Some Tips and Gotchas from our last Europe trip

Here we share some random learnings from our recent trip to Austria and the Czech Republic:

  • Gotcha: Rented a really nice house through VRBO, super clean and well appointed but… bed linens and towels were extra, not a scrap of food in the house, not even salt and pepper, paper towels, trash bags. I guess that when they rent to folks, most of them drive to the destination and bring this stuff with them from home in the car. We, because we flew in and rented a car, had no chance to do this. Of course, we could not take anything home as well and left behind soap, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, etc. etc. All the other places we have rented were in the US and came well-equipped with the basics. So we think this is a Europe thing, just not sure. So be sure to ask before renting.
  • Tip: We did think to bring some of our favorite herbs and spices in small containers.
  • Tip: Of course the voltage and outlets are different. Nowadays our laptops and cell phones can accommodate either 240 or 120 volt sources. I just bought a bunch of adapters that let you plug US plugs into European outlets and that is all we needed. We bought a hair dryer that has a switch to go between 120 and 240 volts.
  • Another gotcha, which we should have foreseen with some more research: Even though CZ is a member of the European Union they are not on the Euro. They have their own currency. Also paying by credit card is not a thing there. So we had to maintain two currencies Euros for Austria and Czech Koruna including different coins! One of us would keep the Euros and anther the Koruna to keep things straight. So check ahead of time.
  • Tip: Speaking of different currencies, when you go to change your money back to dollars they only take bills, no coins, so we tried (fairly successfully) to spend all our coins before returning home. Duty-free shops in the airport is a good way to get rid of excess coins.
  • Tip: Be prepared: in Europe most rental cars are manual transmission by default, if you need an automatic you will have to specify that when you reserve the car. All of us can drive a manual transmission so that was not a problem. But it is something to think about if only one of you is able to drive a manual transmission and something happens where that person is unable to drive for some reason.
  • Tip: When traveling abroad be aware that Google Maps pulls data down over the cellular network and can eat up your limited and expensive cellular data. When you are home on your wireless network, you can download map data to Google Maps and store it locally on your phone, which is what we did. Then when you use Google Maps you aren’t consuming data. The GPS works on a separate system and does not cost anything and does not consume cellular data. The only thing you miss are the real-time traffic updates.
  • Tip: I already wrote about Google Translate, but it bears mentioning again. This magical app can translate words visually using the camera on your phone. You select the source language (say Czech or German) and the target language (English), point the camera at the words (a menu at a restaurant) and the words magically transform to English. Once again you can download the dictionary to the phone so you need not use cellular data.
  • Tip: We have an Amazon Fire Stick and brought it with us. It plugs into any free HDMI port on the TV. Connected to the wireless network in the house, we were able to stream Netflix, Amazon Movies, YouTube etc. However many of the movies available on Netflix were blocked in CZ. Interestingly the blocked content seemed to be anything having to do with touring the USA, such a documentary on Idaho for example, could not quite figure that one out.


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