clothing care & trav checks : LUSENET : Travelite.FAQ Packing Guide : One Thread

First, love the web site! Just received my jansport weekender from Campmor today (ordered it 2/2)--they were on sale for $39.97. What a deal!

Questions-- we're planning a 2-week trip to Europe this spring. 1/2 for a conference & 1/2 for fun. Has anyone tried febreeze (small bottle) to keep clothing fresh on long trips? I don't mind washing out "delicates", but with three of us, washing out shirts, etc. seems a bit intimidating.

Second question, my husband heard or read "somewhere" that many places in Europe, including banks, are not accepting American Express traveler's checks. I have never had a problem with them. Has anyone had a problem or is aware of one??

Thank you!

Phoebe Cameron, Peculiar, MO

-- Phoebe Cameron (, February 05, 2000


Hi Phoebe;

What a good idea! It may work out particularly well if you end up with a sweater that smells like the smoke-filled tavern you spent the evening in. You might also want to emphasis layering your clothing with a plain thin T-shirt as your inner layer, so that you can hand wash and line dry the T-shirt without having to wash the outer layers all the time.

I personally have not heard anything about American Express traveler's checks; my suggestion is that you consider calling AmEx to find out. I do know that Europe does not see Visa and Mastercard equally (I believe they prefer Mastercard). I also believe that the AAA auto club sells non-AmEx traveler's checks, if you need to purchase them (they also don't charge a fee!).

Happy travels!

-- Lani

-- Lani Teshima (, March 22, 2000.

Hi Alice;

I've been told that MasterCard and Visa are treated separately in Europe; thank you for specifying which countries tend to prefer which.

As for the "debit card" that you mention, I'm afraid I must disagree with you rather strongly. I prefer travelers use traveler's checks because they offer protection if you lose them (assuming you're keeping good records). They may be a bit cumbersome to use, but I believe it's a small price to pay for the protection it affords.

You can get some protection if your credit card number gets lifted by thieves who then go on a shopping spree. At least here in the US, there is a $50 cap on how much your financial institution will hold you liable in such theft cases. While that's $50 of your own money you shouldn't have to pay, at least that's all you are out of.

This is not the same with "debit" cards, unfortunately -- yes, some of the contracts state that they provide this $50 cap as well, but I think it's nothing more than a veiled deception. I don't know about in Europe, but here in the US you are not given any of the protection you would get with a credit card. Because the money is drawn directly out of your account, you can imagine the nightmare scenario if a pickpocket were to steal your debit card. $50 ceiling? Even if your bank offers this, the thief will have made off with the cash in your checking account, and I have yet to hear of any financial institution that will quickly close your debit card account, *AND* give you all your money back right away. In effect, the thief has stolen YOUR money via the debit card, not the BANK'S money through your credit card. The bank has little incentive to find you your money back.

The consequences are bad enough for anyone, but nightmarish for a traveler (especially if traveling in a foreign country). All of a sudden, you have only the money on hand. Oops -- you opted to use the debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM? Oops -- you were planning on paying your credit payments, utility bills, and rent from your checking account, which is now tapped out?

A well-known consumer advocate in the US warns listeners against using debit cards because of all of the various headaches they cause when things go remotely awry. Fortunately for you you can listen to his daily radio show online through his Web site at If you're lucky you might catch him talking about these debit cards.

I must admit I am guilty of using debit cards for many of my ordinary purchases. However in general I never use it when I'm traveling.

-- Lani

-- Lani Teshima (, August 23, 2000.

For any one reading this long after Phoebe when on her trip!

Speaking as a European resident (I moved to France 8 years ago; now I'm in Sweden), I had to respond to the remark about Mastercard and Visa. It really depends which country. Visa is dominate in Sweden and France, for example, but Germany tends to go Mastercard. Often you can use one, but not the other. Usually hotels and gas stations and bank machines are pretty tolerant where ever you go.

Speaking of which, I never use traveler's checks in Europe or North America. The bank machines usually give a fair exchange rate. Our trick is that our Visa card is actually a debit card, which means that making a 'credit card withdrawal' is actually a bank withdrawal and no interest rate is applied. Not as common in North America, but very typical here.

-- Alice de Koning (, August 23, 2000.

Thanks for responses--even the late ones! The trip went great--we all made it with one bag each. Most of the other folks at my conference were loaded down with multiple bags & very jealous.

We took some American Express travellers checks, used our Visa cards to charge "big" stuff--rooms, train tickets, etc. I withdrew some cash at an ATM in Scotland too. No problems at all, and we seemed to get a pretty good exchange rate.

We fell in love with Scotland and are planning another trip next year. The only thing I wish I would have done was take a slightly warmer jacket for Scotland--it was definitely cooler and rainer.

Thanks again for the help!


-- Phoebe Cameron (, August 23, 2000.

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