Only one week to go before the big trip begins! Don’t forget to be checking in every day starting next Saturday, June 11th for the really exciting stuff – and don’t forget to leave your comments for your chance to win a souvenir (starting with this post!)
So all the big plans are made – you know where you’re going, how much you’re spending, and the legal requirements to get there. Now it’s time to focus on the smaller details! These are easily overlooked but they’re very important to make sure your trip goes as planned.
The first thing we’re going to look at is your electronics. First of all, be aware that in Europe, they have a different kind of electrical outlet than we have here in the United States. The plug is shaped differently and the voltage (amount of power) is also different. This means in order to plug anything in while you’re over there, such as your cell phone charger, laptop, camera battery, music player, hair dryer, etc. you will need at least one adaptor.
There are two different kinds of adaptors you can buy. The cheapest one ($5-10, pictured on this post) is purely a shape adaptor. One side has a normal American shaped outlet for your electronic devices to fit into, and the other side has a European shaped plug to fit into their wall outlets. This will work on many modern, low power electronics (for example, charging a new digital camera battery) because many of these items can work on various voltages. It’s always a good idea to double check though!!! Plugging in an American electronic that can’t adapt to the different voltage is a quick way to turn something like your cell phone into a very expensive paperweight. European outlets put out more power (220 volts) than American outlets (110 volts), so plugging in something that can’t handle the difference will destroy the internal wiring and brick your device.
If you have an electronic device that can’t handle the power difference, there are also converters that will help you fit the shape and power requirements of your American items. These are usually much bigger, heavier, and more expensive (though rarely more than about $30-50) but they are well worth it if you need them! Sometimes called adaptor converters, these do both jobs: change the shape of your plug so it will fit in the wall, and also convert the 220 volt output into a 110 volt charge your device can use. This is especially important for higher powered electronics and things that run on motors, such as hair dryers.
Finally, if you have something that requires a signal of some kind (usually just your cell phone), you will have to check with your service provider to see how to use your device in Europe. Cell phones in Europe run on a different kind of signal than cell phones in the US, and without your service provider’s help, you may not be able to switch signals. Typically, as long as your phone has a SIM card, it is able to switch between the two kinds of systems without a problem (though you’ll still have to ask how to do so). In my experience, the iPhone and the Galaxy tend to be easiest to switch.
The one exception to this “different kinds of signals” rule is Wi-Fi! The Internet is the same pretty much worldwide, and if you are bringing something that can access Wi-Fi (a laptop, certain apps on your phone, etc.) there is nothing special you have to do to be able to use those items. Just fly over, open them up, and enjoy!