Before we went to Europe we had the luxury of talking to several people who had been overseas. Many of these tips are things that we learned from them! Now we are no experts but this is what we learned.
1. Fly into one city and out of another. I love doing this when traveling. We flew into Paris and out of Rome. It saves you so much time from having to back track to a city that you have already seen. Prices really are pretty much the same. If you are not planning to stay in one place for the entire trip, I feel like this is a must.
2. Have a loose itinerary. Brittany and I both are planners. Once we booked our flight, we basically just looked at the map and decided which cities we wanted to go to and then mapped out our course. There were some things that we knew we had to do in each city. For instance, the Eiffel Tower in Paris. So we just listed major attractions for each day. We knew which city we wanted to be in each night of the trip and we pretty much stuck to that. However, there were times we changed what was on our itinerary for the day.
Here is an example of ours. It’s definitely nothing fancy! We made sure to put flight information and hotels on the itinerary. It was extremely helpful to have the bulk of our travel information handy in one place.
3. Make a few copies of your Passport. We heard so many horror stories of people losing their Passports or getting them stolen. While this didn’t happen to us, we were prepared. It is easier to get another Passport if you have a copy of yours. I made two copies and put one in my suitcase and one in my sisters.
4. Order some money before you go. I think we each ordered about $400 US Dollars of Euros before we went. The last thing you want to do when you land is worry about finding somewhere to get money. I was lucky and my bank did not charge to order foreign currency.
5. Carry a backpack. I’m not talking about a school backpack. It’s a travel backpack. This is both a blessing and a curse. There were many times that we wished we had a rolling suitcase and there were many times that we looked at people rolling suitcases and felt sorry for them. I think we felt the latter more often. If you are visiting many cities in one trip, I would carry a backpack. It makes you pack less and you don’t have to roll around bulky luggage. If I were staying in one city I would bring a rolling suitcase hand down.
5. Get more money from an ATM. We wouldn’t have known this trick if our cousin didn’t tell us! The foreign exchange places charge and arm and a leg to get money from your bank account. When we were ready for more cash, we found an ATM and got about $400 US Dollars worth of Euros at a time. Unfortunately my bank still charged like $20 to get cash out. Brittany’s charged about $5. Make sure you get enough to last you awhile.
6. Do not keep all your money with you. I feel like this is common sense but you just never know! We kept maybe 100 to 150 Euros on us at any given time. The rest we kept hidden in our luggage somewhere. I kept some in my toiletry bag or a pocket of jeans.
7. Save up enough money. The last thing we wanted to do was get over there and feel like we couldn’t spend money on this or on that. We wanted to be able to do what we wanted to do so we saved up plenty of money. We both read somewhere that you wouldn’t regret spending money on a vacation. This was a trip of a lifetime and who knows if we would ever be back. Neither one of us wanted to say, well, I wish we would have done that. I can honestly say that I don’t regret spending one single penny!
8. Wear over the shoulder bags. I had what I called a satchel that really was my camera bag. It was bulky but I am so glad I had an over the shoulder bag. We heard many horror stories about purses getting snatched off shoulders, getting the bottom slit, and getting the strap cut off. Over the shoulders make it harder to get snatched. Every time we were in the train station we held our hands underneath our purse so that they wouldn’t get slit and to keep our purses protected.
9. Check plane vs. train between cities. If traveling in Europe they have a Eurail pass that you can purchase between several countries or just one. At first, I was going to do the Eurail pass between all countries. I then started doing research on prices. A plane ride was cheaper from Paris to Munich and we saved an 8 hour overnight train ride. A plane ride was a little more expensive than the train from Munich to Venice, however, we opted to save 5 hours on the train. Throughout Italy, we purchased the Eurail pass with 3 travel days. We knew exactly how many times we would be using it so this was our best option for travel in Italy. The main thing is, research like crazy!
10. Purchase data, text, and/or minutes. If you end up using your phone and did not purchase any of these, you will pay a TON in fees. I purchased texts and data and Brittany purchased minutes and texts. I probably wouldn’t purchase data if I had a choice. Honestly, I was terrified of accidently using it and getting an outrageous bill. We ended up turning off our data just to be safe.
11. Stay in places with Wifi. Neither one of us are picky about hotel accommodations but one of the top things on our list was to have Wifi. We wanted to be able to Facetime and Skype with family back home. It was also nice to be able to browse Facebook and Instagram before bed. Wifi is pretty much your lifeline while overseas!
12. Go to the tourist office asap. As soon as you get to a new city, head to a tourist office. They are super helpful and will give you a free map. You will not be able to use the blue dot on your phone to get you places! We learned very quickly that the tourist offices were a life saver. You can often book tours and things through the tourist office also.
13. Wear comfortable shoes. One of my friends told me this and I didn’t listen. I wore what I thought were comfortable sandals and had a blister the size of Texas on my foot after about 3 hours of walking. My foot hurt for probably 4 days afterwards and it was completely preventable. Wear shoes with some kind of support on the bottom. My go-to for the rest of the trip were some oxfords, chucks, and ballet flats. Brittany wore ballet flats most of the time.
14. Eat and drink whatever your want. I try to eat pretty healthy most of the time. I’ll admit I was a little worried I would gain weight while in Europe. After all, I ate gelato, pasta, pizza, and drank wine every single day. That’s a lot of calories. The good news is that you will walk a lot and burn a ton of calories. I did not gain one pound when I got back!
15. Take things as they come, but most of all have fun!! Things will not always go according to planned. Just roll with it! If it rains, get an umbrella and poncho and see the sites anyway. Things will get delayed, things will be getting restored, it may be hot, and who knows what else! Have fun and embrace every moment!!