Tips for travel to Europe- My European Adventure Begins!

Dreams really do come true.  Today I begin my big European Adventure.  First Stop…Dublin!

It’s the trip of a lifetime, and one I will likely never be in a position to do again.  It began with a dream, and after spending months preparing, I have to confess that it’s been difficult to get it all together.  At times it’s even been scary, but for me, being brave is not being fearless, so much as it is not allowing fear to rule my behavior. I’m as prepared as I can be, and I’m going to step out and try to extract every bit of joy from this experience! If you have a dream, whether or not it’s practical, dare to dream it anyway.  In my experience Dreams + hard work= Cool Outcomes.  That’s my kind of math!

There’s something about that first cappuccino when you arrive in Europe!

I just arrived this morning in Ireland and am enjoying my favorite ritual.  When I arrive in Europe after an overnight flight I stop and relax with a cappuccino.  Europeans know how to do coffee and you don’t have to find a Starbucks to make it happen.  Besides, it gives me a chance to check in with those who are worrying about me back home. It also gives me a chance to regroup and change money, etc.

In the coming days, I hope to blog more about Dublin and  the Irish countryside as I enjoy an art oriented tour of Ireland for the next couple of weeks.  I will be traveling with my sweet friend and instructor Karlyn Holman, and our tour host Batt Burns (an Irish storyteller extraordinaire).  We will be all over Ireland and Northern Ireland, so stay tuned…

After touring Ireland, I plan to travel by car through France (seeing Giverny, Arles, the Loire Valley, and Nice).  Next, I’ll fly to Italy and tour the Amalfi Coast (including Pompeii and Capri).  Finally, for the last week, I will revisit my Tuscan home away from home…a beautiful and modernized medieval monastery in the heart of the Chianti wine region in Tuscany.  The name of this Tuscan retreat is Borgo San Fedele.

Sunlit Tuscan Hillside with San Gimignano in the Distance


It’s location is a short day trip away from some of the most charming towns I’ve ever visited in the region of Tuscany.  The photo above shows one of the towns we visit- San Gimignano.  A friend of mine refers to it as “the Emerald City of Tuscany”.  When you look at it from this angle, you can see why…

We will have chef/sommellier Andrea Anichini, giving us cooking lessons and preparing our meals all week.  In addition, I will be giving pointers and art lessons to those who are interested.  We will have unity to paint and sketch on location and in the studio at San Fedele.  Under the Tuscan Sun, we will tour, photograph, and taste our way around the area’s towns and vineyards during the harvest season.  In the evenings, I’m looking forward to our personal minstrel serenading us on guitar, perhaps accompanied by a glass of wine after dinner.  Sounds dreamy,  right?

Our chef and cooking instructor
Andrea Anichini

Want to Join Me Next Year? 

You can follow along on this year’s entire trip by subscribing to this blog. If it’s anything like previous adventures, it may read something like the “Perils of Pauline”, but hopefully the good stories will all have happy endings.

If you’re interested in joining me for my next visit to Tuscany, it’s time to get on board!  I already have another trip set for next year Sept. 24-Oct. 1, 2016 and you can sign up here. Just look for EAT PAINT COOK TUSCANY 2016.

As I got ready for my trip, these thoughts came to mind, and I wanted to share them with you and with the folks who may be joining me in the future.

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL TIPS:  Some old favorites and some new ideas!

Borgo San Fedele
Our “Home away from Home”

In case you’re traveling to Europe anytime soon, here’s a few travel hints you may enjoy reading…

Getting organized before you leave:

  • Get your itinerary together in one place:  I generally use a manila envelope as my travel file.  I keep my boarding passes there, and I put copies of my itinerary there.  I will also put copies of travel emails sent to me by my carriers or travel companions.  That way I have one place to look when I want to refer to travel arrangements.  I keep this with me while I travel in my carry-on.  I also make a copy for my husband to keep at home if he’s not traveling with me.
  • For those of you with smart phones (I use an iPhone), there is a new app called TripIt.  This little app will access your emails and automatically put all your information together in one place for reference.  As the confirmations from carriers come into your inbox, TripIt will grab them and add them to your trip itinerary.  I’m using it this year to organize my grand adventure, and so far, I’ve been impressed.

Cell phones:  I have an iPhone with Verizon on a business account.

  • The rate for calling or receiving calls in France and Spain is currently $.99 cents/minute for a business account.  Non-business accounts have rates available of about $1.25/minute.  Call 611 from your phone to set up an international plan for yourself or check if there are better rates available to you on your account.
  • I plan to disable my Data services while abroad.  This will prevent charges from texts or unwanted push notifications while I’m there.  You disable this by going following this path-  “Settings”-“Cellular”-“Roaming”-“Data Roaming”- “Off”.
  • Verizon doesn’t charge for WiFi usage overseas…it simply charges if you receive texts or calls using their Verizon data plan.  If you have apps like Viber, Whatsapp, Skype, or Tango, you can use the apps to communicate free of data charges whenever you access WiFi on your trip.  These apps allow calling and texting, so long as whoever you are calling or texting also has that same app on their device.  It’s a reason to get your frequent callers, family and friends to download the apps you plan to use before you leave.
  • Charging: Don’t forget your charger!  My iPhone is capable of converting the voltage from European outlets to charge the phone. All that is needed is a plug adaptor- something that changes the shape of the plug on your charger so that it can mate with the wall outlet wherever you are traveling.  A converter is not needed for the iPhone.
Camera/ iPad
Watercolor Painting- Borgo San Fedele
11 X 15 Rebecca Zdybel
  • Taking photos from my new iPad mini gives me great shots and allows me to paint or sketch from the screen with ease.  This way I avoid dealing with my photo card and the need to download the photos to my computer in order to edit or view them.  The iPad mini does not work well in bright light…the screen is hard to visualize outdoors with glare being the problem.  It also is cumbersome to carry and shoot with
  • Getting photos from my camera to my iPad is a different matter.  It requires a lightning adaptor for an SD card.  In researching the options, it seems that the Apple brand is only a few dollars more than some of the off-brands, so I purchased the Apple brand SD adaptor.  This allows me to quickly download my camera photos to the iPad.  From there it is easy to edit them and even paint from the screen.
The Bubble Boys - Rebecca Zdybel

The Bubble Boys – Rebecca Zdybel

Credit cards/Insurance card /passport/precautions:
  • I make a photocopy of my cards, passport  and ID and put them in my carry-on.  When I arrive at the hotel, I put them in the safe.  Just in case
  • Contact your credit card company to tell them you’ll be traveling abroad.  It avoids fraud protection issues that can impact your ability to access the card while traveling.  Some cards are now saying that you don’t need to notify them in advance, but for now, I’m still going to do it in the hope that they won’t put an inconvenient hold on my card.
  • Check to see if your card charges foreign transaction fees.  Ask your credit card representative.  If you will be charged fees,  think about getting a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.  I have one from Barclay and also Bank of America.
  • I always bring my medical insurance card and my healthcare savings credit card.
  • Always keep your passport in your hand…do not set it down or let it go out of your sight with employees of any restaurant or rental companies.  Hotels sometimes keep your passport on tours, and though this really bothers me, I will cooperate if they insist.
  • There is a new scam around being run at security checkpoints in airports.  It involves theft of unsupervised bags…While you go through the X-ray scanners separated from your bag, someone grabs your bag and goes.   Wait to put your bags into the scanner until just as you go through your body scan.  It will help to minimize your time of separation from your bags.
  • Another new way to steal is on trains.  Baggage is often stored at the entrance to the train car that you occupy.  I’ve been told that stealing bags is becoming common when they are out of sight.  The suggestion is to buy a lightweight bike lock and secure your bags together and to the luggage rack.
  • Consider money belts or bra-wallets to increase the safety of your cash, cards and identification.
  • As for cash, I carry some but exchange it in larger quantities as I need it.  The best exchange rates are given via credit card purchases, so I try to charge whenever possible.  Many hotels and businesses only accept cash, so unfortunately the need for cash is still the norm.
This painting is one of my lessons on location.
Watercolor and Ink on Paper Rebecca Zdybel 11X15
I wear primarily athletic attire and pack for 1 week.  Then I wash clothes in the sink.  I bring flip flops because floors are cold and sometimes its comfortable to just flip flop around.  Stone buildings tend to retain their sense of cold, so be ready to layer.  For dressier moments, I bring some jewelry that can  take my black top and black pants into evening.  I also bring scarves for pops of color or a dressier look.  Remember that women need to cover their shoulders inside church buildings.  Scarves are good for doubling as a shawl in this instance.
For a list of Art Materials I plan to bring- see the Travel supply list on my home page.

I wish I could take all my friends and students with me, but if you can’t make it, then I hope you’ll join me vicariously by subscribing to this blog.  If you’re following along with me, I’d love to hear from you via your comments!  Flying solo like this makes hearing from you even more special. <3


Rebecca Zdybel
Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor
Art Lessons in all media
Myrtle Beach, SC

Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art!

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Author Rebecca Zdybel

Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor - Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art! Rebecca Z Artist (Rebecca Zdybel) is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC. She blogs and teaches locally and internationally. Sign up for her blog, classes, workshops, art travel tours, or see her work at

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Pat Merrell says:

    So glad to have this pop up this morning! I am on our balcony at Lands End looking across the ocean toward Ireland! I was hoping last night that you would take time to keep us updated thoroughly on this trip. Please do not leave anything out!
    I am going to Ireland (and India…) in the spring and sending this on to an artist friend to see if we might join you next Sept. You are getting very good at this!
    Have a great day. Glad you have embraced the travel light theory. The only way to go.
    Ps.. Know you will enjoy the Guinness is still nasty stuff I think.

    • Hi Pat, So nice to hear your “voice” calling out from across the big pond! I am going to blog when I can, but I don’t want to miss anything because my attention is on a square screen. I tend to agree with you about the Guinness, but I may have to try it again just to be sure. ? My hotel is a very nice place called Camden Court. Very clean and quiet. I’m heading to the Temple Bar District for some lunch now. I’ll report back. Cheers!

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