Jet-setting to Europe for the first time was EPIC! You’ll never forget the once-in-a-lifetime moments like first seeing the Eiffel Tower or taking a gondola through the canals of Venice, but if you go unprepared, these beautiful memories can be tarnished by rookie mistakes.
To avoid all that from happening, I’ve laid out a few tips to remember when traveling overseas. Learning from the following rookie mistakes ahead of your trip will minimize the stress of traveling, while also saving you time and money.
Making reservations in advance is the best way to secure accommodations and tours, especially in peak travel season. Booking airfare, hotels, train tickets, and tours in advance also ensures that you are getting the best price. Prior to our trip we book our flights (to Paris and Venice), our hotel and AirBNB, AND our Paris Pass. The Paris Pass was probably the best decision we made because it included over 10 excursions like a winery tour, museums admissions (with a FastTrack line skip), AND public transportation (essential in Europe) which includes bus, train, metro, AND a water cruise. This pass was a steal! We felt like VIP whipping out our Paris Passes which were mailed to us about two weeks prior to our trip.
If you’re a chick flick movie buff like me, you would have already known to buy an adapter for Europe because of the iconic scene in “Just Married” with Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy when Ashton was electrocuted using a American plug in Europe. It is better to get a 5 in one adapter so it can be used in the USA, Europe, United Kingdom and Australia, and you won’t have to buy a separate adapter for each trip!
Okay, this should have been a no brainer for someone like me who drinks water religiously, but for some reason it wasn’t. And during our trip I started to get the feeling that Europeans don’t drink much water. Everywhere we would go and ask for water, they would make a weird face like “you reaally want water?” . This was probably because they are use to drinking wine with almost every meal. So the day one rookie mistake turned into a life lesson, especially when a 64 o.z. bottle of water from the market was on 20 cent. Yes, you heard me 20 cent!!
Life lesson: Take water with you, or buy some everywhere you go.
You’ll need something to carry your phone, camera and souvenirs while you’re out exploring in Europe. This was my goal, but the first day I thought I’d wing it. Wrong answer. I had 50 different bags of stuff, and wished I had my book bag. I would suggest one with thick straps, and multiple departments.
More mobile carriers are incorporating international roaming with their plans. Read through your plan’s details or give the company a quick call a few days before leaving to see if you have data abroad. Don’t miss out on being able to use your Waze location app. If you are like me and have a phone plan that is not with any major phone providers, you can also check your surroundings for wifi. Surprisingly, in Paris there was almost always free wifi at either a mall or restaurant. Not so lucky in Venice. Most big cities will have wifi, but you may have to jump through a few hoops to use it. At numerous places in Paris, I had to fill out an electronic form just to use the wifi. And I am not just talking about name and email people.
The price we pay for free wifi.
Don’t worry, a lot of places actually take credit cards, and I bet you have one in your wallet that won’t charge foreign transactions fees. If not, you can always visit your local Travelex store (I went to the Houston Galleria Mall) to exchange your dollars for euros. Getting our euros before was awesome because we didn’t have to stand in some long line and waste time while there, and it also made it a lot easier when buying souvenirs from street vendors.
And don’t forget it is NOT dollar for dollar so when I asked for 300 euros, I really spent $348, plus their company convenience fee.
Anywhere I go , I make sure to cover at least the basics. “Please, hello, toilet, thank you, and do you have wine”. Learning the language (or at least downloading Google Translator) will help you in sticky situations. While most people in big cities will be able to speak English, it still won’t hurt anyone if you can communicate with them better. It will also avoid embarrassing charades games as you try to signal that you need the toilet while in the middle of the street.
While packing for Europe can be tricky, one of the most important things to consider is bringing the right footwear. You will be walking for LOONG periods of time so not only does your footwear have to be comfortable, it also has to be able to walk on all sorts of terrain. Cobblestone streets, short hikes, and through busy cities. Also, remember to pack light! One of the things I regret the most is having too much stuff with me. But a girl needs options! Lol. Well… I thought I needed day and night options, but we were so tired from our daytime adventurous, most of the time we just grabbed something on our way back to the hotel. This resulted in many hours of me trying to close my suitcase with my butt …and my foot.
Whenever I am in a new city, I make it a point to eat local (although I’m really picky). I prefer to support local mom and pop stores and restaurants over big chains. I also make sure that I try the local cuisine. So yeah, venture past the usual sandwich and try pasta (says the person who ate a burger TWICE while there. But they have different cows than we do!-LMBO). You might not like all of them, but at least you tried! Part of the fun of traveling is about tasting new flavors and trying out new things. While in Paris on the last night we ate at a small cafe called Italian Cuisine Cafe, and since I didn’t recognize anything on the menu, I asked for something with chicken (as did 70% of the table), and surprisingly, it wasn’t bad at all!
Annnnd by the way, Paris was 2/2 on the burgers. They were the best I’ve had. Hands down.
On another note, I have this weird rule.
There are three ingredients that you can add to any food to make it better.
Mark my words.. Ranch, cheese, or salt will make ANY meal better. Try it sometime.
Last but not least, don’t feel pressured to see and do everything. Take the day off to sit around in a cafe and read a book, or listen to SZA. Stay in your hotel and relax (which we did not do…at all). Often, the urge to do everything and sight-see all day will wear you out. Enjoy the little things that make Europe such a spectacular place to visit. Two hour coffee breaks, a glass of wine at ten in the morning, a siesta in the afternoon. Sometimes, having no plan is the best plan. This tip led to many spontaneous adventures and epic experiences in Venice.
What was your favorite part of Europe? Where did you go?