FIRST TIME TRIP TO EUROPE - TIPS AND TRICKS
Going to Europe for the first time is both exciting and intimidating.
Many of my clients have so many spectacular vacations already planned and booked, with dreams of creating incredible memories in 2024 and beyond.
2023 started out with a "bang" for travel. One thing I continue to hear ... we're ready to go!
You'll never forget the once-in-a-lifetime moments like seeing the Eiffel Tower at night, throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain, or listening to trad music in the pubs of Ireland, while rubbing shoulders with the locals.
Photo: The Eiffel Tower - Paris
But if you go unprepared, the beautiful moments could be tarnished by novice mistakes.
Wanna avoid all that right from the beginning?
Here's some travel tips for Europe, I hope will minimize the stress of travelling, while saving you time and money.
TAKING A CAB
Nope, not even from the airport. You may not speak the languuage, you may not know the culture and the currency and pricing can fluster and overwhelm you.
Most major European cities have reliable public transportation such as trains or shuttle buses that'll conveniently and quickly take you to the city center.
My best recommendation to most of my clients is, treat yourself and pay the extra for a private transfer (roundtrip), that I'll arrange for them in advance.
Arrive knowing, that someone's waiting for you, will load/unload your luggage, get you to your accommodations (which you're also seeing for the first time) and enjoy the ride.
You'll get a better feel for the area and it'll be prepaid in advance (in your own currency), before you go.
BUYING TICKETS LATE
Waiting to get museum or popular attraction tickets when you're there, is just a bad idea.
Scrambling last minute - especially in Paris or Rome - will leave you in a horrendous long line or worse - the venue reaches capacity and you can't enter at all.
These should all be booked in advance. That's where I come in again.
In major cities, the hop on/hop off buses and multi-day sightseeing passes are a great way to pre-plan your trip and confirm major attractions. Some sites only allow a limited number of people per day. If you don't book the day you're there well in advance, you won't get to see it.
Photo: St Peter's Basilica - Rome
SETTLING FOR THE FIRST RESTAURANT YOU SEE
When it comes to food, don't take any chances. Do your research (or if I'm planning your trip, I'll do it for you!) and make a separate meal itinerary with reservations at the local hot spots that'll likely be more affordable or at least worth your money. Your Hotel Concierge should be your best friend, and will make those reservations for you. They speak the language, they set up for local calls.
Desperate for a meal and in the middle of a touristy part of town? Avoid restaurants that advertise menus in multiple languages and be prepared with a polite "no thank you" for the waiters ready outside to usher in lost and hungry tourists.
Photo: Pizza - Italy
CARRYING A TON OF CASH
A lot of places actually take credit cards. Be sure you have one (or two to be safe) in your wallet that won't charge foreign transaction fees.
Don't have one? Get one well in advance and again, have two - cause if yours is stolen or lost, you're hooped!
Pickpockets are quite common in busy, touristy areas, so large amounts of cash are not a good idea - and keep what you do have, well-hidden.
NOT SPENDING LOTS OF TIME OUTSIDE
Europeans love eating and drinking outdoors, so do as the locals do.
Bring a picnic blanket in your day pack, pickup refreshments at the grocery store, items from the local deli or bakery, visit food trucks (watch where the locals go) and have one ofyour meals at a plaza or by a river.
Photo: Paella - Spain
FORGETTING TO CHECK YOUR PHONE PLAN
Most cell phone providers incorporate international roaming with their plans.
Read through your plan's details or give the company a quick call before leaving, finding out costs associated with data abroad and having access. Many people use their phones as cameras now adays and text, rather than call. Check out both those features for costs.
Don't always count on finding local Wi-Fi, while on the go. You'll want to access your Google Maps app and others while abroad.
Know before you go!
ORDERING ALL THE BREAD AND WATER
Bet you think these things are a given, but at many European restaurants, they're NOT free. It's a quick way to drive up your bill.
Unless it's a "must have" for you, make a point to refuse it when you sit down, unless you ask the question.
Don't forget to take a refillable water bottle with you, continually filling it up and carrying it with you.
Forgot one? Buy one at the local grocery store.
NOT CLAIMING YOUR REFUND
If you've done a lot of shopping in Europe, you may be eligibile for a VAT refund.
Just ask the retailer for the proper documentation and show it to the proper agents at the airport.
The exact processes may be different in each country, but getting money back makes them all worth a try.
IGNORING 24-HOUR TIME
If you're on a schedule or have timely plans, I highly recommend setting your phone on 24-hour or military time.
You want to be sure not to miss anything!
Regardless of where you're going, there'll be walking involved and lots of it.
Pack accordingly to avoid exploring in uncomfortable attire or footwear.
Don't be the person who complains and slows others down, cause they're dressed inappropriately.
Been there, done that - and it's awful for everyone, but mostly for you.
Invest in good comfortable travel shoes before you go, that you've broken in first! There's so many choices out there.
Photo: Walking in Porto, Portugal
NEGLECTING TO SMILE
Even if you remember to do all of the above, there'll still be bumps and hiccups along the road. Be flexible. Sh*t happens!
Don't let mishaps get you down, cause at the end of the day, you're on vacation - and probably somewhere beautiful in the world, you may never get back to.
Take a breath (or two) and enjoy yourself.
INSURANCE INSURANCE INSURANCE
Protect yourself, so you can travel safely, knowing the only thing you need to come home with, is unforgettable memories.
That's where I come in - but that's another topic for another day.
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