Countdown @ 9: $ Matters

Posted on: Sunday, May 27th, 2012
Posted in: Travelog, Blog | Leave a comment

You don’t want to think too much about $ when planning a BreakAway for four people. But you can’t ignore it either. And you’re guaranteed to have some snags get into your face. Today’s short list (which might confront any international traveler) features…

  • Chips ahoy

I’m told that in much of Europe, and for sure Scandinavia (where we’ll be 3/5 of the time), credit cards have a chip. No swiping. American banks don’t like these chips—there’s a security risk (as usual), so this methodology may not take over here. But some merchants there will refuse your card and be unable to swipe—never mind that they are under obligation to take the card(and enter numbers by hand, if need be). This is classic, small-time Euro scaming: trying to obtain cash and avoid taxes. Cash is still king!

  • Cash mash

How many countries use the Euro now, 27? (Soon, maybe less, right Greece?) So how odd, then, that my itinerary has only three countries—but appears to need three currencies (Italy’s Euro, Denmark’s kroner, Sweden’s kroner). What a pain in the butt.  But hey, it’s good for the kids’ math lessons!

  • Budget, schmudget

This Family CFO oversees the trip’s budget. That’s like being a sherriff in the wild, wild west. 3 currencies? Unknown transporation needs? Gas prices over there? And best of all, the tip from a friend who just returned from Stockholm (our last destination):

My cousin and I had 2 appetizers and 2 glasses of wine…and the tab was $90.”

So I advise myself as I would any schemer:

Add up the biggies like planes and booked accommodations, then guesstimate a per diem, then add 10%, and hope to come under (but don’t bum out if that’s impossible).”

Then, adapt “It is what it is” into “It’ll cost what it costs” and let the chips (not swipes) fall (like your net worth) as they may.  DO NOT THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE SPENDING (often) once you are living your dream. Dreams are dear.

  • But do the math

Yet before you go, yes, see how things add up. Digest those numbers—no matter how many Rolaids it takes. Accept that some Italian restaurants will bring you “la tourista” menu with no prices on it (and walk out). Prepare for the espresso shop that sells you “bottled water” from their tap. Get ready for $20 beers (and just saying no).

When the dollar remains so weak and Europe’s prices can be steeper than Mont Blanc, just pay the man, the woman, and even the gypsy child who will somehow sneak her oily little fingers into your pocket and snatch your cashola.

Not to worry: They got money that comes out of machines over there. If, that is, the machine honors the swipe. And assuming you still have any left in your US bank account.

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