<![CDATA[ESTEEM JOURNEYS LLC - Blog]]>Wed, 06 Nov 2019 05:13:51 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Amber's Legendary Veggie Green Chili]]>Mon, 04 Nov 2019 16:45:51 GMThttp://esteemjourneys.com/blog/greenchili
  • 3-4 cups chopped roasted green chiles. Hot Hatch are fine but much prefer hot Pueblos. If you can't get fresh roasted, the frozen chopped chiles at Costco work in a pinch. If you do not live in Colorado or New Mexico, good luck finding proper chiles. I do not recommend canned! 
  • 1 large or 2 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 6-8 tomatillos, chopped (can also use a small can of tomatillo salsa)
  • 12-14 oz canned/boxed chopped or crushed tomatoes, I like Pomi, I use ½ box (28 oz?)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup butter, Kerry Gold preferred! Unsalted or salted is fine. You can use Earth Balance to make this vegan! 
  • ¼ cup canola, olive or avocado oil
  • 6 cups water + 1.5 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetarian better-than-bouillon 
  • 1 heaping tsp ground cumin
  • 1 heaping tsp ground coriander
  • Kosher salt to taste, I probably use at least a tablespoon. I have a salt addiction.
  • 3/4 cup Garbanzo bean/chickpea flour

RE: the flour. I have tried all the thickeners over the years. I even used pureed pumpkin for a while! You can totally use flour or cornstarch (but only maybe 2 or 3 tablespoons cornstarch) but I really love what garbanzo bean flour does to this. It makes it rich and gives it a lovely 'pork lard' color. This along with the butter, of course makes it velvety and the perfect smothering consistency! I've also tried masa flour, which is tasty but I don't love the texture as much. You can get garbanzo bean flour in the bulk section of vitamin cottage or whole foods, or get Bob's Red Mill brand. Vegetarian better-than-bouillon is kind of key too!

In a large soup pot or dutch oven, add the oil and butter. Once melted add the onions and a generous pinch of kosher salt. Saute for 7-10 mins until onions are soft and translucent. Add green chiles, tomatillos, more salt and saute for another 10 mins or so. If you're using tomatillo salsa, add that later with the tomatoes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or so until fragrant. Next add the tomatoes, water, better-than-bouillon and spices. Bring to a low boil and simmer for at least 20 minutes, up to one hour. Taste for salt. In a small bowl, add 1.5 cups water and the garbanzo bean flour and whisk until smooth, this takes a few minutes. If there are lumps, just let sit for a few minutes and whisk again. On a low boil, add the flour slurry slowly, stirring constantly. Let simmer and taste again for salt. This tastes better and gets spicier the next day! Smother burritos liberally!
<![CDATA[Quick Guide & Must-See Spots: Island of Hawaii (that's the big one!)]]>Fri, 11 Oct 2019 15:13:40 GMThttp://esteemjourneys.com/blog/bigislandguide
Waipio Valley
I spent a week on the island of Hawaii in 2016 and was blown away by this magical wonderful place! While I of course intend on visiting the other islands, honestly my expectations were far exceeded and would be very much happy to return time and time again. I'd like to share with you of my some experiences, must see spots, favorite highlights and helpful hints! I will preface by letting you know that as far as vacations go, I am more interested in doing and seeing things vs. hanging out on the beach and relaxing. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy lounging but when I'm in an exotic place I want to get the most bang for my buck and experience all the destination has to offer. For most of my career in the travel industry I worked for an escorted tour company. The trips I experienced had pre-planned and included activities and touring throughout. The upside to this type of travel product is obviously not having to plan or evaluate the must-see places and just go along for the ride. This trip to Hawaii was quite the opposite as we rented a car and condo and conquered on our own. Much of my commentary and guidance is based on the popular guide book Hawaii: The Big Island Revealed by Andrew Daughty & Leona Boyd – HEREon Amazon. While I HIGHLY recommend this guide book it is very long, very detailed and I was not crazy about how it was organized. True to my procrastinating form I didn't start looking at the book until the flight over. I was quickly overwhelmed with the amount of information and countless must-see places (Real Gems is what they call them) to visit according to the book. Here is my quick overview, favorite places and tips from our week. Enjoy and please leave questions & comments below!

Please refer to the corresponding GOOGLE MAP

The Kailua-Kona Area: 
Most tourists spend the bulk of their time on this side of the island and there are many accommodation options such as hotel & condo rentals. When you arrive at the airport in Kona, don't be alarmed by the landscape as it looks a bit dreadful! Lush bounty is aplenty as you move around this volcanic landscape. There are mind-boggling idyllic coves and beach paradises hidden and peppered along the coast.

In general, the guide book makes very good recommendations for restaurants. I will say the exception is in Kailua. They are pretty critical of the touristy restaurants right downtown. Yes they are all fairly pricey but we never had a bad meal. When I say pricey, I would compare the prices to any touristy hub in the US like Vail and Colorado ski towns, major cities, coastal hot spots, etc. Don’t concern yourself too much with picking one that doesn’t have a good review in the book. We REALLY enjoyed the spots with great views for happy hour & sunsets. There is a free parking lot right downtown and is close to everything. We never had trouble parking.

Restaurants we liked:
  • Don the Beachcomber bar - located in the Royal Kona Resort. Best mai tais in town. GREAT views and good service. They have live music Thursday nights, get there early to get a good table. Free parking for the music!
  • Splashers Grill - we had good happy hour food here
  • Island Lava Java - GREAT breakfast spot
  • Huggos - had a REALLY nice dinner here, steak and lobster pasta, pricey but good and great views!
  • Fish Hopper - nothing special but good happy hour menu and I think we had pretty good Macadamia mahi here.
  • Da Poke Shack - this place is AWESOME! Total hole in the wall with awesome poke, highly recommended. Might have to take-out, they only have a couple of picnic tables outside.
  • Annie’s Island Fresh Burgers – south of Kailua, a great burger joint! Good atmosphere and a nice stop but a bit of a drive. If you’re going by there it’s worth it. 

Groceries & shopping:
If you've rented a condo - try to eat at home or picnic 2 meals a day and that will save you some $. We did that and splurged a little on nice meals and mai tais for dinner & happy hour!
  • Definitely hit up the farmers market downtown! The fruit there is the best place to get super ripe fruit. MUST have papaya, mangos and of course PINEAPPLE! Honestly, the price of the airfare alone is worth eating all the magnificent fruit! 
  • Keauhou shopping area - grocery store here and other shops, gas station, etc. There is a GREAT sushi restaurant here, very expensive but some of the best sushi I’ve ever had. I didn’t care for the Thai restaurant.
  • Costco - if you have a membership, go here and stock up on eggs, snacks, etc if you have a kitchen or fridge with your accommodations. 

Also noteworthy in this area:
  • White Sands Beach Park - this is a surprisingly good snorkel spot. Go early, it gets busy because the beach is tiny.
  • Of course great shopping downtown. I am not much of a shopper but enjoy a short stroll among the shops...

South of Kona:
  • Two-step: this is a great snorkel spot. It’s called two step because there are some rocks that you can easily step right into the water. Great beautiful coral and a nice depth, lots of space to move around. Not as much fish as other spots but highly recommend. There is a cool cultural place right next to it that is worth a look see.
  • Captain Cook monument - you can only get there by kayaking or hiking. The hike is supposed to be hot and challenging so most people kayak. We made a kayak attempt but it didn’t work out for us, weather being one of the factors. I am intent on going back and doing it! Supposed to be great snorkeling around there and opportunities to see dolphins and turtles.

North of Kona:
  • Makalawena Beach - this is a gorgeous beach with very few people but a bit of a pain to get to. Read the guide book carefully for directions. The hike to get there is a bit treacherous (but pretty much flat) - there is about a mile across the lava rock so I recommend a sun hat, good sturdy shoes and plenty of water. This would be a great place to spend the day and picnic. But don’t bring too much stuff because you would be lugging it a ways.
  • Fairmont Orchid & Resort Area - the big fancy resorts are here. Worth a look see if you have time but honestly not a highlight. The beaches are mostly manmade and it seemed to be a hot spot for wealthy & foreign tourists. There is a nice outdoor mall if you’re into that.
  • Beaches: some of the best beaches for lounging and swimming (and most popular) are between Spencer beach park and Puako Bay. Spencer beach is where the locals go. You can almost hike between them - we did between maybe two but ran into a stream that looked a little icky and we didn’t want to cross it. Puako Bay & Hapuna are gorgeous but Mauna Kea is out of this world! Poke around at least 2 or three of them. Read the guide book - they have good tips with parking, etc.
  • Lookout point - not sure exactly where it is on hwy 190 but if you take the mountain drive to Waimea, it is a SPECTACULAR drive. The landscape changes rapidly and there are a couple of awesome pullout points for photo ops. You can see back down the whole island and it is super awesome! REAL GEM!
  • Hawi - this is a tiny down on the way to the Pololu Valley. Super cute and worth a coffee, ice cream, lunch, and/or cute tiny shop looky-loo stop.
  • Pololu Valley - MUST SEE this is absolutely spectacular! We did the hike here down to the beach. The hike down into the valley is maybe 15-20 mins and then back up it is a bit of a challenging climb but totally doable, maybe 30-40 mins. Really gorgeous spot and would be worth a picnic here. Not sure about swimming - I think the north part is where there are a lot of rip tides, this is more of a hanging out picnic beach I think.
  • Waipio Valley lookout - MUST SEE as well - although it is a bit similar to Pololu, maybe more striking. There is a hike here too down into the valley but it is supposed to be treacherous. There are also tours available into the valley that might be interesting but we didn't have time.The story about the residents who live in this valley is pretty fascinating in the book! It is a bit of a drive to get here but I still highly recommend. You could almost get away with doing either this OR Pololu but do both if you can.

Other side of the Island:
  • Hilo is the bigger city where more locals live. It’s super cute and has a cool downtown, nice parks and a great farmers market.
  • Tropical Botanical Gardens - I loved this place! Tiny as far as botanical gardens go but it is this hike with paths and amazing trees, plants & flowers everywhere down into a little valley & ocean cove, absolutely gorgeous. Very much worth it if you’re on this side of the island.
  • Pahoa - cute, funky, hippy town. Many people in this area live 'off-the-grid' and it's a sight to be seen. Worth a lunch stop if you have time. You would probably need to spend at least one or more overnights on this side of the island to make a sensible stop here.

Volcanoes National Park:
Get up early and get there if you can only spend the day. The better option is to plan one or two nights on the other side in order to make the most of your visit to the Volcano. The Kilauea-Iki Crater hike is ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE. This is literally one of my most favorite things I've done in all my travels. Not kidding. It is about 3 miles and takes a couple of hours. We started from the main visitor center but drive over to the parking area near the crater and start your hike there. You can get a little guide book for the hike at the visitor center for a couple of bucks and it’s worth it. There are other awesome things to see at the park but we were so tired after the hike we didn’t do much else. Checked out the overlooks to the big crater and the steam vents and drove around but that is about it. You could really spend a whole day here! Bring picnic food, the only restaurant we found was fancy. UPDATE: there have been major eruptions and lava flow since I was there. Probably a lot more to see and a lot more that is inaccessible! 

  • We’ve heard stories about the locals breaking into cars from multiple sources. The guide book talks about this. If you have time, go to a travel/luggage store and get a dry bag. The only one we could find on the island was at Sports authority but they didn’t have much of a selection. But - those things are not fool proof, we learned the hard way. DON’T PUT YOUR PHONE IN THOSE THINGS! If you must bring a phone when you go to the beach or snorkel, just bring one. Or bring zero. In hindsight I would have left my phone maybe under the seat with the doors unlocked. If everyone in your party is swimming and snorkeling together either keep your valuables on you or lock them up if the beach has lockers. This would mean keys, money & credit cards. In general it is best to park in national park places where you have to pay - usually about $5, it’s worth it. It is not a guarantee that your car won’t get broken into but it helps. In most cases just leave your car unlocked with no valuables in it. You are less likely to get broken into at places with lots of people and a big parking lot. It’s the small secluded spots that are more likely. Some friends of mine were there a few weeks before me, a guy was snorkeling at two step, someone got into his bag on the beach, took his keys, and stole his car. Be diligent but don’t freak out, we didn’t have a problem besides losing our phones in the dry bag incident. I am happy to talk further with you about this as it does raise questions and concern. 
  • Snorkeling: it is easy and inexpensive to rent gear. You can rent for the whole week. OR - if you happen to have your own gear, bring it. We brought our own, and it was super nice to have. Flippers take up a lot of space but again, nice to have your own stuff.
  • Stuff: condos that you rent as well as hotels usually have beach towels and picnic stuff - a cooler or something. But, if you have a collapsable cooler bring it, it will come in handy because you will want to spend the day at a couple of places.
  • I’ve heard that sunscreen is killing the coral! Try to find coral safe sunscreen if you don’t already have some. We didn’t have too much of a problem with bugs but I probably got a few mosquito bites, so bug spray is not a bad idea. 
  • Also a nice thing to have is those swim/surf shirts so you don’t get burnt and they are great for snorkeling.
  • Attire: well, what do you think of when you think of Hawaii? Pack that. Flowy linen, sun dresses, shorts and capris and of course Hawaiian shirts are cliché, but just go for it. For the Volcano area I recommend a light rain jacket and a long sleeve shirt or light sweatshirt. The weather changes rapidly up there so layer! Also, if you're driving the entirety of the island, there are parts that are foggy, misty and rainforesty (new word!). 
  • You don’t have to have hiking boots but I recommend really good sturdy walking shoes for hiking. Of course athletic sandals are great to have, but I recommend sturdy shoes for the longer hikes. 
  • Hats are a must have!
  • Bring two bathing suits!

    Something we missed: Mauna Kea but I've heard it is great!

Thanks for reading! I hope this will help anyone who's planning a trip to Hawaii or has sparked some inspiration to plan a trip immediately!


<![CDATA[5 Breathtaking Destinations You've (Probably) Never Heard Of]]>Thu, 20 Jun 2019 22:13:41 GMThttp://esteemjourneys.com/blog/5-breathtaking-destinations-youve-probably-never-heard-ofCheck out these stunning, under-the-radar travel destinations!
Huahine, French Polynesia
With its lush forests and untamed landscape, Huahine is Polynesia’s best-kept secret. A deep, crystal-clear lagoon surrounds the two islands while magnificent bays and white-sand beaches add drama and solitude to their virtues. Huahine’s few residents are warm, welcoming visitors with great kindness. With its rich and fertile soil, the island provides farmers bountiful harvests of vanilla, melons, and bananas.

Where to Stay: Maitai Lapita Village
Maitai Lapita Village is perfectly situated for guests to discover the unspoiled island of Huahine. Lounge on the beautiful beach and watch spectacular sunsets over the neighbor island Raiatea or enjoy the serenity of the lily pond.
Co. Cavan 
It’s said that Ireland, once visited, is never forgotten. The Irish landscape has a mythic resonance, the country’s history is almost tangible, and its people seem put on earth expressly to restore faith in humanity. History lives on in the gently rolling hills and placid lakes of Cavan. Vistors can tour the picturesque countryside and visit real castles, tall walls still standing after hundreds of years.

Where to stay: 
Set deep in the Cavan countryside is the magnificent 19th century Cabra Castle Hotel. The hotel offers a range of luxury accommodations, from authentic, medieval-style Castle rooms, to the artisan-style accommodations of the Courtyard, featuring old stone walls and delightful views of the walled garden.
Aitutaki, Cook Islands
Located in the heart of the South Pacific, halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii, this country of 15 islands is secluded and off the beaten path. The Cook Islands are renowned for their idyllic climate, white sandy beaches, and spectacular scuba-diving sites. The largest island, Rarotonga, features volcanic peaks, raiorest and coral reefs. North of Rarotonga is Aitutaki, nicknamed the Honeymoon Island, with crystal clear lagoons and superb beaches

Where to stay: Tamanu Beach
The land on which Tamanu Beach is built bears the traditional name ‘Are Tamanu,’ which means ‘house of the mahogany tree’. In keeping with its traditional name, Tamanu Beach has 22 premiere self-catering and individual bungalows featuring Tamanu floors and Cook Island style thatched roofs.
Manzanillo, Mexico 
Located in the Mexican state of Colima along Mexico’s sun-drenched Pacific coast, Manzanillo’s two bays, Bahía de Manzanillo and Bahía de Santiago, offer a plethora of coral reefs, underwater shipwrecks and dive sites.

Where to Stay: Barcelo Karmina
Barcelo Karmina is an all-inclusive resort that pampers you in an enchanting paradise with eight lushly landscaped, inter-connected swimming pools, a kid’s club, three restaurants, five bars, along with daily and nightly activities and a private beach with water sports.
Hakone, Japan 
Hakone is a quiet town in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, popular as a day trip for Tokyo residents looking to escape the city. The natural beauty here is overwhelming, with soaring hills, thick cedar forests and an inspiring view of Mt. Fuji. Hakone is the perfect place for relaxation and sightseeing. Volcanic hot springs are common here, and the best way to take advantage of them is by visiting an onsen, a public bath built around natural hot springs.
Where to stay: Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa
The at-home comfort of a mountain lodge meets contemporary sophistication at Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa. Set in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, this hot spring getaway invites relaxation with serene spaces, plenty of nature, and warm hospitality. 
Contact me today to start booking your getaway!
<![CDATA[European River Cruising: info, tips & choosing the PERFECT cruise!]]>Thu, 16 May 2019 20:14:41 GMThttp://esteemjourneys.com/blog/european-river-cruising-info-tips-choosing-the-perfect-cruise
River cruising is a LOVELY way to experience Europe! It has become extremely popular over the last decade and even more so in the last five years. Things have changed quite a lot in that time as well. Some aspects have presented challenges. However, most change have been great for the industry and for travel enthusiasts!

Recent changes include innovations in ship design, amenities and unique product offerings. But the biggest change is simply the unprecedented growth of the market. Demand has increased significantly and in response to the demand, the cruise lines are building new ships each year. As an example, a single company arguably flooded the market by releasing 12 new ships into the European river cruise market in 2015.

The positive result of increased product supply and competition is better service, amenities and sightseeing options for the travelers. This requires the cruise lines to handle challenges with ingenuity, innovation and stellar management strategies. Behind the scenes staff and management have been forced to adapt to larger operations. Most of this is good news for the guests enjoying the rivers!

Here is some insider info, tips, what to expect & ways to maximize your European river cruise experience:
  • River water levels: There is a lot of information out there about water levels and how they affect river cruises. Too low or too high river levels can effect the operation of a cruise. Sometimes the cruise lines have to operate the trip via motorcoach and use hotels in some instances. The cruise lines are not required to report exactly how many sailings are altered due to unnavigable rivers. Some cruise lines are more transparent than others. A good estimate is less than 5% of river cruise sailings result in alterations. Keep in mind there are risks of interruption with ANY vacation anywhere in the world! Weather, hurricanes, civil unrest, strikes, etc! I am on team 'no fear' when it comes to traveling. There are always risks when you travel but the benefits of travel FAR outweigh the risks!
  • Time of year to go: There are pros & cons to the different times of year to cruise the waterways of Europe.
    • Spring pros: budding flowers, less crowds both on the ground and ships on the rivers, & lower prices. Cons: weather can be variable and a little chillier than summer and early fall. Sometimes its challenging to plan spring trips right after the Holidays.
    • Summer pros: lower cruise prices, great weather, and a lot of times easy for people to get away in the summer. Cons: crowds! Weather can be hot. High airfares!
    • Fall pros: less crowds than summer but still busier than spring, weather is usually excellent, in general it is a good time to travel for a lot of people. Cons: fall cruises sell out fast, book early! The discounts on fall cruises tend to end quicker as well.
    • Winter: obviously the weather is the biggest drawback. But, the prices are usually great and the Christmas markets are a lovely experience!
  • Lots of ships on the waterways: Back to my comment about all the cruise companies and ships navigating the rivers. No matter the time of year but more so during the busier seasons – parallel docking is a reality of cruising. Again, because of the increase in traffic and nature of the tiny ports, the ships often must dock paralell to one another which means that you must walk through a ship or two to disembark. This also means that if you're up against another ship, your stateroom might be inches away from another guest's stateroom on another ship. Mostly this is a non-issue as this happens while you're out and about sightseeing or at night but please be aware that if you paid for a balcony, you might not always be able to use it.
  • Your river cruise vessel is essentially a floating hotel. This is a big difference from ocean cruising where your ship is a destination in and of itself. Your highlights are the ports of call and excursions on land; all enjoyed comfortably via mobile accommodations!
  • Cabin types: be sure to carefully compare the different cabin choices aboard your vessel and enlist an experienced travel professional to help you make the best choice. Some travelers are perfectly happy to have a smaller cabin on a lower deck without a balcony in order to save money and splurge elsewhere like excursions and pre & post cruise extensions. However, many travelers absolutely relish the extra space and ability to get fresh air and gorgeous cruising views from the comfort of their own stateroom.
  • A notable trend in river cruising recently has been more active and experiential options for cruisers. Most cruise lines are offering bicycling, hiking, canoeing, fitness classes, more spa amenities and experiences like wine tasting and cooking. If you're interested in staying active on your cruise and having some unique and enriching experiences, be sure to ask your travel consultant about what is available!
River cruising is a fabulous way to see Europe and I hope this information has helped you understand more about this unique product. Choosing the right cruise line, itinerary, and stateroom maximizes your experience and travel investment dividend. Managing expectations and understanding that sometimes you must 'go with the flow' when traveling sets you up to have the vacation of a lifetime!

Thanks for reading! HAPPY CRUISING!
<![CDATA[Travel Prep & Packing Tips!]]>Thu, 16 May 2019 20:09:33 GMThttp://esteemjourneys.com/blog/europe-travel-prep-packing-tipsTraveling soon? This post was originally written for traveling to Europe but most of this can be applied to worldwide travel! Packing and planning can get a little overwhelming but don't worry because here are some great tips, lists and packing advice! Here is a handy checklist too, CLICK HERE!

Packing Tips!
  • Check weather and pack accordingly! Some resources: www.weather.com has great info and you can look at the next 10 days of weather and month averages. Or, simply google “average weather Athens” or wherever you're going! If you're traveling to more than one destination be sure to check each place as weather can vary from place to place.
  • Think of the various activities you might participate in and pack accordingly: city sightseeing (comfy shoes), exercise, beach or pool, hiking, nice dinners or theater, etc.
  • I always suggest layers, layers and more layers! Even if the weather will be hot, the air conditioning on coaches and in restaurants can be chilly so a light sweater or shawl can be a lifesaver! Almost anywhere you go, rain can be a possibility. I always recommend bringing a light rain jacket or umbrella. Rain does NOT have to ruin the enjoyment of a destination and your experience!
  • Outfits: I recommend one weeks worth of tops maximum even if you're traveling for more than a week. Plan to wear every top twice if traveling for two weeks. Jeans, shorts, skirts, trousers, capris: bring 3-5 pairs and plan to wear them multiple times. Bring a small container of laundry soap to do a few items in places you're staying more than one night (hang dry in your hotel room). Keep in mind that if you're in humid areas it takes longer to dry so plan accordingly!
  • Have some clothes you are not crazy about or are kind of old and maybe could be worn just once more? Bring them, wear them once, and toss them! This makes room for all the stuff you're going to buy! Great idea also for old undies and socks! 
Some things you might not have though of to pack:
  • Reusable shopping bag: great for picnic lunches or use as a laundry bag or wrap souvenirs
  • Plastic bags for dirty shoes, leaky toiletries, and zip lock bags for snacks
  • Portable corkscrew
  • Dryer sheets keep your clothes smelling fresh!
  • Over-the-counter medications: probiotics (GREAT preventative for belly upsets), antacids, diarrhea medication, pain killers, motion sickness pills and cold medication in case you catch something. Being sick on a trip is NO FUN and not all countries have the same over-the-counter medications as the US!
  • Reusable water bottle – fill up where there is filtered or bottled water!
  • Flip-flops – great for pool side and walking around your hotel
  • Always pack essential items and one change of clothes in your carry-on in case bags get lost (God forbid!). Passport, credit cards, all medications, cell phone, laptop, chargers, change of clothes (at least undergarments and a top), camera, and basic toiletries.
Money tips for traveling to Europe:
For cash you can bring US dollars and exchange at a money exchange office OR bring local currency from your bank. However, the most convenient option (and best exchange rates) is to bring a debit card and take out cash from ATM machines at your destination. Usually you will find an ATM machine at the airport when you arrive or right near your first hotel. Some people prefer to have a little bit of local currency prior to arrival but please note that most European airport money exchange counters are notorious for having horrendous exchange rates. When you use your debit card to withdraw cash from the ATM there will be fees (usually 1-2% for international transactions plus outside bank ATM fees, check with your bank). Even with the fees, the exchange rates are so good that it ends up being a better deal than exchanging money at a bank or a money exchange office. Try to estimate how much money you'll need for a few days, perhaps withdraw $100-$200 each time. You do not want to be carrying too much cash at one time but you do want to minimize the number of ATM withdrawals so you don't end up with a lot of fees. Always bring at least two cards and keep them in separate places in case you lose one. Credit cards are great too for larger purchases like shopping, excursions and nice dinners. Make sure your cards have chip technology. Be sure to know what is expected as far as tipping and gratuities on your trip. IMPORTANT!!! PLEASE BE AWARE OF THE ATM MACHINES YOU USE AND PAY ATTENTION TO THE EXCHANGE RATE - THIS IS LEGITIMATE: