Never traveled to Europe before. Is it best to get foreign currency before leaving, during trip, or is there a certain card/atm that is best to use? We are traveling to Germany, Austria, and Czech Republic from the States.
I personally prefer having a bit of local currency on me when I get there. Stateside, I called a bunch of currency exchange places. I managed to find one that had no exchange fee and had really good exchanges rates, so I just exchanged $1000 for a one week trip. Next time, I would probably do a fraction of that because I ended up paying with Visa at restaurants and stores.
Can't speak for the Czech Republic, but pretty much all the Euro countries that I've been to, credit card is a pretty common way to pay for things. The cash is just for if you need to buy some food and gifts at street vendors, or to ride a cab. As Julie mentioned, you should be familiar with your credit cards' international fees. I have a credit card that doesn't charge international fees and has really good exchange rates, so I solely use that when I travel.
I never needed to get cash from an ATM there, but just in case, I have a Charles Schwab debit card for this reason, because they reimburse all ATM fees, even internationally, so that's something to look into.
Hope you have a blast. Let me know if you have any other questions!
Cash is always handy to have for markets, public transport and such, but from my experience most places accept major credit cards (Visa/MC), especially in Germany.
Don't get traveler's cheques, they're not as easy to use as people make them out to be, a lot of people look annoyed and/or confused if you present one. You can also get dinged quite a bit in fees depending on where you cash them.
We usually take multiple trips each year to countries that don't use the USD. We can get certain popular currencies from our bank easily (Candadian dollar, Euro), but they can order almost anything if given enough time. We've found we get a better rate if we do this.
We also have a credit card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees. You can compare credit card benefits on most websites (Chase for example). The annual fee might be a bit higher than a normal card, but it may save you a lot of money in the long run.
Do not take travel checks. We've found the exchange rate is horrible if you use these versus a true currency.
When I'm travelling to Euro countries (I'm in the UK), I take around the equivalent of $200 in Euros with me, plus a credit or debit card. You can then withdraw money at ATMs or just pay with that as you go.
In Europe MasterCard and Visa are accepted more widely than American Express. You may want to check with your bank about foreign transaction ATM charges too, they can add a chunk to the cost!
Pre-paid load-em-up cards can be a good bet to avoid these fees (definitely worth getting one for trip of more than a couple of weeks). Nomadic Matt's blog has advice for US citizens on the best options.
If you plan to pay with lots of things using your credit card, bear in mind that Europe uses chip and pin, so get yourself a four-digit pin for your card if you don't have one already (You'll need it to authorise the transaction instead of your signature).
Hope this helps, have a fab time.