In this case, you won't be charged the bank's normal transaction fee... Warning - many small villages do not have ATM machines, so plan accordingly. Never go to the exchange store fronts on the street - you will be charged a hefty fee.
*Very Important: Call your bank to tell them you are going abroad so you will be able to use your ATM card and also bring the name and phone number (the direct line) of your banker just in case you need funds made available while abroad. Also, for security reasons, your bank might ask what the amount of your last transaction was so make sure to bring this as well.
Credit cards are another good option since you will get that current day's exchange rate when you receive your bill upon your return home. Credit cards are widely accepted at hotels, restaurants and shops. It is a good idea to bring two different types (Visa or MasterCard and American Express) in case one is not accepted. Most credit card companies charge an additional international transaction fee for using credit cards abroad, usually between 2-3%! Check with your credit card company prior to your departure.
*Very Important: Remember to call your credit card companies before you travel abroad (usually the fraud department) to make them aware that there will be charges from a different country so they won't put a hold on your card. Also, bring their international phone number with you so if you need to call them you will have it ready. (800 numbers don't work!).
It is not advised to bring traveler's checks. Most restaurants and stores do not accept them because of currency fluctuation but you can exchange them at hotel front desks and banks.
In some countries like Italy, you can also change money in the Post Office. They often have better exchange rates and are open Saturday mornings.
*Make sure to confirm rental car reservation prior to your departure. There is nothing worse than getting to the counter after a long journey and finding they don't have a car for you!
*Don't forget your driver's license - check with your insurance company to see if you are covered for collision while traveling abroad. In most cases you will be and the extra, very expensive coverage that the car rental companies try to talk you into are unnecessary.
*Most foreign countries have a lower tolerance for driving under the influence so do not drink and drive.
*Rent diesel/manual when possible since diesel fuel is more economical as is renting a manual transmission.
*Spending the extra money on a GPS is worth it. Getting lost is never any fun, especially in a foreign country.
*Bring both a regional and country map of where you will be visiting (i.e. Tuscany and Italy, Languedoc-Roussillon and France).
*When driving in the villages, use the village names as landmarks as opposed to route numbers.