Europe Travel Guide for Beginners: Before you leave
A friend pointed out a few weeks ago, that I travel a lot. I was like - huh??? me? But then I went to my passport and yup I have. I had never considered myself that kind of person. Maybe I am becoming that guy. So, I went to Europe! Finally! I normally don't post these things but being my first trip to Europe (after 34 years) I thought this might help some people.
I put together a pretty handy list of some things you (specially European travel virgin) should know!
Some I knew...most I did not! So I thought, why not share the wealth!
These are a few things you need to keep in mind...
Before you leave.
Set your budget with time - try to organize it based on your total amount available to spend, then spread it out based on food, lodging, and activities. You'll want to set a budget for experiences and tours, like going to the Vatican Museum for example. I knew I wanted to go to some touristy places (but not all), so I set aside ahead of time how much money I would spend for those. I found this travel budget planning pretty useful.
choose destination (by flight fare)- When choosing a destination, try to focus on new and different places most people don't go to when they go to Europe. Avoid touristy places, although in Europe there are tourists everywhere anytime, avoid places your friends go to. You will get to experience new and exciting things, most people haven't seen. We chose Prague (pictured below) as our home base for the Europe trip. Mainly, because we had friends living there, and knew we can leave most of our bags there, while taking small carry-on and backpack to the other cities. It was also the cheapest flight out of the states available, the time of the year.
Photo by Marcus @houseofaurelius
Shop around for flights - you might want to do this 5-6 months before your desired trip. It can really save you good money (you can use to eat and do fun things) but shopping around and playing with the apps. If you look for the cheapest city in Europe at the time, you can always move around once you're in the European union.
Hotels v. Airb&b v. friend's house - obviously if you have friends this would be a time to reach out to them see if you can stay with them a night or two, AirB&B worked really well in Europe. It's also a great way to stay near really cool places. Like in Rome, we stayed a few blocks form the colosseum, we got to see it every day. In Madrid, we stayed near the Palace, since most hotels aren't close to those places (homes are though). It wasn't too bad having breakfast every day near these magnificent places.
Have your travel documents READy - if you need to get a passport make sure you do this ahead of time. You don't want to plan an amazing trip and your passport doesn't get to you on time for departure. Also if you don't have a U.S. passport, make sure that the countries you are landing on dont need a Visa.
Ask for time off - if you have to, try to do this a head of time (are you noticing a trend...ahead of time!) That way you can book your flights and stays with no problems and it can save you money, and headaches later.
Plan activities ahead of time - try to figure out how much and how little you want to see, if you get tickets for these places ahead of time, will save you time and money. It was pretty nice running to the front of the line once we got to the Vatican museum. Since, I had tickets purchased ahead of time, we just had to redeem them at the counter...didn't have to make 2 mile (3.22km) long line outside to buy the tickets.
Photo by me @hrod511 Wool blend double breasted peacoat: Michael Kors @ Nordstrom $99
figure out your cell phone options - most cell phone companies have world packages or for a few weeks you can have some data and phone use. For example my Sprint plan had free international texting, which came in pretty handy. When it came to calls, there was a small fee. The biggest charge was for data, so make sure you turn off data and use only wifi when wifi was available. btw...running instagram means lots of data so don't be fooled.
Bring one credit card - although it is good to carry cash, it was really nice that in restaurants and even gift shops would take a major credit card. There was a fee with every transaction but it was minimal. I bought my starbucks mug and it would cost $14 they would charge me $0.12 for the transaction. Although, find out with your credit card (which I recommend using only one) what the fees would be at the country you are going.
What to pack (keyword: light) - When it comes to traveling all together, specially to Europe...packing light is key. Some of the airlines are very strict about the size and weight of the carry-on. Travel light. And of course if you followed all my tips and advice and you did everything ahead of time you wont have any surprises later. Some basic things are neck pillow, travel size mouthwash, camera, backup battery for your cell phone (this came in handy a lot), an outlet converter, my Tooletries bag and wall holder (pictured below) and one outfit per day. I would carry my backpack everywhere (picture below at the Spanish steps in Rome), and in it I would take my camera, selfie stick (yes I got one) battery packs, and space (for the souvenirs)
Photo: Hotel Le Comtesse bathroom in Paris
Plan your souvenirs - this might sound dumb but you really have to plan these out or you'' forget someone. You might see something you want, and later come back and get it. Trust me, you wont. If you see it buy it! make a quick list of people you want to bring something to, that way you don't forget once you are roaming the streets of your favorite European city. You can do this while you are flying.
Photo by Andrei @andrei_2.0
Find out what you can do on the flight - for example the transatlantic flight can be pretty long and boring if you aren't prepared. Call the airline before to find out if they have electrical outlets (most don't but find out anyways) and if they have wifi (again most don't but find out anyways). I had planned to work on the flight but since I didnt' call ahead (my bad) and I was stuck watching movies the entire time...and I brought my laptop that I did not need. Save yourself a headache and having to carry extra weight and call the airline ahead of time. Lesson learned! See why I kept saying "ahead of time"
I hope you enjoy these and if you have some of your own I would love to hear them and add them to the list (giving you credit of course)