- Remember to turn off cellular data and data-roaming if you're travelling overseas. The horror stories of people who go to Europe and forget this important step are not urban myths. You can inadvertently rack up huge roaming fees if you're not careful. It is simple on an iPhone or Android device. If you have an unlocked phone you can get a local data/phone plan at the airport once you touch down if desired, but otherwise just connect via wifi where you find it!
- Get a travel scale for your bags. The airlines are making a fortune on checked bags. More often than not I try to travel with just a carry-on bag. But, as I recently found out the hard way, even if your bag is no larger than the maximum dimensions for carry-on, you can run afoul of the weight restriction now being enforced by some carriers. You can save yourself a lot of grief by just weighing your bag with a travel scale before you head to the airport and adjusting as need be. Amazon has many of them well under twenty dollars, some as low as half that.
- Prepare a tech bag in advance. I keep a mesh cube in my carry on luggage that has my power adapter, cables, and travel surge protector. Before I head on a trip I lay out the devices I'm going to need to charge each night and make sure I have enough outlets and USB ports. Everything I need to do the nightly power ritual then goes into that travel cube.
- Make the most of your smartphone's camera. Today's phones have cameras that are often better than the point-and-shoot you might be planning to carry. You can trick out your phone by adding telephoto or wide angle lenses. Some of the best come from a company called Moment. Consider a gimbal device like the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 ($129). This handy, lightweight device will steady your videos, help you create panoramas, and even time-lapse photography.
- Don't wait to learn to use your camera until your trip. Whether you got a point & shoot or a new DSLR, take the time to learn the settings before you get on the plane! You don't want to miss a picture because you had to figure out how things work.
- Carry at least one battery pack, just in case, and keep it charged. My favorite brand for these EnerPlex. They have lots of power and, best of all, have the cables built into the battery pack so there is nothing to lose or leave behind in a hotel room. Check out the EnerPlex 4000mah Power Bank With Built In MFI Certified iPhone Lightning Cable and Built-in Type C & Micro USB ($39.99).
- Some things should always go into your carry-on bag: Under new rules lithium batteries like the ones for your camera must never be checked because of the fire risk. Meds you might need should also go in your carry-on! Its also a good idea to squeeze in a change of clothes just in case your checked bag gets lost!
- Take advantage of travel apps. I use TripIt to keep all my travel plans organized. You just forward your flight and hotel confirmations to firstname.lastname@example.org and they automatically insert the info into your itinerary. There is a premium version, but for most the free app is more than enough. Need more apps. I found this great list over at Travel+Leisure.
- Check your passport! It isn't enough that it will be valid when you leave on your trip. Many European nations require that your passport remain valid for six month after your departure date! Getting a passport renewed can be a timely affair made even more expensive if you need to expedite the process. Check this tonight!
- Enroll in the Global Entry program, particularly if your credit card gives you credit for doing so. This program can dramatically cut down on the time you'll spend going through customs on your way home. Now, in many cases it will be too late for this summer to get an appointment to qualify for the program. But, I have found that in some cases you can go to the office and snatch a walk-in meeting on the spot once your initial paper work is approved. The whole "interview" itself only takes a half hour or so.
- Book your tickets for major attractions in advance. Many of the most popular sites in Europe limit the number of people that can visit on any day. If you wait to try to get a ticket once you get there you may find it too late or find yourself in a long, slow moving line. Use the internet, find the official website (beware of brokers and scams) and get your tickets before you leave home!