Travel Tips for Europe
When heading to Europe, there is a little more preparation required than if heading to the beach in Florida. There are tasks like booking flights and car months in advance, researching the areas you will be staying in, and coming up with potential day trips and activities, which is an organizing project all on its own. Other key tasks to tackle are:
- Make sure your passport is valid for at least 3 months past your travel date. Some countries require this
- If you’re going to rent a car, get an international driver’s permit. This is actually easy and can be acquired for a small fee through AAA Motor Club. It is simply a photo and a translation of your American license. Some countries will give you a ticket if you don’t have one and get pulled over. I also take a photo of the back end of the rental car so I know what kind of car it is and the license plate number, in case it gets stolen. Drop a pin on a map of where you park if you are concerned about finding the car when you return to the parking lot or neighborhood
- Sign up for the US Government’s STEP program. This allows you to receive alerts about the country you are traveling to as well as to register your locations with a local embassy, should there be any emergencies in the country while you are there
- Learn some basic phrases in the language of where you are traveling. The locals will appreciate your attempt but will likely speak back to you in English
- Purchase a guide book for the country you’re planning on visiting. There are plenty of on-line resources and I think those are valuable also, but a comprehensive guide book can provide you with overviews of top attractions, regions, etc., that can facilitate your travel planning as well as provide information about public transportation, driving rules and etiquette, tipping norms, safety considerations, and electricity service (i.e. 220V, type of plug). When you head out for a day’s adventure, you can take photos of the pages in the book that have information you’ll want
- As you collect ideas for activities, create a Google Doc or create a new note in Evernote of the ideas and include web links. You’ll then have your ideas collected and you can get easy access to the document on your phone
- Order a few hundred local currency from your bank at least a week before you depart. It is convenient to get off the plane at your destination and have cash in hand so you don’t have to exchange money for a higher rate at the currency exchange in the airport
- Learn what your bank and credit card companies charge for international transactions so you know which cards you will use while traveling
- Make a copy of your passport and/or take a photo of it on your phone just in case you lose your passport. Having a copy of it will make it faster and easier to get it replaced at an embassy
- Buy an international phone package for your mobile phone. Having data access for maps and internet is invaluable!
- Make use of Google Maps for walking, public transportation, and driving directions. I’ve used it in several countries and find it to be very accurate
- Try not to lose your people! If you’re getting on and off trains and there are more than two of you, have one responsible adult get on first, then the kids, and then another adult at the end. I know of what I speak! I got on the Tube, turned around and the doors closed with my son on the other side. Doh!
- Beware of siesta. Many European countries close shops and services between about 2-4pm. Plan ahead for what you may need during that time. Also, restaurants close between lunch and dinner so you don’t want to miss the lunch hours of about 1-3pm
Travel Tips for Packing
- Over-the-counter medicine that is taken occasionally
- Insulated wine cup, wine bottle chiller, and can koozies. These are essential if you like a cool glass of rose or your drink of choice while in your hotel or apartment! Europeans don’t really use ice much so you have to be prepared!
- Wine key and bottle stopper (for the rare occasion that the bottle isn’t emptied!)
- Collapsible cooler for outings
- Small games
- Reusable water bottle. It’s a nice way to save some money on purchasing water and is good for the environment. This Platypus bottle clips onto my purse and when it’s empty it folds flat and I can stick it into my purse. It does not leak, even when on its side!
- Phone car charger
- Outlet adapter – Most of Europe uses a two-prong plug over 220V power. Your electronics, such as your phone and computer, will work on 220V power but will need the plug adapter to fit into their outlet. If you’re not sure if your electronic item will work, look on the charging plug. It will usually state “120V/220V”. Your hair dryer, etc., will likely not work on 220V, even with the plug adapter
- Bluetooth speaker
- Backup eyeglasses
- Headphones and adapter
- Cooling neck wrap and mister for those hot days sightseeing
- Nightlight – I have one I purchased while in Italy that I use when I go there
- Washcloth, if you like to use them, as European accommodations don’t seem to have them
- Counter space is almost non-existent in European bathrooms. Invest in a toiletry bag that hangs from a hook so you’ll have everything you need at your fingertips
- Lingerie bag to wash bras in
- Travel size laundry soap
- Garbage bag to hold dirty laundry
- Wine travel bag for the suitcase. If you like to buy wine on your trips, these bags are the best insurance from breakage and ruining everything in your suitcase. If all goes well, the bag is reusable
When it’s time to pack my suitcase, I have already planned out which shoes will be best for this type of trip and coordinated outfits around those shoes. I typically take about one week’s worth of clothes on a longer trip and plan to do laundry along the way.
In my suitcase photo, you can see that one side is clothing only and the other side is mostly shoes and those supplies I listed earlier. I prefer separating items as a way to keep the clothes less wrinkled. I use a couple of compression packing cubes to hold small clothing pieces and smash them down a bit in size. I tend not to “over organize” so I don’t recommend going crazy with the packing cubes. I just don’t see the ROI. I have used a couple of larger compression bags for bulkier clothes for fall or winter travel. By rolling the bag you push the air out of it like a Space Bag. The last thing I did was put a pair of shorts on top in case I wanted to change into them after getting off of the plane.
Tips for Comfortable Air Travel
When taking a longer trip, I prefer to check my bag and only carry on essentials. I realize that carry-on is free but it can be a chore to lug stuff around longer than necessary. And a longer trip will likely mean a greater volume of stuff to bring! Honestly, I’m not a high-maintenance gal but I don’t know how people carry on their luggage with the strict liquids restrictions.
My carry-on items are minimal and include a backpack, which will get much use for day trips and hiking, and an airplane seatback organizer. (See photo to the right.) In the backpack are the following: irreplaceable items such as medicine, makeup, and a swimsuit. (Ladies, you know what I’m talking about!) I also carry a few snacks, a reusable water bottle, a travel pillow, a light sweater, and a few toiletries to freshen up with after the 8+ hour flight. In the seatback organizer are the following: passport, book and magazine, electronics and accessories, glasses, wallet, tissues, pen, hand sanitizer, and wet wipes. This organizer is invaluable! It keeps the items you need most within reach instead of on the floor where you have to crane your neck to get to them. It hangs on the seat using hooks and I can’t say enough good things about it! Another invaluable travel companion is an adjustable phone or tablet holder that attaches to the tray table. This is becoming more key as many planes are starting to eliminate personal entertainment screens at each seat and many of us have things we’d like to watch already loaded onto our devices.
What’s your best packing or travel tip you’d like to share with us? Post below! We’d love to add your tip to our list. Buon viaggio!
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