A long weekend in Venice, Italy was a good reminder for me to share a few heads-up when you’re traveling out of the country.
-Make sure you pack at least two different credit cards, or a credit card and debit card. If one doesn’t work, you need a plan B. It happened to me when my MasterCard came up with the error message that some international connection couldn’t be made. In other words – the computers couldn’t talk to each other. If you’re traveling with your partner, a joint card isn’t the answer. If one of the cards is lost or stolen, it’ll cut the other one off, too. Better safe than sorry or your holiday won’t be very relaxing.
-If you’re traveling anywhere but the U.S. your credit card has to have the new chip technology. By now, probably every Canadian card has been replaced, but make sure. I needed to help three times in Venice when Americans couldn’t use their credit cards. It’s strange that the country who invented the credit card (and millions of people really wish it hadn’t been invented) still doesn’t have this chip technology. Without it – your card can’t be used in Europe and many other places.
-Get your money when you arrive. I watched someone at one of the big banks obtain $1,000 Euros. If he had done it in Europe, he’d have saved around $50. I walked up to the first ATM at the airport and got some money fee-free and at a much better exchange rate.
On a personal note, if you’re ever heading to Venice, my suggestion would be to get a hotel outside the city. I stayed at the Best Western Airvenice for $51 a night (www.hotelairportvenice.com). It’s a 4-star, but the ratings in Europe aren’t the same as North America.
The hotel was immaculate and looked like new. There wasn’t a single thing out of place or worn down. Staying in 50 or so hotels a year, it was the nicest one I’ve stayed at in years. The hotel staff all speaks English, and at this hotel, or many others in the area, you’re a 20-minute train ride from Venice. If you want to be five minutes away, there’s another Best Western in Mestre. I’m glad I did stay in the suburbs after watching tons of people arrive in Venice itself and hauling around a ton of luggage through cobble stone streets. Then hauling everything up and down stairs over a ton of bridges with maps that are semi-useless in how the city is laid out. Trust me on this one…
By the way, if five days in Italy sounds exotic or expensive, it was a Lufthansa $700 all included seat-sale in February. When great seat sales come along, get the ticket to…wherever… and then figure out what you’re going to do there and why you’re going! With flight, hotel, and meals, I got there and back for under $1,000!